It's a great time to be a fish geek, right?

I was talking with a few “old timers” in the aquarium hobby recently- guys that have been in this game for decades, like myself. We were doing the typical old-guy talk about how “hobbyists today have it better than ever…” It occurred to me that we actually DO! I mean, there have been so many positive advances that have made the hobby easier, more engaging, and more enjoyable than ever before. Many of these advances have been in just the last 3-5 years. It’s light years beyond what we had in the hobby even a decade ago.

It’s a great time to be a hobbyist!

We have the best technology that we’ve ever had: Yeah! Even the “greenest” beginner can go to the LFS or go online and select from some of the most advanced lighting systems, water pumps, and protein skimmers (for SW) ever created. Technology has trickled down from various other industries to create aquarium products far beyond anything that we had just a decade or so ago. Much like computers, aquarium technology has evolved to the point where there is a cost-effective high tech solution for just about everything! Sure, there may be a few gadgets that come around that are just not necessary, or at the very least, somewhat esoteric- but for the most part, there is a reasonably affordable, highly reliable piece of technology available to assist us with many aspects of managing our aquariums. And what’s more- the manufacturers finally understand that we are FISH PEOPLE, not engineers, audiophiles, or computer geeks. These things are easier to use than ever before. Awesome.

Lighting options are better and more varied than ever: I don’t know, quite honestly, what ‘generation” you could say that we’re on in the LED technology evolution, but the lighting options we have now are nothing short of remarkable. You need only look on e-tailer’s websites and equipment blogs like Reef Builders to see that there are literally dozens upon dozens of amazing LED lighting systems from which to choose. Manufacturers are busting their rears to come up with high quality, high-tech optics and other features, like customization, compatible control with many mainstream aquarium controllers, and now- finally- aesthetic options, like truly attractive enclosures, colors, and mounting options. Now we can select lighting that doesn’t only impact the aquarium and it’s occupants- it creates an attractive overall display in the room that the aquarium is located. Bravo!

Feeding your animals has never been easier: Foods are being specifically formulated for fishes with specific health issues in mind, such as growth, color, and reproduction. Unlike in generations past, foods developed for these issues are the result of some pretty serious research and development on the part of manufacturers. And the delivery options are better than ever, including super-clean, nutrient dense frozen foods, ultra high quality dry foods, and some of the best "fresh" feeds ever from multiple manufacturers. These "fresh" feeds, in particular, bring previously difficult-to-obtain food sources, such as fish eggs, to the everyday hobbyist. The hobbyist in rural America can have food that puts him or her on par with any fish breeding operation in the world, and it can be sent to him/her overnight! Not only that- there are dietary and nutritional supplements (“food soaks”) that have been proven to enhance the nutrition of dried and frozen foods. Bon apetit, mes poisons!

 Additives that really work: With a few exceptions, long gone are the days of “brand x” aquarium additives, claiming to do everything from bringing back guppies form the dead to improving your marriage. Today’s hobbyist can select from dozens of laboratory-quality water conditioners, additives, and supplements that are direct “trickle-down” technology from University-level research, or even privately funded, highly-focused research. Water conditioners are more stable, easier to mix, and more concentrated than ever before, making it easier for the novice hobbyist to create “fish-ready” water for his/her animals with a minimum of fuss and effort. Ultra pure grade supplements for vitamins, alkalinity, trace elements, etc. give every hobbyist the ability to manage the composition of his or her aquarium with great ease and precision. Additives like micronutrients for plants offer amazing results for  health, growth and color, placing success within reach of just about everyone if used correctly.

Captive-propagated animals are more available than ever: Those fish breeder people have been busy! In fact, as a retailer, there are so many choices of captive-bred Mbuna available now that it’s actually a chore to select fishes to sell! There are color varieties of new varieties, different fins, and even albinos! And, the good news for impatient fish geeks  is that there are more species being bred at commercial levels. 

High quality plants is easier than ever to obtain: Thanks to great work by collectors, propagators at both the commercial and hobbyist level, and aquatic horticulture facilities throughout the world, we have more options and better quality than at any other time in the hobby. Choices abound. And not only at the wholesale and the LFS or online retail level. Customer service is elevated to an all-time high by many stores and online vendors  You can find a huge variety of great stuff from hobbyists at swaps, shows, and club meetings. And many of these plants are available from parent specimens that have never been in the wild before. The availability of high quality plantsl has been key to the emergence of some of the most successful, sustainably-minded, and beautiful aquarium systems of all time. 

Communications and hobby “culture” are highly evolved and more pervasive than ever: Thanks to the internet in general and forums in specific, information and the emergence of clubs, events, and conferences worldwide, we’ve developed a tremendous global community of reefers, sharing new information, commiserating on problems, demonstrating techniques, and generally inspiring each other. Gone are the days of toiling in isolation or relying on monthly magazines to communicate hobby developments. Its a whole new, Facebook-fueled, forum-driven, Twitter-enabled world! Hashtag: AWESOME! Events like the big conferences and the dozens of regional events that take place throughout the country each year draw fish geeks from all over the world, united by our love of this crazy hobby/lifestyle. And these events get bigger each year!

There are literally dozens and dozens more developments that contribute to my theory that this is the best time ever to be a hobbyist; these are just a few that come to my mind immediately. I didn’t even touch on improved and advanced technique…that’s a whole different area to comment on! What do YOU think are the developments that have contributed the most to this being the best time ever to be a hobbyist? What things do you see in the future contributing to the expansion and improvement of the hobby?

As long as technology, entrepreneurship, fellowship, and practice keep improving and expanding, our hobby is not only in a position to thrive- it’s in a position to expand, providing greater enjoyment for us, our children, and the children yet unborn. And even more important, a greater understanding than ever before of the animals and plants that we treasure.

This IS a great time to be a hobbyist.

Until next time…

Stay Wet.

Scott Fellman
Tannin Aquatics


Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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