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Introduction

The presumed ancestors of today's fish first appeared in the seas about 500 million years ago. Amazingly, they resembled quite closely a creature found today - the lancelet. The Lancelet, about 6" Long, is a filter feeder with a flexible rod in it's back, the notochord, from which the backbone of fishes and other vertebrates has developed. By about 400 million years ago, creatures with bones had appeared, but the first true fish are found as fossils in rocks about 350 million years old. Many different species have been found with recognisable characteristics such as fins, a backbone surrounding the notochord, teeth and sometimes scales. Fish were the first vertebrates; the others - amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals - followed later, in that order.

It often seems to be assumed that the cartilaginous fish, the ancestors of sharks and rays, were also ancestral to the bony fish, but that does not appear to be the case. Instead, a split occurred quite early in fish evolution and some bony fish gradually lost bony tissue and became cartilaginous. The advantage was perhaps a lighter body weight and greater flexibility. They are still mostly confined to the sea, whereas bony fish invaded fresh waters and became their main vertebrate inhabitants. Freshwater aquarium fish are therefore bony fish - so are nearly all marine ones.

Of the 20 thousand species available, a selection of those suitable for the home aquarium still amounts to around 5000 species, of which many hundreds are to be found in pet shops. These are in general the fish that are attractive, usually colourful, reasonably hardy and not growing too large. Many of them have never seen their native waters, but have been bred and reared in commercial or hobbyists' tanks. The world-wide aquarium fish trade is enormous, involving tens of millions of fish annually. New species are being found regularly and our capacity to breed old and new species is expanding all the time.

At Moonlight Aquatics with over 50 tanks we always have a wide range of traditional community fish including mollies, platys, neon tetras and angels. We also keep some of the more unusual and interesting species for those who have mastered the basics of the hobby.

Why fish?!

Keeping an aquarium can be a fascinating and rewarding hobby, it appeals to all age groups and pockets. There are a number of advantages to keeping fish as opposed to other pets - no long walks on rainy days! Your aquarium and equipment will not take up too much space and as long as you follow a few basic guidelines it couldn't be easier.

Tropical or coldwater?

The choice is yours! There is very little difference in the general care of tropical and coldwater fish, both need filtered, aerated, clean, healthy water. The main difference, of course, is that tropical fish require heated water. Goldfish are the most popular pet fish in Britain and are most fish keepers introduction to the hobby.

Historical Background

The earliest known aquarists were the Sumarians, who kept fishes in artificial ponds at least 4,500 years ago; records of fish keeping also date from ancient Egypt and Assyria. The Chinese, who raised carp for food as early as 1000 BC, were probably the first to breed fish with any degree of success. Their selective breeding of ornamental goldfish was later introduced to Japan, where the breeding of ornamental carp was perfected. The ancient Romans, who kept fish for food and entertainment, were the first known marine aquarists; they constructed ponds that were supplied with fresh seawater from the ocean. Although goldfish were successfully kept in glass vessels in England during the middle 1700s, aquarium keeping did not become well established until the relationship between oxygen, animals, and plants became known a century later.

By 1850 the keeping of fish, amphibians, and reptiles had become useful in the study of nature. It was in the works of Philip Gosse, a British naturalist, that the term aquarium first appeared. His work aroused increased public interest in aquatic life. The first display aquarium was opened to the public in 1853 at Regent's Park in London. It was followed by aquariums in Berlin, Naples, and Paris. P.T. Barnum, the circus entrepreneur, recognised the commercial possibilities of living aquatic animals and, in 1856, opened the first display aquarium at the American Museum in New York City as a private enterprise. By 1928 there were 45 public or commercial aquariums throughout the world, but growth then slowed and few new large aquariums appeared until after World War II. Now many of the world's principal cities now have public aquariums as well as commercial ones and a hobby was born...!

The first containers specifically designed for aquatic specimens were the strictly functional open-air tanks used by the Romans to preserve and fatten fish for market. It was not until the 18th century that the importation of goldfish into France from the Orient for aesthetic enjoyment created the demand for small aquariums; ceramic bowls, occasionally fitted with transparent sections, were produced. In the large public aquariums built in many European cities between 1850 and 1880, efforts were made to create the illusion that the spectator was entering into the underwater world. More recently, the trend has been to emphasise the natural beauty of the specimens and to make a sharp distinction between the water and the viewing space.

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