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Fishkeeping In 1984

Author Topic: Fishkeeping in 1984  (Read 3334 times)

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Offline Matt

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Fishkeeping in 1984
« on: August 01, 2017, 07:46:15 PM »
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I've just picked up an old fishkeeping book...  it's full of undergravel filters etc that we wouldn't recommend at all now...

Full book review to come... It won't be positive!!!  :isay:

Offline Hampalong

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Re: Fishkeeping in 1984
« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2017, 01:43:20 AM »
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I still recommend UG filters. The concept works, and they're easy to keep clean if done right. The biggest healthiest Amazon Swords I ever saw were grown in 6" of small gravel on UG with quite a high turnover.

Offline Sue

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Re: Fishkeeping in 1984
« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2017, 09:16:01 AM »
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My understanding has been that there are a few drawbacks to UG filter - including that you can't put live plants in them as the water flow damages the plant's roots  ???. And no rocks/wood as they create dead areas in the gravel because there is no water flow underneath them.
And worst of all for me - unless you have a reverse flow UG, you have to take everything out once a year to clean the muck out from under the plates. A reverse flow UG with a prefilter on the pump doesn't need to be taken down.
I have also read comments that modern UG plates are not very well made and split easily.

Have I just been reading negative comments by UG haters?



However I do understand that UGs are excellent biofilters because of the volume of the media - all the gravel.

Offline Hampalong

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Re: Fishkeeping in 1984
« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2017, 09:47:23 AM »
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UGs only work well with plants if the gravel is deep enough.

You don't need to take them out and clean them, that's what gravel cleaners are for. A siphon tube down the uplifts once in a while removes the (inert) mulm from under the plates.

Reverse flow is pretty much the same but fills the gravel from bottom up father than top down.

Offline Matt

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Re: Fishkeeping in 1984
« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2017, 10:53:54 AM »
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I can already se that this book review I have planned is going to create some debate... might even have to go chapter by chapter!!

FYI the book is dated 1984.


Offline Sue

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Re: Fishkeeping in 1984
« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2017, 06:53:30 PM »
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The books I got from the library back in the 1990s were this age or older. I remember one of them saying don't do a water change for a month before you go on holiday  :o

Offline Hampalong

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Re: Fishkeeping in 1984
« Reply #6 on: August 02, 2017, 07:10:35 PM »
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I started in 1972, and after a couple of new-tank-syndrome wipeouts I happened to find someone near me who knew what they were doing.

I had some books from the 70's and 60's that were pretty good, but others weren't. Just like the internet today.

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Re: Fishkeeping in 1984
« Reply #7 on: August 02, 2017, 07:42:42 PM »
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Ok so new thread and time to get started. 

I've decided not to give too much away about the book as the purpose of this thread is not to say that the book is all wrong, more simply that fishkeeping has advanced/changed since.  So the title of the book is all I shall give. I know of course you will be able to find out more should you wish but I want a clear conscious...

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Re: Fishkeeping in 1984
« Reply #8 on: August 02, 2017, 07:45:52 PM »
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So page 10 is where the book gets going and by page 11 we have the first point of interest... the book states:

"most people only associate with the Goldfish in its humble, unsuitable bowl"

It surprises me that the goldfish bowl is still around given that over 30 years ago is was seemingly already well know of the unsuitability of these as tanks...

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Re: Fishkeeping in 1984
« Reply #9 on: August 02, 2017, 07:49:10 PM »
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Page 12 contains a special message for one of our members...

"when the hobby begins to take over and more tanks are needed, the rest of the family might not share your enthusiasm quite so much!"

It even recommends:

"extending their aquatic interest out ... into a fishhouse where extra breeding tanks can be accommodated without taking up valuable living space in the house"

Offline Littlefish

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Re: Fishkeeping in 1984
« Reply #10 on: August 03, 2017, 07:53:01 AM »
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@Matt did you see the really small print footnote that reads "alternatively, keep the fish in the house and move any unenthusiastic family members out to separate accommodation. Or if you live on your own just go wild"? Sometimes these old books can make a lot of sense.  ;D

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Re: Fishkeeping in 1984
« Reply #11 on: August 03, 2017, 07:57:13 PM »
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Ok so we're on to stocking.  This seems to be governed by oxygen levels in the tank for use by the fish and hence surface area of the tann.

