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Notes from a 60 tank fishroom.

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Oct 14, 2011
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Eastern Canada
I'm a recently retired guy who has a lot of tanks, in an outbuilding in eastern Canada, within sight of the sea. I thought I'd start a weekly journal with observations on how much fun I have.

Big fishrooms used to be common in the hobby. In my old club, at the end of the 1990s, there were about 30 people running 50 or more tanks, with 5 or so above 100 aquariums. That has fallen out of fashion, but like a large year round garden, if you have space and can make time, you can have fun with it. In the modern economy, with our falling standards of living, it is harder, I know.

This week I divided my 60ish tanks into seven zones, based on how long my 20 gallon water heater can keep the water warm enough in my mix through a hose. Bank one, 2x75 gallons, a 40 gallon paludarium and a 120 is my water hog, so I timed my water change this morning. 19 minutes did the lot. I took another 5 minutes to feed brine shrimp, and start a new culture - a daily task here.

Each morning, I take a 20 minute bloc to change water. When life intervenes, I either double up with a pause to let the water warm, or skip a day. This problem runs from October until April here, after which I can do half the room in one go if I want. For years, my tanks have been done within 10 days at the longest. I change 30 to 40% weekly, and my very soft water is unmetered.

I noticed my juvenile Chromidotilapia nana Cichlids had developed a reflective stripe on their dorsals - their first colour. My Microctenopoma aff. nanum fry are becoming visible, though they remain uncountable in their jungle of a tank. Last night I moved 22 Platopochilus sp Sousoube River into a grow out 20g I bought second hand last week.They are my second wave that size. The others, 2 weeks older and half again their size, are dancing at the surface of the tank with the young C. nana.

I did the rounds with my infra-red temperature gauge, and the tanks range from 21c to 23c. The one South American tetra tank with a heater is at 24.
The room is well insulated, and even though it was -18c outside in the wind yesterday, the heat has not come on. The dehumidifier air is warm, and heats the room. I set the room thermostat (electric baseboards heating) at 19, but it hasn't been needed yet. At -30 outside, maybe. I dehumidify to 60%.

Each week, I try to choose a fish to breed. I often fail, but I enjoy the attempts. This week, I have Microctenopoma congicum in a tank. I'm watching for a bubble nest, and may get one. They are young, and there's only one way to see if they're too young. African gouramis are uncommon in the hobby.

I am also collecting eggs from 2 killifish, Aphyosemion ogoense, and A. ottogartneri. The ottogartneri are cooperating. The ogoense are being touchy. I culture live whiteworms, and they may make things happen. I have bred ogoense for many years, so they should eventually cooperate.
Love this journal. Also in my country, people with more than 50 tanks have become rare. If I compare it to the 1970's and 1980's, people are already shocked when someone has got more than just over 5 tanks nowadays. The past couple of years the aquatic hobby has increased again after a long time that the hobby was kept low. But again, overhere people are already proud to have more than one tank. People like us with a fair number of tanks are getting rare these days.
Hello. Multiple tanks are the only way to go for me. One thing I did have to do though. I had to stop buying fish. A variety is very nice, but reproduction is a problem. It's even a problem in larger tanks. The smallest I keep is 45 gallons and the Platy population in it will become an issue fairly soon.

