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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I finally decided to start a journal. I thought i would start out with how I got into this hobby and what it was like early-on. I hope you enjoy my rembrances of things past.....Linda


Today’s aquarists are lucky in so many ways: Affordable aquariums, filters and heaters, a wealth of fish species from which to choose. Most have no idea how it was before any of the above. How it was before the Internet and Forums. When you had to read book by researchers and breeders or find a mentor with years of experience to glean information.

I began my aquatic adventures in 1959 when my Father used my 10th birthday as an excuse to get the aquarium he had always wanted. That birthday present cost him nearly $600 in today’s money. Now you see why he needed an excuse! As a Navy Chief Petty Officer his pay wasn’t all that great and we lived in San Diego, CA where the cost of living was high.

What did my birthday gift include? A 10 gallon Metaframe aquarium with slate bottom, gravel, a net, food, a ton of plants and three Guppies, three Mollies and three Swords…one male and two females of each. There were no affordable heaters for smaller aquariums and my brain has forgotten if it had a filter…but I don’t think so.

One of the tenants of long-ago aquaria was the “One-inch of fish per gallon of water.” This 100-year-old belief was developed when there were no filters to supply oxygen or maintain water quality. Although with today’s technology that rule no longer applies many still perpetuate it.

Speaking of plants: From the aquatic beginnings an abundance of live plants was a “must.” Even in the 1800s aquarists rightly believed that not only did live plants provide oxygen but they also maintained water quality even before the advent of filters. Ask aquatic experts and you will find many who believe some of today’s fish sicken more often than ever before because too many aquarists use maintenance-free fake plants and thus deprive their fish of the benefits live plants provide…which is why my birthday gift came with a lot of plants.

In 1959 there was no “instant cycling” bacteria. The aquarist did weekly water changes of 50% no matter how many fish were in the new tank. We didn’t lose a single fish during the “breaking in” of the aquarium as amateurs called it. As a matter of fact, we didn’t lose any of them in a cross-country trip to my Father’s final assignment in Florida. With no Interstates, if memory serves, it took a week; maybe a bit longer. Can you imagine? A week driving across country in a Nash station wagon with two kids (aged 10 and seven), a parakeet and an aquarium with nine fish?

My Mom carried two jugs for water and when we arrived at a motel she would fill the jugs. The next morning right before we left she would dip out some of the tank water and fill the tank with the water that had been setting out overnight. Back then you didn’t need “conditioners” because they didn’t add all that stuff to the water supply that they do today.

We maintained that tank until we left Florida for Tennessee in the summer of 1964. We gave it to a friend. When we reached Tennessee, we bought a 20 gallon which we kept until I left for my last two years college in 1968.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Did you know affordable, submersible heaters were not available to the amateur hobbyist until the 1970s? About that time they invented tiny undergravel filters for bowls, too. Very exciting!

I can’t quite remember if I bought my first Betta, Raymond I, in 1967 or 1968. Either way, he was a VT who came from Woolworth’s and lived for four years+ in a two-gallon bowl. At that time there were no heaters or filters for anything less than a 10 and certainly not for bowls. He was healthy and active; never had SBD, fin rot, bloat, fin biting, etc.; none of those thing which seem to plague so many of today’s Betta. He received twice weekly 50% water changes and was fed flake food as Betta pellets didn’t come to be until much later.

I was lazy so I had two two-gallon bowls. I would fill the empty bowl, with its separate décor and substrate, and wait 24 hours for the water to "age" before netting Raymond and plopping him in the clean water. When I bought Raymond II, another VT, I had three two-gallon bowls and swapped the boys out a day or two apart.

I finished college in three years and after I graduated in 1970, I went to work in a pet store that specialized in aquaria because I wanted to learn more about fish. I had wild dreams of someday owning my own specialized aquatics store; instead I became a newspaper political editor and, later, a canine behaviorist and trainer.

In 1970 there was no FedEx or UPS for overnight delivery so we had to order fish from St. Louis and drive to the Louisville airport to pick them up.

We kept our Betta in one-gallon bowls with water changes every other day. For whatever reason we pushed two-gallon bowls as what Betta needed and spurned the prevailing one-gallon “wisdom.” You must remember that not only was the general belief that Betta didn’t need anything larger than a one-gallon but small tanks, much like today, were actually more expensive than 10 gallons. As a matter of fact, I don’t recall that we even stocked tanks less than 10 gallon and even with my employee discount I had to save out of two checks to afford a 10-gallon set-up. Anyway, as the prevailing view was Betta would attack and kill any tank mate a new hobbyist wasn’t going to buy a 10-gallon for just one fish. The belief that all Betta will attack and kill any tank mate has been repeatedly disproved but people still perpetuate it.

Don’t get me wrong: Not all Betta can have tank mates and one should always be vigilant because they are unpredictable fish. But a majority live quite peacefully with others, especially African Dwarf Frogs, if the habitat is maintained with the needs of the residents in mind…which translates into a natural habitat with an abundance of live plants. I’ve had Betta-based community tanks since around 1975 and have only had one Betta that became aggressive toward his tank mates and that was after he’d been with them for two years…thus, why you must be vigilant. There were two others, if memory serves, which immediately let it be known they preferred a solitary life.

