Think about it. But not too much.

I think there is something about tropical fish and aquariums in general that invites over-thinking" stuff.

Yeah, we've kinda made an art form of it.

Cases in point:

Algae problem? 

We analyze every possible cause, sometimes embracing on multiple courses of action, and then ultimately realize that it boils down to the fact that we had excessive nutrients in the water, something that could have been addressed first, and with appropriate actions taken, would have solved the problem much faster!

Sometimes, we attack the problem, but spend valuable time on the wrong part of it.

Disease outbreak? 

I get a lot of emails from aquarists trying to figure out how the new fish caused their disease outbreak ("It appeared healthy, and my LFS quarantines all new fishes"), when the reality is that it DID, and that it would be far better focusing on the solution- that being, removing the fishes to a treatment aquarium, etc.- and for the future, instituting a rigid quarantine protocol for future additions. 

We know how to solve most of the problems that we encounter in the hobby. We're actually pretty darned good at aquarium keeping. A century or so of "modern" aquarium keeping experience has definitely paid off.

Yet, we sometimes make things more complicated than we need to, adding layers of complexity to problems that, although important or critical, can be more than adequately addressed by simply DOING something we already know how to do.

Water quality is important in closed systems. Water exchanges are simple, economical, and probably one of the very best thing we can do as aquarists to keep captive aquatic animals healthy for long periods of time.

Many aquarists just despise them, and will go to great (and often expensive) lengths to avoid doing them, or to make them less onerous.

Yet, an entire cottage industry of gadgets, procedures, etc. exists around the premise of "Eliminates water changes!" or "Reduces water changes!"

I mean, how many hobbyists do you know who developed "automatic water change" systems for their aquariums, with a lot of experimentation, complexity, labor, expense- and sometimes, consequences? In fact, I've seen at least two hobbyists who had to submit homeowner's insurance claims for damage caused by an "automatic water change system!"

Why not just perform a water change? A siphon hose and a bucket can do wonders.

Even scientists do this.

I saw an article not too long ago about how scientists were working on this "novel way to help restore coral reefs that were threatened by global warming, etc.", and how they went to all of this effort to collect plantar larvae, let them settle in the lab, then attach the young coral  to rock on a reef. Collecting coral larvae is difficult, time consuming, and resource-draining.

I couldn't help but think that we, as hobbyists, have been fragmenting and propagating corals for some 3 decades now, both at a personal and commercial level. I was like, "Guys, if you need coral to restore a coral reef, just visit a local reef club meeting! They'll hook you up. Why are you making it so complicated?"

Now, granted, there's more to it than that, and I cannot downplay the achievements of the scientists involved...collecting and studying larvae and all...but man, if you want to restore a reef...quickly, why not just make some frags?

And the best part of the article was that there was an admission by a scientist working on the project who said something to the effect that, "As scientists, we're great at studying corals, but not great at growing them." So what did they do? They turned to aquarists! Of course, aquarists at scientific institutions, which, as any reefer will tell you, generally have reef aquariums in their facilities that are, ahem, "less impressive" than an average home aquarium! (Granted, there are many awesome reef tanks at public aquariums, but generally, to a hobbyist, most are underwhelming, despite the obvious availability of manpower and resources available for the institutions to create and  maintain them.)

Just call a reef club, tell 'em what you need, and be done with it already. You don't think hobbyists would crawl all over each other to be involved in a project like that?

Ouch, harsh. But yeah, an example of how we tend to overthink aquarium-related stuff, even at "higher levels."

Think of the time, money, aggravation, and energy that we can save if we just focus on the problem, and don't over think it.

Don't overthink stuff.

And stay wet.

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics





Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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