Passion fish

A fantastic splash of paisley, green and bright purple, swirling so quickly it is first a blur of wild color. Then just as quickly it stops, the sharp color delineations so stark to look almost unreal.
The latest from Paris' Fashion week? No. It is the Mandarin Goby, one of the most beautiful and exotic of tropical fish – a fish so captivating that it inspired Cindy Melchert to start her own business devoted to the care, display and appreciation of fish.

"An aquarium is a living work of art," says Melchert. "It's all about balance, design and compatibility – of both the environment and the individual fish."
Melchert is on the floor of a beautiful, spacious home in Livonia, busily installing a large, 80 gallon saltwater aquarium. The homeowner, Joe, an elderly man who had a tank in his office at work over 40 years ago, hired Cindy's company, Aqua Dreamscapes, to set up, design and help him stock his new ecosystem.
"At first, I just went into a couple of fish stores. Everyone had a different idea of what I should do," said Joe. "So I looked for a professional to help me, so it was done right."
Unlike furry pets that we can sleep with, fish do not share our intimate spaces. Perhaps that is why watching an aquarium can be so mesmerizing, and so relaxing.
The scientific community has sought to quantify the impact of aquariums on people's health. Studies have shown that regular exposure to aquariums can lower blood pressure, decrease elevated heart rate and reduce muscle tension. Some of the most impressive research found that Alzheimer's patients showed signs that an aquarium significantly reduced anxiety, aggression and wandering behaviors.
Melchert and her co-worker, Kevin Cooper, explained that they are building a saltwater environment that will closely simulate actual conditions in the ocean. The bottom will be covered in sand, they will then add over 100 pounds of "live rock," stones taken from the floor of the ocean off the coast of Florida and shipped overnight. These "live rocks" have tiny micro-organisms that will reproduce, generating natural food for the fish and helping to maintain the delicate chemical balance of the aquarium.
Then comes the fun part – adding the fish. Melchert and Cooper will help Joe decide which species, and how many to put into the tank.
"The filtration system can handle lots of fish, maybe as many as 20," said Cooper. "But it takes time and patience to get a group that gets along. I like to start with just a few, and then add about two fish every two weeks or so. Remember, each one of these fish is a wild animal, so you can generalize only so much as to how each fish will react in the tank."
Melchert explained that almost all saltwater aquarium fish are caught by divers in the wild. Only a small number are bred in captivity, so each animal is dealing with the stress of capture, transport and change.
"As a rule, though, you can't have two of the same fish. They will fight," said Melchert, explaining that an aquarium is a much more confined space than a wild fish is accustomed to, and they will be territorial about their feeding space.
Joe is looking forward to selecting his fish, with Melchert and Cooper's advice. "I know I'll need to get a 'Nemo' fish," he says, referring to the popular Clown Fish breed made popular in the Pixar film "Finding Nemo." "I have 10 grandkids, and that was the first thing they said when I told them I was getting an aquarium. 'Oh boy – get a Nemo fish, grandpa!'"
But are fish really pets? Do they recognize individual humans?
Melchert and Cooper both kept their counsel, but Joe had no hesitation. "Of course! My wife went to Karmonos Cancer Center often before she passed, and they had two huge aquariums. Thousands of people walked by those tanks all the time, but when the aquarium keeper came near, all the fish got excited. They knew exactly who he was."
Who knows. Maybe the fish enjoy watching us as much as we enjoy watching them.


Aquarium Resources:

Aqua Dreamscapes, LLC
Cindy Melchert
11415 Norborne
Redford, MI 48239
Over 40 years combined experience in professional aquarium design and maintenance.

Preuss Animal House
1127 N. Cedar Street
Lansing, MI 48906
In business over 30 years, Preuss has wide selection of marine and freshwater animals, a large variety of reptiles, one of the largest selections of tame and talking parrots and caged birds in Michigan. Other pet supplies and animals available too.

Premier Pet Supply
31215 Southfield Rd.
Beverly Hills, MI 48025
Carry a wide variety of fish and aquarium supplies. Knowledgeable staff.

Topics: Guides