Aquarium Fever Begins at an Early Age
Fish Tank Guy began his journey into the hobby and profession of tropical fish and aquarium maintenance at the early age of 8. In the living room of his home growing up, his family had a small 10-gallon freshwater aquarium setup with some of the most common species – tetras, mollies, and one algae-eating plecostomus.
Watching these simple animals grew into a curiosity about biology in general, bringing to question how a simple creature could survive in a completely underwater environment. His fascination with this concept stemmed from his love for sport fishing, but his desire to keep fish alive far surpassed the desire to eat them for dinner. What better way to learn about the creatures you are trying to catch than to keep them alive in a simulated environment and study their daily habits? Brilliant! At the age of 10, Fish Tank Guy learned that catching fish as a sport to study them, and keeping them alive in a sealed glass box filled with water were two completely isolated problems.
Having not yet learned about the life cycle of an aquatic ecosystem, Fish Tank Guy made his first attempt at keeping a fish as a pet. After returning one weekend from a trip to the local public park to fish for bass, Fish Tank Guy trapped some live shad in a large net and kept them alive in a 32 oz cup of lake water while hurrying them home on his bicycle.
Upon arrival at his home, he quickly searched through his garage to find an old 10-gallon aquarium he previously had kept hamsters in when he was younger. He pulled the old dusty tank from the garage shelf, rinsed and dried it, and put in fresh tap water from his backyard garden hose. After carefully placing the already-filled 10-gallon aquarium on his dresser (yikes), Fish Tank Guy cautiously scooped the live shad from their paper prison and released them into the crystal clear water to swim free. Success! Or was it…
The very next day, Fish Tank Guy woke up to find his aquatic pets racing around their new home. Excited to see that they had survived the arduous 2-mile journey on his bike and made it through the first night, he prepared for school and left for the day. When he returned home later that afternoon, he rushed into his bedroom to see how his fish were faring after nearly 24 hours in their artificial environment. Fish Tank Guy slapped on the light switch in his room, peered into the tank, and couldn’t believe what he saw. Not only was the crystal clear water of yesterday suddenly a cloudy broth, but the room had an odd odor of old bait and dead fish. He also noticed, after taking a quick head count of the shad population, that one of his new pets had vanished!
He counted twice. He counted three times. One of them was surely missing. After a few minutes of searching, the unlucky shad had leaped from the aquarium during the day in a frenzy (as many know that shad are very spastic fish) and landed behind the dresser. The poor creature had dried to his death, suffocating from the atmosphere’s imbalance in pressure to allow oxygen to enter his tiny gills. Within the next 2 days, all of the remaining shad had either died from poor aquarium water quality or jumped to their deaths. Fish Tank Guy hadn’t realized it quite yet, but that day he began learning about the simple facts of a successful aquarium.
As he grew, Fish Tank Guy knew he had to educate himself about tropical fish and how they could have died in such a short amount of time. How was it that they could survive in a murky city lake, yet not make it for a week in a fresh, clear aquarium? Why did the water in that 10-gallon tank get so cloudy overnight? How could he keep the fish IN the tank instead of behind the dresser? What was that odor emanating from the fish tank water? These and hundreds of other questions would be the motivation that Fish Tank Guy needed to pursue his knowledge of the truth about how aquariums REALLY worked.
Fish Tanks 101
To be prepared for his second attempt at keeping fish alive in an aquarium, Fish Tank Guy knew he had to be better prepared. This was harder than it looked! He began observing every local pet shop’s aquatic department very closely, studying the types of tropical fish and also the equipment that they were housed in. Reading about tropical fish was the next step. Fish Tank Guy gives the most credit to the knowledge of his hobby to a small paperback pocket-sized book that he discovered in the pet food aisle of the local grocery store.
This small orange tropical fish handbook was loaded with basic information about most major species of aquatic pets, including color photos and a small description of their features, place of origin, size, aggression, and more. After reading this pocket guide more than a dozen times, Fish Tank Guy was ready to head back to the pet shop and begin asking questions from the professionals.
