Your tanks: Sean Evans

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Your tanks: Sean Evans

Sean has two mudskipper set-ups — he says that for sheer entertainment value, they are difficult to beat.

Meet a fishkeeper who, despite working full time in an aquatic shop, still finds time and energy for 23 tanks at home. Welcome to Sean Evans' amazing collection.
 

WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHY: GEORGE FARMER

Meet the Aquarist
Name: Sean Evans.
Occupation: Works at Wharf Aquatics, Notts.
Number of tanks: 23 at the moment, but it varies.
Favourite fish: Bichirs (Polypterus).
Plans for the future? Extending the fish house to add a tropical pond at one end for my largest catfish.

 Being surrounded by fish all day at an aquatic shop has not diminished Sean’s love of the hobby — far from it, in fact!

Being surrounded by fish all day at an aquatic shop has not diminished Sean’s love of the hobby — far from it, in fact!

From your wide selection of fish and inverts you clearly have a passion for fishkeeping. How did it all start?
I’ve always been fascinated by animals and wildlife in general, so it probably traces back to my childhood, dipping my net in rivers and ponds to catch minnows and sticklebacks, or newts and other pond life. One of my earliest memories of tropical fish is seeing a tank of Neon tetras, glowing like bright jewels in an aquarium. When I got my first tropical aquarium, I did lots of reading about all the wonderful fish that were available, and pretty soon, one tank just wasn’t enough…

You work for a well-known aquatic retailer. How do you remain motivated to maintain your fish room after a hard day in the “office”?
I think if you have a real love for the hobby, being around fish and aquariums at work doesn’t diminish the enjoyment of having your own aquariums. If you have a lot of tanks, then clearly some dedication is required, and you have to be prepared to put the time in, but as long as you enjoy your hobby, then it shouldn’t become a chore. I’ve always thought that anyone that works in aquatic retail should keep fish at home, and their experience would clearly benefit from doing so. On the other hand, many hobbyists would probably learn a lot from a spell working in a good aquatic shop, and understand the trade better. I always think that shops, fishkeepers and fish clubs, etc., should have a closer relationship than is sometimes the case.

 Sean’s not bad on the aquascaping front, either!

Sean’s not bad on the aquascaping front, either!

Your knowledge of all things fish-related is incredible. What’s your academic background and have you always been in the aquatic trade?
I haven’t always been in the aquatic trade and I was a hobbyist for a while before I was somehow seduced into it being my job too! I spent nearly 15 years as a biologist and research scientist in various technical and research posts, gaining a degree and doctorate along the way — the biology background comes in very useful in understanding the finer points of water chemistry, fish health, etc. Ultimately, I changed my career direction and my hobby became my vocation as well — it’s probably not a step everyone should consider, I’ve seen some lose interest in the hobby when it becomes their job, but for me it just intensified my interest and broadened my experience!

 Wolf cichlid.

Wolf cichlid.

With all those varieties of fish you keep you must go through a lot of foods. What does a regular feeding session consist of?
With such a wide variety of fish, every feeding session will involve several different foods. I thaw frozen foods most days, things like bloodworm, brine shrimp, Mysis, Daphnia, Cyclops for smaller fish and mussel, prawn or whitebait for larger predators. I have a wide variety of flake, granular, tablet, wafer, pellet and freeze-dried foods that are all rotated along with the frozen and occasional live foods — it would be very rare for my fish to eat the same food two days running!

Have you bred many species? 
I’ve bred quite a few species over the years, although not always by making a specific effort — I would say that if fish are happy in their environment they will often breed without any specific intervention. 

 Sean has had lots of success with breeding bee shrimp.

Sean has had lots of success with breeding bee shrimp.

Successes include several Malawi, Tanganyikan and West African cichlids, a few species of Corydoras catfish (my favourites were C. panda and adolfoi), a few species of barbs and rainbowfish, lots of different Caridina/Neocaridina shrimp.

The challenging part is often raising very tiny fry, and the key is to be prepared with the right foods, plus lots of water changes to keep the water quality top notch and the fry growing.

 The waterfall set-up is home to barbs and loaches.

The waterfall set-up is home to barbs and loaches.

I notice you have a knack for aquascaping and planted tanks! What’s your best advice? 
With so many tanks running, many of them are functional and geared towards an ideal environment for the inhabitants, rather than intended to look pretty, but it’s nice to get creative now and then! 

Personally, I don’t aquascape tanks specifically to photograph them or enter competitions, so I would say it depends what your goal is. If you are keen on the aquascaping side of the hobby, or may even want to enter competitions, then research and planning is key, so that you have a clear vision at the start of what you want to achieve, and also patience is essential.

  Channa  sp. 'Fire & ice'.

Channa sp. 'Fire & ice'.

What does your wife think about your fishkeeping?
Luckily my wife is fine with the time my hobby takes up and often visits aquatic shops and events with me. When we moved house the last time, we had all the usual list of things you want from a new house, plus it had to have space for an even larger fish house — it takes an understanding wife to give that priority!

 Sean would like to increase his collection of mudskippers.

Sean would like to increase his collection of mudskippers.

What species would you most like to keep but haven’t yet?
I have been lucky enough to have kept an awful lot of different species, and with so many tanks running I’ve kept most of my favourites, but there is always something new that I’d like to keep — it’s one of the things that make this hobby so absorbing — there are more fish available and potentially different set-ups to try than anyone could get through in a lifetime! 

It changes all the time ­— sometimes I’ve returned to keeping some of my old favourites, sometimes I’m inspired to keep something new by a magazine article, conversation with another fishkeeper, or by seeing a new species come through the trade.

I’d like to keep more species of mudskipper if I had room for additional part-land set-ups. 

