An aquarium (plural: aquariums or aquaria) is a vivarium of any size having at least one transparent side in which aquatic plants or animals are kept and displayed. Fishkeepers use aquaria to keep fish, invertebrates, amphibians, aquatic reptiles, such as turtles, and aquatic plants. The term aquarium, coined by English naturalist Philip Henry Gosse, combines the Latin root aqua, meaning ‘water’, with the suffix -arium, meaning ‘a place for relating to’.
History and popularization
Cat and fishbowl, after Isoda Koryusai. Original c. 1775.
In 1369, the Hongwu Emperor of China established a porcelain company that produced large porcelain tubs for maintaining goldfish; over time, people produced tubs that approached the shape of modern fish bowls.
Leonhard Baldner, who wrote Vogel-, Fisch- und Tierbuch (Bird, Fish, and Animal Book) in 1666, maintained weather loaches and newts. It is sometimes held that the aquarium was invented by the Romans, who are said to have kept sea barbels in marble-and-glass tanks, but this is definitely not true.
The very first modern aquarium made of glass was developed in the 19th century by Robert Warrington. During the Victorian age, glass aquariums commonly had slate or steel bottoms, which allowed them to be heated underneath by an open-flame heat source. These aquariums had the glass panels attached with metal frames and sealed with putty.
Metal-framed aquariums were still available until the mid-1960s, when the modern, silicone-sealed style replaced them. Acrylic aquariums first became available to the public in the 1970s. Laminated glass is sometimes used, which combines the advantages of both glass and acrylic.
Acrylic aquaria are now the primary competitor with glass. Prior to the invention of UV stabilization, early acrylic aquaria discolored over time with exposure to light; this is no longer the case.
Acrylic is generally stronger than glass, weighs less, and provides a certain amount of temperature insulation. In colder climates or environments, it is easier to achieve and maintain a tropical temperature and requires less capacity from an aquarium heater. Acrylic-soluble cements are used to directly fuse acrylic together.[
Acrylic allows for the formation of unusual shapes, such as the hexagonal tank. Acrylics are easier to scratch than glass, but unlike scratches in glass, scratches in acrylic can be polished out.
Large aquaria might instead use stronger materials such as fiberglass-reinforced plastics. However, this material is not transparent. Reinforced concrete is used for aquaria where weight and space are not factors. Concrete must be coated with a waterproof layer to prevent the water from breaking down the concrete, as well as preventing contamination of the water by the concrete.
Plywood can also be used when building aquaria. The benefits of using plywood include: lower construction costs, less weight, and better insulation. A popular positioning choice for plywood aquaria is keeping them in a wall. Here the use of plywood is hidden by sinking the aquarium inside the wall. Putting insulation between the two helps with the insulation of a heated tank.