Chuck's spot

Discussion in 'Member's Blogs' started by Chuck, Jul 20, 2015.

  1. Chuck

    Chuck Advisory Board

    I see a lot of folks talking about their passions all the way from building a fish room to a single aquarium . I fall somewhere in between. I have 35 years in the retail pet industry stretched out from 1974 to the present time . I have actually kept fish since 1964.
    This gives me a unique insight on the hobby. I plan to make this more about my personal experiences plus maybe some stories that I have going back in time. Hopefully we can have some fun and there will be something useful that I can I can pass along. There may be an occasional puppy horror story thrown in for fun.
    I am fortunate to have spent so much time working in the field that supported my love of pets. I will update when I can.
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  2. Chuck

    Chuck Advisory Board

    My fish area probably started out like a lot of others. I have always had at least one tank going. The evolution of my current fish room ( area) started with a single ten gallon aquarium full of Endlers livebearers around 15 years ago. I was keeping it going supposedly for my kids. It's about all I had time for with 2 kids under 10 years old and family obligations
    Then one day I brought home a Red Ear Slider from work that had shell rot. I set it up in a Rubbermaid tub outside for the summer. Of course when Fall came , "Sheldon" had to come in for th winter. I had found a 20 long for a couple of bucks at a garage sale and that became the beginning of the expansion. Sheldon went outside in spring I couldn't bear an empty tank.
    Pretty soon I had every size container from Betta bowls to 50 gallon tanks jammed all over. I had added two shallow ponds outside that had to have the fish brought in the winter which forced more expansion. This all occurred haphazardly and I had tanks of all shapes and sizes in the sun room and deck table outside.
    After intense negotiations with my wife this spring I re organized and expanded the tanks inside with the understanding that she got the deck and Sun room back. In return I built a more user friendly fish area with more capacity and more uniform tanks.
    I built up a double tier of aquariums on cinder blocks that are raised up for easy cleaning or putting tubs under. I can easily add a third tier down the road ( my wife doesn't know that). There is a drain in the floor and I can add hot and cold water taps since it's by the water heater.
    The next thing is adding dedicated power .
  3. Chuck

    Chuck Advisory Board

    image.jpg
    The cinder block fish rack
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2015
  4. Chuck

    Chuck Advisory Board

    image.jpg
    The positive flow V trap for livebearer babies
  5. Chuck

    Chuck Advisory Board

    image.jpg
    My 50 Gallon after 9 years. No filter, just a water pump for circulation. Heavily populated. No additives. Once a month water change. Do we really need filters? The old timers made do without.
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2015
  6. Aquaticus

    Aquaticus Administrator

    Looks good, Chuck! In a heavily planted tank, filters are optional! :)
  7. Chuck

    Chuck Advisory Board

    This tank has been up so long that the substrate is only gravel. All of my other planted tanks are a combination of cat litter and top soil. This tank evolved and has gone through progressive plant species changes over the years. It's always stays heavily planted but the different species seem to dominate throughout the year. It's fun to watch.
  8. Chuck

    Chuck Advisory Board

    image.jpg image.jpg image.jpg image.jpg image.jpg image.jpg Livebearers are a lot weaker then they use to be. OR ARE THEY?


    I started this blog to give some personal experiences both from the hobby side as well as from the retail pet side. I am not saying that I know it all but I am going to put some thoughts out that might be controversial. I will try to support my thoughts from my experiences. I hope for a lot of feedback and back and forth. So here is the first one.
    The consensus of livebearers are a lot more delicate then they use to be back in the "old days" is highly over emphasized.
    I believe it is the way the modern hobby has evolved that has caused " the appearance" of livebearers being weaker. My argument goes like this.
    In recent years a lot of evidence has come forward that even a low level of nitrates can cause the deterioration of fish like Rams an Discus. I believe that this is true with livebearers also.
    Why is it a problem now when it wasn't an issue in the 60s and 70s? Filters were and heaters were primitive. Nobody was concerned the nitrogen cycle in freshwater fish. Maybe the answer is as easy as going back to our roots. We now use plastic plants , epo xy coated gravel , power filters , and heaters that we set at 80 degrees . There is nothing to remove the end result of the nitrogen cycle. Even with water changes, modern fish are constantly exposed to some level . Did you know that water from the tap can have anywhere up to 10 ppm and still be considered safe?
    In the old days the hobby used natural sand or gravel, live plants, very ineffective filteration and in a lot of cases low or no heat. The lighting was of poor quality and ran hot so there was a temperature fluctuation. The hobbyists were encouraged to have their tanks exposed to at least some natural sunlight.
    The results of this created a more balanced environment mimicking nature much more closely. The plants could absorb nutrients from the gravel so they could grow fast enough to be beneficial. A range of temperatures over a 24 hour period is a lot more natural. The fishes live a lot longer also. Essentially, they never had nitrates. Their problems were more along the lines of New Tank Syndrome.
    In the last 3 years my store was recommending 1 moss ball for every 10 gallons of water to start up a new tank. It cut the cycling time by half..
    Paul Hahnel , a very famous guppy breeder in the 40s through the 60s grew huge guppies without the benefit of any modern equipment. I had the honor of seeing some of his fish for sale in the late 60s. They were as large or larger then the guppies of today.
    Since I started focusing more on plants in all my aquariums, I have discovered that a lot of the problems with livebearers are self inflicted. There are a number of ways to raise your livebearers but the key is to maintain no Nitrates. In coming posts I will talk about what has worked for me in various species.

