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Member Spotlight - Tim Gautrey

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Fish Lore Forum Member Spotlight on Tim Gautrey (TimandKaren)!


Some of Tim's Aquariums Hello all. My name is Tim Gautrey, and I have been asked to write a small profile of myself and my experiences, such as they are. I hate the thought of singing my own praises, so this will hopefully be low-key and modest, but if not, please accept my apologies, it is enthusiasm, passion and love of this "hobby" coming through!

I am now 49 years old, and have been keeping fish on and off, since I was 12. The first fish I ever had was a goldfish, (wow!) in a bowl that was no bigger than a gallon. It had no filter, no air and no care! Fish-keeping wasn't so much of an art then, it was something kids played at and very low-tech. Test kits hadn't been invented, nitrogen cycle was unknown and if the water went green, you cleaned the bowl!

After leaving school and starting work, it took over my life and nothing much mattered but work. I got married at 19 and had a couple of attempts at keeping fish, but work always took me away for long periods, so it wasn't very successful.

Through the successive years and successive marriages I kept fish from time to time, each time getting a little more technical. By the end of my second marriage, I was familiar with UGF's and air pumps and fish were living longer. There was still no real way to test the water, or at least, not that I knew of, but I had a keen nose and could tell when I went to the tank whether it was good or in need of attention. I was keen, interested and happy with my goldfish. (I still hadn't even dreamt of tropical at this time!)

Another few years, another marriage and more children later, I got more interested and found that I had a little more time on my hands. Still with cold water, still no technical aids, but the tanks had grown to 4', the fish got bigger and I got a lot more technically minded in the looking after of them. The boys showed interest at times, which spurred me on as well. I started to build tanks in then too. My first built in tank was a work of art! It was a 4' tank, built under a worktop in the living room, next to the TV where we could watch the fish and the TV at the same time. I built in the air pump and lighting too, a set of drawers beside the tank for videos, (that dates it), and everything was hidden away very tidily. We had fake plants, 6 goldfish and a whether loach to control the algae. The tank had to be repaired, because when we got it, second hand, one corner was chipped, so out came the silicon and a plastic corner and that held for years!

Work got in the way again, and my time was spent on other things, so the tank slowly got worse and eventually we shut it down and sold it on. My marriage went down around the same time and I left home shortly afterwards.

Two months later, when I returned to the UK after a break in the USA, I landed where I am now, as manager of a large Guest House. The job came with accommodation in the shape of a one bedroom flat at the rear of the property, in need of some fixing up. So I spent my spare time painting and decorating, plastering and wiring, getting the flat into shape. During this period I got to know Karen and her daughter, Nuria. They had recently returned from Spain, where Nuria was born and Karen had lived for 20 years.

We enjoyed each others company and very soon became an item. She moved into the flat with me, (cramped, I know), and then I started to get close to Nuria, and she started to call me dad!

One day last year we took her to the local fair, and won two goldfish. She was ecstatic! 2 fish in a plastic bag! Then of course, we had to buy something to put them in, so a plastic bowl came with them.

We brought them home and set them up. Her face was a picture! She was so thrilled! Within days, we had gone out to the local pet shop and bought a small hex tank, which came with filter and light, bought some gravel and silk plants and set it all up for these 2 fish to live in.

They looked so lost in there, after being in a bowl, that we had to go and get another 2 to keep them company. (Bear in mind folks, this was just last year, I had been keeping fish for most of my life, and this sounds just like the story of a newbie!) We had no idea about 1" per gallon and 1" per 6 gallons for goldfish, no inkling of the cycle, just my keen nose and the thrill of keeping fish!

Well, as you can imagine, 4 fish in a 4 gallon hex very quickly became cramped, so we went and bought a brand new 2' tank, canopy, light, gravel, plants and decor and an under gravel filter with air pump. I spent about a day getting this all set up, washing the gravel, positioning the plants and ornaments and filling it with water. The next day, in went the fish. 5 days later we were down to 2 fish and I was climbing the walls!

Finally, after 20 years of fish keeping, I asked the question of the pet shop... What's wrong? There followed a very long and detailed explanation of the nitrogen cycle, how to start a tank, what fish to use for it, how filters work, the need for water changes, test kits, and a whole host of other interesting and enlightening topics. The assistant was very knowledgeable, knew his stuff and put me on the right track. I walked out of "PETSMART" (Yes, there are good ones!) with a whole new outlook on fish keeping and a list of things to learn! I thought I knew all there was to know about goldfish before that meeting, but what I knew didn't even scratch the surface!

There followed a frenzied 3 months of learning and putting right all the wrongs, replacing the fish we lost and explaining to Nuria why we had new fish!

