Aquariums come in various shapes and sizes so that they can fit into the interior
design of any home.
An aquarium can only be fully appreciated when it is integrated
into its environment.
Traditionally, most tanks take the form of a horizontal rectangle, but these
days it is also possible to find cubes, vertical rectangles, or panoramic aquariums,
all specially adapted to a specific setting.
The basic model - and the cheapest - consists of a tank with a lid. It is also
possible to equip it with a lighting hood. There are other models with an integral
hood and minimal external decoration, i.e. a strip, of varying widths, that goes
round both the base and the top, hiding the surface of the water. This type of aquarium
can be sold on its own or with a support. It can sometimes be fitted with a filtration
unit. Finally, in the top range, there are aquariums built into a piece of furniture,
normally containing a filtration unit and lighting hood. The supporting furniture
often has shelves or closets that serve to hide the pumps and other equipment, and
the aquarium is framed by decorative elements that leave it visible from three sides.
Commercial aquariums are almost always made of glued glass, with silicone joints.
These materials are suitable for water volumes of around 500 liters - volumes rarely
exceeded in the aquarium trade.
The generalized nature of the materials and the relative simplicity of the gluing
mean that any careful hobbyist can build a glued glass aquarium him or herself.
For bigger volumes, polyester resin or cement are used, with only the front part
of the tank made of glass. These are the materials found in public aquariums. Plexiglas,
which is light but also scratches easily, is used for the rarer round forms. Small
plastic tanks are also available for use as rearing or quarantine tanks.
The most harmonious form is obtained when the length is equal to the height multiplied
by 1.5-2.5. The height will be slightly greater than the width, except in built-in
tanks, where the contrary is the case. These proportions can be adhered to up to
a length of 1.5 m, but they are impossible after that, as the height must never
exceed 0.5 m (see table).
"Diamond" tank. An original shape providing a striking visual
effect. (La Rochelle Aquarium)
It is not advisable to use very narrow aquariums, as a trick of the eye means
that a tank seems one-third narrower when it is filled with water, producing an
unfortunate visual effect. Narrow tanks can be attractive, however, if they are
put on narrow pieces of furniture, such as a mantelpiece or a dividing wall between
two rooms. It is also important to take into account the weight of the tank. A solid
support is required, because an aquarium is heavy when it is put into operation:
the weight of the water and decor must be added to that of the tank itself.
An aquarium must be positioned with care, as once it is filled it will be impossible
to move it anywhere else. It is a complicated decision, involving the visual impact
on the room, practical considerations, and ecological criteria.
Obviously, a big tank fits better into a large room, and a narrow tank into a
small room. Choose a fairly dark spot to highlight it, well away from the television,
to avoid any competition between these two centers of attention.
An aquarium traditionally has its longest dimension set against a wall, but there
are other ways of setting it off. It can occupy a corner, be placed on a partition
between two rooms, or be built into a wall.
You must plan on having an electrical socket at an easy distance. A nearby tap
would also be an asset, but if this is not possible make sure you have a hose for
filling and draining the tank. When the aquarium is set against a wall, it is advisable
to leave a space of a few centimeters at the back to make room for cables and pipes.
The height of the aquarium also has to be planned with care, as it should be at
eye level to be seen to advantage. Therefore, when it is placed in a main room,
its base must be around 1 m from the floor, to see it without any problem.
There are a huge number of original ways of setting off
It is essential that sunlight, especially that coming from the south, does not
strike the aquarium directly, as there is a danger that green algae will grow, not
to mention an excessive increase in temperature in summer. It is therefore best
to face the tank towards the north or east. Do not hesitate to try out different
positions with an empty tank before taking a decision with lasting consequences.
DIMENSIONS, VOLUMES, AND WEIGHTS
You must consider the gross volume (that of an empty aquarium) the net volume
(when the tank is full, the sand and decor take up a certain amount of space) and
the final weight of the aquarium when in operation. This depends on the bed and
the extent of the decor; as these vary from one tank to another, the weight is therefore
only indicated as a rough guide.
The lid, placed directly above the tank, is necessary for several reasons:
- to avoid water spilling on the lighting hood;
- to stop dust falling into the water;
- to prevent any possible jumping fish escaping from the tank;
- to reduce evaporation.
The lid must be made of glass to allow light to enter the tank, and so it must
be cleaned regularly. On a practical level, small pegs stuck to the top make it
easier to handle, and some corners can be cut away to make room for pipes and electrical
cables. Also for practical reasons, it is advisable to have several small lids which
fit together, especially in big tanks.
As we have already seen, the weight of an aquarium is quite considerable. It
is therefore vital to set up a sturdy and perfectly horizontal support (check the
latter with a spirit level). Special furniture is available in the aquarium trade,
but you can just as well build one yourself, the essential point being that the
weight is distributed on intermediary beams. The support can be the same size as
the tank or bigger, but it should never be smaller, either in length or width. Put
a sheet of water-resistant marine plywood - 10-15 mm thick, according to the dimensions
and weight of the aquarium - on the support, and then cover this with a 15 mm thick
polystyrene sheet, which will compensate for any irregularities in the support.
If you are a do-it-yourself enthusiast and have patience, you can set the aquarium,
together with its support, into a piece of wooden furniture, so that it can only
be seen through its front pane.
- placing any decorative objects immediately above the aquarium, as this makes
using the lid impractical;
- putting any electrical devices under the aquarium: this is dangerous, due
to the possibility of water spilling;
- installing the aquarium near a radiator.