Aquarium Management

Learn about Aquariums. Study Freshwater, Tropical & Marine Fish Tank Management. Develop skills to work in a commercial aquarium, zoo or marine conservation.

Course Code: BEN105
Fee Code: S1
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Learn to manage an aquarium

  • Freshwater or salt
  • Small or large
  • Home, hobby or commercial applications, tourism, conservation or any other purpose
Water quality management is perhaps the most important aspect to control when it comes to keeping a healthy balanced interaction between the water conditions and the species. There are a number of factors that interact with each other that can affect positively or negatively the dynamics of the ecosystem. Therefore, getting to know these features becomes essential when keeping a well balanced and easy to manage aquarium is desired.

Whether you choose to have a saltwater tank or a freshwater tank, you will need to take care and protect your system and equipment, however, as salt is a corrosive agent, a freshwater tank may be more recommended for beginners because it may be easier to maintain.

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Scope and Nature of Aquaria
    • Aquarium use and management
    • The categories of aquariums
    • Aquariums for fish communities
    • Aquaria Size and Complexity
    • Water quality control
    • Types of Equipment
  2. The Water Ecosystem
    • Interactions between organisms and the water environment
    • Checking abiotic factors
    • Different types of natural ecosystems
    • Saltwater ecosystems
    • Freshwater ecosystems
    • Brackish water ecosystems
    • City or Municipal domestic water supplies
    • Rainwater
    • Well or bore water
    • Water quality in the aquarium ecosystem
    • Water treatment options
    • Energy relationships
    • Plants and nutrients
    • Photosynthesis
    • Pollution in an aquarium
    • Nitrogen cycle
    • Overcrowding
    • Overfeeding
  3. Water Quality and Management
    • Tank capacity/Tank size
    • Maintaining a Balanced Nitrogen Cycle
    • Aquarium Cycling
    • Changing the Water
    • Vacuuming
    • Algae Removal
    • How to avoid Overfeeding
    • Water Conditions
    • Water Temperature
    • Water Hardness
    • Water pH
    • Salinity
    • Gas Exchange in the Aquarium
    • Preventative Care
    • Moving Your Aquarium Safely
  4. Equipment and System Design
    • Learn about the equipment and systems for different aquariums
    • Aquarium Equipment
    • Aquarium Tank
    • Filtration
    • Aeration
    • Light System
    • Aquarium Light Timer (optional)
    • Tank Cover
    • Heaters and Thermometers
    • Gravel
    • Plants and Decorations
    • pH meters
    • Refractometers/Hydrometers
    • Water and Other Additives
    • Adding the Fish
  5. Suitable Inhabitants for Your Aquarium
    • Determine appropriate species of animal and plant life to introduce into an aquarium.
    • Freshwater fish types
    • Livebearers
    • Loaches
    • Anabantids
    • Catfish
    • Tetras
    • Cyprinids
    • Rainbow fish
    • Branchiopoda
    • Gastropods
    • Freshwater Aquarium Plants
    • Cold Water Plants
    • Tropical Fresh Water Plants
    • Brackish Water Plants
    • Saltwater Fish Types
    • Saltwater (Marine) Aquarium Plants
  6. Fish Health and Diseases
    • Fish Diet
    • Fish Diet Related Problems
    • Vitamin and Mineral Deficiency
    • Origin of Diseases
    • Environmental Diseases
    • Common Signs of an Unhealthy Tank
    • Diseases Caused by Water Quality and Chemistry Problems
    • Water Contamination and Poisoning
    • Ammonia and Nitrate Poisoning
    • Oxygen Starvation - Hypoxia
    • Pathogenic Disease Causes
    • Viral Diseases
    • Bacterial Diseases
    • Fungal Diseases
    • Genetic Diseases and Disorders
    • Parasites
    • Plant Problems
    • Treatment of Diseases and Parasites
    • Quarantine Tank
    • Coral Bleaching
  7. Freshwater Tanks
    • How to establish a freshwater tank
    • Tank Selection and Decorations
    • Setting up Tank Décor
    • Setting up Planted Tanks
    • Aqua-scaping
    • Basic Equipment
    • Electricity and Aquarium Set-up
    • Heater Installation
    • Filters and Air Pumps
    • Lighting and Hood
    • Solar Heating
    • Other Equipment
    • Selection and Addition of Fish
    • Feeding Requirements
    • Cleaning and Maintenance
  8. Simple Saltwater Tanks
    • How to establish a saltwater tank
    • Tank Selection
    • Saltwater Tank Cycling
    • Filter
    • Basic Equipment for saltwater tanks
    • Heaters and Thermometers
    • Light System
    • Test Kits
    • Selection and Addition of Fish and Other Invertebrates
    • Feeding Requirements
    • Cleaning and Maintenance
    • Critical Parameters Affecting Salinity
    • How concentrations of ions affect salinity
    • How temperature affects salinity
  9. Maintenance
    • Learn how to maintain a tank
    • Correct Tank Set-Up and Maintenance
    • Checking the Lighting
    • Checking the Temperature
    • Filter Maintenance
    • Checking and Maintaining Water Quality
    • Fish Observation
    • Plant Maintenance
    • Algae Removal
    • Regular Vacuuming
    • Regular Water Changes
    • Preventative Care
    • Emergencies
  10. Breeding
    • Fish Reproduction and Behaviour
    • Live Bearers
    • Egg Layers
    • Breeding
    • Tank Set-up and General Requirements
    • Early Stages - Selecting and Conditioning the Pair
    • Triggering Breeding
    • Hatching the Raising Fry
    • Breeding and Genetics
    • Nutrition
    • Cultivating Your Own Food
    • Fish Legality in Different Countries
    • Aquarium Care
    • Ultraviolet (UV) Sterilisation
    • Cleaning and Maintenance
    • Maintenance of Plants
    • Checking Filters
    • Water Changes

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Select, establish and manage both freshwater and salt water aquaria of varying sizes with different species of plants and animals.
  • Discuss the scope and nature of aquarium use and management.
  • Describe the Water Ecosystem.
  • Explain Water Quality and Management.
  • Determine appropriate equipment and systems for different applications in the provision of aquaria.
  • Determine appropriate species of animal and plant life to introduce into an aquarium.
  • Identify common health problems with fish, other animals and plants in an aquarium.
  • Determine appropriate treatments in response to health issues.
  • Explain the establishment of a freshwater aquarium.
  • Explain the establishment of a saltwater aquarium.
  • Explain the maintenance of an aquarium.
  • Explain how to breed a range of different fish.

