Many reefers (myself included) got started in the aquarium hobby by caring for freshwater tanks in their formative years.
I recall my father meticulously arranging the rockwork, driftwood and plastic plants in my parent's 40-gallon tropical fish tank when I was about 8-years-old. My dad always had an eye for detail. I was fascinated how he recreated the beautiful undersea scenes I'd seen in books and on television. My imagination soared as I'd watch fish dart in and out of caves and overhangs.
Soon I had a 10-gallon of my own sitting on the bookshelf next to my parent's tank.
I started with a single goldfish. I was the highest bidder in an auction my 4th grade class had and proudly brought my bagged friend home to put into the new tank. He lived for 3-4 years. I remember being both impressed by his growth and frustrated he wouldn't just die so I could stick something else in there.
After Goldie ascended to fish heaven I put a couple of crayfish into the tank. My dad used crawdads as bait on a weekend fishing trip and this duo were leftover in his 5-gallon bucket. My two 'dads lived a long time and changed colors with each molt. They were a reddish-brown color when I got them and later turned a brilliant blue. That's when I loved them most.
In junior high my dad let me keep a pair of oscars in the 10-gallon. In retrospect the tank was too small and I was not the responsible fishkeeper I used to be. Talking to girls on the phone became more important than keeping my fish tank clean. The increased bioload from all the feeders I tossed in there didn't help much. One eventually croaked and the other become so enormous he couldn't turn around. He leaned hopelessly on a rock until the bitter end.
All my successes and failures helped me become a pretty darn good reefkeeper when I entered the saltwater hobby three years ago. Granted I still made mistakes but poor maintenance was not one of them. Yet with all my saltwater success, I couldn't help but notice all the beautiful freshwater aquascapes showing up on the web. I hadn't really noticed them before working at MarineDepot.com—probably because I wasn't looking.
What most of these awesome aquariums had in common were plants. The best of them were veritable underwater gardens with lush plantlife ever-so-carefully groomed around rocks and driftwood. Animals were not the focus. They were only there to compliment the aquascape. Some were designed to replicate nature; my favorites mixed the aesthetics of Chinese feng shui with the serentity of a Japanese garden.
Freshwater planted aquariums are quickly becoming a phenomena and, like reef tanks, demand specialized equipment and dedication from the hobbyist. While MarineDepot.com has always sold freshwater aquarium supplies, we only recently launched a special planted tank section to make it easier for folks interested in this niche of the hobby to find the gear they need.
I'm getting married in May and the wife-to-be knows my Troy McClure-like fish fetish isn't going anywhere. I've talked to her about getting a tank for our new place and she's on board.
The only problem I have now is deciding whether I should setup another reef or try my hand at a planted tank.