"Each 2.5cm (1 in) of fish body length should have approximately 150cm2 (24in2) of water surface allocated to it"

"This is now the accepted method of 'sizing' a fish tank for its inhabitants, and is more accurate then the out-moded 'X litres (gallons) for each Y centimetres (inches) of fish's method, I which disregards the crucial factor of the water surface area"

Ill draw no conclusions and let the debate begin!!

Offline Sue

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Re: Fishkeeping in 1984
« Reply #12 on: August 03, 2017, 08:09:48 PM »
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The surface area rule for stocking usually assumes no water movement. One book I read said this is in case the filter fails when you are not around to notice (night, at work, on holiday). The tank should always be stocked as though the tank had no water movement or the fish would die should the filter fail.

I always thought the surface area rule pre-dates the volume rule  ???

Offline MarquisMirage

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Re: Fishkeeping in 1984
« Reply #13 on: August 03, 2017, 10:29:43 PM »
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I always thought the surface area rule pre-dates the volume rule  ???

I thought so too as it was before electrical filtration and air pumps.

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Re: Fishkeeping in 1984
« Reply #14 on: August 05, 2017, 12:52:15 PM »
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I'm on to tank furnishings... not one I've come across before, but cork bark is recommended for both a cave like structure or as a background.  Actually nor a bad idea...

Offline Sue

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Re: Fishkeeping in 1984
« Reply #15 on: August 05, 2017, 01:18:42 PM »
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Silly question but is cork bark the same stuff that bath mats and table mats are made of? If it is, won't any decor float  ???

Offline Littlefish

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Re: Fishkeeping in 1984
« Reply #16 on: August 05, 2017, 02:18:50 PM »
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I've got cork bark in the mudskipper tanks, and they like using it for tunnels & caves - only on the land part because yes it does float. I floated some on the water and was trying to convince one of the fish to use it as a raft, but he was not impressed.  ::)
I've seen clips of other mudskippers using cork bark pieces as a raft and floating around in the flow from the filter.

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Re: Fishkeeping in 1984
« Reply #17 on: August 05, 2017, 04:21:11 PM »
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Sue I think its a more natural product than the stuff you are thinking of, my parents have it as floor tiles... this is the bark of a cork tree and looks like bark as you would find it on the tree. I think I made no sense there... ahh well

Offline Sue

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Re: Fishkeeping in 1984
« Reply #18 on: August 05, 2017, 04:25:13 PM »
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I thought it had to be something different but had no idea what. I somehow can't visualise tank ornaments made of the same stuff as wine corks  ;D

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Re: Fishkeeping in 1984
« Reply #19 on: August 05, 2017, 06:01:38 PM »
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Perhaps I have quite a bit of pith on the cork bark I have. I got it in the reptile section of the LFS. It is cork branches that have had the middle hollowed out, so the outside looks like normal tree bark, but the inside is quite smooth and lighter. The stuff I have does float, and if I ever get one of my fellas to ride a piece like a raft I promise to take a picture.  ;D

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Re: Fishkeeping in 1984
« Reply #20 on: September 07, 2017, 07:02:51 PM »
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Sorry for the break in this thread... onto aeration now which due to the sticking being determined by surface area (see previous) the book is dead keen on.  What the book does also cover though is air pump maintenance. Again not something id ever thought of...

Cleaning the air filter and air valves is encouraged.  Also regular lubrication of pistons and also the oil filter to prevent this entering the tank!!?...

I dont know if air pumps have become simpler or cheaper of what but this all sounds very complicated in comparison to my silent nano pump that sticks to the glass behind the tank and has never let me down...