Hobby or Job - this is a course for either!

  • Indulge your passion
  • Develop skills to work in a commercial aquarium, zoo, or marine conservation.
  • Create and manage feature aquariums in offices, shopping centres or other commercial locations
  • Enhance your skills to work in the Pet Industry
An aquarium is basically the resemblance of an underwater ecosystem. In order to maintain similar conditions to the natural environment and habitat of the species that live in the tank, it is necessary to maintain constant water conditions as well as optimal water quality levels specifically required by each organism in the aquarium tank. To reach these conditions, it is essential to be familiar with the right type of equipment in order to supply the appropriate environmental conditions that each species requires.
Whether you choose to have a saltwater tank or a freshwater tank, you will need to take care and protect your system and equipment, however, as salt is a corrosive agent, a freshwater tank may be more recommended for beginners because it may be easier to maintain.

What to Grow in an Aquarium?

An aquarium can be as simple as a small round tank with a single fish inside to a large tank with a variety of fish, species and ornaments to help create an ecosystem that can be very pleasing to watch and care for. Those with a broad variety of species are often called “community tanks”, which can be quite a learning experience in terms of watching different interactions within the different species kept.  However, taking into account the compatibility within the species is a very important factor to consider if you wish to maintain harmony between the species and the environment inside an aquarium tank.

Among the behavioural problems, fish that are slow swimmers might get disturbed by those that swim fast, or the size of a larger fish might intimidate a smaller one, provoking the small one to exhibit aggressive behaviour. Aggressive fish are most likely to eat more food than those that are shy, but adding more food won’t help either because that will only accumulate more uneaten food in the tank, which can lead to water quality problems. Different types of fish might fight for territory and limit the amount of space for the rest of the fish to swim free. If there’s not enough ornamental structures which fish can use for hiding, the territorial ones might use the only ones available in the tank.

It is also necessary to find out if the species you are planning to include have the same water quality and food requirements so they can live in a well balanced environment altogether. If a fish isn’t compatible with the parameters present in the water (for example: temperature, salinity, oxygen levels, alkalinity, pH, etc.), its colours or its growth rate might be diminished. It’s important, as well, to avoid overcrowding because this may lead to stress as well as low water quality issues.

Other living organisms that are very important to have in an aquarium are aquatic plants. These regulate important chemical balances such as the nitrogen cycle, as well as oxygenating the water. They also serve as shelter for fish and other invertebrates and helps give the aquarium a natural look.  Many aquarists maintain a diverse range of aquatic plants as part of the `aquascape’ of their tank.  This requires growing, propagating, fertilising and maintaining their plants on a weekly basis.  Some aquarium fish and invertebrates also eat live plants, so aquarists may want to take this into account when matching up fish and plant species in the same tank.  A lush aquascape of vegetation can be hard to maintain if fish and snails are consuming plant foliage as fast as it grows.  Or plant material may be propagated and grown in a separate `plants only’ tank for regular replacement into aquariums stocked with fish to act as an additional food source for species who like to nibble on plant material.

Some plants assist certain fish species during the breeding process and may be used as part of breeder tanks.  Java Moss and other types of dense spreading plants act as a safe haven for fry, preventing them from being eaten by adults.

Freshwater and Saltwater are the two basic and most common types of aquatic tanks. There is also a third common type referred to as “brackish water”, which is a mix between these two types of aquatic environments, resembling an estuary, river mouth or a mangrove in nature. But for small scale aquarists (home, hobbyist, restaurant, etc), this term falls into the category of a freshwater aquarium tank.

ACS Distance Education holds an Educational Membership with the ATA.
ACS Distance Education holds an Educational Membership with the ATA.
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
ACS is an organisational member of the Future Farmers Network.
ACS is an organisational member of the Future Farmers Network.
Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason has been a member of the International Scociety of Horticultural Science since 2003
Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason has been a member of the International Scociety of Horticultural Science since 2003

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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Dr Robert Browne

Zoologist, Environmental Scientist and Sustainability, science based consultancy with biotechnology corporations. Work focused on conservation and sustainability.
Robert has published work in the fields of nutrition, pathology, larval growth and development, husbandry, thermo-biology, reproduction technologies, and facility design.Robert has B.Sc., Ph, D.

Dr. Gareth Pearce

Veterinary scientist and surgeon with expertise in agriculture and environmental science, with over 25 years of experience in teaching and research in agriculture, veterinary medicine, wildlife ecology and conservation in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Post-graduate qualifications in Education, Wildlife Conservation Medicine, Aquatic Veterinary Studies and Wildlife Biology & Conservation.
Gareth has a B.Sc.(Hons), B.V.Sc., M.A., M.Vet.S,. PhD, Grad. Cert. Ed.(HE), Post-Grad.Cert. Aq.Vet.Sc., Post-Grad. Cert. WLBio&Cons., Dipl. ECPHM, MRCVS.

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