Am I Not Cut Out For Fish Keeping?

  • #1
I don’t know, I think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. This is going to be long. It’s been giving me anxiety and I just need to get it off my chest. Just a fair warning to anyone opening this post!

We got into keeping fish last fall because my five year old is my world and his world is all about fish. He loves fish. My parents came to visit and decided to get him a tank and some fish as a present.

I found this first tank very stressful in the beginning. I didn’t know about fishless cycling beforehand, and had to do a fish in cycle. The incessant testing and frequent water changes and constant worry that I was harming the fish, plus butting heads with my husband about how much money and time to spend on the fish. Plus, I got very ill about a month after we got the tank. Was in hospital for a spell. Took months to finally cycle the tank (had great help along the way from members here, so thankful for that).

Once it was cycled and my health improved slightly, I enjoyed the tank. But then we went away, came back and realized two of our neons had possibly Neon Tetra Disease. Seeing living things suffer and die gives me a lot of axiety. In the end my husband euthanized them, after talking to the LFS and researching online. They had been deteriorating and medications didn’t seem to work, and if it really was NTD like the LFS suggested, then there was no cure and they were just suffering. Now every time we leave for more than a day, I actually refuse to look at the tank first, I get my husband or son to account for all the fish before I’ll even look. So, that’s one red flag that I think says I’m not cut out for this. Fish are delicate and the small fish we want to keep don’t have long life spans. I feel like I’m just constantly worried about their health, it’s taking away from me actually enjoying them.

Anyways, my son’s enthusiasm for fish, well I guess that made me and my husband want to get excited about it with him. We bought a brand new 10 gallon kit. Then hubby scoured the local buy and sells and we bought four more small-mid sized tanks. THEN he found a 90 gallon tank and stand, so we jumped on that too. Then we thought about buying a new filter for that 90 gallon, spent several hundred dollars on that. Honestly, on the 90 gallon set up alone we’ve probably spent around $1000? We don’t really have a lot of extra money, so now I’ve got anxiety about that, buyer’s remorse maybe?

Well, in the middle of all this, I had a bad fall while snowboarding and I got a concussion. For a month now, I’ve been in a lot of pain and nausea and vomiting, all day and night. It’s been almost unbearable, I’ve barely been able to keep up maintenance on the one 12 gallon tank that actually has fish in it. This week, hubby had to do the tank clean and water change for the first time, because the pain and sickness didn’t ease up all week so I couldn’t get to it. Which led me to think, what have I done?! How the heck am I going to manage this tank, the 10 gallon and the 90?! (Let’s ignore the two 10 gallons, the 29 gallon and a 34 gallon in the garage for now. Those are empty. The 12 gallon has fish, and the 10 gallon and 90 gallon I’m attempting to do a fishless cycle).

And I guess while I’ve been up in the wee hours of the night in pain, I’ve also done a lot of thinking. Before my son, I honestly (please don’t be mad, I want to be honest here) didn’t ever really like fish! They creeped me out when I was a kid because they don’t have eyelids, I don’t ever want to touch the scales on a fish, yep, that creeps me out too, and as a child, I also never wanted to keep one because I thought they died really easily.

I don’t know what happened. I thought I enjoyed this hobby and fish, but maybe because I’m not healthy at the moment, I find it overwhelming? Maybe once I get passed this concussion, I’ll enjoy it again? Or perhaps, I was just forcing myself to like it because it brings so much joy to my five year old. Maybe I should just sell the 90 gallon and all the brand new equipment (I don’t think I can return stuff, the tank has been running trying to do a fishless cycle) and cut our losses now. Keep the 12 gallon going and let my son add a betta to the 10 gallon and leave it at that?

I’m sorry, I know this was long. I just needed to get it out there. I’m not sure what to do! I thought writing it all out here would help ease my anxiety but it hasn’t yet. I don’t think I’m cut out for this!
  • #2
I hope your symptoms get better soon. That sounds like some nasty stuff.

