My brother and I are total opposites in a lot of ways. He likes to focus on a single task and give it 100 percent of his attention. I fancy myself as a jack-of-all-trades, dabbling in a hundred different projects. As you might expect, he and I have very different attitudes when it comes to aquascaping. He would rather create an aquascape that focuses on a single, large creature such as an eel or an oscar that dominates the tank. I would rather have a veritable zoo of creatures working together to create a visually complex aquascape.

So, I thought that today I’d get outside of my comfort zone and talk about specialized tanks, which are aquariums that focus on a single creature or just one type of creature. These aquariums offer unique advantages and, if you’re anything like my brother, they will appeal to you with their beautiful simplicity.

The biggest advantage of a specialized tank is that it lets you highlight a single creature. With extremely diverse aquariums, which can have dozens or possibly even hundreds of different creatures, it’s easy to get lost in the complexity. No single creature can grab the spotlight because it’s competing with everything else in the aquascape. Fish in specialized tanks, on the other hand, can truly step forward and shine. Viewers will be able to appreciate all of the subtle details of the aquascape’s dominant inhabitant, and every other feature in the tank can complement or enhance that effect.

The other nice thing about specialized aquariums is that they allow you to highlight oversized or predatory creatures that are normally incompatible with conventional aquariums. For example, let’s suppose that you want an aquarium with a small shark or an eel. If you put a shark or an eel in a reef aquarium, there’s a good chance that these voracious predators would gobble up your prized tropical fish. Specialized aquariums highlight the vicious nature of predators by giving them a lone wolf feel. Viewers will instantly recognize that your predatory pet is too dangerous to coexist with smaller fish, thereby adding an element of danger and tension to your aquascape.

You can also highlight a species of fish rather than a single creature. Keep in mind that many fish are social creatures, which means that part of their identity as a species lies in how they interact with each other. Imagine dozens of near-identical fish flitting around your aquascape in an elegant dance. When one moves, twenty other fish move with it. Your fish move as a single entity, like individual cells working together as part of a larger body. Truly, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

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