Those in the know wanting to make a splash in their home are pouncing on the latest trend: aquascaping.
Forget the staid fishbowls of yesteryear with a few guppies listlessly swimming around some tacky knick knacks. Today's aquariums are underwater works of art that can reflect any number of aquatic themes, and can add serious flair to your home decor.
The kind of aquatic environment you can create largely depends mainly on your personal taste, budget, living space and imagination.
"Some spend $200 on a small six-gallon tank, while others treat it as a lifestyle investment and shell out up to $65,000 on a 1,400-gallon tank," says Kevin Reid, manager of Aqua Scape Design and Aquarium, Toronto's largest such installation and maintenance company.
For the average consumer with a semi-liberal budget, Reid offers the lowdown on what aspiring aquascapists need to know to create their dream aquarium.
A middle-of-the-road tank, in terms of size and cost, Reid says, is a 90-gallon tank that's 48-in long by 18-in. wide by 24-in. high, and starts at about $1,000.
Tanks are typically made of either glass or acrylic, with glass being the most affordable when it comes to small- and medium-sized tanks.
"Glass is the most popular choice because it is significantly less expensive," Reid says. "However, for larger sizes, you need a thicker tank to accommodate the weight of the water, and thick glass can be pricey. This is where acrylic becomes more cost-effective."
For a 90-gallon glass tank, ensure the glass is at least half an inch thick.
Every aquarium needs an adequate filtration system to clean the water and keep it flowing. Many types and brands are available, but Reid says Eheim is the most reliable brand, requires the least maintenance, and works in both freshwater and saltwater tanks. Eheim filters for 90-gallon tanks start at about $300.
One thing to consider before purchasing is the maximum gallonage a filtration system can accommodate, but Reid says often manufacturers inflate these numbers. For a 90-gallon tank, he advises choosing a 180-gallon filter, just to be safe.
Every tank needs lighting, both to display your beautiful creatures and handicraft, and in some cases, to sustain live organisms.
Fluorescent lighting is the standard for freshwater tanks, with intensities ranging from Normal Output, or NO (30 to 40 watts), to High Output, or HO (55 watts), to Very High Output, or VHO (110 watts).
Fish-only tanks require minimal fluorescent light, while tanks with plant life and/or reef require the much stronger rays emitted by metal halide lighting, which reaches up to 400 watts.
Lighting will cost you between $130 for a basic, two-bulb NO fixture to up to $1,000 for a three-bulb, 400-watt metal halide fixture. Talk to your aquarium installer about the most suitable lighting for your aquarium.