You and your husband both came down with MTS (Multiple Tank Syndrome). People joke about it but it's real. Fishkeeping has a way of drawing you in, and you're always looking at that next opening on the wall where you can fit in another tank. I did the same thing. I started with a 20G with some guppies in it, down in the Man Cave. Before I knew what happened, I had 20 tanks of guppies. I also put in a flat screen TV so my wife and I could watch the ball games. Best room I've ever been in.

I think everybody goes through a period where they're wondering if it's worth it keeping fish. It's always more work than you think it's going to be. Once you get into a weekly or semi-weekly routine, it gets real. You have to carve out a piece of your life to keep the tanks up. Personally, I hope you keep with it and come out the other side feeling much better, and with a lot more knowledge learning from experience.
  • #3
Being a fellow anxiety sufferer, I don't think the fish are the issue. It's just another trigger for anxiety and because you associate the fish with being anxious, they become less enjoyable. Take some time out to watch them feed, play and interact with each other and find things to ease your anxiety. Once your health and anxiety are manageable, I'm certain you'll find joy in it again
  • #4

  • #5
I hope your heath improves soon. I've dealt with PCS for 25+ years. Sometimes I get migraines daily with nausea, vomiting, have to be in a dark room with an ice pack, etc., sometimes I go 6 months with no symptoms. There are LOTS of factors involved including food so see a GOOD doctor who specializes in concussions. It also sounds like you're dealing with anxiety issues. Again, talk to a doctor about that. Little fish in a tank shouldn't be causing anxiety. Something else is going on.

Second, you guys got MTS, also known as multiple tank syndrome. You got a small tank and a few fish, saw bigger and better and jumped in head first. Happens to a lot of people and turns a lot of people away from fish keeping with frustration. Just like you're experiencing. You gotta walk before you run. That's the truth. Fish can be overwhelming for people new to the hobby. Toss in multiple tanks, large tanks, the fact that you're new to all of this along with other "life" issues and its a recipe for disaster.

Fact of the matter is, not everyone IS cut out for fish keeping. My wife loves looking at them, but she has ZERO interest in feeding them, going on "expeditions" to find things for our tanks, going to the pet shop and looking at fish, etc. We currently have 14 tanks ranging from 2.5 gallons to 125 gallons. I've been keeping fish since I was born and I've always had fish. Our son is a mix of us. He LOVES the thought of them, enjoys the tanks, SOMETIMES wants to go to the pet shop and look at them, SOMETIMES wants to go on expeditions to find things for our tanks, etc., but I'm the one who's really into it. It just isn't for everyone.

I think due to your numerous health issues you guys need to scale back the operation until you're better. 100%. If you continue to have severe anxiety issues, you need to get that under control too. I don't think the fish will help you with that, only add to it. Keeping fish can be tricky, even for those of us who have been doing it for decades. They need serious dedication, especially when keeping multiple tanks. Get yourself healthy and start out small. Good luck to you!
  • #6
I had anxiety issues when I first started and it's pretty normal. You want to do this but it can be an avalanche of problems, but the thing is...we've all been there. Yes you started in the fall, it often takes a year to finally settle in and everything is perfect. I think it's best you wait it out.

With that said...when your tanks are finally cycled and have fish you will enjoy it. You will find ways to make cleaning more efficient. I think we talked about using a pond pump to drain the water...You have healthy tanks right now, so you know your doing a good job. Get healthy first and worry about the 90 as it will take time.

This hobby is expensive at first. The purchase of tank and equipment and's like any hobby that one starts. I love playing golf. Cost me a lot of money to get the equipment, lessons and practice. 20 years later, I'm pretty decent at it. It will be the same for you with this hobby and any hobby, peaks and valleys.

The FL community is here to help out. Keep on fishing.

