That place upstairs need not just be somewhere to sleep and a fish tank there is far more rewarding than a TV or computer - as Nathan Hill explains.
More and more aquaria lend themselves to bedrooms. As lifestyle pieces, biOrbs and models like the Fluval Edge confirm that aquaria are no eyesores. Younger hobbyists may even have a nano aquarium on the go — reflecting a far cry from goldfish bowls on bedroom cupboards.
However, with a bedroom tank comes a whole new range of considerations, both from the perspective of the fish and us.
Risks can vary from those attached to a tank in a hallway or living room, so it’s worth knowing some of the issues if you’re one of those keepers who, like me, enjoys viewing his or her fish from the comfort of a duvet.
A downstairs fish tank set on solid flooring isn’t going anywhere. Yet what about two storeys up in a house that’s 70 or 80 years old and has creaking floorboards?
Anything over 1.2m/4’ long is usually considered risky and floorboards will need to be assessed if committing to anything larger than a nano.
Tanks need to be as near to a wall as possible, never sat in the centre of the room. Ideally a tank will straddle joists in the floor that run perpendicular to it.
In some cases it will be worth finding a larger, solid board on to which to place the tank to spread its weight. A similar effect can be achieved by taking the feet off aquarium cabinets, eliminating what would be focused pressure points on the floor.
Don’t think you can test the strength of the floor just by jumping on it a few times. An aquarium is a constant dead weight that exerts a different kind of pressure.
Small tanks also need to be thought through and appropriate stands used where the manufacturer insists. That chest of drawers may have been in the family for years, but 30 l/6.6 gal of moving water sat slap bang in the middle of it day after day could spell disaster.
Having a bedroom tank means you can make your way into the loft above with a drill and create fastenings for hanging cables. A potential world of LEDs and other canopies then becomes available — and we all love the look of a hanging light!
However, fish do like their rest. If you’re the kind of person who goes to bed at all hours, or likes to get up for a midnight feast, then the constant flicking on and off of lights can stress them.
Lugging buckets of sloshing H2O is a pain at the best of times, but carrying them up a flight or two of stairs can become positively backbreaking.
Get yourself into an emergency where you need to change lots of water fast and you could reach breaking point a lot sooner than you think. A typical bucket of water will weigh 10-12 kg/22-26 lb. A typical RO drum is 25kg/55 lb filled. A typical tank 1m/3.3’ long will hold about 120 l/26 gal. It soon adds up when stairs are added.
Spillages also pose an extra problem when upstairs. Water moves downwards, cuddling electrics on the way and nesting down into floorboards to slowly decompose them.
The worst-case scenario of an exploded tank downstairs involves mops and buckets. Upstairs it involves new floorboards, ceilings and maybe some new light fittings and wallpaper.
This definitely cuts both ways. A badly maintained tank can be a stinky thing, a slow release of ammonia and other nitrogenous smells leaching in to the room. A really badly maintained tank may even produce hydrogen sulphide — the rotten egg smell you used to get in stink bombs — although your fish will likely be dead by this point.
Bedrooms also double up as our boudoirs, a place where we splash on our perfumes and deodorants. These chemicals can be lethal to fish and have caused many a wipeout with overzealous teenagers drizzling themselves in Lynx.
The tiny droplets from a perfume bottle are soon plucked from the air by moving water and your aquarium can become a storage point for anything airborne in the room.
Work colleagues know when my bedroom tank has been playing up, as I’ll arrive looking like I’ve just got back from Fight Club.
In the silence of night, the tiniest reverberation can become a nightmare of clanging that bores into the sleeper’s head. Toss air-driven beasts such as protein skimmers into the mix and night-time can become a screaming orchestra of hardware.
Of course, many fish become night active too. If a fan of toadfish or a catfish buff, then the sun going down is the trigger for many fish to start nocturnal conversations. Expect clicks, grunts and whistles as cats bump into each other throughout the night – and expect the occasional startling splash if a couple of fish have an altercation.
Kids’ tanks in particular are a problem. Sound systems in bedrooms are a standard part of furniture these days, but those vibrations in that confined space are the ultimate fish stress factor. If wanting a tank in the bedroom, it must be at the sacrifice of loud stereos and dancing around as you get ready for a night on the tiles.
This is not as bad an issue as you may suspect. The only things to be really wary of are the increased risks of humidity in a closed space — common with open topped and hot aquariums where evaporation is high.
Although incredibly low, water carries a risk of an airborne spread of legionella. This is increased by the use of mist makers.
Having taken into consideration some of the setbacks, we have to consider the gain — an aquarium in your bedroom.
I don’t know about you, but it seems like a pretty fair trade-off to me. That’s why I’ve got two tanks in my room, with more to follow…
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