Add Life to Your Home With An Aquarium

Whether it's one fish, two fish, red fish or blue fish, you're sure to enjoy these swimming creatures.
Photo vojce / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Fish — perhaps really, even aquatic life as a whole — are a magnificent thing to behold in their natural environment, so peacefully flitting about through the water as they travel to and fro to some unknown destination, off on some mysterious quest that seems to be the only thing on their minds.

And from their colors to their physical appearance to their strange little mannerisms, it is these very creatures of the deep that so captivate our attention and encourage us to stop and marvel at the wonder of it all — and to wish that we could all be so at peace, so freely floating through life as these unique little specimens whose home is full of oddities yet undiscovered.

It is the desire to capture that essence, to take a living, breathing snapshot of the larger picture that drives people to create aquariums of their own, filling everything from fishbowls to massive tanks that take up entire walls with everything imaginable, every element of the depthless waters that they can possibly get their hands on, everything that soothes their soul and tickles their curiosity as they watch in awe while life plays out in living color behind the glass.

For most, the tack followed for sourcing fish and other forms of aquatic life for the ultimate aquarium is a traditional one — trekking off to some big-box store offering scores of fish who have already been acclimated to the confines of their new life, standing to study them all, and then picking out the perfect ones to take home.

But far more interesting, to be sure, is the more adventurous route, the more hands-on approach that requires literally diving in and getting your hands dirty.

Or, to be more accurate, wet. Living near the northern Gulf of Mexico, we are in proximity to some of the most fascinating marine life on the planet, so the world is almost your oyster when it comes to having your pick both for freshwater as well as saltwater fish, though there are certain things to know to ensure that your project is a sustainable success — as well as one that’s fully legal.

The first step would naturally be deciding which type of aquarium you’d prefer, as both require very different systems as well as very different species.

For the beginner, “I would definitely recommend freshwater over saltwater because the fish are more durable and less expensive,” said Carol Hoover, owner of Carol’s Critters on West Pensacola Street.

Also, she said, “Of the stuff that’s available, there’s more of a variety in freshwater than salt.” Setup costs for freshwater fish are lower, Hoover said, partly because most saltwater fish need much more space and thereby a larger tank.

“Most freshwater fish do fine in a smaller environment,” she said. Saltwater aquariums are known for their spectacular colors. If you’re looking for a wow factor in a freshwater aquarium, you might want to try cichlids — but with caution. “They’re large and impressive, but they fight,” Hoover said. “Everything has its drawbacks.”

Clearly, personality is a huge consideration; but so, too, are the various physical characteristics of the fish, as that will dictate the size of the tank needed. Hoover pointed out that most of the fish that you see at pet stores are young and will grow considerably.

She said she considers only smaller tetras suitable for a smaller tank.

Some strongly suggest also keeping a so-called quarantine tank to ease the transition and to ensure that impurities and bacteria are filtered out and prevented from causing complications. Regardless of which type of tank you’ve chosen to create, there are certain legalities to observe, as there are strict restrictions enforced by the authorities.

“Anyone taking marine species for use in a personal aquarium would need to adhere to our regulations, including bag limits, seasons and size limits for those species,” warns Amanda Nalley, Northwest Regional Public Information Specialist at the Division of Marine Fisheries Management.

“For those that are in our marine life rule, they would also need to be landed alive — typically by use of an aerator. They’d also need to make sure they have a recreational saltwater fishing license. Also, once a species is taken and maintained in a tank, it cannot be returned to the water.”

From curmudgeonly catfish to adorable angelfish, the quest is yours to create — and there’s a world of wonder waiting for you to discover just behind the glass.


To gather more specifics

Visit Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s website at

Categories: Pets