Wear a helmet when snow boarding...
  • #7
I would say delegate some of the tank work to your husband, it won't hurt hubby and son to help some. I would take a deep breath and sit and watch the fish for a while, don't think about anything and just watch them move.
Take time away from the tanks when you can, it sounds like fish keeping is triggering the anxiety, so I can understand the frustration you feel over the tanks. Some fish can live for a long while, some fish even live a decade, however this is put up to several things including genetics, care from birth/hatching, and even food. You cannot blame yourself if you are doing everything for them, for the death of a fish. If you have do the best you can that is all they can ask for.
I would figure out a weekly schedule that you feel you can stick to for maintenance and being able to sit down and enjoy the tank/fish. If you aren't taking the time to enjoy the view it becomes very tiring and disheartening to have to deal with day in and day out. I've had a couple four year old neons (they passed), I have a few that are two years old right now and some younger ones as well. I have a school of 14 glow lights that are between 8 months and 3 years old. Some I have lost sooner than I should have, some have lived longer than expected, but I haven't given up on them even losing many fish (beyond just a few, some of them I was very attached too, those got proper burials under a favored tree/bush). It takes time and effort to do this hobby, but don't burn yourself out trying too hard. Many people on here has MTS, so they understand the struggle of several tanks, myself I have 14 under my care and one out on loan (currently resetting it up, the fish that go in that tank are all from my stock).
  • #8
You'll be okay. Bigger tanks are easier to maintain than the smaller ones. At first dieing / sick fish will leave you devestated (certainly when you yourself aren't completely okay). A bit more experience will make you sure which fish to buy and which to combine.
  • #9
I just wanted to say, that I am sorry things are difficult at the moment. That must be really hard for you. It's totally ok to say to your husband and son "I'm not able to tank care of the tanks at the moment, as I am not well, you will need to take this over if you want to keep the tanks". That's the thing about family decisions, everyone should chip in according to their abilities.
Why me
  • #10
Hey. Hope your feeling better. Maybe for the 90 you could get something bigger. Easier to manage and hopefully more personality. Plus get something semi- cheap as well. Just in case. I would personally throw in an Oscar
  • #11
As mentioned by other posters, I think we all take it badly when we lose a fish which leads to questioning whether or not we are cut out for this hobby. I had an ich breakout 2 years ago that decimated one of my tanks. Seeing almost all my fish die was disheartening. I was gonna call it quits but decided to give it another go. The lessons learned allowed me to upgrade my tank to a new planted tank, keeping my water parameters on check during the process and successfully transferring my fish to the new tank. My tank is now where I always wanted it to be and I look upon it with pride. Mt fish are much more active and happy. Despite the hardships, I found this to be a fun and rewarding hobby.
  • #12
Oscars are the easiest fish to keep that I have ever seen. They can tolerate horrible water conditions and still thrive. The only problem is that they outgrow the tank quickly. My brother had 2 in a 55 gallon and after a while it seemed like the tank was too small. He actually fed them small balls of dog food from his hand. They'll eat anything.
Why me
  • #13
Well she has a 90 and they’re known as puppies of water or something like that. Oh for the bottom you could get something else. I have mine with a rope fish and soon to be 2 Bichirs
  • #14
Sounds like this has been a rough winter for you. I agree with the above poster that the fish may be a trigger for your anxiety, but are probably not the source.
You need to get better. Perhaps let the 10 & 90 gallon tanks not cycle now, unless your husband & son want to take them over. Do water changes when you are feeling up to it - every 3 days or 10 days depending on how you feel. Take care - and feel free to vent here.
  • #15
I totally get you linking the anxiety to the fish. I did the same with my horses. I got 2 rescue horses which the owner failed to mention were fresh off the race track and every time I got on one they would bolt and would never stop - I was a novice rider. Every day the anxiety would have me literally in tears. I tried for a year and in the end I couldn't even walk in the field to bring them in to the stables. 5 years on and I am now terrified of horses.

