"Knowing enough..."

So I’m knee deep in planning my next tank, and exploring the myriad of options out there for equipment and such. And I find that, even though I'm really in touch with the aquarium world in general, I’m actually a bit “rusty” on some of the equipment choices…I guess being in my  “botanical bubble” at Tannin Aquatics for the past 2 years (offering what my reefer friends call “twigs and nuts”) has left me a bit myopic and hyper-focused on one aspect of the hobby.

I can tell you all about what fish comes from where and grows in such-and-such a fashion, and what kinds of materials we can provide to help recreate aspects of the habitat and water parameters, blah, blah…I use that knowledge daily. But when it comes to the “latest and greatest” hardware, I’m a bit…humbled most of the time.

Oh sure, I’m up on the latest technology and concepts, and I know who makes what, but if you ask me who makes the best canister filter or LED light, and why, I might not have a tremendous depth to my answer. I know what works for us on a commercial level from my experience in the coral propagation business, and these are dramatically different products than I’d use on my home system. “I know what I know”, I suppose…or rather, "I know enough."

Staring at manufacturer’s websites and reading about “bluetooth-enabled" this-and-that made my head spin. Honestly. I mean, somewhere along the line, super-high technology just settled into the aquarium game- for the better of the hobby. But wow, in just a few years, things have changed a LOT! Seems like you have to be an expert at things like computers, cell phones, and home electronics just to grasp how some of this stuff works and what it actually can do! I think I have a better grasp on how to replicate an igarape than I do on how to program my controller!

The research phase for my new system has been kind of…well- humbling… Made me realize that, even after a lifetime in the aquarium hobby, you simply can’t know everything there is to know. Sometimes, you DO need to rely on “experts” in other aspects of the aquarium field. 


Just a few of days ago, a friend of mine and I an out to our favorite LFS for the time-honored tradition of looking for fish for our aquariums. My friend was looking for Tetras and livebearers, and I was focused on finding a pair of dwarf cichlids. When we were browsing the FW section, we had more than just a working knowledge of these fishes, but the reality was that we were woefully “out of practice”, so to speak, on many of the finer points of fish ID, etc. We did what everyone does- we relied on the guys at the shop to steer us in the right direction! And it was a great experience!

Fish shopping is no different to me than the hyper-focusing we do in aquascaping on things like wood and rocks. When haunting some of the planted tank forums and specialty discussion groups (like cichlids, livebearers, and killies), I realized that there is so much knowledge out there that it’s almost impossible to absorb it all. I was really blown away by the sophistication of you planted people…I mean, it makes running a basic community tank look comparatively simple; a lot like a reef tank (which I know REALLY well, BTW, if I say so myself!). And the people who breed some of the crazier cichlids and catfishes- they are on a whole different level.

In addition to being humbled by the awesome amount of “stuff” there is to know in the aquarium world, I was struck by a sense of excitement and enthusiasm that I haven’t felt in years…It’s fun to learn about all of these new (to me) things. There are products, procedures, trends, and “experts” in these areas of the hobby that are completely unknown to us…how cool is that? These people have decades of experience with say, South American Cichlids- or even more obscure- the genus Amphilophus, for example. Etc., etc., etc. 

To know what they know, you simply have to DO stuff for a long time…Or ask those who know and LISTEN- then do your own followup research-Just like in the reef world. Sure, you can learn a lot by reading, and more by asking-but in the end, you have to DO stuff in order to get the valuable experience.

My advice, if you find yourself in a rut, looking for something to get you mentally back in the game? Do something, anything- that gets you mentally engaged in a new aspect of the hobby. Do some research, seek out advice of others with experience in those fields, and then…to coin a phrase from an old Nike campaign- Just DO It.

With an almost infinite amount of stuff to learn, and enormous resources at our fingertips, including friendly, experienced hobbyists-there has never been a better time to embark on new journeys in the aquarium hobby. Yes, the usual caveats about taking people’s advice with a grain of salt apply, but with the proper attitude, and the willingness to be humble and “new” at something again, the possibilities for enjoyment in the aquarium hobby are as vast as the rivers and lakes of the world.

Yeah, it's perfectly okay to "know what you know..."

It might just be more than you think!

Think about it.

Stay educated. Stay curious. Stay enthralled. Stay excited.

Stay wet!


Scott Fellman
Tannin Aquatics

Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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