Fishkeeping as a hobby


It's been under a year since T and I took the plunge and set up a small aquarium, and we are completely addicted. (I almost said "completely hooked" but I figured I would spare you the pun.)

As hobbies go, fishkeeping is actually quite rewarding. Caring for living creatures is fantastic for your health, and a great motivator. (Unless you're a heartless bastard, you're not going to neglect your hobby because there are lives that depend on you.) It can be stressful at times though - fish get sick and you can't exactly take them to the vet. I've stood in the fish medication isle, minutes before the store closes, fretting over whether I should try a bacteria treatment or a parasitic one while a store clerk hovers around, trying to get me to make a decision. Right now one of my fish has dropsy and I've done everything I can think of to help her... to no avail.

Fish health-related challenges aside, it's been a pleasant experience.

We first got interested when I found some beautiful galleries of planted tanks online. I had never had much luck with terrestrial plants and the thought occurred to me to try aquatic ones - my main problem seems to be that I over-water plants, and you can't over-water an aquatic plant. T then got interested in the technical aspects - the mechanics of good filtration and ecosystem balancing, an excuse to use fancy test kits, all that great geeky stuff. The fish were actually secondary to both our interests, at first.


Water tests near the end of cycling period. T is very proud.
We set up a 20 gallon tank, cycled it with plants and fish food for a short time, and then added some platies. We went with platies because they are hearty livebearing fish, and mostly... they were pretty. I had had a small fish tank as a kid and always stocked with tetras, so I wanted something different. As it turns out, they were a great choice. We've suffered a few fishy deaths - I think to date we've lost three adult platies and one betta. The trick, we eventually discovered, is not to add fish on a regular basis. New fish introduce disease and stress to an established tank, both of which are not good things.

Our fish began to thrive - even breed. The water is great, the bacteria colonies well established, and our (few) plants were flourishing. (Well, the ones the fish didn't uproot and eat, anyway) I doubt I'll ever get my beautiful planted tank, as there are few plant suppliers who will ship to Canada and local variety is completely lacking, but I'm alright with that. I've grown to be fascinated with the fish themselves.

The little things have a lot of personality. They are extremely curious - whether it's food motivated or not, I don't know. Whenever you stands near the tank the fish will all rush over to look at you, and if you move around the tank they will follow you. We sometimes have a hard time cleaning the aquarium because they are fascinated by the vacuum hose. They draw my eye even more powerfully than the TV does - I find myself watching them all the time. Watching them swim around, foraging, nibbling my plants, chasing each other... it's relaxing.


Tiny newborn fry in a breeder trap

The most interesting part is the babies, of course. We've caught somewhere around twenty fry since we've started, and watching them grow is really fun. T's mom brought us a little five gallon tank which we set up to hold the babies until they are big enough for the main tank. They have a bubble filter, a heater, green gravel and some tacky plastic plants. The bubble filter is noisier than the canister filter we have for the main tank, but the noise is relaxing - like a fountain. (Though the white noise can be annoying when trying to watch a movie)

We have, to date, released five babies back into the main tank - four of them are still around. One of them, the oldest, is about half grown now. On the older babies it is neat to see their distinctive markings - you can guess the parents from the colors they have. As they grow they get braver and start schooling with the adults, too. Once the babies are old enough to breed I'll just... not think too hard about incest, I guess.

There are two main complaints I'd have about the hobby - expense and moving. It has an impressive initial cost - several hundred dollars for all the equipment you'd need, and then the constant temptation to upgrade. Once you start, you begin to want more - more tanks, more lighting, more fish - and if you give in you can sink a lot of money into it. The second problem is that it's very difficult to move the aquarium around. We've moved it twice so far, for the summer, and I'd rather not have to do it again. It can take over an hour at both ends to take down and the set up the tank, and it's the first thing to be set up and the last thing to be packed.



I absolutely do not regret that we started an aquarium. I wish we had more plants available - the ones I do have are overgrown and sparse because there aren't any nice small filler plants in the local shops. And I wish it didn't cost so much money. But it's so rewarding and fun and I absolutely love our fishes. Our fishes are the best fishes. And I can breed them without feeling guilty, because they will always go to a good home - my own. :3

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Fishkeeping as a hobby
  1. "It's been under a year since T and I took the plunge and set up a small aquarium, and we are completely addicted. (I almost said "completely hooked" but I figured I would spare you the pun.)"

    You already had a pun in there after you 'took the plunge' ;)

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  2. Ahh man, I wish you were in the states! I could ship you all sorts of stuff. I have 3 tanks of my own.

    A 20 gallon with kuhli loaches and a breeding colony of endlers livebearers, a 25 gallon with a breeding pair of bristlenose plecos and chili rasboras, and a 10 gallon with a breeding colony of Neolamprologus multifasciatus cichlids.

    I love breeding fish, and sell them online. :)

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  3. OMG!! I'd love some bristlenoses. Stupid... Canada.

    There's a bunch of creatures I'd love to have but don't trust to buy from the local pet store because they are often mislabeled - we got lucky with our oto cats when they actually stayed oto cats. I've heard stories of people buying red cherry shrimp and having them turn out to be crayfish, and I'm certain that no stores near me actually carry bristlenoses. :(

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  4. Canada: America's Hat.

    Jk,lol

    On a serious note though, do not let your fish partake in incest. The fish can be born with deformities. Just like humans.

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  5. Actually, Mr. Gargus, at least for fish, it's not a big issue. You will eventually get deformities, but not for a few generations. What I do with my endlers, is just add in new blood every 6 months or so. And even that is probably more than I need. Just watch the fry. If you start to see bent spines, or fused fins, or very small adults, then you need to cull those, and add new blood in.

    I wish I could send you bristlenose. :( I have a freaking MILLION of them. Stupid shipping. I would send you a bag full, lol.

    I am actually on an online aquarium forum, and I know we have some members in Canada that you might be able to get plants and fish from. Check out Aquariacentral.com if you get a chance. I buy and sell stuff there.

    If you ever want stuff bad enough, we CAN ship to Canada...but the shipping fees are pretty damn steep.

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  6. I see. I don't really know anything about fish. I was surprised to see its more than just having a tank with fish, and you feed them every once and a while. Interesting. It might be something I could get into, if I wasn't still living with my parents :(

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  7. Bio: Agreed about the fishy incest... though I'm not confident the pet store has great stock to begin with - we've only had the one generation so far, but I wouldn't be surprised if we started seeing deformities within a year.

    Not only is the shipping $$$, I think it can be difficult to ship across the border just because of restrictions about live animals and plants. :(

    Gar: It's a really fantastic hobby - like all hobbies, there are people who are deep into it, and others who simply dabble. You should keep an eye on local classifieds like craigslist, people sell or give away tanks & equipment all the time. Many people get along great with a five gallon, a betta, some snails and some catfish. (Don't ever keep a betta fish in one of those stupid tiny betta cubes or vases. They don't last long in those). There's a whole art to keeping "nano" tanks - it's something I've been wanting to try!

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  8. I do have a fish tank, and a filter and whatnot. But I don't know the first thing about keeping a fish alive. I've kept a few frogs in there, and I've had a snake in there. Didn't exactly turn out successfully.

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