What's Your History in the Hobby?


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What's your history in the hobby? How many and what size tanks did everyone have?

I've been feeling a bit nostalgic about the hobby for the last couple years. That's why I started the Blast From the Past thread. Today, I was looking through that thread during lunch and it got me thinking about my history in the hobby and all the tanks I've had over the years.

I got my start in the aquarium hobby from a young age. Some of my earliest memories (early 1970's) were of my Mom having an Oscar in a 20 gallon tank. Sometime in early grade school Mom set up a 55 gallon freshwater tank. By middle school, I was breeding Bettas which I continued through college (I had 3 divided 10 gallon tanks in my dorm room). I also kept a Piranha in high school. Well, enough of this freshwater stuff, onto saltwater. Note: years may be off a bit;)
  • Early to mid 1980's (memory is fuzzy) - my parents bought a used 200 gallon fish only marine tank. Somehow, I ended up doing most of the maintenance.
  • 1986 - I went away to college. Since my school was 4 hours away, I only got to dabble in marine tanks when I was home for breaks and summer. However, I would constantly go to the LFS around school dreaming of setting up a reef tank.
  • 1990 - Graduated college and set up a 30 gallon mixed reef using California live rock (yes, you read that right, this stuff was basically coralline covered softball sized/shaped rock). This is when I discovered R. Florida which are still my favorite soft coral to this day.
  • 1991 - Moved into an apartment and upgraded to a 58 gallon mixed (softies and LPS) reef with Fiji live rock.
  • Late 1992 - Moved our first house and downgraded (to save money) to a 15 gallon mixed reef with Fiji and Tongan live rock.
  • 1993 - My parents divorced and neither wanted the 200 gallon. Traded the fish to the LFS and set up the 200 as a mixed reef tank. This is the tank that started my love of Acropora. Over time this tank became an SPS (mostly Acros and Montis) dominated tank.
  • Sometime between 1993 and 2003 I also set up a 75 gallon Clownfish/Anemone tank with RBTAs. (I don't remember when I sold that tank).
  • 2003 - Moved to a new house, tore down the 200 and transferred my livestock to a 300 gallon Rubbermaid stock tank in anticipation of a large reef tank.
  • 2004 - Setup a 450 gallon SPS dominant reef using Marshall Island live rock. During this time, I also set up a 58 gallon soft coral tank for my wife (I don't remember when we sold that tank).
  • 2006 - Horrible algae issues with the 450 due to being so involved in my kids' sports (I was helping coach 5 different teams) and neglecting the tank. So, I sold the tank with the thought of downgrading somewhat.
  • Late 2006 - Bought a 240 with the intent to set it up. I got that tank built into a wall in the basement and literally the day before I was going to order live rock, I got laid-off, was out of work 6 months, then did contract work for a year and a half, and finally got a full time job (but with a huge pay cut compared to my previous job).
  • Late 2006 - 2010 - First time in my life I didn't have an aquarium of some sort but, I always wanted to get back in.
  • 2010 - Set up a 40 Breeder Caribbean biotope using Reef Rocks dry rock and some live rock from a LFS.
  • 2015 - Upgraded to a 92 Corner Bowfront (kept the Caribbean theme) with more Reef Rocks dry rock my existing live rock. This tank, due to its shape, was always difficult to light and perform maintenance on.
  • 2017 - Purchased a 40 Breeder and a 75 reef ready tanks with the intent to have the 40 be a Caribbean tank and the 75 an Indo-Pacific tank. The 40 got set up right away using Reef Cleaners dry rock and KP Aquatics premium live rock. The 75 never came to fruition as our son was playing college football 3.5 hours away and we went to as many games as we could.
  • 2021/22 - Started thinking about just upgrading the 40 to the 75 since it was still sitting empty in my basement. But, I needed to move a wall in the basement before I could do that and I just never seemed to get around to moving the wall:rolleyes:
  • 2023 - Started thinking about the depth (front to back) of the 75 and started pondering a 120.
  • 2024 - Purchased a used (empty) 120 system. Yes, I still haven't moved the wall but, did start working on it two weekends ago.
So, what's your history and what tanks have you had?
Late 90s - I was 9/10 - We won goldfish and had a 5 gallon corner tank. That soon turned into a 55 gallon and then a release into the neighbors pond.

