The wonderful world of ornamental fish

Visit an aquarium

Now that you know something about ornamental fish, think of fish as a pet and go in for an aquarium.

But before you buy and aquarium, visit your friend’s aquarium and learn from him how he takes care of them. Also visit a public aquarium.

The Bangalore Aquarium is housed in an octagonal-shaped building. It is located on Kasturba Road at the entrance of the Cubbon Park. The Aquarium, established by the Department of Fisheries in 1983, is said to be the second largest in India.

It has a wide variety of aquatic life. It has on display the largest number of cultivable as well as ornamental fish. However, the fish housed in the aquarium are only freshwater fish, both indigenous and exotic. The fish seen at the aquarium include angel fish, glow light tetra, red-tail shark, Siamese fighters, catla, Indian tiger barb, mahseer, freshwater prawns, blue gourami, gold fish and more.
The three-floored building has rows and rows of big, small and medium-sized tanks (glass aquariums) which display the ornamental fish. The building also houses the Aquarists Society of Karnataka.

Calming effect

When you are studying hard, take a break and gaze at the fish in the aquarium. It’s a great stress buster. Studies have shown that gazing at aquarium fish reduces stress and subsequently lowers blood pressure. Watching fish has been shown to calm children who suffer from hyperactivity disorder.

A large aquarium is great, but if space is limited, a mini-aquarium will do. If it’s not possible to keep an aquarium, consider a video or DVD of aquarium fish. There are computer screen savers with the fish aquarium theme.

Goldfish is said to be an ideal fish for stress relief. Watch the goldfish move, for 15 minutes, every day. If you cannot go for a full-fledged aquarium go for a large glass bowl, available in aquarium shops, and put a lone goldfish in it. Don’t worry about the goldfish being lonely. They don’t really have the cognitive brain power to feel lonely.

Get an aquarium

For a start, here are a few things you need to know about an aquarium, maintaining an aquarium and keeping and feeding fish.

* The size of the aquarium depends on the number of fish to be kept. Overcrowding should be avoided.
* The height of the aquarium should not be more than a foot-and-a-half. This is to avoid high water for the small fish. Lower height ensures better oxygen availability for the aquarium water vital to fish life.
* The greater the water surface area exposed to air, the better is the aeration of water.
* An aquarium newly made may be filled with water and kept for three to four days to check leakage of water.
* Place the aquarium indoors where light and air are available in plenty.
* Aquatic vegetation, available in ponds, may be cleaned and treated with potassium permanganate or common salt and planted on the aquarium bed. This beautifies the aquarium and also acts as a supplier of oxygen.
* As a beginner, go in for ordinary plants such as Hydrolase, Vallisneria, Amazon and Cabombas and fix them in different points of the tank. Plants give out oxygen during the day as a photosynthetic activity.
* Carefully select fish to be kept together in one aquarium, so that varieties which keep harmonious company are made to live together. You can get guidance from the aquarium/ fish dealer.
* As a beginner, start with hardy varieties of fish such as mollys, platys, barbs, swordtails and goldfish.
* Release a couple of snails to keep the aquarium clean from unutilised fish food. If the snails become too many, remove the unwanted numbers.
* Provide feed quantity to fish that can be utilised in about 10 minutes to avoid pollution caused by unused feed.
* Avoid over-feeding fish. This is best done by stopping feeding when the fish are not eating the introduced feed.
* Feed fish once in the morning and once in the afternoon.
* Do not presume that smaller varieties of fish like tetras, platys and guppies could be managed in smaller tanks. They need more space for their movement.
* Artificial illumination will help you enjoy the movement of you collection of ornamental fish.

Black Molly

There is nothing blacker than the Black Molly in the whole aquarium. Its little ones are also black and lively. As soon as they are born they set off to look for food.

Discus fish

These fish are flat, and they are round, like pancakes. They are called Discus fish. While their young ones are still bad swimmers, they help then along. For this purpose the young have special threads to attach them to the parent’s body. Doting parents, indeed!

Diamond fish

They are called diamonds because they sparkle with all the colours of the rainbow just like diamonds. Quick and lively, they dart about flashing as if a handful of jewels has been thrown into the water.


The swordtail has a long growth like a sword on its tail, which is how it got its name. It lives in small ponds in South America. When it is swimming, it uses its sword like a rudder, to steer.


