by John Sipes
First published in Fincinnati, the official newsletter of the Greater Cincinnati
It all began for me in the spring of 1997 when I decided to take my fish room outside.
I gathered up several plastic bins of all shapes and sizes tossed in some floating plants,
waited a few days, and presto! my back deck was now an addition to my fish room. I had
previously dug out a pond and was experimenting with livebearers, plants and various other
fish, but the tubs were to be my most dedicated experiment yet. The previous year, the red
wag swords and half-black blue guppies had thrived and spawned with little work on my
part, so once again they were the first fishes to hit the tubs. A few weeks later I came
across a huge pair of snakeskin gouramis that I just couldn't resist. So, when I took them
home with no indoor tank ready, I decided that outdoors they would go. By this time I had
several water hyacinths that were covering the pond, so I scooped a few out and threw them
in with the newly purchased gouramis. With 4 tubs in place, I was certain that my deck
would be much more appealing, and I could keep more fish than I could if I only had them
Later, in late May/early June, I decided to add another 6 tubs to the deck, and why
not? The swords and guppies had thousands of fry, and they all needed more room to grow.
All the plants and fish were thriving with little to no work at all. I went weeks between
feedings, only topping off the evaporated water. What more could you ask for? A 10 tub
deck without the hassle of water changes.
I think it was late in June when I remembered that pair of gouramis. I hadnt even
checked to see if they were even still alive in some time. I slowly moved a few of the
hyacinths to the side, and promptly noticed thousands of little black bug looking things
scattering into the roots. Then I caught sight of both gouramis, and was pleased to see
them. But what were the little black bugs?
I went inside and found a clear glass jar filled it half way with water and swiped the
net through the tub to gather up some of the bugs to get a better look, and to my surprise
they weren't bugs at all, but miniature gouramis, exact replicas of the parents. I moved
as many fry as I could catch into another tub nearby with thoughts of raising as many as I
could. Later in July, I added some zebra danios to the fry tub, and checked on the
gouramis once again. They had given me another large brood of fry, with no place to move
them. I decided they would have to stay with the parents for at least another few weeks.
That same week I had sold tons of water hyacinth to other club members, and had no idea
that I was supplying them with eggs from my gouramis. Well two weeks later I decided to
bring some of the gourami fry indoors. While I was netting some, I noticed smaller fry
about the size of a micro-worm with black backs mixed in with them. If the sun hadnt
been shining into the water directly on them, I don't think I would have noticed them at
all, but I in fact had hundreds of zebra danio fry swimming about in the tub.
Similar situations occurred with many of the fish in my tubs. If I hadnt have
been paying very close attention each time I looked for fry, I think I would have missed
seeing many of them. Keep in mind if you ever keep fish outdoors that many of the fish you
have kept indoors without spawning success will spawn outside, and if you have never seen
their fry you may not notice them unless you look hard, and net out any odd looking small
things for closer inspection.
Other benefits to outdoor tubbin is the quality of fish you raise. Sunlight and
the abundance of live foods bring out the best colors and vitality fish. And, as long as
you are getting regular rain, which here in Cincy is most of the time, there is little
need for maintenance, like water changes. Aeration and filtering the water are best
accomplished by stocking a few different types of aquatic plants in your tubs.
As for the selection of tubs to buy, I have found that the thicker taller tubs tend to
work best for me in any color, the longer flimsy tubs tend to bow and crack after just a
few weeks leading to dry tubs full of dead plants and fish. The types of plants you should
get depends on your taste, but any bog or pond plant will do the trick. If you are keeping
egg scatters, then I would suggest some sort of floating plant with long roots like water
hyacinth and water lettuce, these roots provide a good catch for the eggs and a safe
heaven from the larger adults.
Outdoor summer tubbin time is my favorite time of the year, and each year I try
to add something different to the mix in hope of spawning another fish that I have had no
luck with indoors. Always remember to check the plants, and, if all else fails, move the
plants to another empty tub if eggs are suspected to be present. Have a good season this
year, and I hope everyone is able to enjoy the wonderful addiction known as