2003 - Watched Finding Nemo and joined Reef Aquarium Guide. Also joined here, was banned a couple times. I honestly didn’t like it here. All the responses were “did you use the search function?” which was non-existent if you weren’t a premium member.

Left RAG during the Reefs.org fiasco and then created this account in 2006 to get around the previous ban.

Anyways, first tank was a 12 Gallon NanoCube. The return pump went out on it and I upgraded to a 26 gallon bow front with Coralife Power Compact lighting. I had a few softies and condy anemones and things like that but was never “successful.” At some point I upgraded the light to a cheap HelloLights T5 fixture.

2007 - Moved to Ohio. Down graded to a 10 gallon and used the same T5 light. Was pretty successful with a couple clowns and a BTA. No corals really thrived.

2008 - 2013 - Upgraded to a 20 Gallon Long tank and a 3 gallon pico tank. To that date, the 20 gallon was by far my most successful tank. Bunch of colt and Kenya tree with a curly que anemone.

2013-2019/2020 - Lost a lot of interest in the hobby. Broke down the 20 gallon but kept the 3 gallon running with some live rock and a damsel.

2019/2020 - Bought my 65 gallon with T5 lighting. Returned here. Also created a R2R account. Delved deep into the advancements of the hobby and have one of the most successful tanks I’ve ever had. One thing I swore was I was going to use what I couldn’t afford back in the day, Metal Halides. I think the decision to use what was to me, the best lighting in the industry, has really helped this tank. I swore off LEDs due to the stories of shadowing, until I really looked deeper and found it was due to light design and not just the lighting. Now I still run metal halide with blue LED bars. But I also have no issue recommending LED vs Halide vs T5.

2024 - Still have the 65. Also have a 13.5 Evo softy reef, 32 gallon BioCube BTA tank, 5.5 gallon green star polyp/kenya tree coral quarantine (it’s technically a quarantine but dominated by GSP and Kenya tree at the moment). Along with various observation tanks and the 3 freshwater tanks.
My journey started when I was 14 , 1991ish. I’d ride my bike or skateboard to school instead of taking the bus. The LFS was on the way, and I would go in there just fascinated, constantly nagging the staff and asking questions. Then I learned their shipment schedules for fresh/saltwater fish, and was sure to show up on those days to ask if I could help. Finally the owner told me to just fill out an application and start getting paid to help out instead of doing it for free 😂.

My first aquarium was a 15 gallon tall…three serpae tetras and a red tail shark. It had a few live plants and was a really cool little tank. Not long after, I upgraded to a 75 gallon with a clown knife and a speckled freshwater eel of some sort.
That tank was eventually turned into a saltwater tank with an emporer snapper and two Mexican morays. Feeding days looked like raining goldfish scales.

When I went off to college, I sold the aquarium and quit the hobby for a while. No aquarium was allowed in the dorms on campus. The itch never went away though. As soon as I got home, I went back to work at the same LFS, and promptly set up a 40 breeder with another clown knife and to red hump geophagus rock eaters (which were an absolutely beautiful mated pair). I soon added a 125 gallon peninsula room divider with the rock eaters, clown knife, and an arrowana.
I worked at that fish store off and on for 10 years, and learned quite a lot along the way. The 125 gallon ended up going into my classroom when I started teaching physics/biology at a local high school. Again, feeding days were a hit with the kids.
The saltwater bug never left me though. I never really got into “reefkeeping” because it was simply cost prohibitive. Then, when I bought a house with an unfinished basement around 2010. I finished the basement by myself, and included my first ever fish room with the inwall aquarium I always dreamed of adjoining my office. That was to be my first actual reef tank, and the aquarium is actually the tank I’m still using now, but in a different wall and in a different house.
It seems that I’ll be moving soon, so the aquarium will have to be moved (again)🙄. This time, I’m going to set up a shorter tank. 30” tall is just too tall anymore. I’ll continue with my reefing addiction, but the next house will determine what size/ dimension the tank will be.
So, I guess the abbreviated version is roughly 34 years of experience with aquariums in general. I like to think that my 10 years at the LFS counts towards reefkeeping knowledge, but I’ve only had a true reef of my own for a total of a few years.
So the way back machine again huh? First I had to use my TARDIS to go back and remember some things.

First tanks in early 70's. Kept guppies till late 75. Went in the Marine Corps in Nov 75. Mom took care of it for a while and kept the tank till I got out.

