Better.Stronger.Faster. Pricier. What?

Okay, so you see me wax on about over-reliance on technology and lamenting the declining “art” of aquarium keeping…It sounds like a broken record at times, but it’s a valid observation, IMO. So, the latest “malady” I seem to have encountered over the past few days is “over-build syndrome”, a condition that seems to have arisen from a desire to make our systems bigger, bolder, faster, stronger than everyone else’s…I’ve talked to four different people in the last few days, from different parts of the country- that are building or contemplating building- systems that are just ridiculously overbuilt, overthought, and…well, wasteful for what the hobbyist wants to accomplish.


I mean, the amount of high-priced, rather unnecessary gear being assigned to each planned "build" is obscene, IMHO. And the scariest part, at least to me, is that the hobbyists in question cannot explain exactly why they need the particular pieces of equipment that they are contemplating. They were asking for my "blessing" (as if I somehow had this magic capability to "green light" everyone's dream system, lol). The choices seem to have been made based upon what they think you're "supposed" to have for the particular type of aquarium/livestock plan in question, based on...what?

Just what is it about us hobbyists these days? Here we are, a century after the  "modern" hobby was born,  and we’re still as amped as ever. It’s great to be enthusiastic. I love it. However, I get concerned when I see people thinking that we have to throw everything at our tanks to create this biggest, baddest, most powerful system ever! It's even more prevalent in the reef side of the hobby, IMHO. Not only are we hyper-equipping our systems with lots of ultra-high-tech, water-scrubbing, flow inducing, high-intensity light-emitting technology- we’re pushing the limits in stocking our systems: It seems like it’s all about ultra-rare, uber-pricy, “name-drop quality” livestock these days! There is so much intensity that it’s palpable.

Deep breath.

Sure, technological advances have been good to the hobby, and I’ve blabbed on and on about this over the months…But seriously- why all the angst? Why do we make things bigger and badder than they need to be? Three foot high, multi-pump protein skimmers on tanks that require 10% or less of the capability of these behemoths? Tanks with mass water movement provided by banks of electronic pumps and large, over-thought filter syste, automated CO2 injection systems, etc., are popping up everywhere. And in many instances, these technologically-over-the-top systems are being justified by their designers because they feel that this is what you "need" to be "successful."

I touched on this before, but I still wonder- why do we have to build systems based on this kind of thinking? Maybe it’s fun to build overly complex, chest-beating-quality aquariums? Is it the foundation for some future tank? Do we just like to impress our friends with crazy build threads on the message boards? Or, could it be that the "Twitter generation" sees bright and shiny gear and can't resist. Perhaps...perhaps, it's a "crutch"- a replacement for having to learn and practice the art of aquatic husbandry. Maybe the mindset it, "If I throw in all of this fancy gear,  I won't have to (insert basic husbandry task here)." 

I dunno, enlighten me, please.

Is spending obscene amounts of money on crazy new gear for your new tank that you really don't understand considered "progress?"

Are we becoming slaves to our over-built tanks and their expensive equipment? There is a lot of monitoring and maintenance involved with excessive amounts of gear. I know we’ve talked about the fact that a lot of people enjoy the tech- and that’s not what I’m getting at today. I’m talking about overkill. I have literally talked to reefer hobbyists that approach their tanks like a real estate investment, talking about “break-even” and “payoff”…what the #$%#$%^# are they talking about? It’s a hobby! WOW. Where will the fun be when you need to run a spreadsheet to see if you SHOULD be enjoying your hobby at this point.

("According to my modeling, I should be able to enjoy this tank on October 23, 2019!")

I’m NOT saying that you shouldn’t outfit your tank with cool equipment. I love tech. What I am saying is that we need to reign ourselves in and think about what we really need to get the job done. Nothing more. Usually, it’s good equipment and excellent husbandry fundamentals. Oh…husbandry- the “H word again. That’s something that we need to keep thinking about. Please. We have awesome technology now. Use technology to assist! That means restraining yourself from over-spending on too much stuff "just because."


“Stuff”, as I have stated ad nauseum of late, will not make yo a better aquarist. And too much stuff will only make you a less financially stable aquarist…one who will not be able to participate in the real “meat” of the hobby- the growing and keeping of animals- because you are still paying off the tank build…Slow down and enjoy! And don’t feel that your system must be filled with only exotic fishes, plants, and corals that have crazy-high prices…we’ve talked about this before, too. Hasn’t sunk in some places, apparently. I don’t know about you, but I’m far more impressed by someone’s healthy, vibrant community tank system than I am by their $850 all titanium needle-wheel pump or over-priced “designer” Discus! 

Yup, time to take the excess out of aquarium keeping! Just enjoy.

Today’s rant…filled with thoughts from the past few months, and much hope for the hobby’s future, of course. 

Till next time,

Stay focused on what's really important. Stay engaged. Stay thoughtful.

And Stay Wet

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics

Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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