Do you have any plans for developing your fish house?
With so many tanks, there is always some sort of change going on. For example, at the moment I’m splitting some of my shrimp into different tanks based on some colour mutations that have occurred. In the longer term, I’m planning on extending the fish house to make it even larger, and adding a tropical pond at one end for my largest catfish.

 Sean has always been fond of Bichirs.

Sean has always been fond of Bichirs.

Do you have a favourite fish?
One of my favourite groups of fish has always been the ancient Bichirs (Polypterus), but for sheer entertainment value it would have to be mudskippers. Their comical antics as they skip, climb, jump and roll (yes, roll!) about on land add an extra dimension other fish just can’t match! With the smaller species it’s possible to hold your hand in the tank with food on it and have the fish leap onto it to feed.”

Sean’s fish list  

(All tank sizes length x width x height)

254 x 92 x 61cm/8ft 4in x 3 x 2ft
Sailfin marbled catfish, Leiarius pictus
Ripsaw catfish, Oxydoras niger
This tank has twin weirs draining to a 122 x 61 x 46cm/48 x 24 x 18in four-chamber sump with twin Eheim return pumps.

254 x 75 x 61cm /8ft 4in x 2.5 x 2ft
12 Imperial barbs, Dawkinsia rohani
14 Red scissortail rasboras, Rasbora caudimaculata
9 Kubotai loaches, Botia kubotai
12 Red line torpedo barbs, Sahyadria denisonii
25 Melanotaenia nigrans
Garra gotyla
Borneo red finned silver shark, Cyclocheilichthys janthochir.

244 x 75 x 38cm/96 x 30 x 15in
Polypterus delhezi
Polypterus endlicheri endlicheri

2 Polypterus bichir bichir
3 Polypterus bichir lapradei
Polypterus ornatipinnis
2 Polypterus palmas buettikoferi
4 Polypterus palmas polli
2 Polypterus retropinnis
Polypterus weeksii
Synodontis decorus.

152 x 61 x 66cm/60 x 24 x 26in
Wolf cichlid, adult male.

92 x 61 x 61cm/36 x 24 x 24in
Planted tank with two Channa sp. ‘Fire & Ice’ snakeheads.

Fluval Osaka 260 l/57 gal planted tank with waterfall
9 Fishnet flying fox, Crossocheilus reticulata
5 Dwarf chain loach, Ambastaia sidthimunki
10 Drapefin barbs, Oreichthys crenuchoides
20 Taiwanese tiger shrimp
This tank has an Exo Terra ‘Monsoon’ rain system that automatically sprays RO water over the emergent plant growth every few hours.

 Sean is also a fan of snakeheads.

Sean is also a fan of snakeheads.

183 x 46 x 38cm/72 x 18 x 15in (subdivided)
Channa sp. ‘Laos flameback’ snakehead
Channa sp. ‘Fire & Ice’ snakehead
Red-eye puffer, Carinotetraodon lorteti
Zebra Nerite snail.

153 x 46 x 38cm/60 x 18 x 15in
Group of Asian dusky-gilled mudskippers, Periophthamlus variabilis.

122 x 46 x 38cm/48 x 18 x 15in  
4 Polypterus endlicheri endlicheri
5 Polypterus ansorgii.

92 x 61 x 38cm/36 x 24 x 15in
Alligator snapping turtle.

107 x 50 x 35cm/42 x 20 x 14in
3 Polypterus mokelembembe
Polypterus teugelsi.

122 x 38 x 33cm/48 x 15 x 13in 
African tetras:
8 African moon tetras, Bathyaethiops breuseghemi
3 Brycinus longipinnis (obtained as ‘contaminants’ in B. breuseghemi)
8 Phenacogrammus sp. “Lukeni River”
6 Orange track tiger Nerite snails.

92 x 46 x 35cm/36 x 18 x 14in
3 Polypterus bichir lapradei ‘Koliba’
3 Polypterus palmas buettikoferi.

92 x 30 x 46cm/36 x 12 x 18in
Spanish ribbed newts, Pleurodeles waltl.

  Betta channoides.

Betta channoides.

61 x 30 x 46cm/24 x 12 x 18in
Pair of Snakehead Betta, B. channoides
Zebra red-eye puffer, Carinotetraodon salivator.

76 x 46 x 25cm/30 x 18 x 10in
Giant mudskipper, Periophthalmus schlosseri (‘contaminant’ obtained with P. variabilis).

61 x 30 x 30cm/24 x 12 x 12in
Shrimp breeding tank
Viet Noi black and white shrimp, Caridina sp.
Yellow rabbit snails, Tylomelania sp.
Horned Nerite snails.

61 x 30 x 30cm/24 x 12 x 12in
Shrimp breeding tank
Viet Noi black and white shrimp Caridina sp., selected for red colour and extra white
Sulawesi purple laced shrimp.

61 x 30 x 30cm/24 x 12 x 12in 
Shrimp breeding tank
Leopard shrimp, Caridina rubropunctata.

61 x 30 x 30cm/24 x 12 x 12in
Quarantine (has Imperial barb fry in it at the moment).

 Adult Panda loach.

Adult Panda loach.

66 x 30 x 25cm/26 x 12 x 10in river rapids
6 Panda loach, Yaoshania/Protomyzon pachychilus
Pair of Stiphodon percnopterygionus gobies
Horned Nerite snails.

61 x 30 x 30cm/24 x 12 x 12in
Shrimp breeding tank
Black sakura shrimp.

Arcadia 35/8 gal Arc Tank
Shrimp breeding tank
Viet Noi black and white shrimp
Caridina sp., selected line of Golden white bee shrimp.