    By the way , the photos are of my Blue Moscow guppies living in a 20 gallon with soil from the woods cat litter, sand , water pump and at 72 degrees. ( no filters) .
  9. Chuck

    Chuck Advisory Board

    Growing Aquarium plants Emersed!
    One of the things that I have read about but really have not experienced, has been seei ng the conversion of marginal plants that have been grown underwater, revert to an above water or Emersed form. I started a plant aquarium in my sun room last year just to see what would happen.
    I put a number of plants in a 15 gallon tank half filled with water. I used the combination of topsoil and cat litter. I used traction sand as a cap. I threw in a dozen livebearers. I covered the top with plastic wrap . I then promptly forgot about it. The next time I looked at it was about 2 months later , when my wife asked me what was going to to do with my DIY septic system. I now had a lot of livebearers and some limited success with the Emersed plants. Most of them stayed in their submersed state except for the Hygrophillia Corymbosa. That was growing out of the aquarium and had developed nice red leaves. My wife took that one and kept it in a waste for several months where it flowered continuously for several months.
    I really like the adaptability of this plant. It does well outside in ponds also
    Here are a couple of pictures
    1. Submerged
    2. Has been about 2 weeks above water.
    3. 3 months fully emersed.


    image.jpg image.jpg image.jpg
  10. Chuck

    Chuck Advisory Board

    I have had a line of Tiger Endlers livebearers going for over a year now. I have had some males developing a ribbon tail and have mor yellow in them. I have not mixed them with anything so it's a mutation in the line. I am going to keep the pictured male and a couple of females isolated to see what I get.. image.jpg image.jpg image.jpg
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  11. jcvang

    jcvang Member

    Looks nice!
  12. Chuck

    Chuck Advisory Board

    What was the hobby like in the 60's. ( one kids experience)
    I thought I would share some of my first memories of growing up with the hobby in the 1960's. I got involved when I was about six years old . That means that my Dad had a lot to do with it. ( For me it meant all the joy and enthusiasm without the work.)
    My kindergarten teacher got me started . She believed a classroom was her personal Biology lab. I loved it. At the end of the year she dished out all the critters like a creepy crawly garage sale.I talked my parents into bringing home 5 snails in a baby food jar. The understanding was that we had to keep the jar clean. We scrubbed it out every week with soap and water. Yes, you can kill snails! I was heartbroken.
    Obviously my parents couldn't stand me being upset. ( my tantrums). My Dad went out to the Woolworths and a two and a half gallon aquarium , two Mollies , a bunch of Cabomba and absolutely no knowledge on how to take care of them. My mother was not privy to this expansion until he arrived home after work one night. We promptly cleaned everything out with soap and water.
    They died. image.jpg image.jpg image.jpg image.jpg image.jpg image.jpg image.jpg
    My dad was not one to be defeated . We went out to a pet store this time and got a "proper "set up. My Dad was not one to be discouraged and my mother was convinced it would be a good learning experience. This translated to its now up to you dear, and deal with the consequences. It didn't matter by that time, my Dad was hooked.. We got our first trio of guppies and we couldn't manage to kill these.
    My dad worked at a school supply wholesaler so all of sudden we started getting heaters air pumps, small aquariums and various fish. Almost every week a another pocket aquarium book would come home about tetras, or angelfish, or Barbs or Catfish.. He also had the chance to occasionally able to pick up fish at work because they would supply Tropical fish to the schools.
    We finally got the Innes book on Tropical Fish and worked it over from cover to cover until it fell apart.
    I found some pictures that were the norm for the day. Remember, this was all before power filters. There was no understanding of the nitrogen cycle or New TankSyndrome. There were only three things that would kill fish in those days. It was always one of the following, soap , hardness or PH. That is why people want to tamper with the water parameters to this day.
    I was up to four aquariums ranging rom 15 gallons to 5 gallons plus a really cool Metaframe stainless steel 8 compartment Betta tank.( I would kill to get my hands on one again). This brings me up to about 1970 and I was now doing most of the work myself.
    I hope you enjoyed this and it brought back some of your first experiences. This my tribute to long suffering parents and significant others.
  13. TheyJustWantedGoldfish

