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John Sipes
Title: Summer Tubbin'
Summary: John has ten tubs of fish outside on his deck in summertime. He first tried swordtails and guppies, then was surprised to find his snakeskin gouramis had bred, then his zebra danios, and since then many other species.
Contact for editing purposes:
email: Editor, Mark Weierman:

Date first published: May 2003
Publication: Fincinnati, Greater Cincinnati Aquarium Society:
Reprinted from Aquarticles:
June 2004: Aqua Babble, Aquarium Club of Edmonton
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Summer Tubbin'

by John Sipes
First published in Fincinnati, the official newsletter of the Greater Cincinnati Aquarium Society

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 indoors.

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 hadn’t 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 hadn’t 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 hadn’t 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

Summer Tubbin'!