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Liven up your home with a marine aquarium

If you have been feeling sorry for that lonely gold fish swimming around in a glass bowl in your drawing room, and are planning to give it to a few friends and a larger tank, think again. Goldfish bowls and freshwater aquariums are passe. Marine aquariums are in. This is a salt water tank that houses colourful marine life.

According to Vicky Kapadia, who exports ornamental marine and fresh water fish, and has been in the business since a decade, marine aquariums are the new thing that people have started to indulge in."Earlier, the hobby of keeping fresh water aquarium at home was at its peak, and now it is marine aquariums that people are veering towards. They are definitely more pretty than regular fresh water aquariums and also a little complex. So, while setting up the aquarium, you may incur more expenditure than a regular fresh water one, but it is a one time expense," he says adding that the expenditure later reduces, owing to the recycling nature of the marine aquarium systems.

You can choose between acrylic and glass. While acrylic tanks get scratched easily , they are much lighter and don't break so often, unlike the glass ones. Pre-drilled tanks are available with most retailers, and a tank with an internal overflow is a big plus.Moreover, it is better to choose a tank that is wide and not too deep. Such a tank provides a better depth of view for a more natural look, and allows better light penetration. You can also reach the bottom easily . A second smaller tank (sump) is placed under the aquarium to hold all the equipment out of sight. The space also matters.A marine aquarium needs a minimum capacity of 200 litres and maximum 250 litres.

While choosing the place to keep the tank, avoid zones that undergo substantial temperature fluctuations. The location shouldn't be draughty or cold, shouldn't get direct sunlight and shouldn't be near any electricalelectronic equipment that radiates heat. Avoid windows or corners near the kitchen, fridge, TV or AC.

Once you have zeroed in on the right spot, it's time to set up the aquarium. Marine salt, sand, artificial rocks, air pump double, corner filter, protein skimmer, hydrometer, bio bacteria, trace elements, ceramic ring, bio ball, power filter and a light source, along with wave-maker and canister, are essential to set up the aquarium. "When you are setting it up, it is good to have it done by a professional. Later, as your interest develops, you can always keep adding to the aquarium," says Kapadia about people building the complex system on their own.

Lighting: The aim is to keep the aquarium bright and colourful, while maintaining the bluish tint of a marine environment. The best option is a metal halide lamp with colour temperatures ranging between 10,000 and 20,000 Kelvin. While 250 watt bulbs suit most aquariums, the deeper ones need 400 watt lamps. One halide lamp for every 2-3 feet of tank length is recommended. Fluorescent lighting, high intensity ones can also be used.

Filters: A marine aquarium requires the basic canister filter to clean chemical and physical impurities in the water as well as a protein skimmer to remove organic waste from the water using bubbles. On a smaller tank (less than 180 litre) weekly water changes can be used in place of a skimmer, but in case of larger tanks, a protein skimmer is important. It is placed in the sump or behind the tank. The skim mers are often under-rated for the size of tank, so in practice, a skimmer rated for a 100 gallon (378.5 litre) tank is not adequate for a 50 gallon tank. Needle wheel skimmers are the most popular. A skimmer is cheaper than salt-water changes in the long run. If the aquarium doesn't have any valuable fish, try putting the skimmer and even the filter on a timer.

The water: Prepare enough artificial seawater for the volume needed. You need to mix 1 kg of salt to every 30 litre of water. Use only a good aquarium sea salt brand and water purified with a Reverse OsmosisDeIonisation (RODI) filter. Fill the tank with RODI filtered water and then add the salt.Use of tap water and distilled water is not recommended.

Adjusting the flow: Get a pump usable with saltwater to return the water from your sump to the main tank.Additional power head pumps in the tank or external pumps should be installed to provide vigorous turbulent flow to otherwise stagnant areas. In case you have live corals then consider using an aquarium chiller. The less your temperature varies throughout the day the more stable your marine environment will be. Fill the tank with tap water partially to test for leaks. Auto top-off kits replenish the tank with fresh de-chlorinated water.

Once you mix your salt water and fill your aquarium, turn on all your pumps and let the water rest for a day . It takes a little time for your salt to dissolve and your water chemistry to stabilise. "Once the setup is over, wait for at least 21 days before you can release the fish in the water. A 36 inch-by18 inch tank can house eight fish at the most. If more fish are kept, then 10% of the water needs to be changed every month and refilled with fresh 10% water. Bio-bacteria and trace elements also need to be added to the water every month," says Pradip, owner of a leading aquarium supplying chain. He adds that when it comes to the aquarium envi ronment, there are three basic options to choose from fish only , fish with live rocks and with reef.

With over 140 species of marine fishes and corals being banned, saltwater tank lovers can choose fish that include tangs, damsels, angels, clowns, lionfish, butterfly fish.Lionfish should generally be kept alone and if other species are kept they should be larger than the lionfish.

Setting up a marine aquarium can cost up to '18,000 for a 36"x18"x18" tank. Maintenance is low, as only water needs to be changed every 15 days. One just needs keep a constant check on the aquarium. Dry food for the fish is available in the market.

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