Offline Sue

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Re: Fishkeeping in 1984
« Reply #21 on: September 07, 2017, 07:11:46 PM »
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I think it is our disposable society. No-one these days wants to replace diaphragms etc so they are made to be non-repairable. My new Eheim air pump has only one part that can be replaced - the 'felt washer of the outlet' which can become clogged, and can lead to 'increasing wear and tear on the diaphragm'. But there is no way to get into it to replace the diaphragm, you have to buy a new pump.

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Re: Fishkeeping in 1984
« Reply #22 on: September 09, 2017, 07:45:44 AM »
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Ok, filtration!!

My first observation is that the book totally rejects the fact that mechanical filtration e.g. through a dense sponge, will also perform biological filtration.  Biological filtration is stated to be performed by bacterial living in a gravel bed and therefore under gravel filtration is advised.  This is slightly confusing because gravel was not stated to be a neccessity earlier on. The only explanation I can find for this is that the book does not actually state that biological filtration is a must, I think because is was seen to be a fairly new concept at the time; "biological filters are gaining in popularity as the resistance to their use (by fishkeepers who do not fully understand their workings in theory or practice) is overcome."

The description of the bacteria and the nitrogen cycle is actually fully up to date including the benefit of plants by using nitrate.  No bones to pick there...  :isay:

Some other oddities include:
The use of spray bars to reduce the "pressure" of the returning water. Nowadays I'm sure we'd talk about improved circulation instead...
The encouragement to use motorised filters over air powered (they are clearly quite 'new' and therefore scary  :yikes:)

Offline Littlefish

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Re: Fishkeeping in 1984
« Reply #23 on: September 09, 2017, 08:26:17 AM »
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I've just been reading through this from the beginning.
It's good to know that the nitrogen cycle was understood at the time.
It makes me wonder what direction fishkeeping is heading in, and what advances in technology and understanding are going to be made within the next 30 years.

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Re: Fishkeeping in 1984
« Reply #24 on: September 09, 2017, 10:24:01 AM »
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When we were sorting out my Mum's things when she moved in with us, I found a 1960s book on how to repair things around the house, and one section was on fish tanks. They covered three areas. How to reseal the tank (in pre-slicone days); how to repair the thermocouple which controlled the heater (the heater and thermostat were separate); and how to replace the diaphragm in an air pump. The diagrams showed the air pump in use powering the filter which was a box containing carbon pellets with a layer of filter wool on top to stop the pellets falling out.

Your 1984 book shows how much things had changed during the previous 20 years. We know how much things have changed since 1984. We can only guess at the future.

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Re: Fishkeeping in 1984
« Reply #25 on: January 07, 2019, 07:53:29 PM »
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A bit of a break in proceedings there I'm afraid but back on with this now... and we're on to Lighting...

The book states that "a little sidelighting in the form of daylight through the front glass is quite permissible" however we now know this is a major cause of algae... the book goes on in relation to algae to say that "too little light will result in the growth of brown algae and the plants will not flourish; too much light will result in the growth of green algae" which is a  somewhat over-simplistic but not totally incorrect view. However, a lighting period of between 10 and 15 hours in recommended!! We would now recommend 8 to 10 hours!!

There are also only two forms of lighting know to fishkeeping at this time. Tungsten and fluorescent.

Interestingly the section on water requirements covering dechlorination, heavy metals, water hardness, pH and the importance of maintaining stable conditions I really can't find fault with! It look like this bit of the hobby hasn't changed in a long while! Hopefully we are getting it right already!

So on to aquarium plants...
A big deal is made about the ability of the plants to provide oxygen into the aquarium in line with the comments before about he importance of aeration in the 1980s aquarium hobby.  As a goldfish book there are also warning about plants suitable for coldwater and that goldfish are likely to munch their way through soft leaves plants and their bases need protecting from being uprooted. 

There is a little advice on planting in bunches rather than rows which fits with the thinking on Dutch style aquascaping from the time.

Vallis, Ludwigia, Bacopa, Myriophyllum, Ceratophyllum, Egeria, Eleocharis, Lagarosiphon, Cabomba, Lemna, Azolla species alongside various moss species are all mentioned which are species we are still growing in our aquariums today :)

Acorus is also mentioned though this is now used more readily as a terrarium plant as it is better sites to such conditions and is certainly not a true aquatic species like many of the others.  Usefully it does make this distinction but only for Bacopa!!

