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How to Increase Your Fishkeeping Fun

Do you really get the fullest amount of enjoyment out of your fish?, or is it hampered by little worries and anxieties?

Do you sometimes worry that you may be spending too much time with your fish? I often hear people remark that although they enjoy their hobby, the routine maintenance tasks involved detract from the fun.

In this month's feature we will explore how we can increase our fun by maybe taking a different approach to those mundane activities that are so essential if we are to keep our fish in tip top condition.

Create a plan

When you get some time to spend with your hobby do you go through a sort of mental conflict wondering what to do?... and when you finally do decide, half of your time has gone already.

WELL...you are not on your own, most aquarists share the same dilemma. BUT... it is possible to overcome this problem, to even double your fishkeeping enjoyment. HOW? Well, certainly not by adding more tanks or even devoting more time to your hobby... the answer lies in a change of mental outlook, a change of approach.

Have you ever noticed that some people always seem to be on top of their work?, how their fish rooms and tanks are always tidy? how they always seem to have lots of time to enjoy their hobby? Yet others never get a minute to live, they always seem to have lots to do and yet nothing seems to get done.The most important ingredient in our formula for increased fishkeeping fun is planning.

Most of us lead busy lives, holding down a full-time job, and taking care of family commitments etc. Without a plan it is all too easy to put off our fish maintenance tasks until another day when life is a litle less hectic. Unfortunately, more often than not life doesn't get less hectic and our maintenance jobs build up until our tank(s) become dirty and our fish begin to suffer.

That's when the pressure starts to build.

Include the family

This can be particularly difficult when your partner doesn't share your love and enthusiasm for the hobby. It is only natural that they will have different priorities for your time than you and if harmony is to be maintained then some sort of agreement must be reached. Having a plan that includes both the family needs and your hobby needs goes a long way to ensuring that everyone's needs are satisfied. The biggest obstacle to overcome in any hobby is distraction. It is very tempting when we have the time to spend with our fish to waste that time on trivial matters or even just admiring our fish.

Now don't get me wrong... I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't take time to admire our fish, after all that is the reason we started keeping fish in the first place. What I am suggesting is that there are probably more suitable times to sit and admire our fish. We can fit in time for that when we are relaxing with the family, for instance.

What I am saying is that during those precious occassions when we can devote some dedicated time to maintenance, we should concentrate just on maintenance activities.The most important ingredient to making the best of our valuable time is one of mental outlook and organisation. Clear thinking about your fish is the key to getting maximum pleasure. No matter what your hobby or interest is, there can be no pleasure in it if it causes anxiety and frustration. Your hobby will only be pleasurable if it brings you satisfaction and relaxation.

Be realistic

Ask yourself ... is your thinking absolutely clear about your fishkeeping? Perhaps when you get some time one evening get a pencil and paper and make a few notes along these lines. Have you ever considered how much time and money you can afford to spend on the hobby? Give it some thought and write it down. You might think, for example, ......I can afford to work 2 evenings a week, 3 hours each evening and 5 hours every other saturday. ......I can afford to spend ?10 a month or ?20 a month. Be as specific as possible even though any one week may have to be changed. The main thing is to have a clear idea of time and money commitment. These will be different for every aquarist, of course. The important thing is that they are commitments that you are comfortable with.

One of the common traps that many of us fall into is letting our hobby get out of hand. We become involved with fishkeeping, either through a visit to a garden centre, pet shop or through a friend and set up a tank in our lounge. Before long the bug has taken hold and we introduce another tank, then another and before we know it we find we can't cope with the water changing and cleaning the glass etc. that we have to do just to be able to see the fish!

One of the interim steps that we might have to consider is shutting down one or more of our tanks, maybe just as a temporary measure until we get better organised.

Next...

The next step is to set a specific objective for yourself and your fishkeeping. This is not necessarily one to be achieved immediately but it must be specific.

"To keep and breed every species of fish" is possibly a dream of many breeders but hardly a specific objective. When setting your specific objective, keep within your time and money commitment. The great thing about fishkeeping is the wide range of possible goals you could pursue. If you are a fish breeder for instance, you could specialise in one fish and set a goal for a breeding programme. If you are not a breeder but enjoy collecting you could possibly try to collect every species within a genus. Whatever your interest make sure you narrow it down to a specific objective, one that is practical within your time and money objective. It could be "Collect as many species of Dwarf Cichlids as possible", "Develop a strain of albino Discus" or set up a tank housing only the species from a particular geographical area - a Madagascar tank for instance.

