Fish keeping - 40 years ago

Discussion in 'Articles' started by Cheetah, Aug 3, 2010.

  1. Cheetah

    Cheetah Retired moderator

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    Fish keeping - 40 years ago.


    The fundamental difference between the Aquarist of today and the fish keeper of 40 years ago is just that! Fish Keepers are now being called aquarists on grounds of the increased scientific approach allowed for by advanced technology. But is it really?

    Tanks:
    Insofar as the equipment available at the time, probably the greatest breakthrough in the aquarium hobby history was the development of the "all glass" aquarium as opposed to the standard angle ironed framed tank.


    There was no question about it, that every time you do a water change, your tank will leak water for (at least) the next hour or more.

    Standard inclusions in your tank maintenance equipment had to be a bucket to put under the leaking tank and a packet of fresh standard window putty, or for the more stubborn cases, there was a pitch black tar-like substance called Leykold, which you melted and poured along the seams of your tank to provide an effective (temporary) seal. (Risking a cracked glass if you heated the Leykold a bit too much)

    It is hard to believe that with this one inherent inconvenience, there were so many people keeping fish. Tanks lasted for about 3 years on average before the frames rusted to the extent that no further sealing would be of benefit.

    Heaters:

    Initially, we regulated tank temperatures by carefully selecting the right wattage incandescent bulbs for our tank hoods and leaving the lights on the right amount of time each day to recover the temperatures that we wanted. (Light hoods were made of metal and had incandescent light bulbs that burned out frequently (or popped when a drop of water touched it) and the metal hoods rusted away faster than the tanks failed).

    At the introduction of heaters, the heaters and thermostats were purchased as separate units and more often than not leaked water through the plastic/rubber cork, which caused the water to steam inside of the heater glass, thus creating a pressure vessel and ultimately shoot off the cork.

    These are the heaters... note the lack of thermostats.
    Photographingtank010.jpg


    These tested your electrical skills to the utmost, where up to 6 heaters were connected up (in series or parallel - your choice) to a single (separate) thermostat. It was essential to ensure that the water levels and tank sizes all conformed to the "mother" tank size and level where the thermostat was housed to ensure that you do not boil the water in one tank and chill the fish in another tank.

    Of course, the electrical insulation we had available in those days resembled a piece of canvas cloth (frankly, I think it was) dipped into a tar solution (much like leykold) and had to be turned around the electrical joint about 32 to 37 times (looking like a golf ball) to ensure the current remain inside of it. It is during these years that I became immune to electrical shock getting my daily dosage of it.

    The development of the combined heater/thermostat was welcomed with a little scepticism, but was justified after trial modifications.

    Filters:
    Filtering options were restricted to exclusively sponge filters, box filters or under gravel filters, and what more did we need? Sponge filters for tiny fry; Box filters for medium fry and breeding tanks and then under gravel filters for the "grow-out tanks".


    It is also here where I got huge respect for the under gravel filter and despite advancement, or what anyone might say, I will maintain that they are effective and ranks up there with the best of them.

    The first mechanical (electrical) outside filters only appeared (here in SA) in the late 70's and in the early 80's, we had submersible filters.

    Air pumps

    Air pumps were not quiet little things that worked by a vibrating membrane, they were mostly noisy piston pumps that delivered a reliable air supply but could not be kept in the same room that people routinely occupied because of the noise they made. The few quieter piston type air pumps were out of the price range of a typical hobbyist. When vibrating air pumps, such as we use today, were first manufactured, a truly reliable one was one that only needed a new diaphragm every 6 months or so and would last 3 or 4 years before it could no longer be repaired.



    Water Basics:
    It is only relatively recent that "cycling" became the buzzword of the day. Not because it was never recognized in the past, but because portable water testing kits were not available to determine your water qualities.


    It used to be referred to as having a "balanced aquarium" and was defined as that delay period of time between your tanks showing the "murky" water of "new tank syndrome" to when the water becomes crystal clear.

    The recommended way of achieving such balanced (cycled) tank was to engineer a 3 way balance in your tank between the numbers of fish you keep, to the number of plants, to the amount of direct natural lighting the tank receives, which also rings true and applies even today. (Of course, until you achieve that balance, you may expect to lose a couple of fish - it was just accepted that way.)

    Fish:
    As much as the aquarist has developed to be better at fish keeping, the fish have also evolved to be better at being kept. (Not even mentioning the evolution in colour and shape of so many fish)


    I recall my first spawning of the Port Acara (as it was then known) and the excitement surrounding the event because it was then listed in all the available literature of the day (amongst other modern easy to breed fish) as "not yet bred in captivity". I immediately wrote to the TFH magazine giving them a full account of the procedure. (With visions of a fish species being named after me) The article was however, never even published.

    Present day however, it is a common achievement to breed Blue Acaras. Have the fish suddenly become easier to breed by adapting to aquarium conditions or was the "fish keepers" of the time just ignorant? The equivalent today would probably be to wake up one morning and find a tank full of Striped Raphaeli fry.

    Available literature:
    There was only one very prominent author in those days and despite what he might've said or what his views were, all aquarists were aligned with and adopted his views and we all spoke the same language. (We were not subjected to (or confused by) the multitude of opinions currently available on the internet).


    In my opinion, no-one has done as much for the development of keeping exotic tropical fishes, as Dr. Herbert Axlerod. Hence, when you confront an old aquarist, just make sure that your views are also aligned with Dr. Axlerods' or you may start an argument.



