As I near completion of 50 years of my flirtation with the planted tank, I look back into the past and count my blessings. December 1960 when I received my first tank a 24" 12" 15" size, glasses fitted in a fabricated galvanized iron sheet frame with common window putty and sealed with battery pitch and canopy of the same GI material; little did I know that it would wean me away from my Meccano set and give me so much enjoyment . The 60's I believe were the dark ages of the aquarium hobby when myths and not logic abounded and found place in the awful books written about the hobby. Then it was those kinds of books that were all that I had to rely upon on the start of my journey.
I don?t remember now how many days the two pairs of fishes, black molly and red sword tail, which were received along with that tank, survived; knowing what I know now it could not have been for long, but long enough to whet my appetite with their beauty and to challenge me to find a way to make fishes survive.
Those days there were no LFS in my home town Ranchi, and the tank and fishes had been brought back from Calcutta by my parents (as they had been there, while missing my birthday). Now I was left with an empty aquarium set up in accordance to one of those awful books, perhaps a boon in disguise. The tank was not only deserted but also looked like a patch of desert with its washed sand substrate.
Situated under the switch-board in the room and located directly opposite to the door opening Eastwards onto the open courtyard; the tank received enough indirect sun reflected from the floor of the room during the better half of the day. The lone incandescent 40 Watt bulb which the canopy possessed to light the tank (it had been in use only for evening viewing when the fishes were alive) being switched off. It was light enough to turn the front viewing glass a bright green. Greenery to an avid gardener! Then there were aquatic plants in the lake which I passed every day on way to school; that gave me the idea to try to grow some.
The fauna-less tank got cleaned and I scrubbed off the algae using a pad made from the wiry, woody, skeleton of a matured snake gourd (those days you did not get the plastic ones at least in my town). The tank cleaned; I planted several varieties of aquatic weeds from the wayside lake. My first planted tank had been set up.
The glass started to green again and the combat between the algae and the planted tank hobbyist found a new addition ? me. So it was scrubbing, siphoning, and spillage, every holiday trying to keep that glass clean. All this time, in spite of all the work I put into the tank, the plants after the initial flush of green growth were languishing.
The tank was in the living room of my grandfather's house where, all members of the family (my grandparents, my father's brother and his family including 4 cousins, my parents and my brother) gathered at leisure hours. After the first few weeks of tolerance to my labours ? resentment of the disturbance and ugliness that I was creating started to build up. No, none took it out on me though I was the youngest in the family but long faces of all (except my grandfather's) and their blank stares made me realize that something must give. My grandmother finally announced the verdict; the aquarium was a mistake, it was ugly, it was nuisance, it had no place in the living-room or any part of the house and should be thrown away.
(to be continued........)