A multi tank system works best if you like to try oddball or challenging fish. If you are keeping platys, then a completely different fishroom than mine would be for breeding the fancy varieties. I visited a guppy linebreeding place with 150 tanks once. He produced prize winning strains, but linebreeding is not my interest. I like fish as they come from nature, and I like fish that are not easy to breed or maintain. It's the challenge of multiple generations, and what I can learn from that that draws me along.
I choose fish that I can breed enough to get to the next generation with, with a few fish extra to give to friends. I have one species here I've had since 1992, with a 2 to 3 year lifespan, and a not overwhelming production of babies. I think I multiple tank set ups for easy to breed and get fish get you buried (and discouraged) fast, but for difficult fish, there's a challenge every generation. You learn each time, and build up to a point where maybe after a few generations, you pass them on to someone and try something else.
You have to network with a fishroom. You need human friends, aquarium clubs, and outlets for your fish. Plus you need to have fish people can't get easily. I would never breed cardinal tetras to sell them, but since they are hard to breed, it's fun to add young to your own small group, and work toward a much larger gang of them. In the meantime, the odd fish - the killies and others I breed - have a very small circle of interest. It's fun to get the fish to the people looking for them, as they wouldn't be able to get them without hobby breeders.
I'm not interested in having a collection, as much as I'm interested in having a variety of fish that will not behave as I want, and that I have to figure out how to adapt tank after tank to. If I get it right, I get the results I want. Getting it right is the challenge. I have bred a number of species never before bred in captivity, and more rarely ever bred. With no recipe, you really have to work through it.
I’ve only ever bred a few fish, mostly by accident… I guess I’m more selfish… well not really, I like to show off my tanks, just have lost the old friends I used to share them with, and now the internet??? Is where I share most, otherwise, the tanks are mostly for me… I never kept really common fish, in fact 20 years ago, I kept electric catfish, and quite a few other oddballs… currently I like my tanks to look natural… but I’m still struggling with aquatic plants…
I can appreciate the desire to line breed, or to know everything about one type, but even in my other collecting, I would rather have one of everything, than everything of one…

Would love to get to see some of you guys rooms in person, but guess I have to live vicariously through the www

Went to the semi local pet shop yesterday, it’s cool to look through the tanks, but you still see things you don’t like, like a tank with a couple very dead fish, with a sign reading “buy 3 get one free” on it… come on, at least fish out the fish that have been dead for several days… I went there for frozen food, and all they had were frozen mice… who needs to freeze mice… I could just empty the traps in the 100 year old farm house we live in, if I had something that ate mice
I’m not jealous at all. My tanks have never gotten into double figures. :(
I get up early in the morning, before anyone else in the house. I can't break my habits from my years of working, so I roll with them. This morning, I took the dog out, drank 3 cups of Costa Rican dark roast, and headed the 90 feet across asphalt to the garage. The sea across the road was positively roaring, as there is a windstorm coming - 100 kmph winds. I have no back up power system, so I count on the fishroom design if the wires come down.

I gave myself one hour out there, in the 22.3 celsius, 58% humidity room. 30 minutes went on water changing two racks (11 tanks), and feeding every tank. Then I got to the more fun stuff. I caught a beautiful killie in August, an Aphyosemion citrineipinnis. I don't have a single fry from them. At first, they gave me eggs, but the eggs never developed shells. In the wild, the water was zero hardness, pure and clean. They lived close to the base of some slow tumbling waterfall type rocks - about the size of an average van. They were in a flat zone, with no more than 10cm of water. The fish themselves are about 4cm.

So the usual suspicion the egg shells were failing because there were no minerals for them to use seemed unlikely. All I got were egg shaped orange blobs, and that's no yolk.

Even though the male looked great, maybe he was too young to be fertile. So I put him in a tank, and put the five females in another. That small group took 2 hours to collect in the stream. I started with 3 males, all single packed and put into different tanks, but only males died. The fish are beautiful, plus I caught them myself which makes them special in my mind. They can't be replaced.

Since the end of August, they've been eating like kings. Only the best I have to offer. I combined a pair 3 weeks ago, and they didn't lay any eggs I could find. So I set up a shallow tank. Yesterday afternoon, the most egg filled female went in to join the male, who had been in for 5 days.

This morning, eureka, I collected 10 eggs from one of 4 mops - the one in the bubbles from the air driven filter. They have shells, and are not orange (coppery, which is probably from all the freshly hatched brine shrimp they've been eating). I now have 2 weeks. They are in a covered tray with a bubbling airline. I will check them daily for dead eggs, and change their water 3 times if they start to develop. You see the eyes first, in just a couple of days. The eggs are transparent. It could still all go wrong, and all the eggs could be dead tomorrow. But if so, the battle continues.

