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Water world

Juris Doctor presents his case on the intangible returns of fish keeping while isolating in the comfort of one’s home.

Pauline Songco



For Archie, maintaining an aquarium isn’t at all tiresome. / PHOTOGRAPHS BY WRENN SANCHEZ FOR the DAILY TRIBUNE

It takes a strong mind to finish law school and a sound mind to be able to maintain home aquariums.

Arthur Archie Tiu has both.

Choi, as his parents chef Juris Fortun Tiu (Daily Tribune’s Kalanpag columnist) and lawyer and former Commission on Appointment Secretary Arturo Tiu fondly call him, started his fascination with all things aquatic as a young boy.

“My earliest memory was in grade school.

I took care of some fish (betta and goldfish) back then,” he recalled.

Former team captain of the De La Salle University’s (DLSU) archery club and La Salle Greenhills taekwondo, Tiu finished his education at DLSU with Philosophy as his undergrad and Law, Juris Doctor, as his post grad.

He now works for Reed Elsevier Philippines under its Primary Law Operations and Lex Machina as its legal editor/ legal analyst. He is also the Lieutenant Senior Grade of the 105th Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary.

Always consider the aquarium’s size before putting the fish.

While he set aside his childhood hobby of maintaining aquariums in early 2000, Archie rekindled his passion in 2018 while he was in law school.

“I’ve read about the sciences behind the life support of an aquarium and that’s when my fascination grew back and even further,” he said.

“I’ve always loved it since maintaining aquariums since it is where I can apply what I have read during research.

It keeps me calm during my moments of depression and anxiety.

Healthy ecosystem at home.

Aquariums also helped me de-stress while I was doing my bar reviews.”
He took nature’s beauty as his inspiration in building his aquascape. For the equipment, Archie admitted he tends to go beyond what is recommended. “The filters, for example, are actually twice the size compared to what is rated just so I can have more headroom if any changes are needed to be made.

Do I have enough backup if one equipment fails? And then there’s the design. It should be appropriate for the type of fish that I would be getting. Would it be good or bad for them?”

Always consider the aquarium’s size, Archie added.

“Many people often make the mistake of putting a small fish in a small aquarium, but the fish will most likely die in it as small aquariums are difficult to maintain because water chemistry is not at all stable.”

Even location matters when mounting an aquarium at home.

“Where would it be best appreciated? My advice is to avoid direct sunlight as it will cause algae blooms in the aquariums,” he said.

One should be patient and dedicated enough to maintain a healthy aquarium.

Put in also a ton of research, Archie added. “It takes time to set up an aquarium.

We first need to establish a healthy biological filtration via the nitrogen cycle.

This step involves weeks to months of preparation as without actually cultivating proper bacteria in the system, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate will rise, which will lead to fish getting sick or, worse, die.”

Fish tank therapy
In his case, Archie designed his aquascape as 100-gallon and 50-gallon tanks. “My 100-gallon tank is best suited for cichlids.

Blood parrot.

There are many caves where they could hide as well as rocks and fast-flowing filters to replicate their natural environment. My 50-gallon tank, on the other hand, is a planted aquarium and a CO2 system where tetras and shrimp inhabit as both actually prefer planted setups.”

Torpedo Barbs.

One could find the following kinds of fish in Archie’s aquariums: Uaru, Electric Blue Cichlids, Electric Yellow Cichlids, Angel Fish, Albino BristleNose Pleco, Blood Parrots, Gold Fish, Torpedo Barbs, Electric Green Danios, Orange Danios, Neon Tetras, Cardinal Tetras, Diamond Tetras, Otocinclus Catfish, Nerite Snail, Fire Red Shrimps, Amano Shrimps and Betta.

“They all live in separate tanks. Some are in the pond, some are in the 100-gallon aquarium while the rest are in the 50-gallon planted tank,” Archie explained.

After decorating the aquarium, establishing the proper bacteria, which can be verified via test kits, should immediately be done.

Archie said, “We would want to slowly add the fish. It is important that we do not add them all at once as the bacteria that keeps the aquarium healthy may not be able to cope with the additional bioload. It will take time to stabilize.”
Next step is now the maintenance of the aquarium.

Archie advises that filters should be cleaned using aquarium water so as to not kill any of the beneficial bacteria. Tap water and chlorinated water should never be used to clean it, too. The most important factor is to maintain the water stability parameter inside it.

Archie said, “When changing the aquarium’s water, limit it to a maximum of 30 percent.

Changing it to anything above may result in shock for the fish which is due to the sudden change in the water’s chemistry.”

Filter maintenance and vacuum gravel is also needed at least once a month.

Although maintaining an aquarium involves a number of steps, seeing your own healthy ecosystem at home makes the work all worth it.

For Archie, his aquariums have been a good tool in keeping his mental health at bay.

“It calms me whenever I feel down.

Archie rekindled his passion in 2018 while he was in law school.

And at this difficult time, an aquarium also serves as a good distraction,” he said.

Though it has been three years since he went back to this childhood hobby, Archie continues to find interest in aquatic life and the amazing science that goes with it.

“We can’t be lazy in this hobby.

But it isn’t tiresome to maintain an aquarium,” Archie concluded.


(Editor’s note:  In the print edition of this article,  Archie Tiu was referred to as a lawyer.  Tiu is a Juris Doctor.)