Downsize, take a step back and re-look at things again soon. It's amazing how quickly worry and anxiety can really take over and make you see things so much worse than they are. You will loose money but you can't put a price on your own wellbeing
  • #16
Between my deteriorating health and work I was overwhelmed with all my tanks so slowly I gave all my fish as well as some tanks away. Most are still in the garage empty. I set up my 75 so if I was sick or in the hospital all my family had to do was feed the fish and turn the light on. I keep the stocking real low so water changes can be stretched way out if I can't do them. Iv been feeling better but still I enjoy my lazy tank. Personally I would do an oscar and some kind of smaller pleco in the 90 as that would be easy to maintain and their like underwater puppies. Over the years I have had overstocked tanks, properly stock tanks and understocked tanks and honestly the understocked were the easiest to maintain and most enjoyed. So its a balance and once you find what works for you its a very enjoyable hobby.
  • #17
I'm so sorry you're going through all of this, I can relate. I'd say to keep the fishless cycles going as long as it takes for you to recover before adding fish. You could just keep it cycling for months if you have to. You likely won't be able to sell the tank for the price you got, it'll probably be several hundred dollars short of what you want, I'm sorry to say. If you truly feel like you need to get out, you could do that, or you could just keep it since you already spent the money and can't really get it back. I'd personally keep it. If you're extremely worried about the money (I feel you, I'm approaching the financial situation of "broke college student" lol) then you could set up one of the empty tanks as a small tank with high quality guppies, some type of Moss, and red cherry shrimp and let that go and sell once you get some good numbers. Or, for really low maintence, you could just do the shrimp and a nice type of rarer moss, it'll grow given time. I didn't really get into the hobby full time until last year, but last year I began to have some health problems and was diagnosed with a lifelong type of disorder (yaaay). So, basically those two things coinciding weren't the best, and coupled with school work, well, that's a good recipe for anxiety. When my disorder flares up, I won't be able to get out of bed for a day or two, and for about a week I won't be able to manage my tanks. Doesn't help that it flares up every 1-3 weeks. My tanks are still doing well, I managed to accidentally set up all but one of them as a Walstad. If you grab yourself some anacharis and let it grow for a good bit, that stuff will just suck up all the nitrates. Keep stocking really low, invest in cheap sponge plants, and the maintence will be much much easier and much less demanding. In my 60 gallongoldfish tank (only one goldfish though, but he's currently in QT), I would only get maybe 2 nitrates a week. That means water changes less than once a month (although it's more healthy to do them once a week to once every two weeks). The anacharis has pretty much no requirements, other than some light, and I cut/remove close to 8-10 feet a week. I started with a bunch of ten, 6 inch pieces back in January and I have an unbelievable amount now. It was 2.99 at my Petco, I highly recommend growing it out in one of the cycling tanks (it'll suck up a lot of ammonia so you'll have to add extra) and let it grow, trim it and add it to other tanks. I hope you can enjoy the hobby, and if it becomes too stressful, you do have to consider your health as a very important aspect and take care of yourself.
  • #18
I totally feel for you . I am very green to fish keeping as well (started in January) my son is 3 and my daughter is 1 and a half. They absolutely love the fish. They actually eat dinner by the tank . So we have a 10 g and 36g which they both love. When I originally set them up I said to myself this is easy add water and fish and your done. I didn’t know anything about cycleing or tank upkeep. The first month was horrible with all the testing and water changes since we did a fish in cycle. It was basically a second job For me and very stressful. Now being 3 months in and both tanks cycled and doing well the stress has subsided.the tanks bring my family much joy. The things we do for our kids maybe try and get your son and hubby more involved. Maybe take turns doing tank upkeep? That’s what my wife and I do. Either way I hope you feel better and try to enjoy the fish
  • #19
I am so sorry about your health!! I hope you can figure something out and keep your fish... I am sure you are a great fish keeper!!!!!!! Just keep trying if it's not too stressful!!! I am sure everyone on fish lore believes you can do it!!!!
Alaina Leigh
  • #20
Being a fellow anxiety sufferer, I don't think the fish are the issue. It's just another trigger for anxiety and because you associate the fish with being anxious, they become less enjoyable. Take some time out to watch them feed, play and interact with each other and find things to ease your anxiety. Once your health and anxiety are manageable, I'm certain you'll find joy in it again
If this fish are a trigger, then they are an "issue," absolutely. I disagree strongly with your comment.
Alaina Leigh
  • #21
OP, so much of what you said hit home for me. I've been feeling similarly but didn't have the words to describe it as you have. I nearly lost my partner of 3 years to the obsessive attention and amount of time I was giving to the fish. I've tapered it down but I think I still do spend too much time obsessing.