The book also recommends a dip in potassium permanganate to remove unwanted passengers on the leaves which is something I didn't necessarily expect from over 30 years ago!

Next time I'll cover "Setting up the tank" and "Feeding" and possibly "Maintenance" time permitting.

Offline Hampalong

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Re: Fishkeeping in 1984
« Reply #26 on: January 08, 2019, 01:13:17 AM »
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There was actually quite a range of fluorescent tubes available. We now inevitably know more about wavelengths required etc, but the old gro-lux tubes were fantastic for plants, as good as anything today imo.

I totally agree with the comments on daylight and even direct sunlight. No other spectrum shows fish colours as well. Itíll grow algae like thereís no tomorrow but so what? Algae is not inherently a bad thing in an aquarium. If you donít mind wiping the glass itís not a problem.

Re the pot-permang, there was a time when there were no off-the-shelf disease treatments, so everything was done with the raw ingredients. They worked very well, unlike a lot of the modern premixed treatments off the shelf. Pot permanganate, Meth blue, Malachite green, Gentian violet and others were all staples for the fishy drug cabinet. Back then you bought your disease treatments from the chemist, not the lfs. Graham Cox pretty much put paid to that in this country in the late 60s with his award winning range of off-the-shelf treatments (the Waterlife range), but the books were very slow to change. One of the best books on Ďproblemsí of all kinds, from 1999, still lists all the raw drugs and how to administer them.

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Re: Fishkeeping in 1984
« Reply #27 on: January 08, 2019, 08:28:25 PM »
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In the opening to "setting up the tank" the book reads "It is as well to have everything you will need ready to hand, including pliers, screwdrivers, a sharp knife and a sense of humour"

This is quite intriguing!... none of these are tools I would consider as being required... i started to wonder about potential uses for them and the comedic effects that might result!!...

The first section to be tackled is "Filters and gravel". The section starts with "If you are using biological filtration, the filter plate must go into the tank before anything else". This is referring to air powered under gravel filtration. I expected to see undergravel filters in use but it surprises me that this is referred to as biological filtration as if other types cannot undertake biological filtration... then there is the word "if"... clearly biological filtration is not thought to be an essential!!

The book then talks about other filtration equipment being installed but it is not clear to what this refers.though there is a sketch of a tank with a hang-on-back type filter with what I assume is filter floss and sponge for mechanical filtration.

On to "Adding the plants"
This is probably more of a personal point but I like the fact that the book mentions hiding equipment with rocks and plants... solid advice I feel that is still relevant today in the modern world of aquascaping.

The book also mentions trimming the roots of plants slightly to encourage the growth of new roots. It says to "Spread the roots out in the gravel and remember not to bury the crown of the plant in the gravel, or the plant will rot away in a short time. The best way to do this, is deliberately to put the plant in too deeply, and then gently pull it up to its correct position". ... "Plant the aquarum with a purpose; it should look natural, not formal, but avoid making it look untidy". I've included this only because I felt it might be useful to others on here who are struggling with the planted tank side of the hobby...

Things get a bit weirder next though as the book seems to be stealing somewhat from pond planting techniques...
"Specimen plants should be planted in pre-formed, nutritious 'plant plugs, which are buried in the gravel. Alternatively, such species can be cultivated in shallow pots, which are then buried. A layer of small pebbles around the plant crowns will prevent uprooting."
This certainly isn't something I instantly recognise from the modern hobby though I have seen on an aquascaping forum people planting heavy root feeding plants in this way. That said it is definately the exception and not the rule. The difference I feel is that there are now so many more options available to the planted tank hobbyist. From active substrates, to root tabs, even water column dosing all negate the need to follow techniques such as this.

"Final checks"
I suddenly realised that the book had not mentioned washing the gravel before putting it in the aquarium when it was mentioned that "Any scum on the water surface (dust from the gravel) can be removed with a sheet of absorbent paper drawn across the surface." Much better to wash it first I feel!!

