I am what is termed an "aquarist."
It’s really just another term for someone who takes care of an aquarium. Nothing more.
The hobby started years ago when my father decided to purchase a 30-gallon tank to fit in the fireplace we never used. He figured it would be a way to fill the gaping, black, brick-surrounded hole with something interesting. As his fish got bigger, so did his tank.
I got the itch to try my hand at keeping aquariums about 10 years ago. I can’t believe it has been that long! It is a totally engrossing and fascinating hobby to me.
I’m always on the lookout for better equipment, decorations, state-of-the-art maintenance techniques, and of course, ever more rare and interesting breeds of fish.
I had my first foray recently into the dark and gritty world of "underground" fishkeeping during a recent trip to Lexington.
My wife and I were in town and I was cruising through the cichlid section of a typical chain pet store. An employee that was working in that area at the time was pestering me about every five seconds wanting to know if I needed any help and giving me dire warnings of doom and such regarding how aggressive cichlid fish are and how this kind doesn’t get along with that kind and how she had this type of fish one time and it killed everything in her tank then lept out of the water and took a bite out of her ham sandwich and blah, blah, blah. I really just wanted to be left alone.
Then she did something unusual.
"We don’t really have much to look at here," she told me quite candidly. "I know a guy here in town that has some more … UNUSUAL things if you are interested."
We gave each other a knowing look. She was speaking my language.
"I’ll go get his phone number for you."
My pulse quickened. My breathing became shallow. It was as if the prettiest girl in school had just begged ME to go to prom with HER!
Soon, she returned with a slip of paper. It bore the name "BIG DON" and had a telephone number written below the name. I clutched it in my sweaty palms as though it were the key to a king’s treasure.
Though I wanted to, I didn’t call BIG DON right way. No time that weekend.
About a month later, I had to travel to Lexington for other reasons, so before I left I gave BIG DON a ring. To my surprise, he actually answered. I felt a little silly calling him BIG DON, but I got past it and asked with a quivering voice if I could stop by his house to see some of his fish. After a short conversation to confirm my chops as an aquarist, he agreed.
As fast as I-75 would allow, I was on BIG DON’S doorstep. He took me to his fish room. It was as if I had stepped into a little slice of Heaven on Earth. I bought $40 worth of cichlid fish for my home tank. BIG DON was my new hero.
He mentioned in passing that he had some angelfish he was trying to get rid of but hadn’t found any buyers. I am always in the market for good angels, so I asked if I could see them. They were some of the biggest, most beautiful specimens I’ve ever laid eyes on for the price. I bought three (one smaller one) immediately.
If you like, you can see these fish. They are on display in the aquarium at the Corbin High School Media Center. I think you will agree they are breathtaking. Perhaps I will take some photos of them this week and post them on our website, www.thenewsjournal.net.
I’m always looking for fellow aquarium junkies to swap tips and tricks with. Drop me a line if you are interested in this hobby.
And if you are willing to take it a little further than normal and turn to the wild side of fishkeeping, well, I know a guy…