Monday, September 24, 2012

Digital Aquarium

Long-range plans are one of my specialties. Sometimes I wait years for the technology to catch up to my ideas at an affordable cost. A few examples of these have been the audio and video collages I created from 1972 through about 1998. The book projects I began to publish in late 2000 began more examples. My Tiddlerosis website is yet another one. Now there is finally a new kid on the block in the form of computer aquarium programs now on the market at affordable prices.

These latest programs are actually quite stupendous in their capabilities. A few very primitive such programs were first marketed more than a decade ago. These were quite disappointing to me from many angles, from the limitations of the fish to the simplicity of the tank layouts. In the early 2000's, Encore Software first released its Marine Aquarium. The program was developed through several versions and the latest one is called Serene Screen Marine Aquarium Version 3. This latest version of a saltwater tank is three years old, but its visual impact is stunning! Soon after the saltwater program hit the marketplace, a competing firm developed a freshwater system called Dream Aquarium. Both of these magnificent programs offer many ways and styles to develop a beautiful aquarium. You can buy the CD-ROM of Marine Aquarium from Office Depot or other sources, but the Dream Aquarium is available only via direct download. You will need a decently modern computer to power either of these programs more than adequately. At least two GB of RAM with XP, as well as a significant level of Video RAM, would be a good start. I am running 8 GB of RAM and 1 GB of VRAM on a 64-bit Windows 7 and the fifty tanks I have set up run flawlessly.

Yes, I said fifty tanks! There is no official limit on the number of tanks you can develop in Dream Aquarium. You can choose 23 fish species and several backgrounds and other details. An additional ten fish have just recently been added as an upgrade for about $10. The most interesting choice to me is the camera angle. You can view a tank in a standard widescreen format or one that slowly pans through the tank as if you were following fish with your eyes with your nose pressed against the glass! You can add a free downloadable Size Editor that allows you to create baby fish or large examples of the species. Another free download allows you to add more backgrounds than the basic four that come in the original program. Here is yet another group of backgrounds. This second batch of twenty-one backgrounds is composed of zipped files of approximately 1.5 MB each. You save each file to your computer, unzip it to its full size, and add it to your Dream Aquarium program files. Right now I am still running the free demo version of Marine Aquarium. It is considerably more usable as a basic tank than is the free version of Dream Aquarium. I intend to buy the full version of Marine Aquarium after I get bored with playing with all the freshwater tanks.

A neighbor gave me three Guppies in a fish bowl back about 1961 and that began my aquarium hobby. Over the years I progressed up through a 2.5-gallon tank, a three-gallon, and then wowie zowie a ten-gallon! Since moving into my present location, I have never set up any of my multiple aquariums, a twenty-wide, a thirteen-tall, and various smaller tanks. Now that my computer is doing the job, I have already put the whole array of tanks and equipment for sale on Craigs List.

No matter how many years and tank setups I stumbled my way through, I never was very good at keeping fish healthy and happy. The well-read books are still on my library shelf. I read and I practiced, but I still sucked at it! I have never had a green thumb and I suppose I do not have a wet, soggy one either, except out on a boat. The disgusting, disappointing fact is that any aquarium in my care, much less that of the average kid in Walmart begging his mom for fish, is nothing much above fish torture! I have wanted for years to finally get out of the fish torturing hobby and now I am completely cured of my addiction. No tropical fish will ever suffer under my care again. I am going Cold Turkey Digital!

When I mentioned audio and video collages, these included many hours of experimenting with videography of my various fish tank setups. I have hours of tape edited and set to music. The problem is that you cannot videotape tropical fish in a tank in any manner that exudes a quality product. The fish are too small, they swim wherever they damn well please when you are trying to photograph them, and the lighting available leaves a lot to be desired. None of my camcorder tapes look even remotely as beautiful as these computer-generated fish!

There is a bit of bad news with these programs. My favorite species are totally unavailable in the freshwater Dream Aquarium. There are no Guppies, Bettas, or catfish species! The photo above is of real Guppies, although this is about how good the computer-generated fish look. I would also like to have even more variety in the backgrounds available. As for the saltwater program, I have no complaints yet. Since all my familiarity lies with freshwater species, I am more easily amused by the beauty of most saltwater species, even while understanding very little of their real-life characteristics.

Both programs are set up from quickly downloadable free samples of each. The free version of Marine Aquarium is quite usable as it arrives, but you will want to graduate to the full $20 version of Dream Aquarium soon after viewing the free sample version. The free Dream Aquarium goes to a blank background and only two fish after a few minutes, but the Marine Aquarium continues indefinitely until you stop it. Click the Dream Aquarium link and download the free version. When you are ready, purchase the full version and DA will send you a long code that you can copy and paste into the appropriate box on the free version to fully expand it. The Marine Aquarium can currently be downloaded like the free version or purchased on a disc from Amazon or Office Depot. Notice that the downloadable MA is Version 3.2, but the most recent CD version seems to be Version 3.0. Both the free and full version of the freshwater tanks can be downloaded at Dream Aquarium. No CD-ROM version of DA is available.

Please stop the tropical fish torture and set up these programs on your computers. They are everything you would like fish tanks to be except heavy, messy, noisy, stinky, deadly (for the plants and fish) and generally troublesome. Let's free the enslaved and tortured tropical fish forever!

No comments: