"Rights of passage" in the aquarium hobby...

Seems like just about everything we do in aquarium keeping invloves some sort of "right of passage", or "barrier to entry" before you achieve exactly what you want to achieve, right?

I see this with crystal clarity with the "New Botanical" style aquariums we espouse so much here: 

A week or two after seeing your 'scape and getting your prepped botanicals into your aquarium, a lot of you will notice a "biofilm" on them, which can be a bit unsightly, but will ultimately pass after another week or two. Then, some of you experience a type of algal growth on the botanicals, which often spontaneously goes away on its own after a nerve wracking few weeks...You just have to wait it out. And accept the progression and characteristics of these systems.

I call these "stages" "rights of passage."

Yeah, the "crap" you have to go to before you get exactly what you want. Not always fun. Often times, challenging and annoying, to say the least. Only those aquarists who prove their mettle by not shrinking from the challenges, or calling it quits, reap the ultimate rewards.

There are a lot of "rights of passage" in aquarium keeping, huh? For example, before you can get a breeding pair of cichlids, you often have to go through a bunch of specimens, with their aggressive courting rituals and violent challenges to members of the opposite sex, often requiring you to intervene to avoid injury. Ultimately, after all the maneuvering, you end up with a healthy, compatible pair for years.

A "right of passage."

Reef aquariums are envied by many. However, to get to the drool-worthy phase, you generally have to go through a succession of awful algae blooms, a protracted nitrogen cycle establishment phase, and a sort of "settling in" period for your corals and inverts. Monitoring, observing, testing, patience- and the passage of time- are the key. THEN, you get to enjoy a thriving, colorful reef aquarium.  Those who tire early and quit don't get the privilege of enjoying these systems.

A "right of passage."

"High end" planted aquariums require very careful setup, management, a set of ugly algae blooms, adjustments to dosing, CO2, etc. before they begin to look like the green scenes of our dreams. You can't rush it. To do so is to violate the laws of the natural world. Nature imposes rigid "penalties" for those who attempt to circumvent her challenges. You need to push through the gauntlet set by nature to get the reward you seek.

A right of passage.

Even when you're setting up your first community aquarium, there are basic principles of tank management to learn, a nitrogen cycle to establish, algae blooms to deal with...

All "rights of passage."

The point of all of these examples is not to say that the aquarium hobby is incredibly difficult or ridiculously challenging.

The point is to show you that just about everything that we want to accomplish in aquarium keeping requires passing through some "barrier to entry"- some set of challenges that test our patience, require us to adjust, make changes, slow down, and adapt a patient attitude- before we can move on to the next step in our journey.

These rights of passage continue to follow us throughout our aquarium careers...the more advanced the things are that we try, the greater the barriers to entry- and the more important a high degree of patience is required in order to overcome them. It never really goes away...the challenges, that is. Nor the desire to do different things in the hobby.

What changes is our point of view; our attitude. It seems that, after a period of time facing the regular challenges in aquaristics, we come to understand, even expect- sometimes even welcome them- as signs that we are progressing. Rather than something to dread, these barriers become familiar signposts- landmarks, if you will- that tell us that we're progressing on the right path. Much like life, the aquarium hobby demands our best, and will reward us in kind- if we stay at it and somehow "prove our worthiness."

The key ingredient is to be patient. To never fear the challenges. To never be discouraged by the setbacks. All they represent are simply barriers to entry on the long path towards accomplishing our goals.

Regardless of what the hobby throws at you, stay encouraged. Stay steadfast. Stay optimistic. Stay patient.

And stay wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics.



Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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