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An aquarium is a glass-sided container in which water-dwelling plants and animals (usually fish) are kept in captivity. The term is also used of a public establishment that maintains a large number of aquatic species in captivity, much as a zoo does for land animals.

Table of contents
1 Aquarium Hobby
2 Public Aquaria

Aquarium Hobby

In 1665 the diarist Samuel Pepys recorded seeing in London "a fine rarity, of fishes kept in a glass of water, that will live so forever, and finely marked they are, being foreign." Rather than goldfish, the fish were more likely to have been Paradisefish, 'Macropodus opercularis', a familiar garden fish in Canton, China, where the East India Company was trading. In the 18th century, the biologist Abraham Trembley kept hydra found in the garden canals of the Bentinck residence Sorgvliet, Netherlands, in large cyndrical glass vessels for study. But the keeping of fish in an aquarium first became a popular hobby in Britain after ornate aquaria in cast-iron frames were featured at the Great Exhibition of 1851 The framed-glass aquarium was a development of the glazed Wardian case developed for British horticulturists in the 1830s, to protect exotic plants on long sea voyages. Germans rivalled the British in their interest, and by the turn of the century Hamburg became the European port of entry for many newly-seen species.

Aquaria became more widely popular as houses became almost universally electrified after World War I. With electricity they no longer depended on natural light and could be aerated and filtered. During the earlier twentieth century many species of small colorful tropical fish were caught and exported from Manaus, Brazil, Bangkok, Siam, Jakarta, Dutch East Indies, Calcutta, India and other tropical ports. After Betta splendens was bred in France in 1893, successful captive spawning techniques were slowly unravelled. Captive breeding for the aquarium trade is now concentrated in South Florida, Singapore, Hong Kong and Bangkok, with smaller industries in Hawaii, Sri Lanka.

Freshwater aquaria remain the most popular, but marine (saltwater) aquaria have gained cachet as a dedicated enthusiast's preserve. Techniques of maintaining sea-anemones, some corals and crustacea, developed since the 1980s, have made the recreations of a "mini-reef" possible. Captive breeding programs of marine organisms for the aquarium trade have been urgently in development since the mid-1990s, spurred by environmental pressures on reef environments.

Aquaria can vary in size from a small bowl temporarily large enough for a single juvenile goldfish to the huge public aquaria that can simulate entire marine ecosystems. The smallest practical size for a home aquarium is 10 gallons, with 20 gallons more often recommended. Paradoxically, larger aquarium systems are considered more stable.

With the advent of Dutch Aquariums and Takashi Amano's photographs in Natural Aquarium World, aquatic enthusiasts began to take interest in aquatic plants in the 80s or 90s. The major technological hurdle was the introduction of CO2 gas into the fish tank, both to control algae, and to provide carbon for the growth of the aquatic plants.

Public Aquaria

The first public aquarium opened in London's Regent's Park, in 1853. P.T. Barnum quickly followed with the first American aquarium, opened on Broadway, New York. Following early examples of New York and San Francisco, many major cities have public aquaria. Most public aquariums are located close to the sea; for a steady supply of natural seawater. An inland pioneer was Chicago's Shedd Aquarium, that received seawater shipped by rail in special tank cars.

Operationally, a public aquarium is similar in many ways to a zoo or museum. A good aquarium will have special exhibits to entice repeat visitors, it may be rented out in evenings for special events, and so forth. A few have their own version of a "petting zoo"; for instance, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has a shallow tank filled with common types of rayss, and one can reach in to feel their leathery skins as they pass by.

Also as with zoos, aquaria usually have specialized research staff who study the habits and biology of their specimens. In recent years, the large aquaria have been attempting to acquire and raise various species of open-ocean fish, and even sea-jellies (cnidaria), a difficult task since these creatures have never before encountered solid surfaces like the walls of a tank, and do not have the instincts to turn aside from the walls instead of running into them.

Notable public aquaria include:

External links

See also: List of aquaria, Marine park