Discussion in 'Reef Aquarium Discussion' started by Paul B, Dec 16, 2016.

How I Got Started in the Hobby in 1971

How I Got Started in the Hobby in 1971
  1. Paul B

    Paul B Valuable Member R2R Supporter Reef Spotlight Award Partner Member 2019 Reef Tank 365 Article Contributor Build Thread Contributor

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    How I Got Started in the Hobby in 1971

    How and when this hobby started (for me at least) in 1971. I think it was on a Tuesday about two or two fifteen in the afternoon. I know because I was there.

    Here in New York where I live there used to be a very large aquarium store in Manhattan a couple of blocks from the World Trade Center. I would go there as a kid and buy my fresh water fish. They were the largest store by far so they had all the unusual stuff including sea turtles.

    A couple of days after I returned from my service in the Army I went there to get some livestock fro my freshwater tank and I saw some brackish water fish. There were bumble bee gobies, scats, archer fish and figure eight puffers. I bought all of them.

    The next time I went back there they had fish I had never seen before. Blue devils. I thought they were fake as I never saw such colorful creatures. I had to buy a few but of course this meant I had to put more salt in my brackish tank. I went down to the Long Island Sound at the start of the East River and collected some water. Then I removed the fresh water aquarium gravel and noticed that my neighbor has this crushed blue rock in his driveway, so I collected that. I then "acclimated" my brackish water fish rather quickly because those blue devils were in a bucket. They didn't seem to mind. I put everything in the tank and for a day or two everything was great.

    Then they got ich. In those days salt water ich was called oodinium but who new? There was no salt water medications so I am sure I used whatever I had for fresh water. Fresh water meds consisted of beautiful flourescent colored liquids so I used that. I am sure I mixed them all up as I didn't know what I was doing but neither did anyone else.

    I found a scientist, or marine biologist (but he could have been an entomologist or accountant) that looked intelligent so I went to see him. He told me those were parasites and copper kills parasites. The only place to get copper was from pennies. (Today pennies are made out of old VHS tape players and don't contain much, if any copper) I found in Robert Straughn's Book "The Salt Water Aquarium in the Home" the dosage. I think it was 20 pennies to the gallon. I put the pennies in a spring so they would stay upright figuring the copper would dispense better and guess what happened?

    I don't actually remember but I am sure many of the fish died. None of the brackish water fish as those you can lay in the street and have a bus run them over and you still couldn't kill them. Especially a scat, to kill one of those you would need a good size garbage truck.

    Anyway, I got some more blue devils (which were not very cheap) and I added the pennies before I added the fish. Remember, there were no cell phones, credit cards, MP3 players, Lady GaGa, controllers, digital watches, artificial salt water, or test kits so it was all by experience and mostly luck.

    If the fish developed sores on theuir sides, you had too much copper and you had to remove some pennies, maybe five cents. If the fish died but still had spots, youdidn't have enough pennies and had to add three or four cents.

    Keep in mind that copper keeps falling out of solution but it also keeps disolving off the pennies.

    Today you buy a bottle of copper, read the directions, search on this forum and cure the problem, but anyone can do it like that. Some day when you have nothing to do, find some thirty year old pennies and try it.

    Eventually those fish thrived and in 1972, they spawned and I tried, unsucessfully to raise the fry. You could not get rotifers then. You could barely get color TV.

    Virtually everything for aquariums was built for fresh water. Lights were made out of aluminum as were powerheads which were not submersible. At least not on purpose. There were no GFCIs which made turning on the light or doing maintenance "interesting". I don't know how many times I was thrown across the room from getting shocked because salt creep covered everything.

    Those powerheads were metal, hanging a half an inch over the water and always covered in wet salt. I had a skimmer that used an air pump. Air pumps were piston pumps and needed to be oiled every few days. That would allow a little oil into your tank which was alright because it looked like an Exxon oil spill. The bubbles from the skimmer would coat the light so you had to turn it on and off with a stick.
    We also used HOB filters which were filled with fiberglass fiber. That will give you cancer if you live in California, but if you are in Boston, New Jersey or France, you will be fine.

    Fish food was dried ants. Eventually you could get Wardley's flakes which I think were made out of dried ants. I used earthworms or caught my own ants as I figured they were fresher. I also caught flies to feed my archerfish. My figure 8 puffer loved earthworms.

    Eventually I dicovered live blackworms and started using them. In seven weeks my blue devils spawned and I discovered I no longer had to keep copper pennies inthe tank but that is for another article.