Back to my journey in aquaria: I remember how excited I was the day the store received undergravel filters for bowls! I bought one each for Raymond I and Raymond II. Those bowls were so cute with their little tube of bubbles in the middle. The Raymonds would swim round those tubes and flare; a new form of amusement!

Raymond I died when he was, I guess, four or five; I’d had him for four years and I don’t know how old he was when I bought him at Woolworth’s Department Store. I had Raymond II for nearly five years and Raymond III and Raymond IV, both in community tanks, for about the same amount of time.

I often wonder if, as with some breeds of dogs, today’s extremes in Betta have made them less healthy and shorter lived than those early VT? I know my Betta today receive the same treatment as the Raymonds and seldom has one lived more than three years; most have reached two. Or maybe it’s all the stuff they put in our water? Who knows?
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
I always want to know “why?” Chalk it up to being a “Child of the Sixties,” but I never do something just because I’m told I should. This has gotten me into lots of trouble over the years and I’ve often said most of what I know about fish came from the mistakes I made and learning what not to do (like putting baby Neon in the store’s Cichlid tank…I didn’t do that one, the new manager did). But that’s not quite true. Other than experience, a majority of what I’ve learned about fish comes from my voracious reading habit, love of research, lectures and being lucky enough to have wonderful mentors. One of who was a biology professor who started his fish obsession in the 1950s and a contemporary who has owned an LFS for more than 40 years.

I have had a number of freshwater species and aquariums from those two-gallon bowls to 100-gallon Goldfish tanks. I’ve raised Convict Cichlids, Guppies, Lyretail Mollies, Endlers Livebearers, Swords, etc. My favorite fish were my Oscars. Such characters. I highly recommend them if you have room.

Now I’m down to two 5.5, one 20 long, one 10 and one eight gallon. The eight is supposed to be my invert/micro fish tank and does have CPO and other inverts but I caved and just today bought a gorgeous boy I think will do well. The 5.5 tanks house Boo Betta and Harry. Boo Betta has five Habrosus Cory and five Dwarf Crays; Harry as the same. The 10 houses Guthrie, six African Dwarf Frogs and six Hara jerdoni. I lost Clooney, my HMPK, last week so the 20 is also Betta-less…but not for long! I couldn't resist a second boy so now I'm full. Besides the new Betta the 20 will house Tetra, Vampire Shrimp, Habrosus, Pygmy and Hastus Cory, Oto, Red Sakura Shrimp and Dwarf Crays…and lots of filtration! I am the Queen of Over-Filtration.

My 20 and 10 are on a stand on my end of the sofa so I spend a lot of time observing. We joke that I listen to television and watch the fish.

If I could give you any advice it would be: Don’t be intimidated by fish keeping. It is a wonderful, fulfilling hobby. And, trust me, there will come a time when you can look at your tank full of fish and live plants and just know if all is well…or not. I liken it to being a cook: After a certain point in time an experienced cook knows immediately by taste why a dish was a success or a failure; can taste a dish and know the ingredients; doesn’t need measuring utensils. So, too, is it with aquatics; someday you’ll find you just know.

Stick with it and someday you can write a journal about your 50-year journey!
 

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This is going to be a great journal! ;-) Subscribing!
 

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Thank you so much for sharing! My own personal opinion on the current betta lifespan is a combination of inbreeding/weak genetics and tap water additives.
 

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This journal is fasicinating already! I already learned so many new things I never knew before. I love it! :-D
 

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Subbed :D x
 

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whhaaaaat"? 1959!? Nice , owning fish for not even 20 years is a handful , I only owned fish for 5 years, but I have the knowledge of a 20 yrs old for fish keepers
 

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Discussion Starter #10
My Betta:

Harry, Guthrie and Boo Betta.
 

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They're gorgeous.
 

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I have learned a lot already!
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Can you imagine a time when there wasn't FedEx, UPS or Overnight delivery? ;-)

All saltwater fish were wild-caught. St. Louis was home to the main distributor of fish, both freshwater and saltwater. If a pet store bought they had to make arrangements to have the stock flown to an airport for pickup!

Life aquatic sure has changed...mostly for the better, I think. I'm going to keep interspersing "historical" stuff as I remember it. And funny tales of my days as assistant manager of that aquatics-based pet store.
 

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So happy to see your journal! Your fish are ones we all dream of. Can't wait to read more :)
 

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That is one of my favorite betta pictures. What an incredible design to cross stitch!
 

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Since I know you have cycled a few tanks ... is it possible to quickly cycle a new tank by using a existing filter and media from a mature tank? If so how quickly can you add livestock and can you do it in larger quantities as long as you use Stability? Example considering 10 gallon guppy tank. How many ok for 10 all male. OR community tank with elders, couple frogs and betta
 
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