Freshwater Fish Tank Hobby

Roger McGee

Roger McGee

Mid-States Senior Buyer Roger McGee has 200 gallons of freshwater fish tanks in his home.

McGee started out his freshwater fish tank collection after a visit to his Godparents’ house in Texas.  The couple had a tank and he enjoyed it, so he bought a small 20-gallon tank while in college.

His collection has evolved over the years, and McGee currently has a 55-gallon community tank, a 35-gallon community tank, a 15-gallon albino community tank, a 45-gallon African cichlid tank (part of the piranha family), and a 50-gallon South American cichlid (Oscars) tank.  He has a total of somewhere between 50 and 60 fish.

“You have to be careful sometimes putting your hands in there because they will bite you,” McGee said of his cichlid tanks.

All of McGee’s tanks reside in his basement man cave.  To keep the tanks clean, McGee has large filters on each tank, plus changes the water regularly.  He also has two plecos (vacuum fish) and algae eater fish in each tank.  Every six months, he also gives the tanks a deep cleaning, removing all the décor and rocks for cleaning, and cleaning the tanks, too.  He also periodically remodels his tanks.

When it comes to choosing his fish for the community tanks, McGee would eventually like to have about 65-70 fish in his 55-gallon community tank.  He picks fish that are not territorial for this tank and tries to go by school and color.

In his cichlid tanks, because they are aggressive fish, McGee can only keep a couple together at a time.  They are as close to a saltwater fish as they can be, while still being freshwater fish.  Currently, these fish are bright orange or black and gray.  The albino fish are pale in color with orange eyes and orange spots.

Currently, McGee’s oldest fish is three-years-old.  However, at one point he had a pleco that lived for nine years and grew to 13-inches long.

“It’s Zen-like,” McGee said of the tanks.  “I kind of just watch them sometimes.”

McGee learned how to care for the fish mostly from pet stores, aquarium shops and fish shows.  He even has a lifetime membership to an aquarium store in Hoffman Estates, Ill.

The most expensive fish McGee ever bought for his tanks, wasn’t a fish at all.  He paid $25 for an albino frog, which he put in his community tank.  But, he learned an important lesson that day when one of his oscars ate it.  Now he spends $12 to $14 per fish at most, but he can easily spend about $150 at a time.  This is by no means a cheap hobby.  In the right environment, the fish can live for four or five years.

While McGee’s long-term dream would be to put an extension on the house large enough to accommodate a 400-gallon tank full of community fish, his latest project is working on a tank for glo light fish.  At a recent fish show, McGee’s daughter won some fish tank décor, and gave it to her father.  So, he is working on a 10-gallon tank to feature these fish, at roughly $14-$15 per fish.  He’s already couple hundred dollars into supplies for this tank, before he adds the fish, but at least this tank will get to be on display upstairs.