I'm not fully on the other side of the problem yet to say whether it's all worth it in the end, but it's very encouraging to hear people on this thread share their experience, that in the end it's worth it.

Good luck. Whatever decision you make regarding your future of fishkeeping I trust will be the right one.
  • #22
First of all, that is a LOT to be dealing with, minus any fish! I hope that life calms down for you soon. First of all, pretend the empty tanks don't exist. Resell them if you want to. I'm just getting really interested in the hobby again (I've been interested for the past 17 years, but sometimes I get SUPER obsessed and this is one of those times) and I keep seeing amazing deals on tanks and stands on Craigslist (2 75 gallons with stands for under $250!!!) and I want to buy them all, but I keep reminding myself that cheap secondhand tanks will always be a thing. When I need a 75 gallon with a stand, there will be a cheap one out there if I'm a bit patient. Anyway, my point is don't feel compelled to do anything with those tanks simply because you bought them, and secondly, don't feel bad passing them along if you're overwhelmed. Someone else will be extremely happy to find a deal As for the tanks you're cycling, there's absolutely no harm in just stopping. I did a fishless cycle with my 29 gallon when I was in high school and it took 6-8 weeks and it was a very annoying process. So much water testing! I kept going because I REALLY wanted the fish I'd chosen after months of research. It's totally fine for you to stop and start back up again if/when you find yourself up for it. Don't burn out on fish even further by forcing yourself to start 2 more tanks when you're overwhelmed by the one that you have. Also, I've seen several people suggest an oscar. I found a baby oscar in a pond recently and did tons of research on them and learned that they're one of the messiest of fish, needing massive filtration plus huge regular water changes. If changing 40+ gallons of water weekly isn't your idea of fun, you might want to consider something else for the 90 gallon should you decide to stock it. That being said, I adored that fish and totally want an oscar someday-but once I'm ready to make that commitment.

Tl;dr: Focus on the 12 gallon for now and do NOT feel like you HAVE to get the other tanks up and running anytime soon. If you have a good LFS nearby, you or your husband can take your son to that to see the fish if your own tank isn't enough. My dad regularly took me and my brother to our local reptile and fish stores to see the creatures because my parents weren't up to maintaining a ton of pets and we loved it.
  • #24
OP, you sound like such a trooper already, I hope you aren't too down on yourself, this hobby is definitely a roller coaster of emotions when you are starting out. I have 11 tanks. And even though my fish have helped me pull through the darkest depression of my life, they can trigger anxiety like crazy, because we care about them. I think if you wanted to downsize, it would really be beneficial, I say toss your passion at the 90 gallon, it's true bigger tanks are easier to manage, and you'll have a stunning display and so many choices with that size of tank. Maybe keep a small tank and an emergency tank, but really get that 90 where you want it. It'll be the star of the show. Also, something that helped my MTS was taking a break from learning about fish and focusing on the live plants and aquascaping. It's much easier to get over killing plants than fish
  • Thread Starter
  • #25
I have to say, I did tear up reading the comments here. Thank you to everyone who took the time to reply. I can feel your support.

I spoke to hubby about my concerns. He still really wants to give the 90 gallon a go and let our son have a betta in his 10 gallon. He’s agreed we can sell the other four tanks in the garage and return the unopened supplies we got for those tanks.

I’m just going to take it day by day. I’m not going to rush with the 10 gallon or the 90 gallon. I’ll see where the cycle will take us and then just keep feeding ammonia until I decide what to do.

