January '02 - Zoom Out!
Probably the most common way people begin the fishkeeping hobby is with a little tank placed on top of some table, counter or shelf. From there, some hobbyists evolve in the "fish over tank" direction, becoming skilled breeders of several different species or specializing in a single one, and creating huge, complex fishrooms where each tank is essentially an "as practical as possible" recepient for the final objective, which is the fish. Other hobbyists evolve in the "tank over fish" direction, becoming skilled creators of awesome show tanks where the fish are just one of many important items in the composition as a whole. Obviously, this section is focused on this second type of fishkeeping, but until now it has essentially been concerned with aquascaping, i.e., what goes on inside the tank. So this month let's include another very important aspect of a composition, i.e., what goes on outside the tank and how it integrates into its surroundings. Here are some great examples...
Lasse Christiansen's Stand Alone Tank (Denmark)
The "stand-alone" tank is one of the most common choices, for obvious reasons. With the glass or acrylic tank placed between a wooden, metallic or plastic stand and a matching hood, this kind of tank has the advantage of being a fully independent piece of decoration, that can be placed wherever the owner finds best, and moved with relative ease if necessary. Since most people who decide to have a fish tank already live in a fully decorated house, the stand-alone tank is the type that can be most easily integrated into any room. The typical format is a long, rectangular tank placed against a wall, that can be seen from 2 or 3 sides. In this configuration you can hide all the ugly wiring and equipment behind the tank, leaving just a clean, attractive composition to be appreciated by you and your visitors, such as Lasse's beautiful cichlid tank above. With slight modifications, a stand-alone tank can have its longer length set perpendicular to a wall rather than parallel, and become a wonderful room divider, viewable by 3 or 4 sides. Stand-alone tanks impose no extra restrictions in what can go into them...all standard fishkeeping guidelines apply.
Sergei Chesheiko's Corner Tank (Russia)
In almost any house, there will be at least one room with at least one unoccupied little corner...an empty space which, for an aquarium enthusiast, is a perfect excuse for setting up another tank! Justice be made though, whether you're a hardcore hobbyist or only mildly interested in fishkeeping, few things look better in such a corner than a well set up, decorative aquarium. Corner tanks can be approached almost in the same way as a stand-alone tank. The main difference will usually be the shape, which in this case is best when made triangular, trapezoidal, pentagonal, or hexagonal. These unusual shapes allow for equally unusual aquascapes, which despite the greater challenge can yield some really striking results. Sergei's creation goes even beyond this concept, it's actually a built-in planted open-top corner tank, fully integrated to the adjacent bookshelf. One minor but relevant restriction to keep in mind though, is that this type of tank tends to be "taller" than standard ones (when the ratio between length and height is considered), and consequently should house a relatively smaller population. Furthermore, due to the lesser horizontal swimming room, you should avoid exceptionally active and fast swimming fish (usually the torpedo-shaped ones) that may end up banging their noses against walls or even jumping out of the tank if they can. Apart from that, corner tanks are a very attractive and rewarding alternative to "standard" rectangular tanks.
Todd Negladuik's Built-In Tank (USA)
Built-in tanks are very elegant setups, which inhabit the dreams of virtually everyone who enjoys fishkeeping as a hobby. A dream which doesn't frequently come true though, because in this case a much greater effort in planning or refurbishing the entire final location is required. The built-in tank is normally fitted directly into a wall, a bar, a TV rack or a bookcase, and becomes an integral part of a new or existing house, with essentially no mobility at all. Although Todd's creative solution above made his bookcase composition function almost as a stand-alone, in most cases the owner is faced with some serious restrictions regarding tank dimensions, placement of equipment, and general accessibility to different parts of the tank for routine or exceptional maintenance. As a consequence, some limitations are imposed on the inside of the tank (such as lighter fish load, less demanding fish and plants, loss of swim space to internal filters, etc) to compensate for the outside restrictions. But, as already mentioned, with a good amount of planning, creativity and do-it-yourself adaptations, some hobbyists have come up with truly awe-inspiring creations, which are also practical and long-lived.
Sergei Chesheiko's Table Tank (Russia)
A table tank is a very rare and exotic piece of decoration, causing quite a sensation to those who see it. But they're an extreme example of decoration prevailing over hobby, since it's almost impossible to take advantage of the full potential that a more standard tank of equal size would offer. Many issues need to be addressed before plunging into this choice: how to provide an energy source, heating and lighting; how to hide the equipment, access the inside, do water changes, and so on. Sergei chose the route of a low-tech, low-maintenance configuration to avoid many of those issues: a lightly stocked Goldfish tank with plastic plants, which requires little or no lighting, heating or filtration, essentially no water control, and can be maintained almost exclusively with regular partial water changes. Not the dream tank for a hardcore hobbyist, but definitely an attraction in anyone's house!
If you'd like to submit an aquarium for Tank of the Month, just contact me.
Photos taken by their respective authors and displayed here with their permission.