Following this is "The tank is now ready for the fishes, although some fishkeepers give time for the tank to settle down and the plants to take root. The biological filter will take a period of time to develop a mature colony of bacteria and this can be hastened by adding withrr some gravel from an established aquarium or one or two hardy fishes to provide the initial ammonia and waste products for the bacteria yo work on and multiply".
So unsurprisingly there is no mention of faithless cycling. That said, there does appear to be a decent understanding of start of the nitrogen cycle etc which is really great to see in my view...

Offline Hampalong

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Re: Fishkeeping in 1984
« Reply #28 on: January 08, 2019, 10:06:04 PM »
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Matt, please donít assume that this book bore the whole of our knowledge at the time. There were also some Good books around.  :)

I started fish keeping in 1972. We knew all about fishless cycling, cleaning gravel, quarantining fish, water changes, etc etc. We also knew about biological, mechanical and chemical filtration. We had internal power filters and external canister filters, and even diatomaceous canister filters.

I still maintain that UGs are just as good as any other form of biological filtration. They were Ďimproved uponí simply because newer technologies made for quieter alternatives that allowed for clean gravel and/or less gravel. Also sand became an option. Also for small tanks UGs werenít as good for most plants...

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Re: Fishkeeping in 1984
« Reply #29 on: January 09, 2019, 07:00:56 AM »
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I actually think the book is great! If I were getting into the hobby at the time I would have hugely benefited from the detail, diagrams etc etc it contains... I just want to compare the hobby from then to now, so it's interesting that you say much of the knowledge and filtration types were around at the time. The books section on filtration seems to assume you want an under gravel filter then goes on from there. It does mention power filters at one point but it is only once an under gravel has been used and the is what all the diagrams basically relate to the use of. I don't have experience with under gravel filters but don't necessarily have a problem with them. They are basically the system the biorbs use are they not? Why do you say they weren't as good for plants specifically in smaller tanks?

I guess the book is showing the 'flavour of the time' which was fish-in cycling and undergravel filtration. Or is this a reflection of how people tended to enter the hobby at the time? Much like nowadays people tend to enter the hobby with an all in one tank heater and filter kit and to be fair probably still unwittingly employ fish-in cycling...

Offline Hampalong

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Re: Fishkeeping in 1984
« Reply #30 on: January 09, 2019, 08:13:20 AM »
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Iíd call the biorb filtration system ďUPMĒ (Under Porous Media), a hybrid I suppose between UG and canister(?), or a UG with a porous medium instead of gravel. At least thatís how I remember the biorbs...

UGs arenít so good for plants in small tanks... thatís simply because in a big tank you can have gravel deep enough that the UG is actually beneficial for plants. The deeper the gravel, the slower the flow (especially as you donít Ďgravel cleaní right up to the plant, so that part is allowed to be full of lovely mulm). Plants like Amazons with big root systems love it. In a small tank... the recommended gravel depth was about 2-3Ē, which is not enjoyed so much by most plants when thereís a vigorous flow and the gravel around the roots is kept clean.

UGs were a common entry point for new fishkeepers mainly because they were so cheap, compared to the newer filters which were quite expensive back then.

In the 70ís the norm was fishless cycling, using Waterlife Seamature. Iím pretty sure I didnít hear of fish-in cycling till much later.

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Re: Fishkeeping in 1984
« Reply #31 on: January 09, 2019, 09:37:56 AM »
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That's really interesting thanks @Hampalong

Now time for "feeding"

The book states that "The fishkeeper should bear in mind the feeding characteristics of his fishes so that food may be presented correctly for each species. Flake and pellet foods remain on the water surface for some time and are ideal for surface-feeding species. Granular and tablet foods may sink too fast for surface feeders but will be welcomed by bottom dwelling fishes" a wide range of food is mentioned including freeze dried which is not seen so commonly in the hobby nowadays, at least not whole freeze dried shrimp. It surprises me that there was such a good range of food and type of food available at the time. The only major missing factor is frozen foods are not mentioned. Ultimately these would be a more convenient version that growing live foods which the book goes into in quite some detail.

