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Tips for maintaining your own aquarium

You can collect Tasmanian marine species to stock and maintain a home aquarium provided that your fishing complies with any requirement for a licence, size limits, area restrictions, closed seasons, protected species or prohibited gears. The normal bag and possession limits also apply.

Schools and businesses keeping aquariums may need to apply for a permit http://dpipwe.tas.gov.au/Documents/Permit-Application-Form_F1954_electronic_Apr2012.pdf

For permit advice contact Wild Fisheries Management at the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment on 6165 3000

You should aim to minimise your impact if taking specimens from the wild. Minimise wastage by keeping the number of species and the number of individuals to a minimum. You should also only take species that you are confident will survive in your particular aquarium environment.

Make sure you have the time required and sufficient knowledge to maintain a saltwater aquarium. Temperate marine aquariums can be labour intensive to maintain.

Firstly you need to keep the water temperature low (between 9 and 20 C depending on the time of year). Ice box ice blocks, or half filled frozen soft drink rocket bottles, placed in the water on a hot day can help, although you can purchase cooling fans that will cool the water.

You need adequate filtration and aeration, and you need to make saltwater (by purchasing salt from a pet store and mixing it with freshwater) and change it often (perhaps monthly, depending on the number of animals you keep). You can use saltwater collected from the wild, however it will contain plankton that will either bloom and foul the tank, or die and foul the tank. In any case, collecting sea water means you will probably need to change the water every two weeks because of the plankton.

Feeding can be an issue when keeping Tasmanian marine specimens. We purchase frozen salmon, whitebait, prawns and squid to feed our carnivorous and omnivorous animals, as well as sea lettuce to feed herbivores. Any uneaten meat needs to be removed as soon as possible. In fact, fresh oily fish like whitebait will release oils into the aquarium which will cause smell and clouding (most of the MDC aquaria are flow through systems rather than a contained system so this is not a problem for us as much). It is possible to use commercially available granular food or flakes from pet shops but you will need to experiment with different types to find one that the animals will like.

Having said all this, it can be worth the trouble even if it is for only 5 weeks say. Students observe the animals daily and it can enrich a unit of study greatly. Aquaria are quite affordable these days and a full set up (tank, light, aerator, filter, cooling fan) can be kept by your school and used by other classes each year. Note, however, that animals kept in closed system aquaria as described here cannot be released back into the wild due to the risk of spreading disease, so the animals will need to be euthanised if you are keeping the tank for only a short period of time. This will no doubt upset some, if not many, of the children.