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Do You Know the History of Aquariums? 5 Easy-to-Remember Facts

The history of aquariums dates back to the earliest times of Egyptians, Romans, and other civilizations that attempted various fishkeeping methods. However, this article will look more closely at when the term “Aquarium” was first coined- and beyond.

Fact 1: The first aquarium was created by a woman.

Lady Anne Thynne
Lady Anne Thynne

The first successful aquarium was created in 1846 by a British marine biologist named Anne Thynne. She maintained live stony corals and seaweed for almost three years.

Shortly after, in 1850, the aquarium principle was further developed by an English chemist named Robert Warington, who began experimenting with the idea that plants would produce enough oxygen to sustain fish in a water-filled container, so long as the fish didn’t overpopulate their resources. He ultimately published his findings in the “Quarterly Journal of the Chemical Society of London” as the “Aquarium Principle.”

His first aquarium held goldfish, eelgrass, and snails which laid the foundation for aquarium enthusiasts around the world.

Fact 2: The person who coined the term “aquarium” also created the first public aquarium called “The Fish House.”

Fish House Interior
Inside the "Fish House"

The first person to coin the term aquarium was Phillip Henry Gosse, an English man with a deep passion for natural sciences but a marine biologist above all else. He created and stocked the first public aquarium at the London Zoo in 1853, where it quickly became known as “the Fish house.”

The fish house held 58 species of fish and 200 invertebrates, including 76 species of mollusk, 41 crustaceans, 27 coelenterates, 15 echinoderms, 14 annelids, and a myriad of other small invertebrates.

Gosse had incorporated much of what he learned from Robert Warington’s theories and experiments when designing and creating the fish house. Later in a book he published, the steps were detailed and analyzed, enabling many others to follow in his footsteps. The hobby of aquariums really began to blossom.

Fact 3: The first mechanical aquarium air pump was invented in 1908.

First Aquarium Air Pump
First Aquarium Air Pump

In 1908, the invention of the mechanical aquarium air pump revolutionized the hobby and is considered by many historians to be a pivotal moment for the aquarium hobby. Before the air pump was designed, people had to get creative to prevent deteriorating water quality and other essential conditions.

Unless you were wealthy in the 1800s, you most likely wouldn’t have had servants using hand-pressed bellows pushing air into your aquarium as some people did. Among the bellows method, all sorts of contraptions to control water quality became common, like using a bicycle pump attached to a pressure tank.

Hand-Press Bellows
Hand-Press Bellows

Thankfully, shortly after the mechanical air pump was created, electricity became so common that other equipment began being sold, such as heaters, water filters, thermostats, and light bulbs. The abundance of electricity meant anyone could now easily maintain a healthy aquarium.

Fact 4: A single, renowned Japanese man can be attributed to the creation of “Aquascaping.”

Takashi Amano
Takashi Amano

In 1994, Takashi Amano, an aquascaping pioneer from Japan, released a three-book series that has heavily influenced all modern aquarium designs and concepts, with no doubt in my mind, influencing nearly every aquarium you’ve seen – his impact is profound.

His ideas have spread through the world and inspired the creation of some of the most magnificent aquascapes you can imagine.

His ideas were centered around the belief that aquariums were more than fishkeeping; they were a composite piece of art with their surroundings. He wanted to bring nature’s beauty to the beholder and inspire greatness and dedication.

Takashi Amano on Exhibit
Takashi Amano on Exhibit

Most aquarium enthusiasts will recognize his last name, “Amano,” from the shrimp named after him, the “Amano shrimp.” This was mainly due to his extensive use of the shrimp when deploying strategies to combat algae growth in the 1980s and 1990s.

Sadly, in August 2015, the world lost a great treasure when he passed away. Mr. Amano will truly be missed.

Fact 5: The largest aquarium in history is located in China.

In 2014, the world’s largest aquarium, holding 48.75 million liters of water, equivalent to 12.87 million U.S. gallons, opened at the Chimelong Ocean Kingdom in China. It’s been awarded five Guinness World Records, including the largest aquarium, largest aquarium tank, largest underwater viewing dome, largest aquarium window, and largest acrylic panel.

The lead design team was from a consulting and design firm in St. Louis, Missouri, called “PGAV Destinations.” It took three years to construct the aquarium and facility, which features seven unique themed areas. This was their first full theme park design – and boy, they came out swinging. Another aquarium designed by this same consulting firm is the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia, recognized as the world’s third largest aquarium.

BONUS FACT: An Aquarium in Tennessee has an electric eel with its own Twitter account.

In 2022, we’re at the forefront of figuring out what is possible for aquariums and enthusiasts everywhere. In fact, we’re so far at the front that we have an electric eel that posts his own tweets on Twitter.

At the Tennessee Aquarium, the eel “Miguel Wattson,” Twitter handle, @EelectricMiguel, is enclosed in an aquarium wired to a computer that will post a pre-written tweet when Miguel generates enough electricity.

A cool fact about eels is that they can generate over 800 volts of electricity originating from three different organs - now, that’s eel-ectrifying; better watch out!

I hope you enjoyed reading about these five easy-to-remember facts. In the comment section, please Let me know what fact you found the most interesting and share your own. I’m looking forward to all the cool stuff you guys can dig up. From your Aquarium Buddy, have a great day!

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