Fish Tank Guy couldn’t wait to get home after purchasing his new aquarium kit from the pet shop. It was a very beginner set – a 10-gallon tank with a lid, light, small bubble box filter, air pump, some gravel, fish food flakes, and some air tubing. As soon as he got home, he began to closely follow every page of instructions so that he would get his new aquarium set up right the first time. Not quite understanding what a box filter was and how it worked, he studied the black charcoal in the mesh bag and also the white fiber floss in an effort to discover the principles of basic filtration. Aha! The charcoal absorbs the small stuff, and the fiber floss filters out the big stuff! Got it! Not exactly, but the concept was learned quickly. He filled the aquarium with water and let it stand for 24 hours with the lid off, just as the instructions had said.
A few days later, Fish Tank Guy headed off to the fish store again to purchase his first new tropical fish. The salesman placed the new pets into a small plastic bag filled only partially with the water from the tank that these fish came from, and carefully handed them to Fish Tank Guy. Instructions were given about how to acclimate the new aquatic pets to their fresh new water, and he raced home to try his new water habitat out. After an hour of slow acclimation to the water temperature and quality of the new aquarium, Fish Tank Guy poured them in. The new fish quickly adapted to their new home.
Over the next few days, the cloudiness that happened to his first aquarium also happened to this one. Why was this happening again? Wait! The handbook! Fish Tank Guy reviewed the aquarium setup notes in the front of his tropical fish pocket guide and read briefly about the stages of setting up a new tank. The cloudiness was caused by bacteria? That makes sense! After learning about the bacterial bloom that occurs during the setup cycle of any new aquarium, Fish Tank Guy spent the next few months learning so much more about aquarium equipment, tropical fish species, and how to set up a fish tank right the first time.
The Professional World of Aquariums and Tropical Fish
After a few years during his adolescence, Fish Tank Guy had learned volumes of information about all species of freshwater animals. His one aquarium had turned into many, and his hobby was just as fascinating as that first day spent watching the shad. Growing discouraged with the grocery store industry as a career, Fish Tank Guy applied for and took his first job as an aquatic department employee at a local major pet store chain. Could there be anything better than getting paid for what you love to do in your free time?
I think not! After a year of answering questions from customers ranging from beginners to veteran aquarists, Fish Tank Guy’s knowledge base of both fish and products was significantly expanding. He began experimenting with exotic species in his own home aquariums, and at one point had 7 functioning aquariums in his bedroom ranging from 2 1/2 to 55 gallons populated with African cichlids, brackish species such as scats and puffers, exotic catfish, flesh-eating tetras and much more. Fish Tank Guy felt right at home in his new career.
Fish Tank Guy took his next job at a local private aquarium store which catered to both freshwater and saltwater aquarists. Since he had experience with only brackish species and had only read about saltwater animals, it was time to advance his knowledge base one more time. Over the next year, he had mastered every major species of pet tropical fish that could be offered.
If he didn’t know about it, he would have it ordered to be sold in his store so he could learn about and even purchase exotic species from around the world. Fish Tank Guy began taking on the store’s private aquarium maintenance accounts which included the scheduled cleanings and/or setups of custom fish tank displays in their customer’s homes and businesses. This proved to be a rather lucrative business, so when the store owner closed her doors for business to pursue other interests, Fish Tank Guy took over his client’s accounts and personally handled their regular maintenance and sales.
From basic bi-weekly cleanings, all the way up to complex relocations and transportation of multi-hundred gallon aquariums in million-dollar homes, Fish Tank Guy was doing what he loved most – keeping fish alive and healthy for everyone to enjoy. His clientele included every level of income, beginning with the hard-working fish tank owner and reaching up to skyrise office reef aquariums with thousands of dollars just in live rock. Now almost 25 years after his family’s first aquarium in their living room, Fish Tank Guy still loves to go to the pet stores to watch the fish and remember how much he had learned since being that 8-year-old boy with a curiosity about fish.
See more: Tropical Fish Health