    TheyJustWantedGoldfish Active Member

    Love it! It makes me wonder what would have happened if I had managed to kill my kids' goldfish instead of save them though. I think I would have been more easily defeated than your dad was!
  14. Chuck

    Chuck Advisory Board

    I wrote a lot about my dad, but my mom was a hero also. How many mothers would go literally running down the street to a neighbors house to have her help save the fish when the heater malfunctioned. I had great parents and I appreciate them more now then I did then. Sometime I will tell the story about me hatching out 200 monarch butterfly caterpillars in the house. My sister was NOT happy.
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  15. Megan

    Megan Executive Board Staff Member

    Woolworths must be at the root of a lot of childhood aquarium experiences. My mom is mystified by my interest in aquariums and can only guess it came from her letting me look at the aquarium display in Woolworths as a child. ;)
  16. Chuck

    Chuck Advisory Board

    My first Angelfish came home in a Chinese food takeout carton from there. The directions from the clerk were to take them and jut dump them in. This was into a seven and a half gallon plastic aquarium. Those suckers lived for about two years and took care of our guppy population problem. Then my dad found out tiger barbs don't work with angels in what was supposed to a community tank.
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  17. JeffW

    JeffW Well-Known Member

    Janesville had Woolworths and also Ben Franklin in Janesville the use to be on the south side next to Belscot that turned into a Kmart they had 2 rows of 10 gallon tanks and sold fish.
  18. Chuck

    Chuck Advisory Board

    A little about my transition to live plants and my methods.
    I figured that I would post my experiences with live plants after Jen Williams excellent meeting. I had absolutely no luck with plants until about 6 years ago. I had trouble keeping plastic plants alive. I thought I tried everything. I finally started going on line and fell across some plant sites. I read about all sorts of lighting, CO2 injection, special soils and specific plants. All with mixed inconsistent results. I was fortunate enough to catch the last two years of the Madison Area Aquatic Gardners Club. I got a lot of good information and a burning passion to grow plants. The problem is , I am basically a lazy person. I then discovered Diana Walstad and Tom Barr. If you don't know of them , I suggest you look them up on line. So now here is Chuck's KISS method. It takes a leap of faith and some scary moments.
    I am going to tell you how I set up the fifty gallon Aquarium I set up a week ago. If I had used my head I would have
    Taken pictures.
    After cleaning out the image.jpg aquarium, I went out into the back yard and into the woods. I scraped away the leaves and dug up enough soil to spread approximately one inch. I picked out the twigs and yes, the worms.
    I then added about an inch of tidy cat litter. ( it was scented and the room smelled of lovely lavender). It doesn't seem to hurt the fish and like I said, I am lazy.
    Next, I added about two inches of traction sand mixed with some flint gravel. I did wash the gravel.
    I filled the tank half full, added rocks and untreated oak branches that I had soaking in my ponds in the back yard.
    I added plants from my other tanks that I had growing .
    I topped off the tank and started a HOB filter for 24 hours. The next day I added the Bloodfin tetras from the auction. 3 days later I added a bunch of livebearers . The aquarium is set . I will take pictures as time goes on.
    I will do a twenty five percent water change every two weeks . I have a small internal filter without media in for water circulation. It has 80 watts of light and is at 76 degrees. The water was straight from the well. It generally runs at 300 ppm and 8.5 PH. The nitrate runs at 11 ppm from the tap. The light is on a timer for 12 hours a day. There are somewhere between 35 and 50 fish in the system.
    I won't do a water change now unless the fish start to show some signs of stress.
    I hope that this was helpful to anyone who wants to try plants but not spend a lot of time on it.
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  19. Chuck

    Chuck Advisory Board

    What it's like to work in a Local Pet Store in the 1970's.

