For the aquarium enthusiasts
November 5, 2006 8:15 AM   Subscribe

I knew that there were beautiful fish, but I was blown away the other day when I came across an aquarium in a restaurant which boasted the most amazing, glittery, neon, tropical fish. I can't believe how cool real-life Nemos are! (Clownfish.) What are the names of other, mesmerising tropical fish?

I'd like to do a websearch. It just amazes me that there are so many varying types of fish. Do any of you have a fondness for one in particular? Are there any resources on the specific "personalities" of certain breeds of fish? My brother has always been a fish-nut, and tries to tell me about the personalities of his fish, but he keeps ugly ones such as cichlids that I am not interested in. I also have a marine biologist friend who is quite taken by particular types of fish; one in particular, he believes has a type of extrasensory perception (it is a long, thin black thing.) I'm taken aback and quite curious about the "features" that certain fish have evolved to possess.

Also, is it legal to buy clownfish, seahorses, etc? Is it legal to buy coral or sea anemones or sea cucumbers? I'm quite aware that the initial setup for tropical fish is quite expensive, but how expensive? (I live in Australia, but I can easily convert US$ to AUS$, etc.)
posted by mjao to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I believe all the prettiest fish live in saltwater aquariums; I'm sure a real aquarium nut will come along and tell you more, but a Google search did find a lot of interesting info.
posted by TochterAusElysium at 8:46 AM on November 5, 2006

Oh, and these reef tanks are cool! (It's a subject I've also always been interested in but couldn't afford.)
posted by TochterAusElysium at 8:47 AM on November 5, 2006

The neon fish may have been "neons" (neon tetra.)
posted by fire&wings at 9:19 AM on November 5, 2006

Killifish are very pretty but can have special needs.
posted by Iron Rat at 9:40 AM on November 5, 2006

Best answer: it sounds like that was a reef or saltwater tank, as these are typically bigger, showier and much more colourful.

also: large reef / marine tanks in restaurants / foodcourts / shopping malls have become rather popular in the past few years. the bulk of them are cared for by a commercial aquarium service (kind of like a maid or indoor plant service, but for fish). this gets expensive.

that said; i'm no expert but my fish nut roommate tells me the most common tropical marine fish kept in saltwater tanks are:

- angel fish (there are freshwater 'angels' too, but they're cichlids)

- butterfly fish

- clown fish

we have 2 freshwater tanks in the apt full of cichlids and the like. these are the duller freshwater species you're probably accustomed to not being wowed by. personally I adore the Oscars, because they're gregarious, will beg for food and eat out of your hand, and they're quite full of personality. there are more showy freshwater fish, such as neon tetras and some species of 'sharks' but on average, a marine tank is going to give you more colour.

for any tank, proper lighting and feeding is very, very important to get the most out of the individual colouration of the species inside (this goes for plants, too). I've seen some incredibly attractive freshwater tanks.

marine tanks are getting easier and cheaper to set up these days; the main challenge is finding hardy fish - marine species tend to be a tad less forgiving of 'beginner' mistakes.

have fun.
posted by lonefrontranger at 10:48 AM on November 5, 2006

clownfish, anemones, seahorses, and cucumbers are all saltwater animals. i agree with Tochter that saltwater fish tend to be prettier by a mile -- however, saltwater tanks are notoriously difficult to keep. most enthusiasts recommend you keep a tropical tank for several years before making the switch, in order to make sure a) you know what you're doing, and b) you enjoy it enough to take on the additional effort and expense that saltwater tanks require.

once you do, though, saltwater tanks can be amazing. my father used to have one. there are a lot of cool shrimp you can get -- favorites of mine include harlequin, coral banded, and fire shrimp. my dad had an anemone and a clownfish, but they never bonded and i think it led to an early demise for both of them, unfortunately. they were both beautiful.

seahorses are very difficult to keep. they're not hardy, and they have all sorts of additional requirements involving circulation and a near-constant inflow of live brine shrimp. which is too bad, because they're fascinating fish. some species will pair-bond for life and mates will swim around their tanks with tails intertwined, as though they were strolling hand-in-hand!
posted by sonofslim at 10:48 AM on November 5, 2006

Garden eels are so cool. They're probably impossible to keep in a tank (I saw some at the Atlanta Aquarium) since they live half-buried in sand -- the sand would have to be a particular consistency -- and I believe they are found in deep dark water. Try to visit an aquarium so you can see some; None of the photos I've found on the net show how pretty and interesting they are.
posted by amtho at 11:08 AM on November 5, 2006

