Ryan Smith
John Erdman June 2002

John Erdman (JE), Reporter for SimplyDiscus Forums: When did you get into fishkeeping?

Ryan Smith (RS), Discus Hobbyist and Fanatic: My mom and dad bought a tank when I was four. I liked to look at the fish and help feed them occasionally, and it was always tough on me when fish died, but I never really took responsibility of a tank completely until I was seven or eight.

JE: Do you remember what type you started with?

RS: We started with your typical community tank set-up. They came home with a 20-gallon, some dark blue gravel, lots of different colored plastic plants, undergravel filtration, and one of those little treasure chests that opens and closes when hooked to an air pump... Basically, a discus keeper's worst nightmare. As for fish, we started out with two silver angels, some assorted platies, mollies, and swordtails, a few tetras, and an "oscar," which is the name they sold us our pleco under. Yes, even then the LFS didn't know what they were talking about.

JE: Also, what were some of the mistakes you made or misconceptions that caused you trouble?

RS: You know, our first tank probably broke every rule in the book. We never did water changes at all, unless we were refilling what had evaporated. All of my cousins that used to come over to our house would feed the fish, so there's no doubt in my mind that we were overfeeding. All in all, that tank was doomed from the day we brought it home. Later when I got my first 55 gallon (I was nine or so) I ended up losing a whole tankful of community fish (tetras, angels, gouramis...) to ick, and it was because I didn't quarantine my new arrivals. That's the one mistake that stands out in my mind to this day.

JE: What made you decide on discus?

RS: I had amazing luck with fish. Everything I brought home thrived in my tank, to the point that I ended up with four pairs of angels that I didn't know what to do with. I remember buying a fish atlas at the mall and flipping through the pages about South American cichlids. I was in love with angelfish, and then I saw discus. They were similar in shape, but had much better colors, and just looked like they would be much more fun. And so began my rocky trip down the path of buying batch after batch of bad LFS discus...

JE: What is your favorite strain?

RS: That's a tough one. There are so many. I really love pigeon-based fish. I'm not a big fan of the leopards or leopard snakes, or anything with really intricate spot patterns or striation. Right now my favorites are pigeon-based whites and Cary's White Diamond x Tangerine, but I also have a soft spot for the San Merahs that Mike's growing out.

JE: What's your favorite fish?

RS: In general, I'm going to say discus. There's so much to be desired in them. They are graceful and intelligent and each develops a unique personality. There are close seconds, though. Angels and severums will always be favorites of mine, as are these Uaru I'm raising. As for my favorite fish specifically, I got a nice solid brown from Al a few weeks ago, and he's now developing what looks like red turquoise striation. He's beautiful, and my favorite fish that I own at the moment.


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