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1930s historically accurate planted aquarium


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I notice the pronunciation of Betta as "beta" 🤔

Seems to be a long running argument between fishkeepers which way it is pronounced and who's correct. Now people that pronounce it "beta" can say it dates all the way back to the 1930's 😄


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On 8/14/2020 at 1:17 PM, Daniel said:

I was about to use a piece of rigid airline tubing to siphon away some guppy poop in the 1930s aquarium when I stopped and thought, I need to look up when PVC came in to general use. Turns it out it had been invented by the 1930s but they weren't making rigid airline tubing out of it.

I am being to realize that the tough part of this project isn't the big box of water, it is all the little things like 'no plastic'.

So plan B. 'Rubber tubing' tied to a stick:

Glass tubing. It would have been glass. I don't have any, but we used glass serological pipettes just a decade ago that would have been perfect if you snapped off the tapered tip. They have been phased out for plastic disposables. Students are too rich to wash glassware now.

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14 minutes ago, ForestJenn said:

This is going to be an oddball comment, but that is some pretty twine you're using there.  

I couldn't resist something described on the label as 'The Ideal Garden Twine'. It is like an @Cory product with an insane amount of product development behind it. 

But the kicker was 'Carried From The Pocket Leaving Both Hands Free'. The original was green and hard to see once you tied it on and therefore was 'not seen', hence the current name of NutScene  (You have to say it with a Scottish accent as that is where it is made).

And this may sound like an oddball excuse, but I wanted to tie the tube to the stick with a product available in the 1930s and this fit the bill.

Edited by Daniel
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  • 2 weeks later...

I ordered this book and it finally arrived. It really is an awesome read, partially because the author is a very personable writer which I don’t see as much of in other guides I have. Some of the things you read about (alcohol blow-torching “gum shellac” to create basically a drilled tank) are amazing. Plastic might be convenient but how can you not want your very own mason jar and wood fish carrying case? 


Imagine strolling to the Petco counter with one of these bad boys. 

Edited by RovingGinger
Clarifying reasons for awesomeness
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 I happened across this and thought of this thread. Very different approach as he uses modern technology throughout the restoration, but the aquarium itself is just plain gorgeous. Why doesn't Aqueon make them like that now? I can only imagine how expensive this kind is, new or used, but man. 



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1 hour ago, RovingGinger said:

but the aquarium itself is just plain gorgeous.

What a beautiful aquarium! I liked that he noted that you could spend as much time looking in from the top as the sides. I think that is a fun way to view the aquarium. It is kinda like having a glass sided summer tub in your house. He may not be a fish guy as he threw a little of everything in that aquarium. Neons, discus, betta(s), angelfish...🙂

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On 7/27/2020 at 4:12 PM, Daniel said:

That is a great question!

Aquarium keeping in the 1930s seems pretty similar to what we do now, with pretty similar results. I won't do anything that isn't good for the fish. I might have to work harder though if I am trying to find live foods for example. And it's possible I won't have to work as hard as there will be fewer gadgets to maintain. From my initial reading of the literature, 1930s aquariums do not seem like they were worse for the fish/plants than now, just managed differently, certainly fewer fish per gallon than we tend to keep now. The living conditions of many economically important animals generally haven't improved since the 1930s. Ask yourself, if you were a chicken or a pig or a cow, for the short time you were alive on the Earth, would you have preferred to have been on a 1930s farm or in a 2020 Industrial production facility? I know it is not that good of an analogy but the point I would like to make is that while many, many things have improved in the last 100 years, some things are remarkably similar, and few things were possibly better a 100 years ago.

I am prepared to end the experiment if I have to make compromises that would cause the fish to suffer, but let's find out together what it was like to keep a planted tropical fish tank in the early years of the Great Depression.

And this vintage magazine just came in the mail today. Here is the cover for the August 1934 issue of Home and Gardens magazine. I think this will give me something to shoot for as I set up the tank.



I scrolled down and the first thought I have was... THAT LOOKS LIKE THE FISH IN MY AQUARIUM!  Who knew, I'm being historical!  Side note:  I wasn't sure if zebra danios would be safe with my koi angels.  At this point I have some swordtails and a school of cories.  Angels are arriving Thursday!!!

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There were primitive plastics in the 1930's certainly in common use. I mean, I still use a 1920's Parker fountain pen made from the stuff. By the 1930's I think Bakelite was pretty much everywhere.

Some of my older aquarium books that I no longer have but that I devoured as a kid would talk about catching and culturing live foods. Daphnia were well-known, and captured from the local pond. Mosquito larvae was also very readily available.

This sounds like a really cool project. I'm looking forward to following along.

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Many of these old slate bottomed tanks from the 1920s and 1930s have a hole drilled clean through the oversize slate bottom in the tank.

I think I know what the reason is (and it is not to connect to a sump).

Anyone care to venture what you think the reason for drilling a hole through the slate might be?


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