I was reflecting recently with a fishy friend about the current trends and state of art of the aquarium keeping hobby. As usual, these conversations encompass a little review of the cool tanks that we’ve seen, what we’re doing, new products, who’s influential in the hobby, etc. Your typical chat about the usual fish stuff.
One point that we brought up in our discussion is the fact that the freshwater side of the hobby is remarkable for the sheer diversity of ideas and areas of specialization. You just need to peruse the web a bit before you realize there is a special interest group for just about everything! Biotopes? Sure! Aquatic plants? Take your pic: South American, Asian, or one of the 20 or so Amazonian study groups!
Cichlids? Old World, New World, Rift Lake (and which one, Tanganyika, Malawi, or Victoria)? Livebearers? Are we talking Guppies, Platys, Mollies, or Halfbeaks- or for that matter, any of the other dozen or more possible wild varieties? I can go on and on, but you get the picture.
We’ve been at it for over 100 years (in reality, much longer than that, but we’ll just use the twentieth century as a line of demarkation) and the state of the art has changed as the hobby has expanded…slowly but surely.
What is interesting to me is that as the "reef" side of the hobby “grows up”, we are starting to see some of the same kinds of specialization, but at a much more accelerated pace. In recent years, we’ve witnessed an explosion of new animals, new equipment, new techniques, and a whole new attitude about reef keeping. The state of the art changes almost monthly! "Cross pollination" between marine and freshwater is occurring regularly.
If you talk to a lot of reefers today, they might tell you that they “specialize” in SPS, but their area of interest is “Monties”, or “Tabling Acros”. A big change from a decade or so ago, when a reefer would basically say "I keep SPS" or "I keep LPS" or "I keep softies."
Now, it's getting really specilaized.
It’s amazing. The stuff we all do.
In the end, of course, we’re are all just fish geeks, obsessed with the animals and aquariums that we love so much. But what is cool is that there are soo many talented (and essentially unknown) hobbyists out there doing great things- specializing-and advancing the state of the hobby as we know it. Just take a look around at the next hobby event you attend:
That lady over there with the purple Mohawk, full-body tats, and multiple body piercings? Oh, she breeds Knifefish! That 14 year-old-kid with the dripping wet bag- he’s an ubergeek at growing aquatic mosses! The breakthroughs in this hobby often come from the most appropriate place in the hobby: The day-to-day, hardcore, obsessed fish geeks like us!
So what kind of aquarist are YOU?
I don’t think it matters, as long as you’re a passionate one. Get out there and share your knowledge, stoke a fellow fish geek with some free fry or plant cuttings, help a newbie (or experienced hobbyist) get her system going. Because not only is it cool to do, but you just might be helping another hobbyist create the next great breakthrough in the hobby!