This is what I like in the hobby. I love to look at these fish, but that's not enough. I have to try to figure them out. These guys weren't even a plan for this week, but they cooperated (I think) and so I go with it.

I started writing this at 10 am. I'll go back out for 45 minutes or an hour after supper. I could watch the aquarium channel on TV, but I like the dynamic stuff.
Hello Gary. Sounds like the perfect setup. I think I'd have a little bit of an issue with the weather up your way. Ours here, is very dry, calm and sunny more than 300 days per year. Just gets a little cold at night this time of year.

Gary… how far north of Minnesota are you??? And I assume east??? If you have coast… the big “atmospheric river” from the west coast went north of us… I just got a dusting, of snow, but cold and windy… I actually took advantage of the lack of snow, and worked on my roofing project yesterday..

I did a major water change after church this morning, and I can’t say how much I’m loving my plants… even my barb tank, that most anyone would argue, is over stocked, still tested zero on the fish waste tests, before my obligatory water change… that one gets a couple tea plants added this next week… fingers crossed there…
I'm an hour north of Maine, on the Bay of Fundy. Untold numbers of cruise ship passengers have probably looked over as they sailed by, and thought my garage was just a garage. I'm on a plateau back from a small cliff about 100 metres from a rock beach.

I consider this almost tropical after Montreal. A little snow, warmer winters, windy at times, but not harsh. I used to hang out with some Inuit guys who called this the deep south and said it was too warm for decent people to live in. I have a student from Kenya in my adult ed class, and he thinks it's cold though.
Hey. What are the chances of you posting a shot of your backyard area, say toward the water. Here in our part of Colorado, we're just east of all the mountains to our west, but no large water areas, other than a few small lakes and the Cache La Poudre river. Have tried to harvest some of the river plants that seem to thrive just under the river water, but they don't last long in my tanks.

GaryE - so many questions! LOL I love that you have a tank room. I like the comment earlier you made about needing human friends, etc. to have a tank room.

I just joined my local aquarium club here in September. Our monthly meetings have become the absolute highlight of my month. Yesterday we had our Christmas party- Williamson Brothers BBQ (good place here), White Elephant gift exchange (and lots of hilarious "stealing" ), and an auction with "fish bucks" that one earns by attending the meetings and volunteering for various club events.

I haven't had that much fun in a long time. It's so nice to sit and talk to a bunch of other people who love the hobby at least as much as I do. Fantastic!

One of the first people I met in the club was our president. I told her how I had to convince my wife to agree to a 2nd tank, and she told me that between her and her husband, they have 130 tanks! Blew my mind LOL.

Next month, a guy from NC, Rusty Wessel who has a "Fish House" that apparently is pretty famous at least around here.
I've also talked to several other folks in the club that have 10s of tanks- everyone I've talked to breeds fish or shrimp and most bring them to monthly club auctions.

As I'm thinking about expanding the hobby over time, I can understand your statement. Just from a financial standpoint, there'll be a time where buying everything online or from the LFS will just become way too much. Being able to get fish, plants, etc. from folks in the club is great. Also, if I decide to breed myself, I'll need an outlet of folks who are interested in the fish I grow.

I spent so many years in this hobby, just setting up a simple tank, keeping the fish and staring at the tank. NOTHING wrong with that, but now that I've finally looked "behind the curtain" a little, I'm so excited about what's to come!!

- do you use all sponge filters or some other kind?
- how do you change water so fast? are all your tanks plumbed centrally? Do you have a pump that pulls water from any/all tanks?
- where do you go to catch your fish? How many trips have you been on?
- What's the most difficult fish you managed to breed?
- what was the first fish you bred?
- What fish did you have that you'd never have again and why?
- many more, but I'll stop here :)

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