Vendors, authors, and hobbyist in general will tell you that you have the power within you to truly enjoy the hobby, and it doesn’t just take a ton of money. If you’re not 100% content with your tank, remind yourself that it’s not all about going out and buying the latest gadget, obtaining the most unusual coral, or tearing your reef apart. It’s about having confidence is your fishkeeping skills, managing your aquariums with a sense of purpose, and sharing.
(Malawai tank by svmolden -CC BY2.5)
In chatting with some hobbyists who take a sort of psychological approach to aquarium keeping, we sort of uncovered some “truisms” that could make you a better aquarist, simply by taking on some new attitudes. I thought I’d share them with you today.
Don’t pin the success of your tanks on the “approval” of your fellow hobbyists. Enjoy what you enjoy- because YOU enjoy it. In our society, we apparently place great stock in believing that a large part of our happiness comes from the outside- something that happens to us. In the aquarium world, you see a lot of people putting out these “build threads” about their aquariums on forums worldwide, typically done in the spirit of sharing and growing in the hobby- terrific! However, if you read carefully, I submit that a fair number of these “build threads” are almost solicitations for “approval” from the aquarium-keeping community. You can almost tell by the way the hobbyist posting goes out of his/her way to impress or even appease fellow hobbyists by showing off the tremendously expensive gear he/she is accumulating, the trendiest fishes to be kept in the tank, or the over-the-top modifications being made to the room the aquarium is housed in. It’s one thing to be “aspirational.” It’s quite another to be seeking the tacit acceptance for those we interact with. Life is too short to live for others- and that applies to aquarium keeping as well!
Take a few minutes every day to simply chill out in front of your tank. I mean, we spend enormous amounts of time, money, and energy working on our aquariums, taking pictures of them, breeding fishes, tweaking systems, etc., which are indeed part of the fun of the hobby. However, they are “part” of the fun! How about just spending some quality time every day just chilling out in front of your tanks, actually enjoying it- not thinking of the next gadget you’re gonna add, or the dose of additive you need to throw in later. You might just love the hobby that much more! I can’t tell you how many aquarists I visit worldwide who spend so much time concentrating on actually doing stuff with their tanks that they seem to never spend time simply enjoying them. It’s really apparent in saltwater (ergo, reefkeeping), and I see it in freshwater with alarming frequency. I know it seems ridiculous, but ask yourself when the last time was that you simply stared into your tank without the intent of modifying, cleaning, or tweaking something? You might surprise yourself!
Look for the good stuff in your tank. As reefers, we seem to be a very self-critiquing lot, don’t we? We’re always finding something in our tank that we think needs to be improved or changed.I submit that, rather than constantly evaluating the things that we need to “fix” in our tanks, we should spend some time appreciating and complimenting ourselves (internally, at least) about the cool things that are going on in our aquariums. Sure, your Cryptocoryne “garden” may not be full and lush as you envision it will be yet, but why not give yourself a pat on the back and realize that you’ve gotten a great start on creating this beautiful thing? You may be critical of the less-than-perfect-appearing plumbing job you did on your central filter system for your fish room, but take pleasure in knowing that not only does it work, but it was your own scheme- and that, most important- it doesn’t leak! Little affirmations about the thing you put so much time and love into are never bad.
Treat your self once in a while- just because. Okay, there are definitely those of you out there who will say that I included this one because I’m an aquarium goods vendor. The reality is that I’m including this section because I’m a hobbyist! You work hard, and you probably work hard on your tank. So, if getting that new gadget or acquiring that new rare Tetra or Africa cichlid gives you some pleasure, why NOT indulge yourself from time to time? Part of the fun of being in the hobby is that you can call the shots, and if you feel like you need a “treat” from time to time, you should go for it. Pay close attention to your desire- and your budget- and toss yourself a little reward once in a while- just because. Part of what makes the hobby so fun is that it’s OURS- and we are perfectly capable of knowing when we need to give ourselves a little boost now and then, right?
Share your tanks with other aquarists. Huh? Why keep it to yourself? Invite some of your fish keeping buddies over to just hang out in front of your tank one afternoon. Do you need some help figuring out how to install that new gadget? Ask a fish keeping buddy over! The hobby, and your tank- are wonderful social “props”, and the common interest that you share with fellow hobbyists when you check out someone’s tank is very satisfying. Many strong friendships (and at least a few fish clubs) have formed over a few aquarists getting together at someone’s house to check out the new Pleco, or help install the new lighting pendant. Don’t have any fish keeping friends? Not a problem! Create some by posting on forums, and flat out ask for help, or invite local aquarists over to check your tank out. Give away some plant cuttings, kill eggs, or cichlid fry. You’d be shocked how many reefers will drive for miles and miles just to check out that 300 gallon Mbuna tank that you’ve been working on, once they’re invited!
Play to your strengths. Huh? Think about the stuff that you do well as an aquarium keeper, and what sorts of fishkeeping activities bring you the most enjoyment. Cleaning your tank? Aquascaping? Programming your controller? Just what is it that puts you in your “happy place” while working on your tank? Indulge in those things more often…Or better yet, offer your skill set and services to fellow aquarists, either by interacting on forums, or by visiting hobbyists who need your help. Take it even farther by giving a lecture at the local club about the topic or topic(s) you know best..Not only will you help others enjoy the hobby- you’ll enjoy the hobby even more yourself as you share and interact with fellow fish geeks…A great sense of satisfaction arises when you help others with something that they love, too.
Okay, I’m off of my whole “yoga-esque” thing now…
Probably was just a passing phase today…But it did feel good to get this out…I’ll be back next time with (I'm sure) a more practical, nuts-and-bolts topic that will probably tick you off in some way…that’s what you’ve come to expect, right?
Until next time,
Share, enjoy, be grateful for what we have in the hobby, and practice great fishkeeping…
And stay wet.