Published December 05, 2012
When it comes to setting up a freshwater aquarium there are many directions in which you might choose to go. Aside from the basic questions like “cold water” or “tropical” you also need to answer the question of whether you want to cultivate a “traditional” tank or not. Many aquarium hobbyists are satisfied to cultivate a traditional community or species tank – you may not even be aware that more options exist. In addition to the standard community tank aquarium hobbyists also have the option to cultivate what is called a biotope tank. A biotope tank is simply a tank designed to mimic a particular natural environment – this includes every detail from the water parameters to the species of fish and even the decorations used in the tank. Cultivating a biotope tank can be very challenging but it is also incredibly rewarding if you are able to succeed.
Types of Biotope Tanks
The possibilities are endless when it comes to types of biotope tanks because there are so many unique natural environments throughout the world. Biotope tanks can be as general or as specific as you like. For example, you might choose to cultivate an Amazon River biotope tank or you could take it a step further, isolating a particular region of the Amazon. Amazon biotope tanks are very popular because they are fairly easy to cultivate – there are a wide variety of fish species to choose from and many of the live plants available for the aquarium hobby come from the Amazon anyway. If you are looking for something a little more challenging, or if you just want a few more options to choose from, consider this list of biotope tank types:
- · South American blackwater tank
- · Southeast Asia back-water tank
- · Southeast Asian river tank
- · Central American coastal stream tank
- · Central American livebearer tank
- · Central American rocky lake tank
- · Brackish water estuary tank
- · Mangrove swamp tank
- · African river rapids tank
- · Lake Tanganyika tank
- · Lake Malawi tank
These are only a sample of the myriad options you have to choose from in cultivating a biotope tank. If you want to try something completely different, do a little research on a particular species of fish you like and design a biotope tank around that species. Customize the tank parameters to the preferences of that particular fish and stock the tank with other species that live in a similar habitat. Decorate your tank with a natural decor scheme similar to that which would be found in the native habitat of those fish.
Tips for Stocking and Setup
Stocking a biotope tank can be very tricky because the water parameters in the tank will be very specific – not all species of fish will be compatible with the water parameters in your tank. If you choose to cultivate a Lake Malawi biotope tank, for example, it would be disastrous to add an Amazonian species of fish. The proper pH
range for a Lake Malawi tank is between 75 and 8.8 – a range that is much too alkaline for Amazonian species of fish to tolerate. To avoid problems, it is wise to set up your tank first and then perform a little bit of research to find compatible species with which to stock your tank. Be sure not to overstock the tank – it is better to start out with just a few fish at first and then to add more as your tank becomes a stable, more established environment.
The key to achieving a successful biotope tank lies in the setup of the tank. Not only do you need to attain and maintain the ideal conditions in your tank, but you also need to pay attention to the decor scheme so that your tank effectively mimics the natural environment of your fish. When researching the particular biotope you have chosen, pay attention to the types of vegetation found in that area and stock your tank with the types of live plants
naturally found in that biotope. You may also want to find out what kind of substrate is common I the area and consider other decorations like rocks, caves and driftwood branches.
Cultivating a biotope tank is not necessarily more difficult than maintaining a traditional community tank but it may require a little more research and planning. If you do your job correctly, however, you will be rewarded with a healthy and thriving biotope tank that you can be proud of.
“Biotope Aquaria.” Mongobay.com. < http://fish.mongabay.com/biotope.htm>
Benedict, Alesia. “Biotopes-Part 1.” WetWebMedia.com. <http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_2/cav2i6/biotopes_p1/biotopes_p1.htm>
Lass, David. “Why Biotope Tanks?” FishChannel.com. < http://www.fishchannel.com/fish-blogs/fish-biz-buzz/2011/09/biotope-tanks.aspx>