Are you Salty or Fresh? Pick a side: Meet Freshwater Hobbyists Ed, Willy and Scott

Many of us are staying home and giving our aquatic worlds a lot of attention, and it’s also a great time to start a tank!

It’s time to pick sides! As part of our Community Spotlight series, meet some freshwater hobbyists that are as passionate about the hobby as any aquarists you have ever met. Some of them have kept reef tanks and find interesting differences between the salty side and staying fresh.

Freshwater enthusiasts will have no trouble with the acronyms in this article but if you’re salty, we feel your pain. (Okay, no we don’t). It’s on!


Meet Ed Wiser
Screen name Reefwiser on forums

EdWiser freshwater bowl

Hi everyone. I have been keeping aquariums for 56 years now. I have been in the saltwater side of the hobby for 30 years. My wife loves plants so I keep planted tanks for her and as a way to get more tanks in the house. 😃 But like all things aquarium, I get fully involved and I love planted tanks. I can use what I have learned in saltwater to help me keep the freshwater side of my hobby running smoothly. Plus I get to have a whole new style of aquarium to learn about. I have to say though, the stress is so much less with planted tanks! No 300 dollar corals that die overnight. 😭

I currently have two freshwater aquariums, one is a ADA setup in the dining room. It’s a 30c that is stocked with stem plants , yellow Neo Caridina shrimp, two Boraras brigittae and three rummy nose tetras.

Ed Wiser freshwater tank

In the Kitchen I have a fish bowl that is one gallon with more shrimp and the same plants as the 30c. After taking down my reeftank, I am setting up a 120p tank for the living room. Wish me luck!

My parents helped get me started with a 20 gallon metaframe tank. I had mollies and when the mollies gave birth that was it. Down through the years what has kept me interested was learning new things and the challenges that the aquarium hobby brings you. Everyday I learn something new and enjoy the problem solving that the aquarium hobby brings to me.

ed wiser hardscape tank

My advice for newbies: Get involved in the hobby. Join a local club and go to meetings. Join aquarium forums you can learn so much from others. My two favorite freshwater forums are UK Aquatic Plant Society and The Planted Tank Forum. I watch George Farmers YouTube channel a whole lot. I read the ADA journal every Friday because there is new content.

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Meet Scott Jones
@scojophoto on Instagram

scott jones freshwarter planted aquarium fishtank

Hi there. I’ve been keeping planted tanks for 10 years. I have 7 tanks ranging from a 75 gal show tank to a 2.5 gal ‘scuds’ culture tank. (Multiple Tank Syndrome is strong in this guy!)

The 75 gal is a medium light CO2 injected planted tank with flourite gravel. It’s been up and running for 3 years and is a community tank with lots of Cardinals: Neon, Green Neon, and Ember Tetras and other community fishes.

scott jones office tanks planted freshwater

I loved keeping fish as a young kid and when my 5 year old daughter came home 10 years ago with a Betta fish from a birthday party, I was hooked again. As I researched online on how to care for the Betta, I discovered this VAST world of fresh water planted tanks that I had no idea existed.  The competition tanks I saw online completely captivated me and I couldn’t get enough of them! 

scott jones freshwater planted fishtank

Best advice I can offer to beginners is to just jump in with both feet if you’re excited about the idea of having a tank like the ones you see online. I made, and still make, plenty of mistakes but with each one you get better and more confident.

Start with the largest tank you can afford and begin with non co2 and (easy) enriched substrates. Then join a local club for the great advice and free plants and to meet other fun fish geeks so you don’t bore your friends and family to death and you’ll be on your way. 🙂 I wish I’d have joined a club MUCH sooner.

scott jones planted tank freshwater tall aquarium

Meet Willy Gonzalez
@JERSEYSHRIMP on Instagram

willy gonzalez fish tank
20 Long with Java Moss

Hello! My journey started 42 years ago when my downstairs neighbor gave me a 29 gallon with 2 goldfish. Surprisingly that tank lasted about 2 years, I was only 8 and the aquatic bug immediately bit me. As a teenager, I worked at several pet shops in my county and by then I had over 10 tanks. By age 30, after we purchased a condo, I experimented with my first reef tank! It was a 40 breeder reef with over 10 seahorses – a difficult choice for a first tank that I realize in retrospect – but it was up and running for almost 2 years! Unfortunately we went on vacation for 16 days and everything died. My tank sitter did not follow my instructions.

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About 2 years ago I was diagnosed with PTSD after serving 3 tours in Iraq in the 90’s. Getting back into the Aquatic hobby has helped with my stress and confusion.

At present I have a 10 gallon Dennerle Shrimp King planted with Creeping Moss and Anubias. It has 8 Amano Shrimp and I named this tank “Dragon Heart Kiss”. It was also my first planted Scape and has been running for 3-4 months.

Willy Gonzales Dennerle JBJ 10 gallon
Dennerle 10g Shrimp King Tank

My 2nd tank is a 20 long with Java Moss (pictured above), Moss balls and Anubias and it is called Java Forest. I don’t have any livestock in it yet. It’s been up for about 2-3 months and is my second planted aquascape. I am planning to keep Skittle Shrimp in there eventually.

Willy Gonzalez freshwater hardscape
75 gallon work in progress

We purchased a house a year after my sea horses died, and I was sad that I had to downsize to just a 55g with some cichlids for awhile. I kept the cichlid tank running for over 10 years. About 2 years ago my daughter wanted some fish and a tank of her own. She came with me to a pet shop and discovered freshwater shrimp. We both fell in love with the little critters so we set up a nano tank for her with about 5 shrimp and my 55g became a Cherry Shrimp colony.

Willy Gonzalex 75 gallon freshwater
75 gallon under the bar

In the fall of 2019, Metrokat put a post on my local aquatic plant club forum NJAGC.NET for volunteers at Aquatic Experience to help out with setup and the shrimp contest. That’s when I was introduced to aquascaping design and a whole new world opened up to me! I volunteered and was assigned to the shrimp contest. They had an aquascaping contest and I was hooked. I met many influencers at Aquatic Experience such as Chris Lukhaup (Shrimp King), George Farmer, and lots of great companies like JBJ/Dennerle. I can honestly say Metrokat’s post for volunteers and all the people I met at the show saved my life.

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Willy Gonzalez underwater bridge
Bridge underwater feature. Cute.

For me, the difference between keeping saltwater and freshwater tanks is that you can do so much more in a smaller tank with freshwater than if you had a reef.

I’m very excited about my current build. My advice to newbies is to always ask questions and once you get an answer ask someone else to confirm. Research multiple sites to get your answer.  BE PATIENT – BE PATIENT – BE PATIENT!


Three hobbyists with different experiences, each that enjoys the freshwater hobby as much as we enjoy our reefs. So, what do you say? Ready to start a freshwater tank? We have some great options to get you started in our Freshwater section.

Start with a blank slate with one of our rimless low iron glass tanks.

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