When most people think of a freshwater aquarium, they imagine an aquatic garden-of sorts that houses a diverse group of tropical fish. They think of an aquarium that looks something like the one pictured below. Indeed, most freshwater aquariums are well suited to provide many different types (or species) of tropical fish with a great home. These types of aquariums are called community aquariums.
Perhaps the best way to define a community aquarium is to explain what it is not. So, let’s do just that.
Some types of tropical fish require very specific aquarium conditions, and ones which many other fish are not used to. Discus Fish, for example, do best at low pH and water hardness levels that are beyond the tolerable range of most tropical fish (see January’s Fish of the Month post for a description of Discus Fish care). Moreover, Discus Fish are delicate animals that will not do well with fast-swimming, boisterous, and/or aggressive fish.
For the above two reasons, many hobbyists choose to keep Discus Fish in what’s called a “species tank” – in an aquarium that houses only one type of fish. A “species tank,” therefore, is the exact opposite of a community aquarium.
So, a community aquarium is basically one that houses many types (or species) of tropical fish.
Now, just because a community aquarium, by definition, houses many different types of tropical fish, that doesn’t mean that you can mix and match any fish species you want. No, not all tropical fish will do well with one another, and not all fish will thrive in the same aquarium environment (see Aquarium Care 101: Part 1 for more information).
So, before you go out to buy fish for a community aquarium, be sure to determine whether or not the fish you plan to get will coexists peacefully with one another, and whether or not they like similar water conditions (which include water hardness/softness, pH, and temperature).
Just a bit of planning is well worth the small effort. It’ll make aquarium and tropical fish care simple, easy, and fun. After all, how much fun can watching an aquarium full of expensive fish that fight to the death be?