    And oh yes!!... I forgot to add.... The first foods for newly hatched fry was boiled egg yolk, squeezed through a Handkerchief or cloth.... no alternatives.
     
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  3. mydummyname

    mydummyname Balala shark

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    very very interesting article!

    i really had no idea it was such a schlep lol ,these days its really very easy for us beginners to start up a tank. ok we still have losses coz we dont know that you cant put 30 fish in a 30L tank but if keeping fish involved all that stuff that you said, i think i would have given up lol
     
  4. OP
    Cheetah

    Cheetah Retired moderator

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    Ha! Ha!.... Yes, it's surprising that we stuck it out!.... (it was still a pleasure after all)

    I'm just pleased somebody took the time to read that..... Normally, when I see a long and tedious posts.... I just close it and continue with the next one.
     
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  5. 10i

    10i fish-a-holic

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    Good article! makes me glad for the way the hobby has advanced. so what fish did you keep back then compared to now?
     
  6. Vis

    Vis Gerhard

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    A friend of mine still have a tank with the steel frame and putty :)
     
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  7. Zoom

    Zoom Retired Moderator

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    That was an excellent read, and makes me glad of the time and age I have started keeping fish. Can you imagine the advancements that will be taking place over the next 20 years?
     
  8. mydummyname

    mydummyname Balala shark

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    i'd like to think no more water changes :)

    if that could happen in the next few months i'd be happy :D
     
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  9. Vis

    Vis Gerhard

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    Nope, electronic 3D tank and you do nothing. You download fish from Dolphin.
     
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  10. OP
    Cheetah

    Cheetah Retired moderator

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    Or get them faxed to you He He!!!
     
  11. Zoom

    Zoom Retired Moderator

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    There is one available in 2D already Called Fishville and only available to you on your Facebook page. :p:p:p
     
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  12. mydummyname

    mydummyname Balala shark

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    naa thats already here, but not nearly the same as keeping real fish...

    see below link..

    www.serenescreen.com for marine aquarium 3. 3d fish screensaver..

    looks really good on a PC but comes NOWHERE NEAR THE REAL THING

    ;)
     
  13. ACanuck

    ACanuck

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    I also remember fish keeping that far back. the easiest way to control temperatures at the time was to turn the tank lights on and off at the right times. Tank lights were always incandescent and they added a lot of heat to any tank. By regulating the time the lights were on and the wattage of the lights, we were able to control the water temperature in our tanks fairly well.
    There were almost never any such thing as liquid type chemical test kits so we relied on the paper test strips. Today, I would never show any respect for a paper test strip but in those days it was the best we could do.
    My preference for the easy to care for canister filters was considered almost impossible back then. Most of us made do with simple air driven filters. The hang on back power filters of today did not exist and we used either air driven box filters, much like the ones you can find today, or we relied on hang on back filters that were air driven rather than being power filters. Those filters needed to be adjusted at least weekly to ensure that they would keep working at optimal efficiency. We all knew how to adjust air flows to obtain optimum water flows since it was a basic skill for any fish keeper. These days I have a hard time describing the ideal air flow appearance to a new fish keeper because they really do not understand anything about an air driven filter. Maybe many of you are in the category of having no experience with air driven filters but that is all we knew 40 years ago, or even 50 years ago as my own experience goes.
     
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  14. Nick

    Nick Nick

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    I have a book printed in 1950. To breed soft water fish you had to use rainwater or get peat from somewhere. stuff like sera peat granules did not exist
     
  15. Vis

    Vis Gerhard

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    Was thinking a 3D projected tank.

    How many fish died back then when you could not secure the temp and things with a constant temp?
     
  16. Relborg

    Relborg

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    great article , would love to hear more difference
     
  17. OP
    Cheetah

    Cheetah Retired moderator

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    This book was written By William T Innes in collaboration with (my hero) Dr Herbert Axlerod It was my Tropical fish bible and there was a time when I could quote chapters from this book without referring to it.
    [​IMG]


    I scratched around in some boxes and came across this 38 year old metal 1 ft (30.48cm) canopy, which I bought with the tank (compacted with water lettuce) in 1972, and believe me, there were more than 200 guppies in there.. (adult and small)....

    Note the hole on the underside, which was to connect the candescent lighting, which also acted as heater for the tank...

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]
     
  18. EyeCandysings

    EyeCandysings I like Plants in Tanks...

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    In a pinch, I have still used this to feed baby fish in an emergency. Sometimes the cultures just aren't ready yet and the shops are closed! The fry did not know they chose a Sunday evening to hatch! :lol:

    Very good read, by the way. I did switch early on from Under gravel to Hang on the Back power filters, though. To me, the HOB filters are much more powerful and for my aspect of the hobby, they serve me better.

    Cheers,

    ECS
     
  19. Zoom

    Zoom Retired Moderator

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    I've actually personally seen a LPS in our area that has all their tanks ONLY on undergravel filters... and I would go as far as to say that their tanks are the cleanest I've seen in a shop ever. They do however run a sump for their malawis and bigger species of fish.

    I think the key is making sure you have the correct gravel... which I would assume is probably the old fashioned gravel. I also don't think plants like undergravel filters either. So It's really up to how you design your tank, and what you plan on keeping.
     
  20. EyeCandysings

    EyeCandysings I like Plants in Tanks...

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    Exactly, I tend to use fine sand substrate, and yes, my tanks are planted.
     
  21. Vis

    Vis Gerhard

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    This is like the museum of fish keeping :) Great thread Cheetah, keep those oldies comming.
     

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