    After a few years my puffer developed a large tumor inside his belly and I really loved that fish. I checked his insurance and removed him from the water to a dish with wet cotton in it. I made an incision over the tumor with a razor blade and carefully scraped out the tumor. I then put some iodine on the cut and placed him back in a small tank. He didn't look happy and wouldn't move but I think he winked at me once.

    I collected some earthworms and I gently gfrabbed him. When you do that to a puffer they try to blow up. To blow up, they have to open their mouth and using a tooth pick, I pushed the worm all the way down his throat.

    I did that for a week then returned him to the main tank where he lived for another eight years.

    The first fish available were blue devils, sargent majors, dominoes, then in a year or so, copperband butterflies, and oddly enough moorish Idols.

    In a couple of years you could get anemones, arrow crabs, hermit crabs and coral banded shrimp.

    This continues up until today but that is all for now.

    Blue devil over his nest of eggs Circa 1972.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 16, 2016

  2. jsker

    jsker Reefing is all about the adventure Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Partner Member 2019 Reef Tank 365 R2R Secret Santa Article Contributor Hospitality Award Build Thread Contributor

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    Ahh thank you for taking us back to the simpler times:)
     
  3. Tori

    Tori ReefMoore 103 R2R Supporter

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    Great read. Thanks Paul B.
     
  4. Mr. Gamecock

    Mr. Gamecock Member

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    I bet the saltwater market was a lot smaller back then! even freshwater
     
  5. cowboy

    cowboy Well-Known Member R2R Supporter Hub City Reef Club Build Thread Contributor

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    Great write up really enjoyed the read and taking a moment to considered what this hobby has evolved from. Thanks for taking the time to write this up.
     
  6. Chasmodes

    Chasmodes Active Member Build Thread Contributor

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    I can relate big time Paul.

    My first saltwater tank was a 10 gallon tank in 1976. I had one coral skeleton, a HOB filter with foam and charcoal in a bag. I also had an undergravel filter and used dolomite gravel. I had one coral skeleton and a few pieces of limestone rock, all bleached. My first fish were sheepshead killies and a clingfish that I caught in the Chesapeake Bay. Later, I added a blue devil, my first purchased saltwater fish. I didn't have as much luck as you did regarding spawning, but those fish lived for several years. The clingfish was moved to my next tank later on and lived until I broke that tank down for good.

    My next one came after my HS graduation 6 months later in June 1976 as a present from my parents. It was a 55 gallon tank. I saved up and bought more coral skeletons and had a pretty nice looking reef imitation, albeit dead. Brown algae, hair algae, and bluegreen algae made it look sorta more lifelike. One of my coral heads was red pipe organ coral giving it a little more color. This tank also had an undergravel filter with dolomite gravel.

    My first fish was a called a flame blenny. Later, I found out it was from the Mediterranean, Microlipophrys nigriceps. http://www.fishbase.org/photos/FamilyPicturesSummary.php?resultPage=176&StartRow=175&famcode=392

    I thought that fish was the coolest little fish, and quite beautiful too. He had tons of personality. But, I made the mistake of adding a couple more fish too fast and he died a month later. I didn't have a test kit then. That fish, along with some studies of local blennies that I read about while in college, lead to my fascination with this family of fish. I've never seen one for sale since.

    My next few fish that finally lived for a while as I tried to figure out this new hobby were the following: Blue angelfish, potters angelfish, flame angelfish, herald's angelfish, molly miller, red spotted hawkfish, yellow dottyback and my clingfish. Those fish lived until I was a year out of college. I went away on vacation during the summer of 1981 and came back and they were all dead. My friend was feeding them every other day. We don't know what happened. Probably the power went out.

    Back then, there wasn't much info about the care of these fish. The LFS that I bought the blue angelfish sold it as a juvenile queen (later I learned to tell the difference). It didn't matter because as the juvenile changed to the adult coloration, I still thought he was quite beautiful. The guy at the LFS told me when I bought it that it wouldn't get as big as they do in the wild because the tank size would stunt their growth. Obviously, that isn't true. My fish ate flakes, frozen and fresh brine shrimp. Later, I fed them these frozen cubes of saltwater fish food. I never knew what was in them, supposedly they had sponge material in them.

    I tried keeping some Christmas tree rock and another piece of coral, but it died after a few weeks, leaving me with more dead coral decorations. I had no idea how to keep them alive. I had used copper before, but not while I kept them. My guess is that there was still enough copper in the tank that no inverts would have survived long.

    Anyway, things have changed greatly since then. As I read through your other threads and this one, it brings back memories of perhaps with a little more knowledge, I could have been more successful at keeping marine life alive for a much longer time. I am thrilled to read that you did what I couldn't do back then.

