Why do I like small , grey-brown fishes? Why do I covet fishes, and even corals that most people find rather uninteresting? Why do I get excited about wild guppies, Chocolate Gouramis, and kind of "dull" kinfefishes, like Sternopygus macurus way more than I do about almost any other fishes? Do I not get out enough? Am I too cool to jump on the bandwagon of new fishes and corals? Or, could it simply be that, after several decades in the hobby- I’ve learned to be honest with myself about what I like? Hmm…is there a lesson here? Or even a blog? Let’s see…
(Eigemania viricens by Luis Ruiz Berti- Dull? By whose standards?
I get to see a lot of corals and fishes- a lot of really rare stuff. I don’t care how long you’ve been in the hobby or worked in the aquatics industry- when a new livestock shipment arrives and it’s time to break out the box cutters, even the most crusty fish person still gets a kind of giddy excitement, anticipating what is in the box.
Not too long ago, I was in my LFS when the shipment arrived. As usual, I hung around watching the crew open up the boxes to see what was swimming. "Designer" Angels? An L264 Pleco? No, this time, it was a box of wild Cardinal Tetras. The “bread and butter”, ultra “common” staples of the aquarium hobby, yawn.
Actually, I wasn’t yawning. I was admiring this brightly colored gems swimming in their bags, and considering what brought them here. Just a few days earlier, these little guys were happily swimming somewhere in their native Amazonia, thinking only of where their next meal was coming from, and ways to avoid becoming menu items for someone. What were they thinking now, I wondered? Who would end up buying them? What size aquarium would they spend the rest of their lives in? Would they be comfortable, well fed- or would they slowly waste away and die in agony? Do we ever think about this?
Was I being overly sentimental? Stupidly self-righteous? Maybe. But I was contemplating; just for a second- how easy it is to take for granted what has become “common” to us. These fishes are popular in the aquarium hobby for a reason: They are beautiful, not trendy. Yet, they are interesting creatures. They are precious, regardless of the price tag- and they are worthy of our respect and admiration. They need not be expensive and flashy to be worthy of our admiration, do they?
To further compound my theory, I needed only to a few aisles slip over in the shop to admire the (very grey!) “Tanganyika Lampeyes” that they received not too long ago. Okay, on the surface, these grayish Rift Lake killifish are about as unexciting (is that a word?) as a fish can get- a poster child for the freshwater “haters”…But wait a minute. Have you ever even seen one? Probably not that often. Probably because they are rather…well, bland, and collectors toss ‘em back. But man- that’s what’s so cool about them! They are different! Subtle. Imagine how awesome they’d look as contrasting players in a tank full of colorful African Cichlids!
Think about the humble “Blue Streak Cardinalfish” Apagon leptocanthus of the marine aquarium hobby trade. This little Indo Pacific fish looks for all the world like a freshwater Tetra from the Amazon, yet it’s a 100% marine…Subtly colored, yet somehow compelling. It sells out really fast. Why? I don’t know. I mean, why is a “Pokerstar Montipora” so hot? To each his own, I suppose. Could it be that we really, truly love the creatures of the sea for what they are? I believe we do!
The beauty of the aquarium hobby is that there really IS room for all sorts of fishes, plants and inverts. Pretty much every animal out there gets at leastsome love from the reef masses! Admit it- you’ve occasionally stared longingly at a brown coral in your LFS and wondered, right? You’ve contemplated purchasing that grey-brown Barb with the cute eyes before, huh? You may have even owned a Giant Danio once!
There is hope for the hobby after all…Long live the dull! Who loves the grey fishes? WE do.
Until next time…
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