Travis Shears

my start in the aquarium hobby

28.01.2021 -- #

First reef tank post! After weeks of research and implementation a small cube of sea is now being cultivated in my living room! In the future I’d like to do posts on specific reefing topics but in before that lets catch up on my experience with aquariums thus far.


It was the first week of my freshman year college. My new roommate convinced me how cool aquariums are and soon we were on a bus from the university to a local fish store. We walked out with a 20 gallon long, hang on the back filter, heater, net, t5 light, and a starter fish to cycle the tank. Everything you need for a small freshwater setup. I enjoyed coming back after class and feeding the fish.

Feeding got tricky over Christmas break. We negotiated with a neighbour to feed them in our absents, but that didn’t happen. Someone forgot and the tank went a month without food or a water change. Miraculously we came back to something beautiful. There was death, a black mollie had starved, but other fish flourished. We found them swam among thick plants. One plant had grown over the corpse, absorbing the nutrients. By the time we returned it has broken the water’s surface and was blooming white. I think the plants absorbing toxins is what saved the tank.

The next year we moved into a house and the tank came with. The hobby expanded, I wanted to go bigger and reproduce the Japanese / Iwagumi aquascaped planted tanks and my roommate got into breeding axolotls. He ended up with multiple 20 gallon tanks and I switched to a 55 gallon we picked up on craigslist and cleaned up. On a college budget but with big aspirations we built a lot ourselves. Inspired by youtuber DIY King we built:

  • Wooden stand made from 2x4’s in the architecture school wood-shop
  • Fluorescent light fixture using huge screw in fluorescent bulbs, HVAC piping, and metal rods. This provided the high PAR levels needed for high growth planted tank
  • Co2 injection system utilising old paintball gun Co2 canisters I had from high school and air compressor parts
  • Large rock aquascape with rocks from local skate parks (semi-leagal)
  • Attempted an above tank sump like filter made from old window panes
55 gallon tank next to diy desk

55 gallon tank next to diy desk

The 55 was stocked with angle fish bought from a local breeder’s basement business along with neon tetras, tiger barbes, black molies, plecostomus, and a ghost shrimp. The ghost shrimp lived up to its name disappearing once for 2 months to be discovered again in good health.

angle fish

angle fish

freshwater snail

freshwater snail

I have many good memories from those tanks. Now that I’ve settled here in Munich I hope to get back into the hobby and share it with new friends. This time with saltwater!

\- [ reeftank ]