Sea Dragons
posted by Sassyfras at 12:18 PM on November 5, 2006

You will probably find that the restaurant tank was enhanced with a little black light, too. This even makes old sport socks pretty, so it sparkles up fish like there's no tomorrow.
posted by Sallyfur at 1:00 PM on November 5, 2006

(all dollars amounts US dollars)

To give you an idea on pricing for a typical reef (ie living rock) aquarium, just considering lighting. You need a *ton* of light for coral to grow - if you have a good sized tank (say 100 gallons) you'll probably need 2 or 3 metal halide (MH) lights plus some compact flourescent strips. MH lights run for $150 and up each, and CF strips would easily cost $200 for a set. If you just want fish, with no coral, the lighting requirements drop - but I think coral is one of the coolest things about a marine environment.

A few years ago I priced out a 150 gallon tank I used to have to do freshwater plants, which requires _less_ light then saltwater reefs, and for just lighting I was looking at about $1200. The electricity adds up when you have 1500 watts of light running 12 hrs a day, not to mention replacement bulbs.

Also consider water - there is a good chance you have to get the chemical levels and PH from your tap water suitable for the aquarium. This could involve buying a reverse osmosis unit ($200 and up), or buying water from an aquarium store, or some other pre-treatment system.

Then there is the price of the animals themself - some of the rare creatures can easily cost over $100 each, which is crazy when you consider how fragile the whole thing is. btw - there are coral farms specifically for the aquarium market, but there is still live harvesting going on, which pisses off a lot of people of course.

Marine aquariums are definitely beatiful, but consider two thousand a bare minimum for getting started, not to mention a serious time investment and constant maintenence costs. Find a good local store and just talk with people on how to get started if you are really interested - someone may have some good used equipment which is a great way to start and get experience.
posted by rsanheim at 2:34 PM on November 5, 2006

Also, if you go the saltwater aquarium rute, please make sure you buy captive-bred fish from a reputable store. The aquarium fishery can be devastating to coral reefs - fish are caught with dynamite and cynanide. (and the fish you get this way won't be very healthy, anyway.)
posted by ilyanassa at 3:22 PM on November 5, 2006

i agree that if you are looking for flashy and interesting fish for a freshwater aquarium, neon tetras are very fascinating, especially in large schools. not so impressive in small groups, but you need to be sure you have a large enough container for whatever number fish you have.

another really pretty and fascinating type of freshwater fish are fancy guppies -- they come in lots of different colors and varieties, can be very inexpensive, and are easy to care for.
posted by doplgangr at 7:42 PM on November 5, 2006

This is a goshdarn gorgeous fish (Picasso fish or as the people from Hawai'i call it a Humuhumu nukunuku apua'a) I saw recently. And I saw it in the Pacific whereas this guy saw it in the Red Sea so it seems to be a rather well-travelled fish
posted by Dagobert at 8:43 PM on November 5, 2006

The long, thin, black fish is very likely a Black Ghost Knife, a freshwater fish, whose extrasensory perception is a weak electromagnetic field they use to find food and navigate, as they are nocturnal. I have one myself, and they are very interesting, though high-maintainence fish.

As far as saltwater tank costs, the Aquarium Advice website has a sticky thread in the saltwater section re: cost of set-up, and the numbers there will give any sane person reason for cause. Ironically, the cost for set-up of a marine tank is nothing next to the time and expertise they require.

Beyond that, a good number of fish are well-known for their personalities or unique species traits. Betta fish (better known as Siamese Fighting Fish) are a good example--the territorial behaviour of the male which can be demonstrated with a mirror makes them popular pets.

Some other examples:

Clown fish--colorful bottom feeders that move in "herds", like to squeeze into very small places, and sleep on their sides and backs.

Plecostomus--these are the common "sucker fish". They suck on things, which is a lot more entertaining than one would imagine.

There are other eamples to be had, but it's late enough that I'm having trouble bringing any to mind.
posted by internet!Hannah at 9:42 PM on November 5, 2006

Response by poster: These answers are all so helpful, I want to mark them all favourites! Thanks so much for your help, and keep 'em coming if you think of anything else.
posted by mjao at 9:56 PM on November 5, 2006

« Older Used cell phones in NYC?   |   Hip-hop compilations released in the UK Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.