Why is it so important to get the aquarium up and running FAST?
I had a customer ask me the other day about ways to "get their aquarium established quickly." You know, getting through the nitrogen cycle, having a full population of fish int the tank, and a lush, dense growth of plants. Speed was very, very important to her.
These conversations inevitably drive me nuts.
They leave me sort of bewildered. I remember addressing this many times when I was with a firm that designed and maintained custom aquariums.
Deadlines. Fast and furious build times.
Okay, I understand to some extent that we like to start enjoying the fruits of our labor as quickly as possible. That's why we have construction schedules, nonstop airline flights, and microwave entrees.
I blame those TV home renovation shows for some of this. They're a cultural metaphor for our impatience: You know, there is always some crazy deadline to meet. The huge kitchen remodel has to be completed in 4 weeks, or whatever. And of course, the highly scripted, highly edited and compressed presentation, to get it all in to a 50 minute television show subliminal adds to the impression that you can whip through anything quickly and get great results. And if you look carefully, I'll bet that many of those remodels don't look as nice as ones that are done on realistic time tables.
I read somewhere recently that if page load times on a website are more than like a half second or something, that a good percentage of people will leave the website without continuing. Even if a site is one that interests them. We have "instant messaging" and Twitter to convey information rapidly. If your cat dances to the latest song, you shoot a quick video on the phone, post it on Twitter, Vine, or Snapchat, and it's gone viral all over the world in hours.
We can come home from a long day at work and whip out a frozen pizza and gave it ready to eat in minutes.
We're used to- and expect- speed. From everything.
And we, as the aquarium establishment, apparently don't do a good enough job of explaining this to new hobbyists, or people who simply want a tank in their home.
However, nature isn't a microwave pizza, ready in 20 minutes. And we have to realize that when we are creating an aquarium, we're pulling from several human disciplines, including science, art, construction- among others- each of which is something that cannot be rushed without some form of compromise or penalty.
If you "force" the nitrogen cycle to establish itself more quickly, you place animal lives in jeopardy. If you much the assembly of the filter, you might not tighten the plumbing components enough. If you throw together your aquascape, it may not look as nice as if you took the time to do it exactly how you envisioned it.
The attitude about racing to get the tank "ready" always leaves me scratching my head, because I'm thinking, the goal of the aquarium hobby is, first and foremost, to have fun, while ensuring the health of the life forms under our care. And the goal is to provide a level of care that keeps them healthy and happy for their natural life spans.
Yet, for some reason, we tend to project our human impatience and desire or instant gratification on living creatures, which, in my opinion, is sort of the opposite of nature's "timetable." She does things in a time and manner that are best suited for the creatures who reside in the natural world. There is no need or reason to conform to our timetable to get the aquarium cycled and stable this weekend.
Besides, if the goal is to keep an aquarium functioning for the longest period of time, what's the rush to get it stabilized?
I'm willing to bet that how long it takes to get an aquarium established has no correlation with how long it will be in existence, or function well.
What about taking the time to savor all parts of the journey? To understand that each phase of starting an aquarium, from selection of the tank itself, to assembling the equipment, to planning and laying down the aquascape, and ultimately, stocking the aquarium- has its own unique set of challenges, fascinations, and pleasures.
Most real hobbyists do that. I think we're impatient as the next guy, but we understand that not all journeys must to be quick to be enjoyable.
We need to convey this to new members of our "tribe."
We, as experienced hobbyists need to explain that, although we can force things to move faster, the results over the long term are often compromised, requiring painful and expensive "do-overs' down the line to correct mistakes made while rushing to get the aquarium "done" (and what is "done", anyways? Another topic for a mother blog).
This type of lack of understanding of the true nature of the hobby has lead to misconceptions, criticism, and the popularization of the aquarium hobby as wasteful, environmentally insensitive, and unaware, which is farther from the truth than most of the do-gooders who applaud vapid films like "Finding Dory" as "educational"would have the general public believe.
When we encourage people to rush through stuff and think only of some personal "end game", without regard for the consequences to the life forms they intend to keep, we encourage the very thought that fuels the unwarranted criticism of our hobby by the uninformed public.
We need to demonstrate that "getting there" is truly more than half of the fun! That to many, the journey itself is one of the most-if not THE most- enjoyable parts of the hobby.
The goal is to enjoy an aquarium for the longest time possible, so the fact that it takes a few extra weeks to get a new aquarium properly set up, cycled, and stabilized is of no consequence, if you look at it from that perspective. The minute you embark on the journey of setting up a tank, you should be "enjoying" it.
If not, what's the whole point, right?
The journey is ongoing. And enjoyment is what you make of it. A matter of perspective.
No need rush.
Something to think about this weekend when you're changing water, scraping algae, or just chilling out in from of your aquarium.
Stay engaged. Stay patient.
And Stay Wet (for a long, long time!).