My Qualifications for Answering Questions About Aquariums and Fish
History of Working with Tropical Fish and Fish Tanks
(The First Tank Guide)
I have had many people ask why I think I am qualified to advise people on setting up their fish tanks (but it has been a while...). Since I have sent so many replies to so many people, I think that I should save myself a little work by just telling everyone who visits my site why I think I am qualified, so here goes:
My Background with Fish and Fish Tanks
I got my first aquarium for a Christmas present when I was about 10. (My mother actually confirmed that it was in 1980, so I was just a couple days shy of 10.) It was a fifteen gallon tank, and we set it up with neon, black skirt, and silvertip tetras. We tried to grow live plants, and couldn't get much to survive (a problem that many beginners have) and soon discovered that part of the trouble was that the incandescent lights we were using just didn't put out enough light, or the right spectrum.
This was the first of many experiences I had with the difficulties of keeping fish. We weren't discouraged, and I soon started to get books on fish, plants and aquarium maintenance, many of which I have unfortunately lost in several moves since 1989 (which you might find intimidating if you check out the list of what I have now). Some of the lost books I have replaced, but others are no longer available (though I do check in used book stores often to see if anything worth picking up has arrived).
What Aquaria Am I Caring for Now?
I am currently only maintaining 3 aquaria (aquaria is the plural of aquarium, though aquariums is also often used). I took down my vivarium after Laverne, my panther chameleon, died. A vivarium is an enclosed habitat which is part land (terrarium) and part water (aquarium).
- The smallest tank I have up currently is a 10 gallon with an under gravel fitler keeping an overflow of cherry shrimp from my goldfish tank, as well as a few Emperor Tetras.
- I also currently have a 50 gallon goldfish tank with a red celestial goldfish, a red and white ranchu, and a supposedly red capped oranda (he's actually two shades of red, as a juvenile he looked like he may be gold with a red cap, but he is red with a darker red cap) - and far too many cherry shrimp. This tank is planted with Rotala indica, Cryptocoryne wilsii, Anubias nana, Banana plants, Microsorium tropica (Java Fern), Ceratophyllum demersum (Hornwort), Alternanthera reineckii, Vesicularia dubyana (Java moss), Egeria najas, and an Echinodorus osiris (Melon Sword).
- I also have a 90 gallon brackish water fish tank with two Dragonfish and an Upside-Down Catfish. This tank is decorated with about 100 pounds of lace rock and some silk aquarium plants.
What Other Aquaria Have I kept?
In the past I have maintained tanks varying in size from a 1.2 gallon (tank, not bowl) to a 180 gallon. I have cared for community fish, piranhas, Oscars, African cichlids, a variety of goldfish, livebearers, several brackish tanks, and one marine tank.
What Other Aquarium Experience do I Have?
I was the Fish Department Manager at Bozeman Pet Center in Bozeman, MT from 1999 to 2005 when the store closed. Prior to that, I was an employee of Bozeman Pet Center, specializing in the fish and fish care equipment, and helping provide information on the fish in stock and the general care of fish and aquaria to other employees from the time the store opened in 1995 until I took over the fish department in 1999.
I have helped over a dozen personal friends get tanks set up, and many more get through difficulties with their tanks. I have also consulted with other pet stores on getting their equipment set up and on how to train their staff.
At Bozeman Pet Center, after taking over the fish department in 1999, I was able to improve the selection, improve the health of the fish we sold, and implement a training process for the employees to ensure that we were selling the healthiest animals in the area and providing the best information to our customers to help them maintain healthy fish tanks and enjoy the hobby of fish keeping.
Is There any External Confirmation of My Qualifications Regarding Aquarium Care?
I have also been interviewed by Home Front on July 21, 1999 for a live Internet radio broadcast, though their show no longer seems to be on the Internet. I was also interviewed by Cherella Cox, a guest columnist for theStreet.com for her story The Age of Aquariums, published on January 31, 2007. Fish: The Easiest Pet by Matt Kelley, a ReZoom Staff Writer, was published at ReZoom.com on February 28, 2007, for which I was used as a reference. The September 17, 2007 podcast from Paul's Academy, Episode 002 - Fishkeeping, uses the First Tank Guide as a reference.