10 Characteristics common to successful aquarists- and their aquariums!

I was fortunate to visit the large aquarium of a friend of mine recently, which I hadn’t seen in some time. The aquarium was beautiful, with crystal clear water, lush growth of plants, and happy, active fishes. It caused me to reflect on the fact that, every time I visit a successful aquarium, I almost can go into a mental “checklist” of attributes that seem to be in place. 

I figured that it’s about time a memorialize them! 

 So here, not listed in any particular order, are 10 characteristics of successful aquarists and their aquariums. Sure, there are probably dozens more attributes, but here are some of the most obvious that I’ve noted over the years:

1) The aquarium is not overstocked- The hobbyist has used common sense in adding livestock to the aquarium. Plants and fishes are not forced to compete for space, current, light, dissolved oxygen, and other resources, because the hobbyist has restrained himself/herself from cramming every possible animal into the tank.


2) The aquarist engages in a regular program of maintenance- ranging from water changes to media replacement, to simple things like changing light bulbs or cleaning lenses. Maintenance issues are not taken care of “whenever”, or “when I feel like it”; rather, they are scheduled and a more-or-less regular interval of maintenance is adhered to.



3) The aquarium has a “theme"- In other words, it’s not just a random aggregation of animals- a little of this and a little of that. Rather, the aquarist has stocked his/her system along the lines that the bulk of the fishes and plants are from the Amazon, for example- or are bottom-dwelling fishes. Perhaps a collection of Loaches…whatever.  Mixes of every conceivable type of fish and plants are typically avoided.



4) Some form of chemical filtration is used- ranging from activated carbon to organic scavenger resins, and every type of media in between. These materials are regularly attended to and replaced as needed.


5) The aquarist is very engaged in his or her system- In other words, they enjoy more than just looking at the animals- they are involved in one way or another in many aspects of the system  design, maintenance, stocking, tweaking, and even just observing the aquarium on a regular basis.


6) The aquarist knows about each and every animal in the system- Sure, he or she may not know every scientific fact, but they have a working knowledge of what is in there, what it needs to thrive, and how to provide for its care. Nothing is left to chance.


7) The aquarist reads extensively- or participates in one or more online forum, club, or group, and regularly engages with and exchanges information with other hobbyists. The aquarist sees his/herself as part of a larger community.


8) Access to aquarium equipment is easy- Filters, pumps, electrical systems are all easily accessible for regular maintenance. This is intentional, designed from the start.



9) The aquarist is patient- Lessons learned by listening to others, or from success and failure, have been incorporated into the system design, stocking practices, maintenance procedures, and philosophy behind the aquarium. A very common trait of breeders, especially.


10) Quality equipment is used- The aquarist has invested in equipment that is designed and built for reliable, long-term service. Nothing is left to chance. Not always the most expensive stuff- but the best stuff is used.

 Again, this just scratches the surface, but I think it kind of touches on a few points that might be overlooked. I'd love to hear your thoughts on some that I might not have touched upon...Everyone can learn from everyone else!




Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics

Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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