Health wise, I got testing done for one of my conditions this weekend. Hopefully I can start treatment for that this week or next, and it should help with sleep. I’m just seeing my family dr for my concussion. She prescribed different pain killers with a protective coating, so they are less irritating to my stomach. They’re also much more effective at managing the pain. I’ve actually slept longer than 2 hours, so that’s a plus.

I am seeing a Dr about my anxiety, and I think the fish have become a trigger for sure. Will talk to her about that this week as well.

We go skiing/snowboarding every weekend in the winter, I always wear a helmet. I’m sure it saved my life this time, as I probably would’ve had a major brain bleed if I didn’t have one on!

Thank you all again for your support. This is a fantastic community for fish and people.
  • #27
Hey! I too love fish, huskies and martinis! Are you my long lost twin?
Love = addicted I think hahaha
  • #28
I am sorry to read about all you are going through.
I hope you get better soon.

I too suffer from anxiety and depression, so I know how you feel, I have been there. With so many things going on right now you must be really overwhelmed; I would be too. We, people that suffer from anxiety and/or depression, tend to get overwhelmed easily. My suggestion is to take care of the most importan thing first, which is yourself and your health. Tanks can wait, being well can't. You are important, you are loved, you have a family that needs you and you are going to get through this. You got this, FishMich.

Also like you, I suffer from MTS. I have 3 empty tanks at home besides my 46 gallon. My secret for controlling myself, not get anxious and overwhelmed and not spend a bunch of money at once I have decided to not start the next tank until I have finished my current tank. As much as I love my fish and my tank, it is not quite as I want it. I still need plants, better lighting and a few other things. Once I get that on how I want it, then I will move to the next one and so on. It helps me focus and channel my energy into 1 tank at a time thus allowing me to enjoy the process, otherwise I will get overwhelmed and probably will want to give up on the hobby. So maybe try that too. Take it one tank at a time, take it slowly and enjoy the process.

My aquarium has been such a blessing for me. It calms me down, helps me focus and get excited about something. It has such a relaxing effect. I hope once you get better and get everything sorted out you will feel the same way.

Wishing you the best.
Christy W
  • #29
Love = addicted I think hahaha
OMG I just looked at your profile. I lived in The Netherlands for several years. My son and I are hoping to visit his father and family there this summer. That’s totally nuts.
  • #30
Just read your post. I am new to this fish thing as well. I really hope your health gets better first and foremost and I really hope things can turn around for you and this fish hobby that you have endured. If you read my post. I killed about 8 different kinds of fish already and I feel like such a fish killer. I have had the same thoughts as you, wondering is this even for me, I’m not good at this and really don’t know what I am doing cause the fish just keep dying. Then I stated reading online and came across this forum and was the best thing that happened to me since taking on this new hobby. I am down to one goldfish and starting my first real cycle with fish before I put any other fish in there I am going to try to learn the water keeping first. I think that helps a lot. Once you know how to keep up with the water. The fish caretaking might be a little bit easier.. that’s what I am getting out of it thus far. I do hope it’s gets better for you, hubby and son and you all enjoy the wonderful fish you are caring for. I would love to see the progress. I believe you can do this.

That’s my last goldfish name “Justice”


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  • #31
Just a few thoughts:

- I have severe anxiety disorder. Some days it's hard for me to leave the house. I have lost SO MUCH SLEEP over my tanks over the years... but when I get it right (or I get lucky!), it's so worth it.

- I'm actually terrified of fish. It's odd, but that's what got me into this hobby. I'm afraid of the unknown, and the dark, and water is dark and unknown. Fish live in water. Fish are TERRIFYING. I won't go in a lake or a river because I'm afraid of what's in it. But I love having fish swimming in my house; I am utterly fascinated by these frightening little things. No judgment on you thinking they're weird!

- I hope you can find a way to make this hobby rewarding for you, whether by decreasing the number of tanks or whatever else. If not, I hope you realize it isn't failure to give something up. If it isn't for you, it isn't for you, and that's okay!

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