Aquarium designer: So Long 2021. Thank you for all the fish in 2022.
Listen, I get it. I’m not ringing in 2022 with a bang here, but listen to me. 2021 in many ways has been as difficult a year as 2020 has been, and for me personally it was a lot worse. Maybe that is why I choose to welcome the New Year with a low impact, stress free aquarium simulator, and I have absolutely no shame about it.
Aquarium Designer allows you to design and build virtual aquariums without ever having to change the water, deal with an algae bloom, or worry about bioburden. In some ways, this makes your designed aquarium the perfect aquarium hobby experience. Whatever your interest in owning an aquarium, you should give Aquarium Designer a try, if only to enjoy the waves of peace that will wash over you as you gaze at your digital fish.
It might shock you, but Aquarium Designer has a campaign mode, and I have to admit, I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. Could he be more involved in campaign mode? Sure, but what campaign mode does well is present design concepts to you in a pretty neat way. One of the first quests was to design an aquarium to look like a child’s drawing, and it turned out to be a bit more difficult than I originally expected.
The real thrill of the game comes as you move around in the more sandbox style game and design aquariums to your own specifications. I’ll admit I’m a sucker so I can design my dream aquarium while living in a house that barely supports the three aquariums I have. You have two options in the My Aquariums mode: realistic and casual. Realistic mode requires you to regularly check your tanks, monitoring the health of your fish as well as the water parameters in your tank. If you choose to spend an hour or so in campaign mode, you’ll find yourself adjusting the pH and temperature levels of the water, and those skills will come in handy when you’re finally free to design your own waterscapes. You will also need to be careful not to place conflicting species together in an aquarium.
In real life, you probably shouldn’t put an Endler’s guppy in the same community tank as a tiger beard, as the guppy’s tail will attract the beard’s attention. Tiger barbs are known fin pincers. Aquarium Designer incorporates some elements of the real life experience here, but the game is much more permissive than the actual fish, which matches the more stylized game experience. That said, sandbox mode comes in two forms: casual and realistic. Casual allows you to design your aquarium with very few restrictions. In fact, I think the only real limitation you’ll face is from the fish themselves. For example, you won’t be able to have a school of male crown-tailed bettas. You can certainly compromise by overstocking your aquarium without any repercussions.
Realistic mode offers more challenge. Your aquarium will be subject to some of the issues familiar to aquarists around the world, including algae, changes in water parameters, and generally keeping your fish alive. You will have to feed your fish and the game follows in real time. Therefore, if you are away for a while, you can expect to return to find one or more of your finned friends floating at the top due to starvation. It’s a bit too much of reality for me, thank you.
Aquarium Designer is still quite limited in terms of offerings. You don’t have the option of adding shrimp or other invertebrates to your aquariums, which is a real shame because shrimp are some of the most entertaining creatures you can throw in an aquarium. The game also does not allow you to make real rugs because each plant occupies a particular section and you cannot overlap them. I generally appreciate the attention paid to rendering plants that you can add to your aquarium, but you can’t really layer anything at this point, which is annoying. Anubia species tend to prefer being attached to rocks rather than planted directly in the substrate as they produce rhizomes. If you bury the rhizome, it will start to rot and kill the plant. I wish I could have manipulated these types of plants more realistically in my aquascaping.
The varieties of fish available to you are also somewhat limited. The game could really use more nano fish like your smaller rasboras. As I mentioned above the game does not penalize overstocking whereas in real life it will result in a lot of dead fish. You also don’t have to worry about the growth of fish. Some species, like goldfish or groupers, can get quite large, so you shouldn’t put them in too small tubs as this will limit their growth to the detriment of their health. In this sense, even the realistic mode does not prepare you for the reality of the aquarium hobby, so don’t think that this game will be a good introduction to taking care of a real aquarium.
Regarding stability, I experienced a few hang-ups, requiring a program restart or two. Granted, my computer is quite old, which I prefer to think of as aging gracefully. Still, Aquarium Designer shouldn’t tax my system too much. Your mileage may vary, but I found it frustrating. Even considering the detailed renderings of the fish, my system specs should be more than enough to handle the game.
Having said that, Aquarium Designer shows great promise. While the campaign mode could be more well developed, the game really shines when you are released to design and build your own tanks from scratch. If you are playing the game to relax you should probably go for the relaxed mode as you don’t want to have to worry about some of the more irritating issues that tanks can fall prey to. If you are looking for a more intensive experience, the realistic mode might appeal to you. Just be aware that just like in real life, your water settings will change while you are not actively playing the game. For me, I enjoyed the game for providing me with a low-stake creative outlet, which is. exactly the kind of tranquility that I hope to take with me until 2022.
If you buy the game on Steam before January 5th, you can buy it for less than what you would spend on appetizers at a New Years party. The price until then is $ 7.99, so if you are interested, you should go ahead and close the deal. Here’s a link to the Steam page if you’re interested.
Stray thoughts behind the keyboard
- I wish filters and radiators counted more. In real life, they do. Some fish cannot stand strong filters; bettas, I’m looking at you.
- I would also love the driftwood to make your water a little brown. I have a number of tanks that contain driftwood and the tannins in the wood give the water a lovely tea color.
- The prices of the items seem incredibly arbitrary. Some things can be insanely expensive, while others are incredibly cheap compared to their real cost. It scratched my head a bit. However, I will be honest. Overall, the costs associated with purchasing and installing your aquarium in Aquarium Designer are well, much lower than they are in real life. Trust me on this.