    What you've learned through trial and error along with research, and with the amount of info available on websites like this, books, and fellow aquarists, the chances of my fish tanks lasting much longer with much more life are much improved. I appreciate what you and everyone here does with regard to sharing your experience and insight very much. Thanks!!!
     
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  7. Empress

    Empress Valuable Member

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    I gotta quit reading your stories. Or buy a truckload of tissues to wipe the tears from my .

    Happy holidays to you and all REEF2REEF members!
     
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  8. Paul B

    Paul B Valuable Member R2R Supporter Reef Spotlight Award Partner Member 2019 Reef Tank 365 Article Contributor Build Thread Contributor

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    This hobby was much more fun in the early days because there was no internet so we actually had to use our brains for something more than texting which is the stupidest thing I can think of. My phone makes all sorts of sounds all day so I assume I am getting texts, E Mails, calls, messages or it is just my bones creaking. Last week my phone buzzed, beeped or whistled and my wife picked it up and told me, "you know, you have a voice mail on here from Christmas. I said, Which Christmas?" If you want to talk to me, dial the phone, or tell it to call me, how ever you make a call then use your mouth to make sounds that I will understand. If you have a lip ring or tongue piercing, don't bother because I won't understand you.
    Anyway of course we had LFSs but in 1971, in New York anyway only one of them had salt water fish. When other stores eventually acquired salt water fish they hung an 8'X8' vinyl sign in the window that said, "We Have Salt Water Fish". That invariably meant they had a five gallon tank with two or three blue devils and a domino in the process of receiving last rites. It took quite a few years before salt water was available in most stores.
    Much of my livestock came from a muddy inlet on the Long Island Sound. I would collect horseshoe crabs, blowfish, sand worms, eels, flounders, crabs, shrimp, seaweed and anything that moved. I never worried about ich, velvet, pop eye, or any social diseases. When those creatures grew to big, I brought them back to the beach and let them go and collected more. Now they shoot you if you release creatures back into the wild. It is not like I was releasing Emu's, aardvarks or Duck Billed Platypuses, these were the things I just collected and brought a few miles away for a sort of vacation, then brought them back. Does that make me bad? So far nothing happened.
    That muddy tank is still running minus the platypuses. I had very few problems and I still don't today.
    Eventually we got different systems. First of course we had undergravel filters, which Me and Lady GaGa still use. Then we got wet dries, Jaubert, Berlin systems, plenums, live sand, dead sand, live rock, dead rock, acid rock, rock and roll, Elvis, Elton John, Roy Orbison and the Beatles. I tried all those systems but I tried them with my undergravel filter which I will never part with. All those systems came and went but my undergravel stayed.
    Now we have "Experts", Guru's, Noobs and Geezers and have more problems than we had in 1971.
    I like to keep my publications current.
    [​IMG]
     
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  9. Diesel

    Diesel String Stalker. R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Spotlight Award Photo of the Month Award

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    Awe.........
    I left the service in Holland that same year, let well the service of the Kindergarten class :p as I was 7 years old then, couldn't remember the time but it was day time as the sun was up, could be night time in NY as we were and still they are 7 hours a head :D
    Didn't had a tank for myself cause my parents were mean parents that time :(.
    Fresh water all over the European soil, one store was more nicer than the other one.
    No internet so we had home based meetings where all the Aquarium Guru's came together and of course were smoking a lot not to mention drinking.
    Of course it is legal to drink by 16 (still is) but I didn't.................. no kidding I really didn't :cool:
    My first salt experience was in that same year as a 16 year old boy from my car washing money from a whole year I bought a 100L tank, a little over 25 gallon , had some leathers and a nem with one damsel and a clown.
    Much more you could find it the stores and nobody ever heard of a Strawberry Shortcake other than in a fancy restaurant.
    Fast forward now days a SSC is just like a green slimmer :rolleyes:

    Great story Paul, love it.
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2016
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  10. Bronc

    Bronc Valuable Member R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Partner Member 2019 Reef Tank 365 Build Thread Contributor

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    IMG_3720.JPG

    My first two books from '83 & '86
     
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  11. Paul B

    Paul B Valuable Member R2R Supporter Reef Spotlight Award Partner Member 2019 Reef Tank 365 Article Contributor Build Thread Contributor

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    Cool books, I have a few from 1967 I think, but they are only fresh water.
    My still running tank Circa 1972. Curiously, I still look exactly the same right down to that hair and watch band.

    [​IMG]
     
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