We had goldfish in a bowl as kids (one at a time) I think my little sister got the first one for her birthday. Later I had a friend whose mom kept goldfish and koi- I was amazed when I walked into her front living room and there were several huge tanks with a foot-long fish in it (her koi were in a backyard pond. She told me the fishes would freeze in winter and thaw out in spring, start swimming around. I thought that was awesome). At some point my parents got me a ten-gallon w/an undergravel filter. I had feeder goldfish for a while, but I think at that point I was more interested in rescaping with pebbles and crappy decorations than the fish themselves.
Then in high school I helped some friends of the family move to a new house. It was quite a drive, and I recall the buckets in the back of the van w/their fish in it. I "helped" get the tanks set up again in the new house. They had a large community tank and also raised angelfish- I remember a bare tank with young angels in the back room. I'm sure I was more in the way than helpful, but I was so fascinated with the angelfish. I came home with a pair of half-dollar-sized angels and got a heater for my tank. I think must have upgraded to a 20gal, because I kept that pair of angels with a few swordtails and a panda cory cat for many years. My parents took care of the tank when I went to college. One of the angelfish survived long enough that when my first daughter went to visit her grandparents for the summer, she met that fish. It must have been 16 or 17 years old.
Few years later my daughter came home with a goldfish and a bowl, from a carnival she'd been to. When the fish died, I thought a betta would be a better choice for a fishbowl (of course I found plenty of info online telling me this would be okay!) For over a year we had two bettas, each in a gallon bowl. I kept java moss in their bowls and did 90% water changes once a week. They didn't have heaters but I would put the bowls on top of my fridge where there was a heat vent in the ceiling just above, and they survived ok.
Learned that wasn't the best way for bettas to live. I bought my daughter a three-gallon tank for christmas, but couldn't get the tank to cycle and she decided pretty quick it was "boring" to keep a pet you can't touch or play with- so I got rid of that tank (she got a hamster instead). Meanwhile kept the anubias barteri that had been in that tank, and finally got a ten-gallon for my betta. (I still have that plant).
Another few years later my mom gave me some birthday money and told me to spend it on something special for myself- I really wanted to get an aquarium again. Found a used 20L on craigslist, that was a frustrating start because I had to replace most of the equipment soon after I got it. It was a mess- just gravel and plastic plants at first. Had a near disaster when filter leaked and got into the power strip that everything was plugged into- and several gallons water on the carpet in my rented apartment (I've told that story elsewhere).
Then I thought to try live plants- found a guy nearby who sold some out of his basement- his fish room amazed me again. I love growing houseplants and gardening, so I wonder why it took me so long to figure out I'd love having a planted tank, too. Just sitting looking at the tank makes me so happy, and I spend way too much time thinking up what I will do next with it. Eventually I'm going to keep angelfish again, when i can get a bigger tank... The cherry barbs I have now are the ones that were in that first 20L- they've sure been through a lot as I went thru many mistakes... I had a really steep learning curve with keeping planted tanks- it took an entire year for me to get my current 38gal into a good condition and I would have given up many times if it weren't for the help I've gotten on this site.
Yeah there's more to tell but this got long enough, I think. My kids think I'm "crazy about fish" I guess it's true. But I don't know which I love more, the fish or the planted aspect of it all.
10 gal planted- male plakat betta, horned nerite snail, malaysian trumpet snails
38 gal planted- cherry barbs, kuhli loaches, serpae tetra, amano shrimps, oto catfish, nerites, mts
20H "Window Tank"- pair of swordtails, some mts