That was really the start of the life that we now lead. The 2' was quickly joined by a second-hand 4', which came with various filters, lights and a heater! Never had one of them before! Do we need it? Well, it came with the tank, so why not? We spent about 4 weeks getting the new tank ready for fish, used a couple of the goldfish to cycle it properly, bought some real plants, new ornaments and things and it looked really great!

We then went back to Petsmart and bought some tropical fish. We started off with a few neons, a bristlenose, and a dwarf gourami. Over the next few weeks we bought a couple of angels, two balas and two corydoras. The tank came to life and it looked fantastic! The goldfish were next door, in the 2' and I replaced the air pump with one big enough to run both tanks. This was in November last year.

Then the dreaded MTS bit. Karen and I were talking with some friends about the fish, and how much enjoyment we get from them and she jokingly said "Wouldn't it be nice to have fish tanks all the way around the room?"

If you have been following the DIY section, you know the rest! She suggested it and I liked the idea. We were in the quiet season, with not much work to do, so I took the idea and designed a way to make it happen. I spent hours drawing up plans, finding a custom tank builder and working out how much I would need in the way of materials and so on. Karen was just stunned by the thought of it!

3 months of building, moving furniture, completely re-wiring the room with extra power outlets, putting in air tubing, collecting and fitting the tanks, putting all the lighting in, installing the air pumps, filters, heaters, staining and varnishing all the timbers and we ended up with what you see today, 2 walls completely built in with fish! See the video here

While the building was underway, I loaded the 2' and 4' with extra filters and overfed them to pre-load the filters ready for the new tanks. As soon as the water was in, the filters were installed and working. Within days of setting the tanks up, fish started to swim in them, a few at a time, every week we bought more and more fish, increasing our collection to around 140 fish. Amazingly, we lost just three during the first 2 months, two of them due to poor stock that we were buying and one new bristlenose got stuck in an ornament and didn't survive. Other than that, not one fish was lost to bad conditions, poor filtering or anything else!

I have always had faith in nature and its ability to amaze and surprise us. Our experiences since then have just served to reinforce that faith. Very soon the fish started to breed. Spontaneously, without any assistance from us, mollies, platties and guppies started to multiply. This was not something we had planned for! At first we were thrilled, but very soon it started to worry us. By now I was a member here, and reading just about every post that was placed. I knew what was coming very quickly and that's when I started to design and build my own tanks.

This was done for two reasons: Firstly, we were very limited for space and secondly, I was in uncharted waters, so to speak, coming out with radical and unique designs that I couldn't be sure would work. All this is already well documented in the threads here, so there's really no need to go over the same ground again. If you want to know more, login and go to the DIY section, it's all there!

The last 6 months have been a struggle between us and nature. We have been working constantly to keep ahead of the production of new fish. We haven't succeeded yet. I have over 1000 young and growing fish now, along with 140ish adults in just 400 gallons of water! Only through many, many hours of work do they survive. Innovation has helped a lot, by developing strange and incredibly efficient filter systems, such as the aquaponics garden, which has enabled me to overload the 200 gallon system on the one side of the room and still keep water parameters within tolerance. (In that 200 gallons are all the goldfish, all the larger fish, around 500-600 fry and several smaller fish. The water system shouldn't be able to cope with this load, but the ammonia and nitrite readings remain at 0 and the nitrates stay below 25 all the time!) I have only changed the water once on this side too, and that was about 5 months ago! The readings today were just the same as always, with nitrates being the only positive and that still below 25. The filtration on these tanks is minimal at 2 x 4' UGF's, two air box filters and the aquaponics garden. Believe it folks, it's true! I did increase the UGF's by commissioning the 2nd riser when I put the grow-out tanks on top, but that's all the filtration this system has.

The room still isn't finished yet. There is still another column tank to build and install, but that will have to wait until the fish house is finished and I can move the grow-out tanks away. Yep, that's about it now, all up to date. The fish house is the ultimate project for us, and the start of our business too. When completed it will hold a variety of tanks totalling around 1600 gallons, advanced filtration including UVC and several innovations that I have dreamt up over the last few months, some of which are now coming into the light for the first time on the threads here.

In closing, I have a couple of things to say that must be said:

Do I know it all? NO
Will I ever know it all? NOT IN A MILLION YEARS!
Do I have the answers? SOMETIMES
Can I help? TRY ME!
What's next? I'm sure I'll come up with something, watch this space!

Enjoy the hobby, take pleasure in your achievements and most of all, NEVER close your mind to new ideas or alternative methods!


My thanks go to Karen and Nuria for giving me the enthusiasm and drive to take this hobby and run with it.

I also thank all the members of Fishlore for their support and enthusiasm at all the hair-brained and stupid ideas that they have taken on board and helped with.

Most of all, I thank my parents for putting up with me through all the turmoil that has been my life.

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