The headstander spends all its time on the head. This is the most convenient position for rummaging in the mud for worms. It is so used to this position that even when full stays in it. And so we joke that it is the “cleverest fish of all”, because its head is so heavy that it weighs it down.


You don’t know which way to look when you see a shoal of multi-coloured guppies. Little and lively, they are always on the move.

Emperor Tetra

If you are a keen observer, you will notice that this fish has a tail in the shape of a crown. Because of its ‘crown’ it is called the Emperor Tetra.

Glass fish

The fish is so transparent that you can even see its skeleton. It is hard to make out this fish in water and in the weeds you cannot see it at all. A sharp-toothed enemy will swim past and be completely puzzled, for there is a floating skeleton, but no fish to be seen. Deciding that this must be a fish that somebody else has already picked clean, the hunter simply swims past. The glass fish then swims away to find a worm for its dinner! This is no easy task in the river, as opposed to the aquarium where live worms are fed in from above.

Harlequin fish

Everyone took a liking to the Harlequin fishwhen it first arrived from Indonesia. But nobody managed to get it to breed in captivity; the roe always perished before it hatched out. Then it worked when it was bred in rainwater. The young ones hatched out of the eggs and grew into big ones, and that was how people learnt to breed it.

An aquarium is a many-splendoured thing. You see a variety of fish, each different from the other. Fish have different habits and dispositions. Some are as big as your hand, others the size of a thumb nail. Most of them come from hot tropical countries. They have been bred in captivity to be displayed in aquariums.

It is not easy to identify fish when they are swimming free in the river, let alone observe how they live and multiply. Whereas in the aquarium, we can see everything and by watching the fish we can learn many interesting things about them: how they eat, how they deposit their roe and how they look after their young.

Let us look at some interesting aquarium fish and observe their characteristics.

Black Ruby

The Black Ruby is a fish with a big appetite. When you drop food into the water, the Black Ruby is on the spot at once. It is probably due to the fact that it eats so much that it is such a fast swimmer.

Pearl Gourami

The pearl gourami is so called because it seems to have been sewed with pearls! When it is time to breed, the gourami builds a nest by gathering up with its mouth the leaves and little twigs that float in the water and glueing them together with froth made of air-bubbles. A little island is thus formed. The gourami hides its roe inside it so that it shouldn’t get washed away or eaten by other fish, then stands guard by the nest until the babies have bitten their way out of the eggs!

Sumatran Tiger Barb

The fish comes from Sumatra Island of Indonesia. The Tiger Barb is yellow, with black stripes across the body. This colouring helps it to hide from its enemies. It goes down to the sand at the bottom and takes up a position among the stems of the weeds there, it merges with its surroundings.

Fighting fish

Fighting fish come in all colours – bright red, blue or green, and they are called fighting fish because they are so aggressive. They cannot help fighting. They attack and try to bite one another, tearing each other’s fins to shreds. But this is no disaster, for the fins grow back again.

Dwarf Gourami

The Dwarf Gourami is a very elegant fish. It dark-blue breast looks like a shirt under a jacket, and the jacket itself is all red and light-blue checks. It gets this beautiful colouring only when it is fully-grown and has learnt to swim fast. When it is small it is quite different: grey and plain to make it more difficult for its enemies to see.

Congo Tetra

The fish comes from tropical Africa. In the River Congo, it had many enemies to escape from, so it
became a fast swimmer. Now it has come to live in the aquarium. It darts up and down like a motor-boat, so fast that you cannot get a proper look at it until it stops for a rest.

Dwarf Gourami

The Dwarf Gourami is a very elegant fish. It dark-blue breast looks like a shirt under a jacket, and the jacket itself is all red and light-blue checks. It gets this beautiful colouring only when it is fully-grown and has learnt to swim fast. When it is small it is quite different: grey and plain to make it more difficult for its enemies to see.

Golden Gourami

The golden gourami has long thin whiskers in place of breast fins. When it finds something interesting, it puts out its whiskers, as if they were hands, to feel what it is: the weeds, the glass walls and the little snails in the aquarium, and if it is another fish, the golden gourami pats it with its whiskers as though in greeting.

Angel fish

Angel fish live in the Amazon,among the thick growing bullrushes.But the angel fish swim freely in and out,for their bodies are completely flat.

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