Craft & Design Science
What Is In All Likelihood The World’s Smallest Aquarium

Among the more delightful members of the set of all possible World’s X-est Ys, IMHO, is this 3 x 2.4 x 1.4 cm freshwater fishtank from Russian miniaturist Anatoly Konenko. It’s stocked with three tiny zebrafish and outfitted with matching tiny net and bubbler. There’s an English-language piece at The Daily Mail. [Thanks, Alan Dove!]

12 thoughts on “What Is In All Likelihood The World’s Smallest Aquarium

  1. The Daily Mail article is, incidentally, peppered with sharp comments about animal cruelty. Although my instinct is to be dismissive of such concerns in this case, I am forced to admit, on introspection, that I really have no way of knowing what the experience of a zebrafish is like, and whether they might be unhappy in this tiny tank, or not. I operate under the assumption that the artist housed them there only briefly, for photographic purposes, but in truth I don’t know. Even admitting this, I am still not offended by work, but I can see how a person with more absolutist views about animal rights certainly could be.

  2. As an aquarist with many years experience behind me, including professional aquarium work, I’m horrified that you would highlight this tiny aquarium. Danio rerio are a model organism in the molecular biology world, and thus subjected to a wide array of experimentation, and one could assert this is simply another experiment so I will not go so far as others to say there are moral and ethical implications at work here. However, I am a biologist, and I cannot get beyond the simple fact that fry (juvenile fish) need large volumes of clean water in order to grow, thrive, and attain adulthood. 10mls of water for three fry is unspeakably small and feeding them their necessary infusoria, microworm, or shrimp foods would be practically impossible in this setup. In the US we make take great pains to certify our zoos and aquariums to meet certain standards, laboratory fish setups do the same, and I have yet to meet a home aquarium hobbyist who didn’t attempt to provide a suitable life-supporting environment. I know one thing for sure: This is not art. And I would absolutely never call it an aquarium.

    1. I completely agree with the previous comments, fish need room to grow, to feed, to simply be themselves, this is the equivalent of locking your child in a closet. sure you may give them food but they will never thrive.

    2. Thanks, Sarah, for your comment.

      The Daily Mail article I’ve linked to above is, in fact, peppered with sharp comments about animal cruelty, and I posted this with some anticipation that we might get that reaction here, as well. Although my instinct is to be dismissive of such concerns with this organism, in this case, I am forced to admit, on introspection, that I really have no way of knowing what the experience of a zebrafish is like, and whether they might be unhappy in this tiny tank, or not. I operate under the assumption that the artist housed them there only briefly, for photographic purposes, but in truth I don’t know. Even admitting this, I am still not offended by the work, but I can see how a person with more absolutist views about animal rights certainly could be. I don’t think it’s practical, useful, or conducive to interesting writing for me to promise or strive not to offend anyone, but to you and others with similar concerns, I assure you that I will weigh them seriously the next time an item like this comes across my desk.

      Thanks, again, for taking the time to talk back to us.

  3. This isn’t about how the fish ‘feel’ about being cramped into a small space — the rule of thumb for providing enough oxygen, surface area for gas exchanges, and water to dilute the pollutants the fish excrete into their own water is 1 gallon per inch of fish.

    These three fish likely add up to more than an inch and are in 0.003 gallons of water.

    http://freshaquarium.about.com/cs/beginnerinfo/a/fishcalc.htm

    Yes, frequent water exchanges can alleviate the stress upon the fish, but too frequent of exchanges will also stress the fish. Swings in PH and temperature also are very stressful to a fish’s biology, and stress causes death and disease in fish. Or will cause them to leap out in hopes of finding a better body of water.

    1. Yes, point taken. It’s bad aquaculture. I will be terribly surprised if Mr. Konenko actually kept the fish under these conditions for more than the few minutes required to shoot photo and video, but again, I dunno for sure. Thanks for your comment.

  4. Lighten up, people. Of course the fry can’t “grow, thrive, and attain adulthood” in this 10mL tank. That’s clearly not the intent. Like Sean, I’m under the impression that they were only put in there for the video and photo shoots. Indeed, if you watch the video closely you’ll realize that it’s spliced from a few different cuts, and that the fish must have been removed at least once or twice even during the shooting. Try looking at around 2:16, for example, and you’ll notice that there are at least five fry in there, but then there are only three later in the video. They were almost certainly removed again to insert the air hose.

    In zebrafish labs, it’s routine and acceptable to put these fish into small wells for microscopy. It’s also acceptable to immobilize them temporarily in a gel, squirt them (at least as embryos) through a fluorescence-activated cell sorter, and let robots move large numbers of fry around from container to container. Broadening the discussion to fish in general, there’s a whole industry that sells supplies to hook them in the mouth, drag them aboard a boat for a photo, then toss them back into the water.

    I fail to see how exposing a few D. rerio to a brief stress for art is so much more horrible than all the things we do to fish routinely every day.

  5. Despite all the talk about TORTURE and INHUMANE treatment of the equivalent of feeder fish, I am going to talk about what REALLY happened in this video.

    The first minute is someone taking something the size of a paper clip dispenser, and slowly putting dirty pebbles into it. Dramatic.

    The second minute is the most exciting. They slowly drip 10ml into the aforementioned box with riveting haste. Drip
    Drop.
    Drip
    Drop.

    Finally, using an inoculation loop with a piece of gauze attached, cleverly disguised as a very miniature aquarium net they put danio fry into the very small “tank”

    Then we are allowed to marvel at the wonder of fish bumping into a plastic case with bubbles coming out of a hypodermic piece of plastic.

    The picture was enough. It was clever and I liked the use of what looks like tufts of a Japanese moss ball for its aquascaping.

    For a much more fascinating aquarium that is only 100x this size (I know, really, to suggest a liter of water could compare to the awesome factor of 10ml’s is pushing it), look up ecospheres. To the mods, put up a story about homemade ecospheres. They are self sustaining ecosystems sealed in glass (or often plastic for the homemade variety) that can last for a long time and don’t dry up overnight. I didn’t search to see if you have covered these. Its 2 am.

Comments are closed.

Tagged

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

View more articles by Sean Michael Ragan