"Analysis Paralysis" and the fish keek- revisited.

Ok, is it just me, or do we all agonize over stocking decisions?

Like, I go though all sorts of mental gymnastics over many of the fishes that I'll add-or want to add- to my community aquariums. And the points that I take into consideration when making these decisions are not just, "Will this fish get too large?" or "Can the tank environment support this fish?" or "Will there be aggression issues?" Or even, "Do I have the skills to keep this fish?"

Those are all excellent point to consider when contemplating new fish additions...But I think about more esoteric stuff within those broader categories. Here are some recent examples:

"Do I really want another benthic characin in this tank? Will it compete for resources and territory with the other species? Will I even see it?

"That fish is attractive, but only when its in a spawning mode. Otherwise, it's a great fish with brown markings. Do I want another grey fish with brown markings?"

"Is this fish going to be timid, taking more time to settle in before it begins to feed on prepared foods? Do I have enough supplemental food sources in the tank to carry it through this adjustment phase?"

And those are just the "sub issues" related to the physical addition of the fish into the aquarium ecosystem. Being the weird, overly-obsessed- about-esoteric-and-obscure-stuff kind of aquarist I am, will think of even more ridiculous things to factor into the mix:

"Will this fish make the tank look too busy with it's foraging habits? 

"Is it one of those annoying fishes that is overly enamored with its own reflection and constantly follows itself up and down the glass of the aquarium?" (you know exactly what I mean...)

"Will I need to keep larger numbers of this fish to bring out the more natural behaviors in the fish? Do I want 8 more grey brown fish in this tank, just so they can be comfy? 

"What's the point in keeping this fish?"

I mean, I get even weirder still, thinking through every possibility, concept, and even considering the paradoxes related to keeping a certain fish.

It's kind of one of those annoying habits some of us develop over the years...I think it's a result of growing up with fish tanks in my bedroom as a kid, and having a few small tanks, knowing that I couldn't keep even a fraction of what I wanted to keep..so I had to consider almost every possibility when contemplating any new addition to my collection.

I think it was easier to secure a Supreme Court nomination than it was to get a spot in my aquariums. The slightest issue could disqualify a fish from consideration. 

This decision-making process did serve me pretty well- and continues to do so. But I think it also can result in my lack of a quick decision, which has cost me some opportunities to keep cool fishes of late.

Recently, I was considering a Pleco. Not just any Pleco. It of course had to meet some of the stringent "admission requirements" for my tank. Like, it couldn't create too much disturbance on the bottom, as I have a lot of aquatic botanicals in nice positions in the aquascape, etc., etc. I also have a number of other fishes, such as my Spotted Headstanders (Chilodus punctatus) that tend to graze among these botanicals, and I didn't want their to be any conflict  for 'utilization' of this territory. I wanted to make sure that the species I chose wasn't completely algae dependent, or required massive amounts of driftwood to chew on. And of course, it had to be a smaller one...blah, blah, blah.

I decided on the L134 "Leopard Frog" (Peckoltia compta) which seemed to tick all of the boxes. I read everything I could find on this species, surveyed my friends in the Pleco community (thanks, guys), and looked at it from every angle I could think of. Thanks to one of my friends, I was able to source a nice specimen from a dealer with a great reputation right here in Southern California! All I needed to do was pull the trigger and I'd have my "cat." So what did I do? I made the mistake of going on one more website...checking a few more facts about the natural environment of the fish..did a mental "feasibility study" related to the aquascape I had for the fish to inhabit...

You know what happened, right?

Yeah, the fish sold in the couple of days I spent performing my absurd "mental gymnastics."

I wish I was one of those guys who could just look at a fish and be ready to strike when the opportunity arises...I have actually adopted a sort of "pre-analysis" strategy, whereby I go through all of this nonsense ahead of time, and just keep a mental "go list" that I can draw upon when one of my favored fishes becomes available.

And of course, this strategy can backfire, too. This week I was literally seconds away from pulling the trigger on the acquisition of a few Crenuchus spilurus, the Sailfin Tetra- a fish that has literally been haunting my mind since childhood, when I recall seeing a pic and a charming description of it in my well-worn copy (handed down to me by my dad) William T. Innes' classic "Exotic Aquarium Fishes." 

So, here i was, ready to capture the fish of my childhood! Closing the chapter on a lifetime obsession. A fish on my "go list" for like 30 years! And what did I do yet again? In the 11th hour, I went on Google and did...more research. Took another good hard look at this fish. And read somewhere that it's "Apistogramma-like" in its existence, environmental preferences, and behaviors. This immediately set off the "red flags" in the back of my mind, as I have a beloved pair of A. cacatuoides about to spawn in my tank...and did I really need to introduce 8 grey-brown "Apisto-ike" fish into the mix at this juncture? 


You know what happened next. A mental "hold" has been placed on this acquisition until I can compete yet another "feasibility study" of the pros and cons related to getting the fish. And I know the real risk here: These fishes will probably be long gone by the time I come to a conclusion...and it may yet be another 30 years before I have the chance to grab 'me again...Yikes!

It's a blessing and a curse, I tell 'ya.

Until next time, indulge your geekiness, but not at the expense of your long-term happiness. Be analytical, be strategic. Stay focused on what you really like. Stay excited, engaged, and...geeky.

And of course...


Stay Wet.

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics


Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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