I have at the moment four aquariums; one in the living room, three in the study. All of them are quite large aquariums with 200 liters or more water capacity.

1) Community aquarium in the living room (160x60x60 cm)

Community aquarium in our living room

Community aquarium in our living room

This is a somewhat overcrowded community aquarium with variety of relatively peaceful cichlids like Colombian angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare), Bolivian Ram (Microgeophagus altispinosa), keyhole cichlids (Cleithracara maronii), and other species like endler guppies (Poecilia reticulata), bottom dwellers bristlenose (Ancistrus dolichopterus) and zebra catfish (Peckoltia sp. L134).

There are also several swarm fish like neon (Paracheirodon innesi) and red nose tetra (Hemigrammus bleheri) though their numbers are decimated from year to year, and I don’t bother to buy new specimens. The submergent (underwater) plants are Cryptocoryne and Anubias species.

I use emergent plants like satin pothos (Scindapsus pictus or Epipremnum pinnatum), creeping fig (Ficus pumila), umbrella plant (Cyperus alternifolius) and weeping wig (Ficus benjamina) as water purifiers and beautifiers. Thanks to these plants water remains surprisingly clean (nitrate below 25 mg/liter), and the fish seem to be quite healthy although the aquarium is definitely overcrowded. Nevertheless, starting from large flag cichlids some fish must be given away. Otherwise the 10-month old angelfish which will soon become territorial adults will have no space to live in peace.

You may find below snapshots from this community aquarium.

2) My biotope in the study; a low-tech natural aquarium (120x60x40 cm)

Biotope in my room; a low-tech natural aquarium

Biotope in my room; a low-tech natural aquarium

This is the aquarium I like most; a living example of maximum ecology minimum technology.

It has no heater, no filter, no air pump, no artificial lighting, no noise, nothing as to technological ugliness… Only plants, crustaceans like cherry dwarf shrimps (Neocaridina denticulata) and Hyalella azteca (a detritivorous and herbivorous decapod), snails, a couple of algeaters (Ansictrus sp.) and a group of lovely dwarf fish Dario dario with a maximum size of 2.5 cm.

This aquarium is an almost self-sufficient ecosystem similar to natural garden ponds. It receives sunlight from the window. I give no fish food at all except for occasionally dried leaves from the nearby wood, potato and carrot leaves for the herbivorous animals which make the foundation of the food chain. Watching such an natural aquarium is a totally different experience than the usual overstocked industrial aquariums with lots of technological man-made tools and equipments. Fish or shrimps don’t show up in front of you as if in a vitrine; most of time they hide among plants and woods. You have to wait and search them in the aquarium. Dario darios usually appear early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

I wrote two years ago, in 2007, a long article about this aquarium in Turkish with pictures and videos (see Odamdaki biyotop). I will soon publish a similar article here in English with new pictures and videos.

3) Low-maintenance guppy aquarium (120x50x50 cm)

Low maintenance guppy aquarium

Low maintenance guppy aquarium

I can’t call it a low-tech aquarium because it has an air pump driven sponge filter and artificial lighting. Nevertheless, it is a low-maintenance aquarium because I leave water purification to plants like satin pothos (Scindapsus pictus) and creeping fig (Ficus pumila) instead of using elaborate high maintenance filters or making frequent water exchanges. There’s no heater; temperature varies between 20-26 Celcius.

Yellow dwarf cichlids (Apistogramma borellii) live together with lots of guppies (Poecilia reticulata) and several bristlenose algeater catfish (Ancistrus dolichopterus). Dwarf shrimps (Neocaridina denticulata) and snails work as voluntary recycling agents.

The only sustainability problems in this aquarium are fast growing underwater plants like waternymphs (Najas conferta) or hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum) which must be regularly pruned, and fast breeding guppies. The accumulation of organic deposits on the sand is a sure sign that the recycling is lacking behind and the aquarium is overloaded. Then the number of guppies and the amount of feeding must be reduced. Yellow dwarf cichlids are apparently too slow to decimate the number of young guppies.

Most of the young shrimps are eaten by dwarf cichlids, but some manage to survive to keep the population stable. Two solitary Echionodorus species, E. osiris and E. uruguayensis grow very well in this aquarium. The trumpet (Melanoides tuberculata) and ramshorn (Planorbarius corneus) snails are very important for the recycling of organic matter.

4) Low-maintenance dwarf cichlid aquarium (150x50x50 cm)

Low-stocked dwarf cichlid aquarium in the study

Low-stocked dwarf cichlid aquarium in the study

Two pairs of dwarf flag cichlids and a patriarchal cockatoo male (Apistogramma cacatuoides) with his two wives live in this aquarium. These two cichlid species get on surprisingly well. Since dwarf flags learned to respect the larger territory of the male cockatoo I witnessed no serious interspecial fights. Though seemingly dominant, the constant stress of keeping the robust dwarf flags under control might be too high a burden for the cockatoo male shortening his life; remains to be seen. On the other hand, I know that a cockatoo male needs a decent challenge to keep him busy and alert.

Ramshorn and trumpet snails, red claw shirmps (Macrobrachium assamense) and bristlenose algeaters (Ancistrus dolichopterus) share this aquarium with cichlids. A simple sponge filter driven by an air pump cares for aeration and water circulation. The temperature varies between 22 and 28 degrees celcius. Thanks to low fish population and water purifying plants water remains very clean (nitrate levels less than 12.5 mg/liter); perfectly adequate for sensitive dwarf cichlids.

5) Low-tech dwarf cichlid aquariums on my working table (60x40x40 cm each)
Panda dwarf cichlids (Apistogramma nijsseni) in the aquarium on the left handside with snails, guppies and a catfish (Ancistrus).

Tunç Ali Kütükçüoğlu, 20. June 2009, Zürich