Flat fish tank
December 4, 2013 11:37 AM   Subscribe

Are flat fish tanks ok...for fish?

I've seen these things a few times, and I wonder if there are any fish that actually prefer such a cozy environment. Say, a species that lives in cracks between rocks? I'm assuming most tiny fish would be cool with it, but would any larger species like this?
posted by klausman to Pets & Animals (9 answers total)
I've kept freshwater and currently have two saltwater tanks, one of which is 2ft wide as opposed to the mere inches you've shown here. With the exception of some creatures like eels who stick to a rock crevice and clownfish who congregate around their anemone, most fish, given the space, will actually use it. So I'll see my fish swim and utilise most areas of the tank. This would lead me to believe that more space is actually better and a tank that you've shown would not be much fun at all for a fish.

We can never hope to replicate the space that they would have in nature but we can surely do better than a few inches wide.

You could find a fish that likes living in very small spaces (like my eel, but even he ventures out to eat) but having said that if they prefer to hide in very small spaces, you won't see much of them which kind of negates the whole point, really.
posted by Jubey at 12:16 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

At only about 6 1/2 gallons of volume, you're going to be pretty limited on the amount of bio-load the tank can support. There's a loose rule of thumb that says 1" of fish per gallon of water, but I'd hesitate to put anything larger than a betta, a shrimp and maybe a couple of snails into something like that.
posted by jquinby at 12:18 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Some tiny fish might survive, but that's not to say that they'll thrive or be happy. Larger fish likely won't be able to turn around easily. Such a small water volume will actually make keeping animals happy very difficult as any swings in temperature or chemistry will be amplified and waste will pile up much more quickly. Odds are that these things will turn into stylish algae farms in short order.
posted by Reversible Diamond-Encrusted Ermine Codpiece at 12:22 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

You need a large surface area to water ratio for good oxygen exchange, I can't imagine that you'd get that with something so deep with so little surface. Possible a Betta would be OK in it because they have a Labyrinth and can draw oxygen from the air directly if they need to, they could survive OK in it, especially when compared to some of the shitty little tanks the poor guys get stuck with.
posted by wwax at 12:26 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Bettas are well-adapted to small spaces and would look pretty in a tank like that. That said, the deisign is questionable for a few reasons:

1) Cleaning. You'll have algae growing in no time, and it'll be pretty tough to scrub the front bottom surface without taking the whole thing down and getting your (hopefully skinny) arm way down in there.

2) Mounting. Water is heavy, and if you don't mount it very securely there's a good chance it'll rip right off the wall, leaving you with no tank, a bunch of broken glass and dead fish, and lots of water damage to whatever was underneath.

3) Temperature regulation. As other have mentioned the volume of water is already pretty low, and a huge flat design like that only increases the surface area:volume ratio. It will take more energy to heat than a comparable tabletop tank and will cool off faster in the event of a heater failure (or heat up and cook your fish if the thermostat fails in the on state.)

If these problems could be effectively solved, say by reinforcing the framing in the wall, scaling the whole thing up, and getting a really good heater (often people use multiple tiny heaters on small tanks so things won't go completely to hell if one fails and starts heating continuously or stops heating altogether) I could imagine a really cool marine invertebrate tank in this general form factor. Live rock, colorful shrimp and crabs, featherduster worms, polyps, maybe some soft corals if you could get the lighting right. These things are all suited to living in cracks or attached to rocks and have fascinating behaviors if you watch them for a while. I wouldn't attempt this without a lot of marine aquarium experience and would probably plan on plumbing it to an outboard sump filter and protein skimmer hidden in a piece of furniture or nearby closet, since I don't think you could create adequate filtration for saltwater in an encapsulated wall-mounted unit.
posted by contraption at 12:55 PM on December 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

They have a built in heater, air pump, and filter. Oxygen exchange shouldn't be a problem with the air pump. There are some rosy claims on there that it will only need 15 minutes of maintenance a month. When you see these fish tanks in offices and restaurants, they often contract out maintenance to a specialty company that comes in once or twice a week. It's a lot of work to keep them looking as pristine as they do in the pictures.

Plecostomus would probably do OK, but would probably hide behind the frame area. Even with tiny fish, you don't want to overcrowd a 6 gallon tank. You see large showy fish in these at businesses -- I suspect the fish maintenance companies keep a supply of large showy fish to replace them if they get sick.
posted by yohko at 1:36 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Great answers already - these types of tanks are generally a bad idea, for all the reasons stated above and more.

In general, for most fish tanks it's counter-intuitively true that larger tanks are easier to maintain than smaller tanks. These tanks are very small indeed, and the shape - with such a tiny proportion of water actually in contact with the air, would make it very challenging for most fish. You would need to get an airstone bubbling away to ensure there was a enough oxygen in the water (unless, as mentioned) you have a betta or other labrynth fish.
posted by smoke at 1:36 PM on December 4, 2013

On preview, doh!

There are some rosy claims on there that it will only need 15 minutes of maintenance a month.

As a fairly experience aquarist, I scoff at this! lol. With only a few fish, I would say you're looking at 15 minutes, minimum, a week. And that time would blow out as the tank got older and algae etc got more established. Would work for shrimp - but shrimp are tiny and you would need to be right on top of the tank to see them.
posted by smoke at 1:38 PM on December 4, 2013

Lots of talk of "happy" fish here. Has anyone ever seen a happy fish? Calm, yes; growing nicely, yes; not missing scales & tail bits from other fish' aggression, yes.

I doubt a fish brain is capable of "happy". If the tank doesn't discourage good health, with plenty of room to avoid hostile behaviors, most fish would be fine (I suspect).

If there's enough room for them to swim without constantly being in another fish' "space" (triggering defensive biting), they won't even realize the tank is narrow, I suspect.

An animal that will bite on a hook, get removed from the water, have the hook viciously yanked from its jaw, thrown back in, only to bite on the same hook a minute later... is not big on feng shui.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:00 PM on December 5, 2013

« Older dealing with a roommate/ assertiveness 2.0   |   Spa with private hot tubs in NYC Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.