©Jeanne E. Webster

 Think twice the next time you visit your local pet shop and wonder how nice it would be to have a little ten-gallon aquarium. They look so innocent setting there on the shelf, waiting for some unsuspecting victim to buy one. Beware! They spawn more tanks and I can prove it!

 Years ago my husband bought me a ten-gallon aquarium for Christmas.  We’d seen one at a friend’s home and thought how pretty it was. Before that fateful day we were just ordinary people who enjoyed bowling, golfing, and dirt bike riding for hobbies. We stocked our little tank with the regular starter fish: neons, cardinals, zebra danios, swordtails, guppies, and platies. We watched them eat and swim around and eventually named all that were distinguishable.

 After a month or so of fish entertainment, another fish tank appeared in our living room, a twenty-gallon. Before our very eyes, the tank spawning had begun. Soon another twenty-gallon came along, then a forty-gallon, a big step-up to a ninety-gallon and then back down to a fifty-five gallon. With the tanks came more fish, every type you could buy in the local store.

 Realizing we were really hooked on tropical fish, we bought some books on how to identify them, care for them, and how to treat diseases. Good, healthy fish were hard to obtain, so we decided to breed the fish we already had and fill our tanks up with good homegrown ones. More books were bought, and after many trial and errors, we began to have successful spawns of betas, angelfish, jewelfish, and livebearers. Consequently more tanks were necessary, the smaller breeder types.

I sensed that the spawning had finally run its course when we were installing the new 55-gallon tank. Not that I’m an expert aquarist or anything like that; there just wasn’t anymore floor space available in our little two-bedroom home. It’s amazing how one little aquarium could bring about so many changes in our lives and normal routines. No longer do I move the furniture around when the mood strikes me. There’s no place else to move it to, except to store it in the basement. I go into the kitchen to start supper and setting there on my stove top are two monstrous cooking pots filled with fresh water. My husband is in the middle of changing aquarium water. And guess which towel he chooses to wipe his hands on after cleaning the slimy filter boxes? My brand new pastel one with the roses on it of course.

Our bookcases once held the latest in best sellers, science fiction paperbacks, and Agatha Christie mysteries. They are now packed away in cartons and stored in the basement, next to the furniture I had to move to make room for more tanks. Our bookshelves currently hold books on breeding problem fish, water chemistry, fish diseases, and how to cure them, decorating your aquarium, artificial lighting, and the popular fish magazines.

 For entertainment we used to play games like monopoly, chess, or canasta. Now we play, “Twenty Questions.”  “Guess who had babies today?”   “What tank did you say had the sick fish in it?”  “Did you see the oscar’s latest trick of mouthing the end of the tank heater then snapping it back against the glass?”  “Have you seen the loach in the ninety-gallon tank lately?”  And always the inevitable, “guess who died today?”

The freezer part of our refrigerator used to hold people food. Now we open the door to packages of frozen brine shrimp, bloodworms, daphnia, beef heart and plankton. We started out buying the two-ounce packages of flake food and ended up with the five-pound bucket now.

Hopefully I’ve made you aware of the consequences of buying that first tank. If you’re brave or feel it won’t happen to you then go ahead and buy it. But before you know what’s happening, you’ll be installing floor supports under your first story floors so it doesn’t end up in the basement. Everywhere you look will be fish tanks, all colors and sizes of fish, airlines, nets, extension cords, and wrought iron stands. When that day arrives, you’ll know you’ve been hooked, lined, and sinkered too.

 However, don’t despair. It is a very enjoyable hobby and we find it both fascinating and rewarding. We have learned so much these past four years and wouldn’t trade our fish for anything. Like I keep telling my husband, if costs keep soaring as they have been, and things get really tight, we won’t every have to worry about starving to death. All we have to do is go fishing!