Species Specific Aquariums

Species tanks can make gorgeous displays with themes such as an Amazon River tributary or a spectacular seahorse stable.

A shoal of neon tetras would look spectacular in a species-specific tank. Paracheirodon innesi Via Svetoslav Denev/Flickr

Imagine the breathtaking beauty of a heavily planted aquarium containing two hundred, lazily shoaling, neon tetras (Paracheirodon innesi).  The black substrate and dark aquarium backdrop highlight the iridescent blue horizontal stripe of these strikingly beautiful fish.  The aquatic display is the epitome of species aquariums.

bumblebee goby
Brackish water bumble bee gobies are easier to feed in a species tank. Photo by Stephen G. Noble

Species specific aquariums contain only one type (species) of fish or organism.  The three basic types of species tanks include, freshwater, brackish water and saltwater.

A species tank may contain just a single specimen or hundreds of the same species depending upon their temperament, the size of the tank and capacity of the life support equipment.  Species tanks are not only kept by hobbyists.  Scientific institutions maintain huge populations of Zebrafish (Danio rerio) for studying genetics and pollution detection.  It is common for those entering the hobby to have a species tank and not even realize it.  Many hobbyists keep a Betta because they can live in a tank suitable for an office desk.  But, the aggressive temperament toward other male Betta’s is more a compelling reason for keeping a single specimen.

Let’s investigate reasons for keeping the various types of species aquariums:

 Freshwater Species Tanks

  1. Fish breeders can tweak the water parameters that a particular species desires for breeding.  The discus enjoy very warm 29.4 °C (85°F), soft water while the Rift Valley cichlids prefer hard, alkaline water and a temperature ranging from 22-28 °C (72°-82°F).
  2. Subsequent generations, called colonies, can occupy the same aquarium as the parents.  This is often seen in guppy species tanks where the off spring are capable of surviving as long as the parents are well fed and plants provide safe havens for the fry.

Brackish Water Species Tanks

Water is considered brackish when it has a specific gravity ranging from 1.005 to 1.019.  Most brackish water species are tolerant of salinity fluctuations.

bumblebee goby
A species specific freshwater shrimp tank. Photo by Stephen G. Noble

  • The list of home aquarium size, brackish water fishes is rather short.  This is primarily because most freshwater and saltwater fishes are unable to adapt to long-term brackish conditions.
  • Many brackish water species are territorial, grow to huge sizes or are incompatible with other species which makes them ideal candidates for a species tank.
  • Some of the smaller species such as the bumble bee goby (Brachygobius doriae) do much better in a species tank because they have a difficult time competing for food with faster swimming tank mates.

FishChannel has information on how to create a brackish water habitat:

Saltwater Species Tanks

Marine aquariums with one species of fish and invertebrates can still be considered a species tank.

    1. Species such as seahorses (Hippocampus) are often kept in species tanks due to their slow eating habits and vulnerability of predation by eels and tangs. Swifter tank mates will quickly consume the Mysis or live brine shrimp and other food intended to slowly drift past the ‘ambush eating’ seahorse.
    2. Moon jellyfish are fragile and should be kept in tanks absent any objects.  Micro bubbles from protein skimmers commonly used in marine aquariums are detrimental to jellyfish.

bumblebee goby
Seahorses are ideal for species aquariums. Photo by Stephen G. Noble

Species aquariums have many advantages over community tanks. They include: the ability for maintaining exact water parameters for better fish health and breeding, ease of feeding and predation avoidance. Keeping an aquarium when space is limited is another advantage of the species aquarium.

Smaller species can be kept in nano reef tanks and freshwater aquariums. Most of all, species tanks can make gorgeous aquatic displays with specific themes such as an Amazon River tributary or a spectacular seahorse ‘stable.’ Enjoy your fish!

Article Categories:
Fish · Freshwater Fish