Joe Derek has kept aquariums for 68 years and currently owns 23 freshwater tanks with various species of fish. Pictured here are angelfish.

Joe Derek has kept aquariums for 68 years and currently owns 23 freshwater tanks with various species of fish. Pictured here are angelfish.

Photo provided by Joe Derek


Home aquariums get popular amid pandemic

By: Zachary Manning | Metro | Published February 23, 2021

 Derek is a proponent of joining aquarium clubs, which can help beginners gain solid information on how to get into the hobby. This photo shows a killifish, and one of the local clubs that Derek recommends is the Michigan Killifish Association.

Derek is a proponent of joining aquarium clubs, which can help beginners gain solid information on how to get into the hobby. This photo shows a killifish, and one of the local clubs that Derek recommends is the Michigan Killifish Association.

Photo provided by Joe Derek

METRO DETROIT — As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on and people are confined to the comfort of their own homes, many are looking for new hobbies and things to do.

With much of the public looking for what best suits them, many have turned to home aquariums to keep themselves busy and entertained during this dull time.

Jeff Nagarah is the owner of three Premier Pet Supply locations, and he’s noticed a considerable spike in the number of people coming in to get information about home aquariums.

“It was nice to see that people were finally getting back into it, just because it had fallen off for so long,” Nagarah said. “Now, I feel like we’re getting customers in on a daily basis again looking at fish and being inquisitive and asking the right questions.”

Joe Derek, a local naturalist-outdoor educator, has had aquariums for 68 years and currently owns 23 freshwater tanks with various species of fish.

He noted that, unlike many hobbies where you can come and go as you please, owning an aquarium will take some effort. Fish are living creatures that deserve a good level of time and respect.

When first starting in the hobby, it’s a good idea to seek advice from experts, but there are a few general tips to get started.

Fish should be fed at least a couple of times a day. Owners need to clean the filter a couple of times a month, make sure the water is clean and a suitable temperature, and avoid housing fish in dangerous areas.

Derek said many people just put their tank wherever they have space, but it’s important to find the fish a relaxing home. For example, it is not wise to have a home aquarium in a kids’ play room or on a windowsill that gets a lot of sunlight.

He added that fish prefer longer tanks as compared to taller tanks, and the temperature will depend on the type of fish. Some need tanks at 74 degrees, and others could need 82 degrees.

“Most fish swim back and forth, not so much up and down, so you want to give them as much room as you can,” Derek said. “You want to provide a lot of surface area for the water to absorb oxygen when the filter is running. A longer tank will absorb more oxygen and help the fish stay healthy.”

With any pet or hobby, price will play a key role in many decisions. Nagarah and Derek advise those looking to invest in a tank to buy what they can afford and what they have space for in the house.

For those starting out with one aquarium and a few fish, an expected price point can be around $150-$200. Depending on the additions of things such as plants and rocks, prices can vary.

However, whether it’s for a hobby or as a household pet, Nagarah and Derek believe having a home aquarium can be a great way to find some relief and relaxation.

“It’s just relaxing to watch the fish swim and do their thing,” Nagarah said. “There’s a calmness about them when you’re just sitting there. It’s very tranquil. In this day and age where there’s so much going on and there’s so much headache, it’s nice to just sit back and watch them be fish.”

For those interested in learning more about home aquariums, there are multiple options. The quickest of the bunch would be to head online and do some research. Nagarah and Derek do warn people to seek out trusted sources when getting information online.

Outside of that, Nagarah encourages people to head into a store to get more direct information about owning a home aquarium. Being able to look at specific items and fish can help people understand what it takes to own one.

Derek is a proponent of joining local aquatic clubs, as they provide an outlet for people to find like-minded individuals and get help. Many of these clubs have members with years of experience and can provide useful information for those just starting out.

A few local clubs he mentioned were the Michigan Cichlid Association, Greater Detroit Aquarium Society, Motor City Aquarium Society and the Michigan Killifish Association.

“The easiest thing to do, where you can start out with a lot of help, is to join a local aquarium club,” Derek said. “We have auctions, we have flea markets. Many times, many members have aquariums that they don’t have any use for or they’re going larger or smaller or they’re moving, and you can get really good deals on really good equipment.”