Aquareal..As the keeper of an actual fish tank, I find myself compelled to comment on the digital variants, aka "Aquaria", which I like, a lot. Though I don't use a screen saver, as such (it just goes blank - boring but functional), I like to keep a few of these things handy on my desktop. They are almost as good as the real thing.
The point of fish-in-a-tank, I think, aside from stirring up chi next to your till (or wherever), is to relax the viewer. I know, I've spent countless hours lying in front of my real fish tank, just gazing, relaxing. It works, and the maintenance is no more than a few minutes a week, tops, once it's established. The maintenance time for digital aquaria, however, is zero, and herein lies the appeal.
In the not-too-distant future, when you can pick up a K7 class laptop for a tenner, I plan to setup some virtual fish tanks in my living areas, perhaps powering up automatically when someone enters their vicinity, motion detectors and so on; a cool, relaxing two minute kick-back for passers-by.
But relaxation isn't the only reason people keep fish in a tank, and this is where the digital versions need to catch up..
My own tank is simple goldfish, which relaxes; but other folk have far grander setups, and for other purposes. Especially when it comes to tropical aquariums, as many of the digital versions are, setting up a tank is quite literally playing God. You create a mini ecosystem, and populate it with very specific aims and desires. Fish behaviour is the all-important factor.
Some people like to setup a fight, with maybe gangs of opposing fishes, well-known to be aggressive to each other. Others will setup a tranquil paradise, with many shoals of tiny, friendly fish, and then throw in a small shark, just for fun. I'm not going to comment on the moral issues here, any more than to say, surely a digital version of this would be better for everyone! Not to mention, cheaper!
Fish have feelings (regardless of what Kurt Cobain says, stick a needle into one of them and you'll see!); they have particular traits and characteristics, too. A Clownfish, for example, doesn't go racing off all over the place; he has a small territory, an anemone, his home, and along with his small family, pretty much stays there. Also, males turn into females when the mama-fish dies, as well as lots of other interesting, not to mention entertaining stuff.
The next generation of Aquarium Screen Savers, I hope, will incorporate real behaviours into fishes. As monitors get bigger and wider, There's no reason not to push the boundaries, incorporate huge shoals of fish that think and act like shoals, responding to danger, predators; actually getting chased around and eaten*, just like the real thing..
While all this evolution may have a temporary negative impact the delicate economies of the rural fish collectors who source these scarce breeds, it will definitely have a positive impact on the actual flesh-and-blood real versions, swimming around in their actual liquid environments. The fisherman can learn to make pots, or something.
Of course, the trouble may be, with such amazing digital Aquariums, little universes on our desktops, would we get any work done?
The net could be used to create a vast, single sea-network, with users controlling their own territory, yet able to view any other. Fish could be allowed to roam far into other territories, battle, mate, and all the other fun activities that fish indulge in. Evolution could be programmed in; entirely new breeds of fish could appear, with unique and surprising sets of characteristics, and so on, and so on.. Over!