Just how impulsive are you?


Are you an “impulsive aquarist?”

I ask that not to get some secret marketing data I can use to exploit your psychological weaknesses for my own nefarious purposes (hmm..but that does sound like an interesting idea..). Rather, I’m curious because I think that most hobbyists are not. Usually. Okay, maybe sometimes…

As aquarists, we’re taught that nothing good ever happens quickly in a tank, and I’d tend to agree with that. However, as consumers, I think hobbyists sometimes make things happen quickly with last-minute purchasing decisions!


I deal with lots of aquarists every day with my companies, and I am occasionally surprised at the additional purchases that people make to “fill out” their orders- you know, to hit free shipping, get an extra piece to share with a friend, or just to “scratch that itch” to try a new species…It happens just often enough to make me think that us fish geeks are not necessarily impulsive, but we are strategic. In other words, the purchase may not be something you would start your order with, but it justifies purchasing at the end in order to hit that free shipping number, etc.


 I think many aquarists really wanted that extra item in the first place. A lot of times, they’ll mention, in passing, at the end of an order or other conversation, “So, are those Concha Pods really that hard to sink?” I get a sneaking feeling that they intended buy the coral anyways, and maybe just needed some assurance that it’s a cool pod, or within their skill set to utilize, or something like that. The impulse buy by is almost always something unrelated to their primary order (for example, 5 orders of Catappa  and Guava leaves, and then a package food added at the last second)! 


So very like us fish geeks, isn’t it?


And then, of course, there are those of us who are the polar opposite of this:



I recall driving my LFS employees crazy when I was younger, because I’d spend literally hours in the store, scrutinizing every aspect of a fish before I’d pull the trigger…or not (that must be why I drove ‘em crazy!). I would look at every fin ray, every gill movement…I’d look at every twitch and scratch and correlate it with known disease symptoms versus regular behaviors for the said species…I would sometimes bring my reference material (like Axelreod’s books for FW, and maybe the early Albert Thiel stuff after the dawn of the “reef” age, notes from Bob Fenner’s books in my hand later on), and would just geek out. Of course, I would second guess everything the LFS guy said because “the books” said otherwise, even though the employees worked with these animals every day of their lives…My first brush with aquarium-keeping “dogma”, I suppose. My how things change!

I knew at an early age that I’d never be an “impulse aquarist." I think it might have come about because, when you’re a kid, you have a 10 gallon tank and $5.67 that you’ve painstakingly saved for months to spend. You need to be absolutely sure of your purchases. I was very thorough! Even as an adult, with a 225 gallon tank, and much more to spend, I still found myself doing the same thing (okay, maybe with my iPhone in tow, instead of some well-worn reference book). You should see me when I go to the wholesalers here in L.A for Unique Corals….it could take me half a day to pick like 5 fish. At least when we obtain stock from our usual sources overseas, we’ve built up personal relationships to the point where these guys know our tastes, so that’s actually easier than going to the wholesaler’s facility!

Equipment choices are even more subject to analysis and absurd scrutiny, because hey- how often do you purchase a new filter or a lighting system? ( OK, wait- don’t answer that). But seriously, when you’re sending the big bucks on a critical piece of life-support equipment, you want to get it right! One of the things I love most about my friend Jake Adams and the Reef Builders website is that they will analyze the heck out of almost anything, from an algae magnet to a new aquarium controller. Useful stuff for many of us- essential for anal-retentive fish geeks like myself.


Of course, impulsiveness can permeate every aspect of being an aquarist, including setup and configuration of your tank. I may not be overly impulsive in terms of additions and purchases, but I CAN be spur of the moment on tank decisions. What exactly do I mean by “tank decisions?” For example, I’ll be scraping algae or some other mundane maintenance chore in my tank, and suddenly, I’ll notice a rock or driftwood branch that seems “not right” somehow…”Hmm, what if I move this guy over here…?” Of course, this almost always leads to a spontaneous “refreshing” of the aquascape, often taking hours to complete. Somehow, I find this relaxing. Weird. So it’s entirely possible to be analytical and calculating on some aspects of aquarium keeping, and spontaneous on others.

I believe that this applies to many of us.

 And of course, there are aquarists who are entirely impulsive, which is why you see entire 200 gallon tanks full of every plant and fish imaginable, with rock wool pots sticking out from every conceivable angle, and all sorts of gadgets and stuff. Of course, I cannot, in all honesty, say anything negative about them, because some of these types keep us in business, lol!


Not that it’s worth analyzing…but those of you who follow my rants all the time know that I love to postulate on- well, everything aquarium-culture related, and this is just another aspect to ponder. 

So…it begs the question: Are you an impulsive aquarist?

Think about TAHT for a while!

And stay wet!




Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics






Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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