Heavy Lies the Head that Sleeps in a Swamp:

Once I started working at my first pet supplies store, I immediately started to plot how to fit more aquarium tanks into my house. At this time, most aquariums were kept in the basement (I did not have one) or the bedroom. My 30 gallon tank fit easily on top of my old desk, and the 20 gallon sat on top of my dresser. I quickly decided I no longer needed the one bookcase, and, when no one was looking, snuck in a 55 gallon tank, canopy and strip light, and placed it on top of a metal stand. About two months later, as  happens all too often, a local pet store announced they were closing up shop and seriously discounted their remaining inventory. As a result, I bought two 70 gallon tanks and a metal stand to put them on (they were on it in the store). Once I got it in my bedroom, I could NOT get the second 70 gallon on the bottom part of the stand no matter how I tried to angle it. They must have crammed it in the first time, but I did not want to risk it. Did I try to return the now “extra” 70 gallon tank? Of course not! I moved my 55 under the 70 gallon on the new stand and modified the 55 gallon stand to fit a 70 on top. Now I had to get a 40 gallon long to fit under the 70 gallon to complete the mix. I quickly filled these three new tanks with lots of freshwater fish, in particular African Cichlids, and once they started to breed, I needed more tanks to house the fry! I had a friend build me a custom stand that would hold six, ten gallon tanks, but I quickly figured out I could turn the tanks lengthwise and actually fit twelve ten gallon tanks on the stand! For those keeping track, I now had a little over 400 gallons of aquariums in my bedroom and was quickly outgrowing the room and my welcome in the house. The room was so humid I kept a 24″ box fan running 24/7 and cracked the windows, even in winter.

My Kingdom for the Right pH

A good friend asked me to move into his house and offered me the use of my own bedroom, a spare bedroom and the living room as areas for aquariums. He was also willing to let me use “home made” aquariums. I could not wait to make the move. I moved most of my tanks and took all the water with me so I would not have problems. My last two tanks, a 70 and a 55 gallon, I had to drain about 50% of the water and use new water to make up the difference. I added my  Stress Coat, but noticed a few minutes later that all the fish in these two tanks were in severe stress. As still somewhat a novice, I panicked and did another partial water change but did not save the  fish. I put the blame on the moving and maybe something toxic getting into the transfer bags. I now had two essentially empty tanks and bought a new Pacu. I noticed after acclimation that the outer 1/2″ of all his fins turned white and eventually fell off! I mentioned this to one of my customers who was really big in the fish show business, and he just looked at me and stated that it sounded like pH burn. I went home that night and measured the pH and was surprised to get a reading of  pH 6.4 for the tanks and the tap water. All the water in my area usually was very hard and had a pH above 8.0, great for my African Cichlids. Now I had moved into a house where I had to modify the water to keep my fish. I did set up another 55/40 combo in his living room, but otherwise eliminated my plans for more tanks. I did discover the “mystery” that aquariums are to some people. One of his girlfriends really liked the large Red Belly Piranha I had in the 40 gallon, the fish was about 11″L and looked downright mean. I decided to trade it in and start over with a school of 25 smaller Piranhas. She came to visit the next day and asked me what had happened to the Piranha. I jokingly said that was how they multiplied, the larger fish just split up into several smaller fish. She found that fascinating. It was probably a week later until I told her the truth. I now had all the space I needed for my aquariums and no water to fill them.

Be Careful What You Set Your Heart Upon, for it May Come to You:

Stymied with the water problem, the next stage of my fish room took on a public/retail form when I decided to go into business with a partner and needed all of my tanks to help set up the store’s aquarium system. I went from 20 tanks to 65 and now had no tanks at home. Starting up the store took all my time, and I really did not miss the tanks at home. One of my favorite times became after receiving a large freshwater plant order and placing them in all the tanks and was  looking at them in a dark room with just the  aquarium lighting. It was always awe inspiring. After a few years, I had moved to a house with usable water, and things were settling down at the store, so I decided to set up a true fish room. The ideal was to raise and breed African Cichlilds and get rich. (I think you already know where this is going!) Anyway, I designed my room to have two racks of tanks, each with five 55 gallon tanks side by side, so all you could see was the side panel. These were placed about 6 inches off the floor. Above them were two shelves with five 20 gallon long tanks on each shelf, also in a side by side configuration. This gave me a total of 950 gallons of tanks. I used Maxima Air Pumps to run sponge filters in each tank with an extra airstone in each 55 gallon tank. The tanks were bare-bottom so I could easily vacuum up any uneaten food and wastes. On one set of the 55 gallon aquariums, I used U-tubes to create a siphon between the tanks and then used a Magnum 350 canister filter for additional filtration. I had the water return go to tank “1” and the filter intake tube in tank “5”. I had to use a Magnum because that is one of the few filters where the impeller/motor is at the bottom of the canister and would work well with my tanks close to the floor. For water changes I had to use a submersible Mag Drive pump in the 55 gallon tanks and pump the water out my window to the garden. This was a design flaw in my fish room, I would have loved to have a floor drain! I ended up using the room more as a hospital/grow out center for fish we ordered for the store that were too small or not healthy enough to put in the display tanks. I discovered the value of adding Vita-Chem to the food and the use of live foods for quicker growth. About this time, my business partner and I split, with each of us taking one of the stores. I decided to open a second store, and time once again became a factor. I moved half the fish room tanks to the new store and sold off the rest. I was down to two 150 gallon display tanks at home and stayed that way until my most recent move, where I eliminated one of the 150 gallons and added a 55 and a 75 gallon tank for display. Someday, I am going to have my basement or open area to make a greenhouse fish room. I’ll have to blog about designs at a later date.

About The Author Don Roberts

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