March 23, 2023

Multiple Tank Syndrome: It’s Time for a Fish Addict Intervention

Speaking out on her addition to fish and aquariums, Summer Davis suffers from multiple tank syndrome (MTS), and she doesn’t care who knows it. This is her story.

Hi! My name is Summer. I have MTS – multiple tank syndrome. This is a syndrome with no known cure or treatment. It begins with a single aquarium, maybe even a single fish. As time goes on and you’re introduced to new aquarium species, it’s not long before you add another tank to your collection, then a third, then a fourth, then… well, you get the picture. It sounds harmless enough. Aside from the amount of space aquariums take up, it’s not a terribly intrusive hobby. At least, that’s what I tell myself.

You’re at risk for developing MTS if you have mild interest in fish. My own starting point was a couple of goldfish won at the county fair. Things just progressed from that point. I suspect the goldies were carrying the MTS bug, but there’s no way to trace the source. For you, it could have started with a trip to a large aquarium, walking past the fish section in a pet shore, or pictures on the Internet. It attacks anywhere or any place you may stumble across a tank, a fish, or anything in between.

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But it doesn’t just stop at tanks and fish. MTS sufferers also the need to own anything to do with aquariums – lights, filters, heaters, plants, substrate, décor, rocks, driftwood. Then there are the bottles:  medications, test kits, water conditioners, fertilizers, and more. You need nets, siphons, buckets, air pumps, random containers, Co2 tanks, diffusers, and drop checkers – there are no limits!

Other symptoms include wanting to always buy the latest equipment and newest technology for your tank. Better lights and filters, inline heaters and co2 diffusers – the cooler it sounds, the more we want it And your fish only dine on the finest: different foods for different fish, frozen, gel foods, canned, flakes, pellets, crumbles, wafers, and sticks, and don’t forget the live foods, too!

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People who suffer from MTS will spend hours replanting plants, rearranging fish, and changing water.  If you know someone with MTS, you can offer assistance, but most of those afflicted with the illness will not want you anywhere near their fish, tanks, or piles of supplies. Back away slowly, speak in a calm, reassuring voice, and get out of their way ASAP.

MTS sufferers seem to speak in tongues, but fear not: they are just referring to the scientific names of fish or plant species. It seems like we talk way above even our own intelligence level and sometimes this is true. The hobby is full of learning opportunities, and you’ll need to recall your notes from high school biology classes often.

There is no known cure for MTS, but the best way to keep them comfortable is allow them to enjoy their hobby. If you deny them what they want, the chances are they will become agitated, resulting in a temper tantrum. Try not to ask too many questions when they speak of setting up the yet another tank, and never ask the question “Why.” Instead, pretend to be interested, smile, nod at appropriate intervals, and don’t make direct eye contact.

I suspect that MTS is contagious to some degree, as in the past few months my own daughter has set up two tanks in her bedroom, and my mother is setting up her second tank as we speak. I think I infected them in one of my many babbling sessions. I’m not ashamed, though. There are clubs of MTS-ers who meet to support each other. It’s one of the friendliest hobbies I’ve ever been involved in. So, as a sufferer of MTS, I will continue to live with this condition, and make the best of it.

After all, the first step is admitting we have a problem, right?

summerSummer Davis is the mom of three kids, four dogs, and several tanks of fish. She boasts a passion for all animals, whether they are in the water or on land. This fish aficionado has kept many different species in her time, but holds a special place in her heart for wild and domestic bettas. When she’s not talking about fish, Summer “spins” her extra time as the director of a baton twirling organization.