The first step is admitting you have a problem. The second step is to set up a YouTube channel and record your tank obsession – just like Rachel O’Leary does!
Those who stand out from the crowd always deserve admiration. Rachel O’Leary certainly fits into that group. Sporting a multitude of tattoos, rainbow Mohawk, and a heart of gold, she has captured the attention and admiration of fish hobbyists across the world.
Known by her screen name and YouTube alias “MsJinkzd,” O’Leary wandered into the fish world 13 years ago with dwarf frogs and mystery snails. The genetics of these creatures intrigued O’Leary, and she started to line breed them for specific color traits. She knew she was hooked when “I started putting tanks on my kitchen counter, my bedroom dresser, and in my children’s rooms.”
Filling her home with tanks was not a lost effort, as her two daughters, Abby and Clelia, have taken an active interest in it as well. They travel with their mother to aquascaping competitions, and have even entered contests themselves. And even though her husband isn’t as interested in fish, Rachel says he’s supportive by assisting with many of the do-it-yourself projects that come with the hobby. A few of the projects he’s completed include custom-built the aquarium racks, and intricate plumbing and electrical systems that are essential in her fish room.
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Speaking of her fish room, Rachel has lost track of the tanks she currently has running, but says that she swore she’d never have more than 50 at a time… several racks of tanks ago. She dreams of a fish building with 400 to 500 tanks that come equipped with a fully automated water changing system.
O’Leary made a name for herself among fish aficionados thanks to her YouTube channel that offers easy-to-understand advice to new and experienced aquarists. She didn’t set out to become famous; it just sort of happened along the way.
“I really never would have guessed I would be any sort of authority in any capacity. I am a self-taught hobbyist and an uber geek,” O’Leary says on her fishy fame. “Back when I first started attending events, no one else was really interested in the tiny fish and invertebrates. They used to joke about all my expensive “feeders,” but those relationships really are what forged the path for me to get speaking engagements, articles published, my book published, and the notoriety I have now.”
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O’Leary is full of surprises, and her biggest challenge has to be with her fame. “The biggest obstacle for me with being well known is that I am TERRIBLE with people names. I can remember any Latin I have ever read about fish or critters, but I will forget a human beings name within seconds. It is very embarrassing to be called by name, recognize a face, and have absolutely NO clue what their name is. I used to try and assign fish Latin to people’s names to remember them, but it is like my brain has a saturation point for humans.”
Other than her YouTube videos, what else propelled O’Leary from mystery snail breeder to fish famous? She had a little help from her friends, of course. She attributes are rise to fame to her involvement in several forums, including Monster Aquaria Network and its owner Li Chih, whom she worked with at aquarium events.
It was at these events she met and befriended the co-author of her book, Mark Denaro. “Mark really showed me the ropes of getting in fish from overseas and was a huge support system in that capacity,” she says. Another instrumental person in her development is Hans Evers, who O’Leary describes as her “fish god.” Lastly, she attributes Joey Mullen, the king of DIY (another popular YouTube channel among the fish folks), who she says gives her a kick in the pants when needed, has helped her to realize her potential in reaching out to hobbyists, and connects her with valuable information on the web.
O’Leary is the epitome of diverse – outside of fish-related activities, she is a stay at home mom who has an education in Art Therapy as well as Fine Arts. Prior to her fish success, she was trained as a veterinary technician specializing and cats and exotic animals. She also has a huge interest in body modification, and old American cars.
If you recall one of our past articles “ Most Embarrassing Stories,” I couldn’t help but ask if O’Leary had any to share. “Too many to count,” she says. “We all make mistakes, and hopefully learn from them. A memorable one is that I learned the hard way to quarantine plants from overseas sources. They are treated with chemicals to prevent transmission of plant pests and nematodes, and this treatment is super deadly to invertebrates – especially shrimp. I got in an anubias order once from overseas, and placed them throughout the fish room, including in all my shrimp tanks. Needless to say, I came downstairs the next morning to a fish room full of dead shrimp. It was devastating, but I learned a valuable lesson reinforcing the need for quarantine no matter what!” It’s always nice to know that even the pros make mistakes sometimes!
O’Leary left us with this advice to fish keepers: “Take your time, research your fish first, ask questions after you have done some research, and have a lot of patience. It takes time for a tank to mature. Always remember there are multiple ways to do things, no one person’s advice is the only way to do things. Keep up with the water changes, feed a good quality diet, and beware – this hobby is addictive!”
If you’d like to know more about Rachel O’Leary, please visit her YouTube Channel, and her official website.