I wanted a place I could post photos of the fish I’m raising (guppies). Half the time my advice to someone would be completely different than the next person, so I’m not looking to give advice, only talk about what I’m doing.
Raising ornamental fish is an exhausting affair. No matter how much you know, there is always someone else who knows a LOT more. You have to be able to keep a fish alive that probably wouldn’t survive in the wild for more than a minute. You have to know enough about genetics to make good crosses. You have to know the standards of raising award-winning show guppies (since I’m in the US, I would conform to IFGA standards if I’m competing). You basically have to maintain a pet shop in your house. All of this isn’t cheap, and if you make any money, it probably just covers your basic expenses.
Despite all of this, I keep coming back for more.
Growing up I always had a lot of pets. And there was always an aquarium in my room or the house that I maintained. I was probably around 8 years old and I checked out books on guppies at the public library. I think Paul Hahnel and Stan Shubel were either featured, or wrote these books. So I knew all about show guppies from a very early age. All these years later, Stan Shubel is still at the top of his game.
After college, I did a lot of moving around and couldn’t really maintain a fish tank. I remember being in a pet shop in Kansas City and being stunned by a tank full of IFGA quality hb pastel males. There must have been 50 fish in that one 10 gallon tank. I later regretted not buying a couple of those fish. I mean, what are the odds you’re at a pet shop that sells award-winning quality “culls” from an IFGA breeder for $3 a pop?
After I became a little more settled, I started buying fish tanks and ordering stock from a couple of the more well-known breeders. This would have been around the year 2001, because I remember buying some pastels from Jim Alderson. He shipped the fish overnight on Sept. 10, 2001. The next morning was 9/11. The post office was shut down. I thought these fish were dead for sure. Three weeks later, my anxiety had overtaken me. So I went over to the local post office. I don’t think anyone was even around. There was a door open in the package area so I walked in. Sitting on a table was a signature square box, a sign of tropical fish. I checked, and my name was on the box. I grabbed the box and walked out. I don’t think a single person bothered to even look at me while I was in there. But I was so worried about those fish dying I just needed to get that package. I took the package home, opened it up, and all the guppies had survived for three weeks.
Around this time period, I drove from Kansas City all the way across the state of Missouri to attend the Gateway Guppy Association IFGA show and auction. I bought a bunch of “fish of my dreams” that day.
I decided that my career and life in Kansas City needed a drastic change. I was moving to Los Angeles. I had too many other things to worry about, and I had to give away my prized guppies. A few years later I had re-established myself. But I needed more space. I wasn’t really doing the whole L.A. thing anymore. I figured if I moved a couple hours east to Arizona, I could get an entire house for less than I was paying in rent for an apartment in L.A.
It’s around 2008. I was having a bad week. I was at a Petco buying dog food or something. I decided to walk by the aquarium section. As soon as I saw those low-grade pet shop guppies, my mood changed from terrible to great.
It’s programmed into my subconscious. I have to raise guppies. I’m powerless to resist, I don’t even want to resist!
So I decided to try my hand at guppies again. Once I started showing fish, my entire system completely changed. You’re no longer breeding for yourself, you’re breeding for yourself AND IFGA shows. I probably fluctuate between 50-60 fish tanks, mostly 5 and 10 gallon.