By Mike Hellweg
When Ted first approached me with the idea for this contest, I jumped at the chance to help promote my favorite part of the hobby, breeding fish. I knew I would have to step up my game a bit (Ted is a fierce competitor!), but that also would require some modifications to my fishroom.
First, I needed to have a place for all of the fry to grow out. After all, if I was going to participate in this contest, I would also want to support my own club (the Missouri Aquarium Society, Inc. [MASI]) in our Breeders Award Program (BAP). But that would mean holding the fry for 60 days. I know, our contest rules include growing them out to 30 days, which is generally the safe point from which you know the fry will survive, but my club requires them to be at least 60 days old. That means I have to tie up tanks for twice as long as Ted. But it also means my fry will be closer to saleable size when I turn them in, so I can get them to local shops at this time, too.
I know some readers will want to know more about my fishroom. It is approximately 12 feet by 14 feet. In the walls and ceiling I installed R-30 insulation to cut down on heating and cooling costs. It is heated and cooled with our home’s central air and heating. This means I don’t have to worry too much about temperature control in individual tanks. For electrical supply in the room, I added three extra ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) protected circuits just for the fishroom. One is on a timer and runs the lights, another is on all the time and is for any extra filters/heaters that I might need, and the third is extra, in case I want to run something extra at some point. All of the tanks are filtered with air driven sponge filters powered by a linear piston air pump, and all of them contain live plants.
All of the tanks are drilled with overflows that go to a floor drain, so water changes are easy; I just run a hose from my 220 gallon water holding system to each tank for a few minutes and let the old water flow into the drain. This system consists of four 55 gallon drums plumbed together. The water is treated, heated, aerated and circulated between the drums until needed. If a tank needs a bit more cleaning, I can drain individual tanks into a line that runs around the room and goes to the floor drain. I can also add hang on filters if needed, but I only use these when I need to clean a tank. Lighting is supplied by power compact florescent lights and by low power consumption commercial shoplights. To control humidity and prevent mold growth, I also added an exhaust fan that turns on automatically when the room humidity gets above 50%. This just dumps the humid air to the outside, and pulls in fresh, conditioned air from the rest of the house.
In my fishroom, I have a dozen 30-gallon breeders. Those are excellent grow out tanks, each will hold dozens or even hundreds of fry, depending on the species. I can even grow out fry of several species in one tank, if they are compatible in size and temperament. But even so, that means I can only grow out a dozen or so species at a time. I need more room. Fortunately, I have eight more 30-gallon “box” tanks from a local wholesaler that went out of business a few years ago that have just been sitting there, waiting for me to come up with something to do with them. They are called “box” tanks because they are shaped like a fish box – just a bit larger – two foot square and just under a foot deep. They are used in the trade to hold a box of fish each. With their large surface area and shallow depth, they can be stacked four high in the fishroom. This rack of tanks will only take up 8 square feet of floor space while giving me 32 square feet of tank floor space! This is perfect for my fishroom, where space is at a premium. So I begin this month setting up this rack up and starting to get these tanks ready to go.
I also started conditioning fish for spawning. That means tanks for males and tanks for females in many species. I have a rack that holds 5 x 10 gallon tanks and 8 x 20 gallon “high” tanks that I designed for this purpose. It will also give me extra room to isolate new fish (every fish, invert, and new plant coming into my fishroom gets at least one month’s quarantine) and rotate extra pairs in case I have to separate fish from the main pairs in the breeding tanks.
With other fish, conditioning just means setting up a tank with proper conditions and feeding them well, while letting nature take its course. I have a wall of tanks set up just for this – a 30 long, 6 x 29 gallon tanks, 6 x 20 longs, 7 x 10 gallon tanks and 3 x 5 gallon cubes. These will be used for most of my breeding attempts.
I have a set of extra grow out tanks in case things get out of hand and I get lucky with spawnings. This consists of 4 x ½ ten gallon tanks (a specially made tank), 5 x 10 gallon tanks, 2 x 20 flats (made from two ten gallon tanks glued together – one with the back out and the other with the front out), and two fifty gallon flats (essentially a 75 gallon tank cut down to a foot deep). In addition, outside of the fishroom I have setups for larger fish. I have 7 forty breeders, a 58 breeder, and two 75’s.
Finally, the last group of tanks will be my “secret weapon” that I plan to roll out in month two or month three. More on that later – I don’t want to give too much away to Ted!