Having decided... think about your first step towards achieving this goal. This is your short term goal, something to be achieved in the near future."Find a good source of dwarf cichlids and buy one pair" or "Keep adult discus alive for x months".

Give some thought to it but having decided write it down and remember your previous decisions all the time.

OK, Next Step...

With your new goal in mind, go and look at your set up. Ask yourself - "does everything in my current set up contribute towards my short term goal?" The answer will almost certainly be NO.There will probably be odds and ends of fish and equipment that have nothing to do with your goal. NOW comes the hardest bit....Everything that does not contribute to your goal should be sold or traded in and the proceeds put towards your objective. When you have achieved this you could well find that you have doubled your tank space without buying a single tank!!....

NEXT

Create a list of priorities

Most aquarists have regular jobs that they do over and over again. Daily jobs. Yet we regularly waste a lot of time deciding what to do, often every day. I'm sure many of you can relate to the scenario;

You get home from work, take care of the immediate priorities, sit down to dinner, finishing at 7.00 pm. Perhaps you now have 2 hours to spend with your fish. So you now go through the decision making sequence of what to do tonight. We can lose 15 valuable minutes each time we stop to decide what to do next.

How can we overcome this? As we have identified above most aquarists have routine jobs plus a few special ones. Keeping in mind our short term goals, write down each job on a separate piece of card.

For example a fish breeder might list the following 7 items:

Feed fish
Expand set-up
Cull young fish and move into a larger tank
Clean filters
Set out new pairs to spawn
Check for disease; treat any observed
Check water; change if necessary

This is not a complete list, of course, you will probably end up with one much longer but 7 items will do for our example of how to set priorities.

Now look at the list and re-arrange the items something like this: Any disease can spread quickly and if left untreated could wipe out your entire tank - it only takes a minute.

Make a visual check for unusual behaviour...hanging in corners...clamped fins...scratching etc

So No1 on our list is:-1. Check for disease

Look at the remaining list. What should you do next? Feed the fish? Well...maybe...but would you put food in a cloudy tank??

No, so it is best to check the water and if cloudy, change some water.

So No2 on our list is:-2. Check water - change if necessary

You may ask, would you change water before cleaning/changing the filters? Yes, I would. It is important to remove dissolved solids and waste (bacteria) in suspension which can create harmful nitrite before changing the filter media where wastes are being partly broken down anyway. It is important to change the filter media as time permits but not before water changes in my opinion.

We mentioned feeding the fish above and this is very important and only items 1 and 2 above should come before it.

So our No3 is:-3. Feed the fish

Followed by:-4. Clean the filters

Now the last three.

-Cull young
-Set out new pairs
-Expand set-up

Having completed this exercise we now have a priority list to work from.

Having set that up, whenever we get a few minutes to spend with our fish we start at the top of the list and work our way through.

Check for disease; treat any necessary
Check water; change if necessary
Feed fish
Clean filters
Cull young fish and move into a larger tank
Set out new pairs to spawn
Expand set up

We have removed the delays caused by having to decide what to do each time. In the 15 minutes that we may have wasted trying to decide what to do we could be halfway down our list. The priority list will be different for every aquarist but the principle will be the same.

Finally....make a habit of keeping a diary of all your fishkeeping activities. This will provide valuable information on frequency of activities and when things like water changes are due. Time has a habit of going so quickly that several weeks can pass since our last water change but without having notes to refer to it may, and often does, seem like last week.

Create your plan, work to it and replace the anxiety with pleasure.

Happy Fishkeeping!

Trevor Greenfield has been keeping and breeding tropical fish for over 30 years. He has held committee posts for several fishkeeping clubs and associations and was a founder member and is the current secretary of the British Cichlid Association.

He is author of numerous articles on keeping and breeding tropical fish and editor and regular contributor to Pet Fish World. ?Pet Fish World 2005

You will find more articles and useful links at petfishworld.com You are free to re-produce this article in it's entirety provided the copyright notice is also included.

This article courtesy of http://www.petfishworld.com.

You may freely reprint this article on your website or in your newsletter provided this courtesy notice and the author name and URL remain intact.

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