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Some thoughts on multiple tank set-ups (MTS)

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Some thoughts on multiple tank set-ups (MTS)

Post by GaryE on Sat Sep 28, 2013 5:30 pm

We joke a lot about "MTS" (Multiple Tank Syndrome. I have had it since I was about 10, off and on. I thought if I put down some thoughts based on my experience, it would maybe add a little perspective for those worried about their great interest in aquariums and fishkeeping.
I started at 8 with a 10 gallon of guppies, mollies and platies. Soon I had zebra danios, and then the tank leaked. My parents found some 5 gallon tanks in various relatives' basements and back sheds, and pretty soon I had seven in a plywood rack, where I was trying to selectively breed metallic green guppies. I was home from school a lot as I had a serious illness. I didn't know I was expected to die from it, and was very happy learning about guppies over a few years.

I recovered and we moved. I could only have one tank. For my 16th birthday, my Mom helped me get a 20 gallon long with her employee discount from Zellers' and I became a Sunset variatus tycoon. I also sort of sometimes worked at a small petshop, helping the owner who was in his eighties.

That was my one tank through my wild years, when I added a 20 standard for some fry, then bought a 'giant' 33 gallon as my main community. In my late twenties, I had a five tank room in which I did my writing and correcting (I had left my factory jobs after going to school at night and become a teacher around then). I wasn't home a lot in the evening.

When my wife was expecting our first child, we moved to an old house with a warm cellar. I knew I was going to be home a lot, or more like home always once I was a father, so I expanded my fishtanks. I had 14. Then, as my daughter grew, I won a few at club raffles, bought a few in garage sales, got given half a dozen and hit 30. We moved to a cottage and I had a half basement, and a second child. The baby monitor went into the fishroom (I have never been able to watch TV), and when the kids were asleep, I liked to putter down there for an hour or two to unwind.

With the kids, I needed a second source of income, and started writing for aquarium magazines. It turned into a steady gig for years, and since I needed fish to write about, I was soon at 70 tanks. The article writing lead to bigger projects, and I wanted to know what I was writing about. I used my tanks for research, and they paid for themselves many times over.

I quit the writing gig and moved again. I now sit at 43 tanks in total. That's a lot.

So what do I get from this?

The early expansion was pure learning about diversity. I had a few tanks more than seemed sane, but I found learning about fish really mentally stimulating. Breeding fish called for learning, and learning is one of the better things in life.
I've seen collector types go from zero to 50 tanks in a year, and quit in two years. That's not wildly rare. But reading types tend to build up slowly.
Once I'd learned a bit, I began to specialize. I have had killies as an anchor group for more than 20 years, but I went through a phase of livebearers, Malawis, gouramis and bettas, then barbs, then catfish, then dwarf cichlids and now livebearers again. I feel I'm able to look at diversity, watch interesting behavior and try to get what it means, see a little bit about how evolution works (back to those green guppies of my childhood) and to simply see things that interest me.

I've met, and written back and forth with, great people too.

I probably look like a hoarder of fish. I'm not. A lunatic? Yeah, but that has nothing to do with the fishtanks.

A person with MTS looks really weird to people who don't 'get into' things. But really, we are just a subset of the geek. I could be into physics. Theology. Stamps. Grand Theft Auto 5. Pastries. Whatever. In a world where people watch the food channel for 12 hours a day, getting a room or a corner of a basement and filling it with fish you can learn from is a pretty solid looking enterprise to me.

My advice? Go for it.
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Re: Some thoughts on multiple tank set-ups (MTS)

Post by Starfish on Sat Sep 28, 2013 9:23 pm

Thank you Gary for sharing your story. I can see now why you are such a great reference for good advice. First hand experience is a great way to learn. 70 tanks! Wow. I can't imagine with 2 kids and 2 jobs, finding time to also look after so many tanks. I have a hard enough time keeping up with just 3. So glad you are here so that we can continue to benefit from your knowledge.
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Re: Some thoughts on multiple tank set-ups (MTS)

Post by caoder on Sat Sep 28, 2013 10:13 pm

I have MTS! :)And I'm loving it! The wife is starting to get annoyed >.>;;
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Re: Some thoughts on multiple tank set-ups (MTS)

Post by the clean guy on Sun Sep 29, 2013 5:58 am

@caoder wrote:I have MTS! :)And I'm loving it! The wife is starting to get annoyed >.>;;
my wife also gets annoyed with me about fish. she likes to watch the tank but won't tolerate excessive behavior when it comes to fish tanks . Happy wife happy life
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Re: Some thoughts on multiple tank set-ups (MTS)

Post by GaryE on Sun Sep 29, 2013 7:13 am

There was a retired gentleman about an hour from here who had 250 tanks in his basement. The space was a maze of narrow, tank-lined corridors. I think he was a workaholic type, and the tanks were a substitute for his job. That was a bit much, IMHO.
My wife shakes her head sometimes (we got the municipal water bill on Friday - ouch) but we traded off time well with the kids and I was almost always at home.
When I had 70 tanks, it was a second job. That wasn't just for fun - it generated a lot of needed income. It was ruining the fun of the hobby and becoming an interesting chore by the time I scaled back. Now, I just keep fish for fun.
She encouraged me at first and probably regrets that, but I spend less time in a week on fish than her Dad did on golf and bowling. Remember that point if you have to debate the time you spend... ;-)
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Re: Some thoughts on multiple tank set-ups (MTS)

