Just one aquarium – just to see what it’s like. That’s more or less how it all began for most of us. That’s certainly how it began for me. As a teenager I saw a dusty 60 cm aquarium in my school friend’s basement and was immediately smitten. I just needed some guppies, neon tetras and panda catfish in it - no sooner said than done.
Every day I invested my free time in reading books, browsing through volumes of Mergus and getting to know the various species. I was particularly taken with the plants, and quickly learnt about fertilisation and CO2. I was still at school and only had enough money for a Bio-CO2 system, which turned to be perfectly adequate.
Instead of strolling aimlessly round town, I found myself drawn several times a week to the two pet shops of my hometown, where I observed fish, listened to sales talks and got to know more and more animals and plants. Unsurprisingly I continuously longed for new species in my own aquarium as well. However I always kept the requirements of the animals in mind and was careful to pick species that were compatible with each other. And that’s why I only added a couple of dwarf cichlids (Apistogramma panduro).
Clearly I needed another aquarium or two: an 80 cm, a 120 cm and some small aquariums for invertebrates. It was important to me that the aquariums were lovingly set up, that the animals’ requirements were met and that I had enough time for each aquarium.
2-3 years later I acquired my first own reef through a friend who had to give up his marine aquarium for private reasons. This just ignited my passion even more.
Unfortunately I had to give the aquariums and fish away to friends of mine a few years later when my studies took me to Flensburg. I had to have an aquarium in Flensburg for the 3 years I spent there, of course, and it was an 80 x 60 x 60 cm marine aquarium with HQI burner, T5 lighting, dosing system, skimmer and many other technical devices. Yes, it was in my student bedsitter and no, it didn’t disturb me. I even woke up one night when there was a power failure. Somehow the calming whirring from the reef was missing. Aquarists are really a bit different and this "addiction" is also contagious. My flatmate wanted me to help him to set up his first aquarium in the living room. For this I organized an Akva Stabil aquarium with metal frame in black - a real eye-catcher in 160 cm. This was the first time I had run an aquarium with someone else and I have to say, it was great fun!
At the end of my studies I ended up about 800 km away in Rhineland-Palatinate. These were my first 9 months without an aquarium. This is really a funny feeling, but it helped me to collect new ideas and plans and it made my passion grow even stronger. When I then began a further course in Hamburg, the new 80 cm aquarium was installed in front of the bed and desk in my room and was later supplemented with a marine nano aquarium. I couldn’t have managed much longer without one. Even though I had to remove and give away aquariums with much sadness, I always went through personal contacts and gave the fish into good hands, usually free of charge, because I knew they would be taken care of. Selling them at a good price was not in my interest, because animal welfare would then have played only a minor role. Personally I wish more aquarium owners had this attitude too nowadays, because fish are not “goods”, they are living beings.
I didn’t really settle down until the end of 2012, when I moved into a terraced house. Here again a larger freshwater and marine aquarium moved in with me. These were my living room display aquariums and were planted, stocked with fish and cared for with love and much patience. For the first time ever I had the chance to build a breeding facility in the cellar. Here I used heavy duty shelving units to build a facility with an LED light supply and air lifters. With almost 30 aquariums for breeding invertebrates, small loaches, dwarf pufferfish and dwarf cichlids, it was a dream come true. I invested a lot of time and energy into observing, caring for and breeding the animals and was thus able to build a network of contacts to aquatic enthusiasts in my new region. I did this very actively for a few years until I realized that I only had time to care for the animals, but was missing out on “enjoying” them. The aim of breeding was not to earn money, but to preserve species, to study their behaviour in detail and to report on it online. I had fulfilled these aims and two years ago it was time to part with the facility and pass the parents and their offspring into good hands. The display aquariums in the living area remained where they were and help me to relax in the evenings to this day.
Even if I do fancy more now and then, I always limit myself to one freshwater and one marine aquarium. This is easy to care for and also allows me to observe each individual inhabitant timewise. For me this is the ideal constellation for appreciating this wonderful hobby. I may sound a bit emotional, but this was a review of my last 18 years in aquaristics.
How did you get your first aquarium and how many aquariums do you have now or did you have at peak times at home? Share it with us in the comments.