The two of us Michelle Andy Holidays Our sites

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Introduction

Andy
I'm Andy, this is my life from being born until now!
I can't ever recall not being interested in fish. Like many others of my generation my first attempts at fish keeping were a few minnows and sticklebacks kept in an old jam jar before moving on to a more serious goldfish bowl complete with four goldfish. At the age of nine I made my first "pond" which was basically my little sisters old baby bath sunk into a hole in the garden (complete with minnows and sticklebacks). It was at this point that things took a more serious turn, one day while looking for more minnows and sticklebacks or maybe something more exotic like a stone loach or bullhead if I was really lucky, I saw something which almost made me wet myself a baby Pike about 3 or 4 inches long. Even at 10yrs old I knew Pike were territorial and I knew that I wasn't going to be able to catch it with my hands, so off I went home to make a fishing net which basically consisted of a pair of my mums tights over a wire coat hanger which had been opened to form a loop. The net worked and I was thrilled, mum was slightly less thrilled to see me and my quite large entourage walking up the main street with a pair of her dripping wet tights dangling from a bamboo cane.
 Anyway the Pike went in my "pond" and very quickly set about eating all the minnows and then the sticklebacks (at least it was eating ).
Then at 12 I got my first tropical tank after trying to keep some barbs with my goldfish, I guess my dad finally realised my hobby was a real interest and bought the tank for me. It was a complete set up with two each of all the usual fish 10 in total, the tank was 20 x 10 x 12 and I loved it.
With my now serious hobby having begun properly my ambitions grew out of all proportion. I built a concrete pond on a much larger scale than the old bathtub using some cement which I had seen laying around in the garage doing nothing (ok it was my dads cement but basically he wasn't quick enough ) The resulting pond was worth the telling off.
 My collection of tanks grew over the next couple of years and everything was going smoothly. Then a big moment, I had my first fry naturally I couldn't possibly go to school and leave them on their own at that age so I sneaked back home to look after them and got caught.
Time for some changes, my parents decided that one tank was enough and the rest had to go. And momentarily that is what happened. But not wanting to give in quite so easily I found that the selves in my wardrobe 5 in all could easily hold a 12 x 8 x 8 fish tank and remain hidden, so I was back up to 6 tanks once again even if they were quite small. It didn't last an air pump gave me away when it moved slightly and touched the back of the wardrobe, I believe it sounded like a pneumatic drill, oops.
 I didn't get the telling off that I expected, instead my dad handed over the garage for me to set up a few tanks provided that everything was kept tidy, within a week I had 18 tanks and I eventually reached double that number. I joined various clubs and associations regularly attended fish shows and when one of my clubs put on a show I always made sure that I was the judges runner. It was my job to put the cards on the winners but the real reason I wanted that job was because the judge would tell me what he was looking for and point out all the various good or bad points of the various fish (I learned a lot).
 Then at 18 I bought my own tropical fish shop in the village of Crosshills, N Yorkshire. This was at a time when Rift Valley Cichlids were starting to appear and Discus were still practically impossible to keep. It was my ambition to keep and breed both (I have done both several times now).
I had the shop for a few years before selling it,
 At 24 I got married to a non-fish keeper. She didn't like it when I spent a years tax rebate on a single Koi (a very high quality Kohaku) she was even less impressed when I decided to treat it in the bath when it developed a slight bacterial infection, (never put potassium permanganate in a white bath), it was probably doing so which led to my divorce!!!
 I have carried on keeping fish but in the early 90s things changed. Fish clubs began to fade away and once large fish shows which used to attract tens of thousands were down to a few hundred. The time of the internet had arrived.
 Taking up the new challenge I joined an MSN group about fish keeping, I was made asst manager within 3 weeks and manager in 5 weeks. Then I made my own MSN group called Fish, Tanks and Ponds. A lady called Michelle who I knew from the previous group began helping me and she became a manager of the group.
The group soon reached a point where it could grow no more having used all our allotted space on MSN. So we moved to our own site and Fish, Tanks and Ponds proper was born and I had a presence on the net.
 Now that Michelle and I were contractually bound as co owners of fish tanks and ponds we had a lot more contact. The result is that we are now engaged (who says fish keeping can't get you into trouble lol).
 I have joined other reputable groups, and met lots of nice people.
 My wish for the future is to try to help further responsible fish keeping by raising awareness of poor practices and to give something back to a hobby which as given me so much.

