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When many of us first enter the world of fishkeeping, it seems like we're drowning in an ocean of knowledge, with an intensely steep learning curve. Each of us has someone that we look up to, thinking, "Gee, I'd love to be as smart as so-and-so, one day". You should know, that even the most brilliant among us likely had humble beginnings. Today, I'd like to share with you the many faces of my tanks. Please be advised, not all of these pictures will be easy to see. I'm not editing to make myself look good; this is an honest look into my life, and learning about my not-so-little loves. These photo's will chronicle me struggling through cycling, sick fish, and some sub par advice. At times, these pics will be horrendous, funny, and downright ridiculous. But they're real, and this is my story. I'd like this to be used as a lesson for new folks--never be embarrassed to ask a question. Even the forum moderators have made mistakes. What makes a fishkeeper truly great, is learning from those mistakes, and using that knowledge to improve the life of the fish who will come after. This is Pinto, the summer camp feeder fish, who started it all. Here he is, in my crystal fruit bowl, while we run to Petco, to buy him a tank. Surely, a ten gallon starter set will suffice. Here's his tank, all set up. Look how happy and healthy he is, hanging out beneath the filter. Surely, he's only hanging beneath the filter because he needs new friends! Let's go get some! Off to Petsmart, we go! Say hi to Callie (lol) and Cleo! They made that ten gallon look SO big! Below, is a shot of my favorite aquarium decoration ever. Honestly, I still miss it. We tried to reseal it, but there were just too many holes, and it caused massive tank issues. Eventually, you'll notice that it was removed. The water is really starting to cloud, and I can't figure out what's going on! I've never had tank water look so foggy. My internet search begins. Hi, guys! I see you in there! Oh, no! There's things on my Cleo! What are they?!?!?!?! Thanks to the help of my fish-friend, Jake, I found out that they were fish lice. He helped me pick them off with tweezers. You can kind of see one on the bottom, left hand corner of her tail. You can really see the deterioration of their water quality starting to show in her finnage. See the streaking? It was around this time that I learned there were places called "forums" on the internet. I hadn't found Koko's yet, but I was just a few weeks away from striking gold. Too bad I didn't find this place first. Hi, Cleo! I love you! Can you see the beginnings of fin rot? I probably didn't see it, at the time, but I can now. Signs of learning are already kicking in. You'll notice in the next few pics, that my gravel layer has gotten thinner, and I've added my first home made filter. Adding the AC50, and a 100gph pond pump. Can you believe that this is a ten gallon tank? Look how small they were! Above photo: Look to the left...See those medicine cups? I keep my fry in there, during water changes. Much thinner gravel layer, but the water parameters are probably out of control. I don't think I even had a test kit yet! The water is starting to clear a bit, but we have a looooong way to go... The gravel layer is much thinner now, and I removed my favorite cave. You have no idea, I still get the sniffles over it. My son now enjoys it, when he plays with his trains. I made the switch to natural gravel, because someone said that it's waaaay better than the colored kind. Cleo's fin rot is progressing, and the water still looks like crap. Why? Below, you'll find one of my favorite early photos. They were such hams. My first attempt at aquarium plants. As you can imagine, it failed....Miserably. They were monsters, from the very beginning. LOL! Cal is starting to grow a bit, but my poor Cleo is starting to really have issues. I had a testing kit, by now, and my ammonia was registering around 4ppm. I was told that it was okay, to add Prime daily, and only change 20% of the water. I didn't listen. My changes were 50%, or greater, because I was really starting to get it. The next series of photos is around the time that I finally found Kokos. I won't be active in the forum, for another month or two, but I'm actively reading, and actively learning. These next pictures are really hard for me to see, now that I understand what is going on. This is when I started posting here, because I felt that my fish were sick, and I really needed help. It's easy to see the clamped fins, in these photos. I'm so sorry, my love. This was a D&D photo from a very long time ago. Nobody could tell me what was wrong with her, and all I knew was that I needed help fast. Can you believe that I ever had plastic plants, and gravel, in my tank? These are the final weeks that the ten gallon is in existence. Why? Because I bought a 40 breeder, at Petco's DpG sale, thanks to the advice from our oh-so-fabulous moderating team. Here's some pictures of the fishless cycle. I'm cycling with home made filters, but it's still an improvement over what I had. I'm slowly getting my sea legs. To give you an idea, we're probably somewhere in August. The tank is now in the house, and it's ready for my babies! It's funny, the nitrite levels only went down, when I switched them to the larger tank. Who'da thunkit? I couldn't have my cave, so this rectangular terra cotta windowbox was the next best thing. New Friends! Cal, Pumpkin (can you believe it?), and Ginger, are pictured below. Cleo, I'm so sorry. Who's the little guy? Can you guess?! These next photos are some of my favorite of the "Late Pond Pump" Era. I'm really starting to get it, now! I've pulled the gravel, and entered the "Glass Marble" Era. As you can guess, we're up to October. Look at Cleo! The ammonia burns are FINALLY gone! I loved my little Ginger, with all my heart. I miss him. A good closeup of Cleo. Her tail is still healing, but the burn marks are totally gone. Grumpy Fish: I tried fish flakes once. I hated it! And this brings us to a decline of the Pond Pump Era. With Hurricane Sandy, I was able to dismantle my tank, paint the bottom, and I added my first AC110. I'm, at this point, a casual Koko's member, but I'm loving every second of it. This is us, surviving Sandy. Seeding the new AC with my handmade filters! Bye bye, ugly pumps! This is the last photo that I have with my Ginger. He died just days after we regained power, from Hurricane Sandy. We now enter the Early Plant Era. The Early Plant Era leads directly into the Plant Monster Era. By the end of my first plant attempt, everything had nets, and they still managed to chew everything down to stumps. Lol! December brings in the Algae Bloom Era. I added a powerhead, to try to aid in surface agitation. Nothing killed the cloudy water monster. Boo. Everyone is getting BIG! It's now January. I've added a second AC110, and totally removed the pond pumps. The powerhead is the next to go, but it hasn't yet. We have now entered the ZOMG Purigen Era Around now, is when I began to really push the hand feeding. I loved all the attention they gave me. Forgive my son's laundry on the floor. This is the beginning of the Moderate Terrestrial Plant Era. The TPE actually overlaps the I Can't Take Pictures to Save My Life Era. And now we enter a brief, but dark time. This is the "Make as Many Mistakes as You Can, Without Killing Your Fish" Era. It was my second major attempt at plants, with goldfish. I really wanted a jungle, but didn't know how to get one, without using dirt. Stupidly, I followed the directions of the root tabs, instead of going with my own instincts. For months, I was doing twice daily, 80% changes, just to keep the nitrate levels below 80. Eventually, I dug up the bulk of the root tabs, but not before doing something to Cal, who's been a moderate bottom sitter, ever since. He's also lost almost all of his beautiful black, as a result. I could really kick myself, but this is where I really begin learning about plants. Using dirt, they grew without effort, but without, I had to actually figure out what they needed, in order to keep them from showing signs of deficiency. Enough talk. Enter pics. In the beginning, there was chaos. One of my favorite pics, of that era. This is once the plants start to take a beating. There will be less, and less, until finally, there are only a few survivors. The last day of substrate. We now enter the "I'm Never Putting Substrate In My Goldfish Tank Again, but I still want plants" Era. My floating jungle. It's now March, and I'm desperately needing my plant net to arrive. We now enter the Spawning Era, which continues to today, and brings us full circle. This was a really long post, and I hope you enjoyed. How has your tank changed? Have a great day.