Getting Started in the Aquarium Hobby

I have been working for PetSolutions for almost 4 years. Before I started working here, I really had no prior fish keeping experience, other than a goldfish I won at a fair when I was a young kid. That “free” goldfish turned into a purchase of a goldfish bowl and food, all at my parents’ expense. Of course, the goldfish died, since we had no fish keeping knowledge. That turned into my parents getting another goldfish to keep their child happy…. and it died. So next was a 10 gallon tank, complete with a heater and a corner filter powered by an air pump. This time, it was a big set up, with 3 feeder goldfish. I named the biggest one “Taz”. These fish lived for a while before they passed, and Taz got so big before he died that we couldn’t flush him. I took his body back into the woods and set him a burial at sea in the creek behind my house.

Okay, so not much luck with goldfish. However, every time we went to the local pet store, I always saw Neon Tetras. Woo boy, being a young kid, Neon Tetras sounded and looked so cool. Finally, I convinced my parents to try those, as well as some Rasboras. I honestly don’t remember much about how long we kept those fish. I think it was because they were so tiny compared to goldfish and never got big. We got rid of the tank, and that was the end of that…or so it seemed.

Finding Heros Severus, My Favorite Fish

Fast forward some 20 years later, and I am a college graduate and professional photographer. I studied commercial photography in college and had the opportunity to take a job at PetSolutions, where I photograph every single item you see on our website, including fish. It only took me a couple of walks through our fish room before I decided to get a tank. I started off with a 20 gallon high, and I had no idea what I wanted, nor what I was getting into. To paint a picture of myself, I am a California Surfer Boy (who has never been to California) that wears bright colored surf wear t-shirts and shoes, and jeans. John Flynn, our Live Deliveries Manager, obviously noticed this. He suggested I started off with some African Cichlids, since it was apparent that I like bright, colorful things. He also knew I was not ready for Saltwater, so he recommended freshwater fish. I started off with a tank of African Cichlids so I could have bright yellow, blue, and orange fish.

1 fish tank turned into 2, 2 into 3, and then I had no idea what I wanted to put in my 3rd tank. I just had it set up and ready. Then one day, I walked by a tank of Green SeverumsHeros severus, in our fish room. Being about the size of a nickel coin each, they caught my eye. They were the cutest little fish I had seen, with eyeballs seemingly bigger than their body. It looked as if all of them wanted to go home with me. Being a South American Cichlid, Severums get quite large, about 1 foot. So, obviously they all couldn’t go home with me.Green Severum

I decided to buy one, even though he was going into a 20 gallon tank. The good thing about Severums is that they grow really slow. Eventually, he grew too big for that tank, and I brought him to work, where I had a bit bigger of a tank used for photography, where he then lived. I then bought a Red Spotted Turquoise Severum and a Gold Severum and brought them home.

Over time, the Red Spotted Turquoise Severum and a Gold Severum outgrew their 20 high, went to a 40 gallon long, and now reside in my showpiece tank, a 92 gallon corner tank. They are just about 3 years old as I write this. They share tank space along with 2 Angelfish, 2 Clown Loaches, a Geophagus Surinamensis, an Albino Oscar, and a Marble Sailfin Plecostomus.

Severums possess such a great personality. They love attention. Make eye contact with them, and they want to swim in your face. Seriously, my Red Spotted Turquoise Severum is determined that someday, he will swim through the glass and swim around me, or head butt me, or maybe even eat me! The most interesting part is, they know who I am. Anytime a guest is over my place, the guest goes up to the tank to look at them. My 2 Severums make a point swim around the viewer and stay fixated on me. I can be across the room, and they don’t care who is looking at them. They only care about me. I find that fascinating. I also keep many African Cichlids. Any person can go up to their tanks, and they just splish splash in front of whoever and beg for food. Not my Severums – they stay fixated on me no matter what.turquoise severum juvenile-2

Naturally I have grown quite attached to them, since they have grown attached to me. I think they want me to swim with them, or swim around me. I bet if they could, they would sleep at my feet at night like a dog loves to do. Or sit on my lap while I sit at my computer and write this post. Maybe the human food they see me eat looks more appetizing than their fish food. I am not sure, but what I do know is that they have an attachment to me. Maybe it is love, maybe it is respect, maybe it is just the fact they see what they eat come from the hand of this person. I am not sure. But what I do know, as sitting at my computer 4 feet away from their tank, they want me closer. I can put my face on the glass, and it is not close enough for them. I will stick my hand in the tank, and they will come and nibble on it. I have seen some Severums that like to come up and be pet on the side like a dog. Mine sometimes like to be pet on the head, if I don’t move my hand too fast. They like to eat food right out of my hand and aren’t scared of it.

I know they wish they could break though the communication barrier. I wish we could talk to each other. I know they feel the same. I think it is amazing that even fish have a form of communication. I wave my right hand to them and they start swimming up and down as if they try to mimic me. The moment I open the door to my apartment, they stop whatever they are doing and swim up to the front of the tank. If I don’t give them attention, the Turquoise one tries to jump out of the tank (luckily, the has a glass hood) and makes a huge splash that always gets my attention.

Sadly, the Green Severum I had at work passed a few months ago. I kept him for over 3 years. He was an awesome pet to have at the office. Fellow co-workers would stop in the Photography Room from time to time just to say “hi” to him. His tank was right inside the doorway to the room, and he could see the front doors to our office. He knew who I was from 60 feet away! He always would be excited to see me walk through the front door.

Gold SeverumIf you have a big enough tank, I recommend keeping Severums. They get large in size, so it is recommended to have them in at least a 55 gallon tank. They grow slow, so if you plan on getting a bigger tank at some point, you can start growing them before the upgrade. They are very personable and not super aggressive. If you can get a male and a female that breed, they make awesome parents. They have an average lifespan of 10 years. I hope the remaining 2 Severums I have live at least 10 years. They are my favorite freshwater fish to keep in my experiences in the Aquarium Hobby.

About The Author Mark Stephens

Mark is the Photographer and Videographer at PetSolutions, and has 4 years experience of working in the pet care industry, specializing in the Aquatics Hobby. Outside of PetSolutions, Mark enjoys to photograph IndyCar and SportsCar Racing as well as sampling various kinds of Chili Pepper Sauces.

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