Michelle
I've been around fish tanks all my life. The very first fish tank I remember seeing was our huge, at the time, 20-gallon metal-framed tank with a metal hood. It was set up as a community tank set up with an under gravel filter and a small air powered corner filter filled with filter floss and carbon; a true state of the art tank in its day. We had many guppies, neon tetras, platys, and swordtails along with a few khuli loaches and a Chinese algae eater. Again by today's standards this tank was extremely overstocked, but we always had fry at all stages of development in it, the tetras were considered an extremely hardy fish that lived forever.

When I was around 4 years old my brother got some pet Gerbils and I was jealous so started asking my parents for a pet of my own. They were reluctant to give me some Gerbils as well because I was too young. I told them that it was OK because I would rather have my own fish tank. As you can imagine this didn't go over very well so I set out on a campaign to get my own tank. After many months of persistent badgering my mom finally sort of relented and told me that I could have the family fish tank so long as I helped her with the feeding, water changes and the filter cleaning. This arrangement worked out fine for me as I got to brag about my baby fish and I had a lot more say in the fish we kept in the tank.

When I was 6 years old, we moved out to a 101 acre farm that had a river flowing through it and a beaver pond at the back of the property. These natural wetlands opened up a whole new world for me and I spent countless hours seeing what neat and interesting creatures I could find. There were tonnes of frogs, newts, turtles, beavers, many species of fish, a large variety of birds, occasionally I would moose and deer coming to the pond for water and always insects, both aquatic and the more irritating ones that bit!

When I was about 10 years old, I decided that I wanted a bigger tank for my fish but I didn't have any money to buy a larger tank. My father worked for the railroad and occasionally he brought home some glass they used for train windows which he planned on using to fix the barn windows and to add a window to the chicken coop. I on the other hand saw it as great building material for an aquarium. I convinced my dad to get some aquarium silicone so I could build my own tank. He had some serious doubts about this project and was convinced I would never be able to build a tank that actually held water. Naturally I took this as a challenge to prove him wrong and made my plans to use some wood for additional framing support, as I didn't think the silicone would be strong enough to hold the glass together. It took me about a week to build the wooden frame, get the glass pieces cut to size and finally silicone all the glass panels together. (My father helped me with this in exchange for me helping him cut all the panels for the barn windows!)

Once everything was ready I proceeded to fill the tank in our basement so that if the worst did happen it wouldn't damage anything and the water would go down the nearby drain. I think I held my breath the entire time the tank was filling (about 50 gallons US of water) just waiting for it to all fall apart or even to catch that first leak. Much to my surprise everything held together and I couldn't see any sort of leaks so I called my parents down to show them my creation! They were still concerned that the tank wouldn't hold up very long so we agreed that after a week if there weren't any leaks I would be allowed to set up my own tank. A week later there were still no signs of anything leaking so with my mom's help we purchased a brand new internal power filter and then we transferred everything over from the old tank. That tank lasted for about 15 years before the wood frame rotted away from around the glass, causing the base to crack when part of the support crumbled away.

At first I was satisfied just seeing what I could find in the creek or pond but one day when I was about 12 years old I had caught three fairly small (about 4-5" long) speckled trout. Now I thought these were beautiful fish and thought that they would look really nice in my tropical tank. So I brought them home in a bucket of water and added them to the tank.

It didn't take me very long to realize that I had made a BIG mistake! Much to my horror, very shortly after I added the trout to the tank they began to devour my tropical fish. To this day I don't know why I didn't just try to catch the trout to save my tropical fish instead of watching the horrible carnage that ensued. The only fish left alive were my two angelfish because they were way too big for the trout to eat. My parents weren't impressed with what I had done and I was promptly banned from purchasing any more fish for the tank. To make matters even worse, when I woke up the next morning I found that the trout had died on me as well and I didn't even know why.