During my time in I got stationed in Hawaii. Went through diving school just because I could. We were out diving if we wern't working. Also picked up a cruse to GBR. This was in early 77. It was amazing back then. When we got back, I got on a WestPac cruse. Dove Subic Bay, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Guam and a few others the TARDIS wouldn't stop at. Got out in 81.

Next it gets weird. I moved to Pittsburgh. I put a 125 fresh water in my living room. Started with goldfish, went to ciclids, then to arowanas. Around 86, 87 I met a guy named Calfo that changed everything I know about tanks. After being in reefs around the world, I made the jump to salt. Went to FOWBOCH. Then after a couple years reef stuff started showing up. Live rock, was incredable. My first reef didn't have much more than a few mushrooms, a wall hammer and a bubble coral. There were tons of life on the rocks.

The years flew by after that. In the early days I supplied a couple LFS with different mushrooms, zoas and leathers from my tank. Went through all the crazes, then all the funny names. When everyone was getting into RBTA's, I had a 54 corner loaded with them. By the time I took the tank down, I had given away at least 50 of them.

Been playing around with tanks around 40 years. I don't have a tank right now. I'm hoping to have it set up in the spring.
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This is funny, I started this thread yesterday and this morning, got this email from BRS.


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I won't go all the way back to catching crayfish and keeping them in box lined with a garbage bag as preteen in Sault Ste Marie, but did you know they'll eat balled up bread? They will if that's the only choice - rip it to pieces nom nom. End digression.

When I moved to southern Ontario at 19 (1986) I made friends who were into African Cichlids. First tank was a 35 gallon all Africans, second was a 90 community tank with a silver arrowana that after a couple years realized he was big enough to eat everybody, nom nom. Next was a 65 that I bred various higher end Africans and simultaniously a 100 long with breeding Discus. That was my first foray into a reverse undergravel system which was fantastic for discus (super messy meat eater fish). One of my best friends (still) started an aquarium store somewhere in there that speciallized in African cichlids but after a while added marine and we were hooked on that since. 90 gallon reef (1994) started with Marshall Island's rock was the first, best and easiest reef tank for me. Other than a couple rogue mantis shrimp that I caught and fed to the pacu in his store, there was no real problems.

Bought my first house (2002) and shut down the 90 rather than move it ( regret that). Got the bug a few years later, did an inwall 90 started with rock from a shutdown fowler tank, loaded with aiptasia, flatworms, phosphates and all kinds of other algae issues. It was an endless battle, that I shutdown, condensed to a 20 gallon, grew to a 40 gallon and then whatever was a success remains in my 50 frag tank even now. Far from illustrious but I definitely got some experience dealing with crap and turning it into somewhat of a gem.

There were various other tanks along the way but that's the bones of it.
As the saying goes, "It's weird being the same age as old people". My earliest specific memories were after my family moved in 1968 and one of our new neighbors owned a LFS. His garage was completely filled with running tanks. I quickly became friends with his two sons and he gave me an old wooden tank. Before that I know there was a fish bowl with something in it but can't remember what exactly it was. Since then it's been freshwater, planted, FOWLERS, reefs, temperate, lobster, octopus, shark.. etc tanks.
OH Hell NO!
Here it comes --
Parents bought me a fish tank back in the 50'S. I know you read it right!
That lasted for a few years and the hobby went away until I got married in "63.
The apartment had something like a 29 gallon freshwater set up.
2 years later we were in a house with a 55 gallon, then a 125 & African Cichlids.
5/1/77 my 220 was set up as FO saltwater, going forward along came corals, and a tank leak.
Replace the 220 with another one and kept it until we moved.
Then came the custom 250 until last year when I came home from a Kentucky wedding & caught something that knocked me down like a ton of bricks. Figured it's not fair to leave it to a woman with no interest.
So now I run a 100 gallon.
As a very small kid I always had the bottom of wine barrels and all sorts of containers that could hold water. (I didn't have a glass tank until probably 1953 or so) I kept every kind of turtle, frog, snake or bug I could find.

When I got a glass tank, which had metal angles on the sides painted black and a slate bottom I got fresh water fish.

I also kept any salt water fish I could collect in the bays here in tubs. Mostly eels, anglerfish, and minnows. Of course I always had hermit crabs, rock crabs, fiddler crabs, chitens, horseshoe crabs, baby lobsters and blue claw crabs as they are all common here.