Way back when I was ‘just a kid’ living in Metuchen NJ in the mid-fifties, my life time best friend Ray shared our tropical fish hobby as only two teen boys can. One day Ray’s really neat mom, Marie, decided she wanted to decorate their living room with a fish tank very different that what we were doing or even could afford to do. She wanted a long rectangular tank with black sand and black background filled with the vey colorful fish, truly a neon colored small fish, the neon tetra.

neon <- Neon tetra

Now Ray and I when we could afford to buy fish at our local small town haunt, Tropical Pet Land, it was one or two fish at a time. Marie bought, as I recall in my memory of that amazing venture, what must have been maybe 100 (ok, maybe only 50?) beautiful Neon tetras (or maybe the more colorful Cardinal tetra?) for that long Betta tank for over their mantle place. What an extravagance! I’m sure she must have had our friend, Bruce, the shop owner, place a special order for that large a quantify of those radiant fish. I can never forget that scene and the impression it made on my young hobbyist mind.
Move ahead more than half a century and Ray and I still go fishing, driving from fish store to store, looking for a bargain and often offering to buy a whole school of maybe a dozen of some fish for his 22+ tanks, or my 3 large tanks, to get a good price. Nowadays that means getting fish down to maybe few dollars each, which in retirement now, we can afford and enjoy.

cardinals <- Cardinal tetras
Still fascinated with the Neon and even more colorful Cardinal tetra fish, I regularly keep a half dozen in one of my tanks for pure pleasure. Recently I decided to grow that school to a more colorful 20 or so fish.

Calling Ray to share that memory of his mom’s adventure so long ago, Ray corrected my memory. It wasn’t that long a tank, maybe only 20 inches in length. The ‘huge school’ of Neons (not Cardinals) was just 20 (still a huge number back in those teenage days). They didn’t last that long, contracting some common Neon fish disease, ending her colorful experiment. But that still lasts in my memory, and there it is still a very long tank filled with 100 (well maybe only 50) bright colorful Cardinals shining like neon lights against that black gravel and background.
Today, for however long they last, I have two schools of 20+ fish in each of two large tanks, mostly Neons, but at least 10 are Cardinals, moving Marie’s memory into today’s reality where I can actually validate those numbers and yes, there are 20 in each tank.
Thanks Marie, for the wonderful memories (my eyes are tearing up as I write this and recall her impact on our lives those many years ago), often driving us kids to a swimming hole in her pink (yes, PINK!) Buick, the Stanley Home Products distinctive award she earned for a lifetime of customer sales and service, which today is still carried on by her son, Ray, my lifetime friend and fellow tropical fish hobbyist.
Check out my office tank with its school of Cardinals and Neons recorded minutes ago now on YouTube for you at https://youtu.be/H2FtpXVFYF0