Fishkeeping Sins I’ve Committed


I first kept fish way back c. 1990 when I was in college. This was back in the day when there was no “internet” and you couldn’t “Google” for information, and “forums” such as this didn’t exist yet. I had a couple of goldfish in a glass bowl on my desk. I wanted to give them the best life possible, so I bought a book from the bookstore to read up on what to do. I did get them a little filter-slash-bubbler made for goldfish bowls. The fish were tiny (about 1.5” long each), orange and white orandas (I think orandas, anyway) and I loved them. Their names were Leopold and Alexander. They seemed happy. After about a year they were still alive, and I felt ready to “graduate” to a larger 10 gallon tank. Not knowing any better, I went on to commit even more fishkeeping sins including, but not limited to:
1) I got them a bunch more goldfish tankmates. Goldfish come in such a stunning variety of colors and types, I couldn’t stick to just one or two.
2) I kept the tank scrupulously clean. Like, stripping it down every couple of weeks and scouring EVERYTHING back to showroom-new condition. With tap water. And occasionally soap. (I did at least know enough to add conditioner to the tap water when refilling the tank). I thought the fish would do best with a squeaky clean tank.
3) Nitrogen cycle? What’s a nitrogen cycle?
4) I started to have a problem with algae, so I got a pleco. He cleaned everything right up. I had no idea they can grow to be several inches in length.
5) I would test the water, but I think it was just a pH test kit or something, certainly not any kind of comprehensive test for water parameters. Ammonia? Nitrates? Nitrites? Are these, like, important?
6) Sometimes a fish would die, and I’d just get another one. I figured it was old age. Who knew fish could live for YEARS?

You really don’t know what you don’t know until you start researching. Thankfully, forums like this now exist where you can confer with other aquarists who might actually know a lot more. We were all new at one point. Looking back on some of the atrocious sins I committed in decades past, I am ashamed and feel really bad for my fish. That’s why I’m here now, so I can avoid making the same mistakes or committing the same sins as in my checkered past. Sorry Leopold, Alexander, Oscar, LT… and all the other fish who I really did try to provide the best life.


Sounds similarly eerie to my start in the 90s as well. Did a lot better when i started again in 2005.


In 1980s I had 2 65g tanks, with African and SA Cichlids(Severums).
I did not know about nitrogen cycle at all. I used city tap water without additives for changes. I did understand ph , and kept the Africans at about 8.0 using an additive. Don't know what it was.
I added a dark liquid to the SA tank purchased at LFS. It was stated to produce water similar to that of South America. It did darken the water.
Both tanks did fairly well. The Severums lived 5 years, at which point I moved long distance and had to give them up. Only the Africans reproduced.

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