Then we have "A general rule is only to feed as much food as the fishes will take in five minutes. Food can be given perhaps three times a day" which seems too much to me compared to my more up to date understanding of feeding... I've always personally worked off one or two feedings of as much as can be eaten in two minutes.

What really surprised me was "Canned pet food such as that given to cats and dogs is a useful addition to the fishes' menu, but do no use this type of food too heavily, in case you pollute the water"... I'm not sure many of us would consider this now!

And on to "maintennace"

"Siphoning off and replacing about 20% of the aquarium water every three weeks will help to maintain it in tip-top condition". Modern advice is far from as clear cut and consistent as this though rarely falls below 25% weekly, with many of us doing 50% water changes on a weekly or fortnightly basis. I am assuming that we now have a better understanding and possibly more importantly, can more easily test for what pollutants, chemicals etc build up in our aquariums over time and as this has happened we have responded accordingly.

The book calls for raking the gravel gently on a periodic basis (it's not specific) which I assume is to stop it clogging in certain areas and to allow the under gravel filter to work effectively. It seems like the gravel cleaner may not be in existence yet at this point. The build up of detritus after months or years of a running aquarium must be significant (possibly leading to high nitrates and/or the so called old tank syndrome) and raking through this is not something I would personally want to be doing...then again were nitrates a thing back then... I don't know...

Finally, we have the statement "the filter medium should be regularly renewed (although it is possible to re-use filter medium one or twice after a thorough washing)". You have to bear in mind here that this is likely referring to media seen to be for mechanical filtration as the gravel is serving as the biological filtration media in 1984 theory. And so the lack of mention of bacteria being affected by chlorine and not wanting to remove it by replacing the media etc etc. is all actually quite logical IF you assume it is only mechanical media.

That just leaves breeding and diseases as the final sections I intend to cover off, though I must admit I don't think much has changed from an initial scan of these sections! There my not therefore be much to talk about!!

Offline Hampalong

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Re: Fishkeeping in 1984
« Reply #32 on: January 09, 2019, 04:00:44 PM »
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There was quite a wide range of Gamma frozen foods available in Ď72. Blister packs werenít here yet though.

The 5 minute rule always amazed me too. I used to feed dried food to last probably less than a minute (with such a large amount of food given, a fish would fill itself up in far less), but several times a day was normal. Canned pet food (specifically dog food usually) was a throwback to the early days of fishkeeping when commercial foods werenít yet available. In Ď72 it was seen for what it was - ridiculous and unnecessary any more.

We knew about nitrates but we didnít realise how damaging they are. Anything under 100 was ok. But we knew they affected appetite and growth. The norm was to change 25% per week, but the person who got me into tropical was an Oscar/big fish keeper who used to change 50%+ 2-3 times a week, so I always changed 50% a week once Iíd moved over to Oscars. The build up of detritus long term was not seen as a bad thing in itself because water changes kept the nitrates down, but we did keep the gravel clean to maintain the efficiency (or was it just the flow rate?) of the UGs. Gravel cleaners were widely available in Ď72.

We didnít have purely mechanical filtration. We had UGs and/or externals which were set up the same as today. We had sponges and non-porous ceramic hoops. The porous medium wasnít introduced until Ď89. I was taught (by my ĎOscar guruí ) to rinse them in tank water and not to replace too much at once.

Your book seems not at all representative of what we knew at the time. There were good books and bad books just like the information on the internet today.

Offline Matt

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Re: Fishkeeping in 1984
« Reply #33 on: January 09, 2019, 08:22:06 PM »
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That just leaves breeding and diseases as the final sections I intend to cover off, though I must admit I don't think much has changed from an initial scan of these sections! There my not therefore be much to talk about!!

Well I've reviewed these remaining sections and literally nothing seems to have changed in relation to either topics over the years... surprising in a way but also comforting... so that's all for this series of posts!!

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