Post by vince0 on Sun Sep 29, 2013 12:33 pm

I've had fish tank for the better part of 20 years, and I'm not even thirty. I was up to almost thirty tanks before I moved (first time home-buyer!) and I switched strategy with the new place. I decided to go with quality over quantity. I found when I had many tanks, I couldn't appreciate the details of each species. The fish now fully fund themselves and any upgrades I feel like doing. I don't generally add many tank these days, just replace existing ones with either larger tanks, or tanks that suit the space better... Sitting below 15 tanks lets me baby every tank, and every fish to get some results I was only dreaming of before... I don't even modify water at this point (one point I found surprising... ill get to installing my RO unit one of these days)
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Re: Some thoughts on multiple tank set-ups (MTS)

Post by Biulu on Sun Sep 29, 2013 12:38 pm

I really liked your set-up and very clean! I will try to get 3 larger tanks going and then have a few smaller ones for breeding the fish I keep in the larger tanks.
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Re: Some thoughts on multiple tank set-ups (MTS)

Post by barvinok on Sun Sep 29, 2013 1:38 pm

Thank you Gary for this post.
Fishkeeping like some other serious hobbies lead to research, reading and communicating with wonderful people. From this point  MTS does not look bad

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Re: Some thoughts on multiple tank set-ups (MTS)

Post by Ursus sapien on Sun Sep 29, 2013 1:51 pm

Thanks for the post, Gary.
I personally don't get the problem with spouses. Unless the hobby becomes obsessive (where other aspects of life and family are neglected) it seems to me that person with some tanks to look after is probably going to be at home on Friday night, not out carousing.
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Re: Some thoughts on multiple tank set-ups (MTS)

Post by Shell on Sun Sep 29, 2013 1:58 pm

@Ursus sapien wrote:Thanks for the post, Gary.
I personally don't get the problem with spouses. Unless the hobby becomes obsessive (where other aspects of life and family are neglected) it seems to me that person with some tanks to look after is probably going to be at home on Friday night, not out carousing.
Ha! How true! My hubby loves fish just as much as I do, but I have to say, hubby is into motorcycles and racing, and people often ask how I put up with he and his dad always bringing more bikes into our garage and parking them around the property (plus we often end up with motorcycle parts laying around the house). I always say that I'd much rather be surrounded by motorcycles and motorcycle parts and have a husband who takes the occasional road trip with his dad and brother to hit up a motorcycle show, than to have a husband who instead has 'boys nights' at the bars! His 'boys nights' often include a bunch of guys hanging out in the garage looking at and talking about bikes! Very Happy 

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Re: Some thoughts on multiple tank set-ups (MTS)

Post by Ursus sapien on Sun Sep 29, 2013 2:06 pm

@Shell wrote:Ha! How true! My hubby loves fish just as much as I do, but I have to say, hubby is into motorcycles and racing, and people often ask how I put up with he and his dad always bringing more bikes into our garage and parking them around the property (plus we often end up with motorcycle parts laying around the house). I always say that I'd much rather be surrounded by motorcycles and motorcycle parts and have a husband who takes the occasional road trip with his dad and brother to hit up a motorcycle show, than to have a husband who instead has 'boys nights' at the bars! His 'boys nights' often include a bunch of guys hanging out in the garage looking at and talking about bikes! Very Happy 
People with active interests in life are typically more interesting:-) That's what I tell my friends when they look at the tanks shaking thier heads!
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Re: Some thoughts on multiple tank set-ups (MTS)

Post by GaryE on Sun Sep 29, 2013 3:01 pm

My boys nights seem to involve strippers of eggs from mouthbrooding cichlids, fights between male cichlids, and babes hatching in the killie containers.
It could be I'm boring, but my friends who stayed in the barroom life after thirty have a tendency to be dead, so I'm currently more interesting than they are.

My wife says she likes to know where I am, and if something comes up with the kids, the fish can keep. I have no rigid routines. I coach the ball teams, do the driving, do housework - without TV, there is a lot of time to get things done, and all I ever watch on TV is hockey.

A friend came over and was truly shocked at the fishroom, but then again, she spends hours quilting, so I was able to defend myself easily.
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Re: Some thoughts on multiple tank set-ups (MTS)

Post by goldfishbetalover on Sun Sep 29, 2013 5:13 pm

what an incredible story!!!!.....
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Re: Some thoughts on multiple tank set-ups (MTS)

Post by CAAIndie on Sun Sep 29, 2013 5:16 pm

I'll just keep reading this to my significant other, and maybe I'll get another tank.


Last edited by CanadaAquariaAdmin on Sun Sep 29, 2013 5:29 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Some thoughts on multiple tank set-ups (MTS)

Post by Biulu on Sun Sep 29, 2013 5:26 pm

CanadaAquariaAdmin wrote:I'll just keep reading this to my significant other, and maybe I'll get another tank.
I know exactly how you feel! I do the same thing.... I made it to 4 tanks, but now I need permission to change 2 of the 4 into bigger tanks....
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Re: Some thoughts on multiple tank set-ups (MTS)

Post by alexmtl on Sun Sep 29, 2013 7:52 pm

Thanks Gary for starting the post. We are lucky to have you as part of the community and mentor to many. Thank you everyone for sharing the joys that fish bring. It is difficult to explain to others who are not aquarists. I am proud to be part of this community and it is overwhelming to live the highs and lows of each fish and tank.
MTS: we all have Much To Share
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