A few days later my two remaining angelfish started showing signs of a fungal infection, which completely devastated me, as I didn't know why it happened or how to treat it. This was my first real encounter with any sort of fish based disease and I was completely lost. I didn't know anyone who kept fish so I didn't have anyone to ask advice from. My only other option was to go to the pet store to see if they had any sort of advice. This was the first time I discovered that there were a lot of medications aimed specifically at fish and that there were a lot of different fish diseases. When I talked to one of the owners of the store he was able to give me some really valuable information about fish diseases and he thought that the angelfish were infected by something the trout brought in from the wild that they had immunity to and the angelfish didn't. Unfortunately these fish didn't live much longer.

Even though I had this major set back and wasn't able to go to the store to buy more fish, I was still very interested in keeping fish so it was time to get a little more creative. I started looking at the fish in the back pond a little differently and wondered what it would be like to keep them in an aquarium. As mentioned, I didn't know anyone else who kept tropical fish, so finding someone who kept native freshwater fish was impossible, especially living out in the country. Being banned from going to the fish stores, I wasn't able to ask the clerk who ran it for any help, I didn't even know there were test kits for testing the water nor did I know anything about cycling a tank, only that I wasn't suppose to completely scrub down all the surfaces and gravel in the tank because there was bacteria living on the gravel that helped keep the fish alive somehow. For reading material I only had access to the school library that didn't have any information on keeping any sort of fish, nor did I know of any fish keeping publications or fish keeping clubs that could have helped me out. This meant that I had to figure things out for myself.

I have to say that I didn't do very well at first as I was treating the tank like a tropical tank and had the heater on way too high for the native fish. Once I noticed this I began paying much more attention to the environment that the fish were coming out of rather than trying to fit them in the box. I started mimicking what I saw in nature by leaving the heaters turned off, increasing the aeration within the tank and changing the substrate from gravel to some of the mud I collected from the pond and as a consequence I accidentally added a wide variety of natural foods. I also collected water from the pond for my water changes, the part that really annoyed my mom was when I was preparing for the winter months I would freeze many pails of pond water in our walk-in freezer taking up a lot of room in the process! However my experimentation came to a screeching halt the day I introduced some cattails to the tank. I thought it gave the tank a very authentic look, my mom on the other hand thought "it looked like a swamp transplanted itself in her living room."  After that I had to submit all new additions to approval checks before being brought into the house.

As I was making these changes I was adding a few minnows that we would catch for fishing to the tank and seeing how they would survive. As I made more and more changes the minnows started living longer and longer and by the end of that first year they had grown noticeably and coloured up much more intensely than I ever imagined. Some of the minnows I was able to keep were Redside Dace (Clinostomus elongatus), Emerald Shiners (Notropis atherinoides), Brook Sticklebacks (Culaea inconstans ), Lake Chub (Couesius plumbeus ) and a very lucky/rare find a Rainbow Darter (Etheostoma caeruleum). After a while I decided to try keeping some of the larger fish such as the Longear Sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus), Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens) and Rock Bass (Ambloplites rupestris).  Even know I think this was the most interesting tank that I've kept to date.

Eventually it was time for me to leave home for college and unfortunately I couldn't bring my tank with me so for the first time in my life I was going to be without having a fish tank to watch.  However after graduation and getting a decent stable job, I started looking around for a tank.  At the beginning of year 2000 I decided to start up a marine tank and have been fascinated with it ever since.  If after reading all this so far and you want to know more about my adventures in starting a marine tank please feel free to read my Marine Diary. (Warning it's much longer than this write up!) 

Along with having my marine tank, I've tried my hand at a 20 planted tank for a Betta that was dropped off on my doorstop, which did a little too well and I ended up with a jungle.  I kept this tank running for about 4 years until the Betta passed away with a tumor.  I also have a 48"x18"x21" Tanganyikan Cichlid Tank and the tank I was previously using as a planted tank has now become a Shell Dweller tank. 

Eventually I would like to set up an African River tank, a large Planted tank and if at all possible I would love to have another native fish tank.  

 

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