    If you read any of the previous entries you know I was a nature fanatic from the time I started school. When I turned 16 I was determined to get a job in a pet store. I sent applications to every store in a 10 mile radius. I wound up getting 2 interviews. The first one was actually in a nursery that had a large pet dept. actually, this Dept. Manager was the one that got me started in marine fish when I was 12. He was my hero . I was sure I had this job. ( I didn't). I didn't hear back from anybody for the longest time. Two weeks is a long time in my book. I then got the call . It was from the World's largest pet store. Noah's Ark Pet Center. Wow! I made it big time.

    The Adventure starts.
    I was called in for an interview. This place was so large I called in by the Human Resource Manager personally . Boy , I was going to show them my knowledge and be working in the fish area in no time. I have drawn a pretty nice picture of what I dreamt. It didn't quite work out that way.
    The store was huge for the time. It had about a hundred freshwater aquariums from 20 to 90 gallons. All of them were decorated like a home aquarium . When you walked in, You saw this heavy bronze antique aquarium set up with a mangrove biotope.this was one of the owners pride and joys.
    There were literally thousands of birds with 20 walk-in flights . These were for anything from Conures down to finches. There were about 15 circular 8 foot round cages in the middle with various Amazon parrots and Macaws. This sounds unbelievable now but in those days there were far fewer ( none) restrictions on collecting and transport.
    Their small animal dept. was large but just carried the basics.
    The Reptile dept. was similar in variety to the bird dept.
    They sold puppies. Hundreds of pure bred puppies. Everything from Chihuahuas to, Beagles , to Afghans and Borzois.
    This is unthinkable nowadays.
    Overall , the store had about 50 employees.
    I forgot to mention the other two pride and joys of the owner. A Hyacinth Macaw . That was one of ten in the U.S. At the time . There was also a 200 pound Aldabra Tortoise that kids used to take a ride on now and then.
    Pretty cool for a young kid starting out. Everything I just described is absolutely true. Here is the rest of the description.
    The store was located in an old warehouse next to a waterbed store. It was about 30,00 square feet. There was inadequate ventilation and the ceiling tiles were falling down because they were saturated with moisture. A number of light bulbs were burned out. You can imagine the smell with 50 dog runs full of puppies. You also had to drive downhill on gravel drive to park. There was actually a page in the store for the snow patrol to go out and push cars that got stuck in the driveway in winter . We only got called out if they were blocking the entrance.
    If you were stuck somewhere else in the lot , you were on your own. I remember one exception on Christmas Eve. We helped push out a Volkswagon Beetle with a 100 gallon tank strapped to its roof. It wasn't peace and goodwill which motivated this move. We needed to get home because the store was getting ready to close for the holiday. I still wonder if the guy made it home with that aquarium in one piece.
    I later found out the walls were loaded with rats. They never had problems with other rodents escaping because the rats ruled the house. They inadvertently had rodent population control from several snakes had escaped over the years. I know of a 3 foot Reticulated Python that escaped that we found 2 years later . It fell out of the rafters of the attached furniture store onto a customer. It was over 6 feet by then. I don't know who the owners paid off to keep that out of the papers.
    Anyway , I passed my interview with the Human Resourcses Manager. I later found out it was the owner's secretary and payroll clerk. I was then introduced to Al , the Stock Dept. Manager. Wait a minute, I was supposed to be headed for fish. That wasn't their plan. The interview went very well in any case. You look pretty strong . Do you have any back problems? Can you work weekends? Your hired ! You will make $1.50 a hour . ( that was .25 below the current minimum wage). You will start Monday.
    Oh well, I would prove to them how valuable I would be once I established myself.
    I also forgot to mention that the owners could have been classified as being pirates. They played in shades of gray as far as being good corporate or business citizens. They never got an award and they never cared. Looking back, I still think they were 2 great guys.
    To be continued.
    Enjoy!
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  20. Chuck

    Chuck Advisory Board

    Here is a picture of the 50 gallon I set up last month. There is no filter , just a water pump, and I have just topped off the tank. You will notice the water is a little dis colored but clear. You can compare the picture from the earlier post and see the plant growth. There are currently about 50 adult fish in the tank image.jpg
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