Oh, a very Hitchcock-like title, wouldn't you say?
Actually, there's a whole lot less intrigue in it and more philosophy... This is a saltwater story today, but I think just about any hobbyist- fresh OR salt- can relate...
I finally received my Innovative Marine "Fusion Lagoon 50." Yeah, an aquarium- an All in One aquarium- right there in my home office...ready to rock and roll. Nicely-built, and filled with potential. Yeah, I'll be giving a blow-by-blow review later, as I use the "everyman's reef tank" to prove that you can do cool reef aquariums with a "pret a porter" aquarium system. (not like this tank is some kind of let down- it's not. In fact, it's very nicely built- more so than a few of the custom jobs I've owned over the years, trust me!).
So, I'm at this new phase now. I have this tank, some of the equipment I'll be using, and a whole lot of ideas bouncing in my head. Some are new thoughts on how I want to approach familiar problems, like like "If I go with these corals, who will I have to position them to take advanatage of the tank's footprint, water flow, and lighting?" Others are far more esoteric, like thinking through positioning of circulation pumps within the display, or thinking through maintenance strategies.
Still others are...well- weird.
Case in point. Like any good reefer, I spent some time this weekend pouring over "build threads" on a few reef keeping forums, to kind of get a read as to how other reefers are approaching certain things. Funny, actually, because one of the first things I told myself is that I wouldn't allow any of my decisions to be influenced by others...Kind of a ridiculous position, actually- because we can't help but be influenced by the work of others in this hobby, right?
So anyways, as I pursued a few threads, I'd see the usual iterations of live rock, the fancy equipment shots, the ridiculously over-blue lights-on shots (I mean, it's late 2015- we've had LED's for like a decade, and we're still into making our tanks look like Studio 54? What gives. Ever heard of "full spectrum" or "daylight?"). Apart from stuff I'd laugh and comiserate about, I saw IT. You know. The big "hurdle." The right of passage.
Yikes, I forgot about that phase. Yeah. That part when all of your good work looks like...well, you get it, as it's covered with that familiar patina of algae while the tank goes through its nutrient cycling phase. The part where every hobbyist, experienced or otherwise, has those lingering doubts; asks questions- goes through the mental gymnastics to try to cope: "Do I have enough flow?" Was my source water quality any good? Did I cheap-out on the salt mix? Is it my light? When does this go away? It does go away. I know it's just a phase. Right? Yeah, it goes away? When? It WILL go away. Right?"
I mean, it's one of those rights of passage that we all go through. The early doubts. The questioning of ourselves. The reviewing of fundamental procedure and practice. The need to reach out to the community to gain reassurance. It's normal. It's often inevitable.
The point of this piece is not about algae, per se. It's about the mind set that we bring to the table when we experience such things. The "algae bloom" phase brings out familiar feelings...
But it IS a phase. I know this..and you do, too.
Yet it bothers us, huh?
We reach back into our minds- our experiences- every time our protein skimmer releases micro bubbles into our tank, or whenever our pumps make that funny noise...Whenever the temperature seems to be harder to dial in than we expect. We KNOW what stuff should be like, we know that we set ourselves up for success...yet we look, and ponder- and we worry. But we DO know better. We know that all of this wonderful thing are just a phase. Our experience- and the experience of our "tribe" tell us this.
Yet it's part of the game. The worry. The reflection. The doubts. The...learning- which comes about as a result of our doing something that, in reality, is among the most enjoyable of pursuits in the hobby- starting a new tank.
We know what to expect.
And perhaps- just maybe- we know too much.
We understand all of this stuff. We experienced it many times over the years, and have watched- and even reassured- others that "all of this is normal" and to "just be patient and it will pass..."
You know- reef stuff. But it's really "aquarium stuff", so as not to alienate my fellow freshwater enthusiasts!
Outright beginners actually have it much easier in this regard, I think. I mean, when just having a glass or acrylic box of saltwater or freshwater in your home is a novelty- a cause for rejoicing- you tend to live in a bubble of gentle "ignorance" (eeehw- that's kind of harsh)- okay, let's call it "blissful lack of awareness" that some of this stuff sucks...
And that's a beautiful thing- because a beginner is taken by the sheer wonder- and joy of it all. They don't stress out about stuff like micro bubbles and Asterina starfish and bristle worms in their rock work. They're not worried about that yucky age like we are, because they don't KNOW that it can linger a long, long time if you don't manage the tank correctly at this phase. They're not handcuffed by their past experiences and the knowledge of having set up dozens of reefs over the years. Rather, they're just stoked as all get out by the thought of Azure Damselfish, Banded Coral Shrimp, Green Star Polyps and ultra-common pulsing Xenia taking up residence in the new little utopian microhabitat they just set up in their New York City apartment.
Perhaps the beginner knows something we don't.
I think I- we- know too much.
And I don't mean that from an arrogant perspective.
I think I, like so many reefers at my level of hobby experience, tend to overthink every aspect of the reefing hobby, particularly the new tank startup phase, rather than just letting ourselves enjoy the moment- the wonder, and the awe that comes from doing something special, beautiful, and, let's face it- incredibly cool! We do it in freshwater just as often- and we've been doing it a lot longer. Yet this IS something amazing, huh?
Something that nine tenths of the world will never get to experience or even comprehend.
I think it's entirely possible to release ourselves from the "burden" of our own experience, and to allow ourselves to enjoy every aspect of this great hobby, free from preconception or prejudices. To just make decisions based on what our research- gut, or yeah- I suppose experience- tells us is the right thing to do, then letting stuff happen. In other words, taking control of the influence our own experience provides, rather than allowing it to taint our whole journey with doubt, dogma, second-guessing, and over-analysis of every single aspect.
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