With the American Thanksgiving holiday upon us, it’s only fitting that we pause and reflect upon the blessings and advantages that we enjoy. This is not just applicable to life in general, but to our hobby experience in general. Of course, we are all grateful for the freedom that we enjoy, as well as for the sacrifices of our military men and women who secure those freedoms. Like it or not, we take for granted the liberties bestowed upon us by our democracy, and the opportunity to control our own destinies. And of course, we are all thankful for the loved ones we have in our lives.
Okay, with the more generic stuff taken care of, it’s time to look at the Thanksgiving holiday, from a fishkeeper’s perspective. Here are my top 6 things I’m thankful for as an aquarist this year:
Livestock availability and selection: Can you believe the sheer number of choices that we have available to us as hobbyists now? I mean, when you have dozens of color variants of Mbuna, Discus, and even variations on the Neon Tetra, it’s a great time to be in the hobby! Less than 10 years ago, our selections were so much more limited, and the amount of cool livestock was comparatively small. This is really noticeable in the saltwater hobby. For example, captive-bred Anemonefish were a novelty at best; today they are pretty much the industry/hobby standard. Amazing.
Forums and Social Media: The fact that I can wake up each day and share my thoughts and opinions about aquarium keeping with each one of you is awesome! The hobby has become, thanks to the pervasiveness of social media, a more “open source” endeavor, with anyone being able to share his or her experiences with fellow hobbyists around the world instantly. Feedback is available 24/7, in real time. Hobby breakthroughs, disasters, and trends are instantly disseminated for the benefit of everyone. When a hobbyist has a breakthrough and announces the first successful spawning of a new species, for example- we’ll all know about it within hours! So what if we have weird usernames on the forums- at least we’re communicating!
“Old School” fishes are still available and enjoyed: In fact, many of the fishes that were popular 5 or more years ago are not just available, but highly sought after by hobbyists, who actively purchase and trade them. For example, many of the beautiful Betta, Livebearer, and Discus variations are as popular as they ever were, with legions of hobbyists searching for the “true” versions of them, and paying good money for them, too! Although our hobby changes literally by the hour, we haven’t forgotten the fishes that we enjoyed in years past!
Lighting is better than ever: Thanks to the literal explosion in LED technology, super high-quality, ultra-effcient lighting is available to every fish geek at pretty much every price point. This year alone, there have been amazing breakthroughs that will change the way we light aquariums forever! With highly specialized optics, custom spectrum colors, and dozens upon dozens of control options, it’s possible for even the most non-tech-savvy hobbyist to create lighting that can faithfully replicate say, the seasonal lighting conditions on the Great Barrier Reef or in the Orinoco River. When coupled with other aspects of aquarium husbandry that have improved, who knows what breakthroughs will be occurring over the next few years in fish and plant propagation?
Hobbyists are looking at aquariums as an aesthetic compliment to their living space: Sure, you’ll still find plenty of jury-rigged “project” aquariums around the nation, but, more than ever, your far more likely to find a beautiful tank with awesome aquascaping and the the equipment tucked neatly into a cabinet, garage, basement, or dedicated “fish room”, where it won’t damage the aesthetics of the display. Some of the top “builds” in the hobby are ones that embrace a design ethic that actually enhances the too in which they are located, rather than detracts from the overall design. What do we owe this to? Well, a variety of factors: First, manufacturers seem to get it- we like stuff that makes our homes look good! Second, smart aquarists realize that if it looks good, their formerly disapproving spouse might actually enjoy the reef. Finally, I think we’re just “maturing” as hobbyists, realizing that the impact of an aquarium is far greater if the whole system is appealing to everyone. Sure, it’s cool to see filters, controllers and reactors - but not in your living room!
Fishkeeping knows no racial, social, or gender barriers: Regardless of race, creed, age, color, gender, physical limitation, or sexual orientation, aquarium keeping is not discriminatory. What counts to an aquarist is the aquarium, the animals, and the skills of the hobbyist who created it. This is one of the most amazing phenomenon I have noticed in my many hobby speaking trips around the nation: A tank is a tank to an aquarist- and we are united by our common love for the hobby, the animals, and the lifestyle it encompasses. A fish geek is a fish geek, regardless of what religion he or she practices, who her or she sleeps with, or what color his or her skin is. And THAT is the single greatest thing in our hobby that I am thankful for in aquarium keeping. We are all part of one fantastic, highly-integrated community which treasures and enjoys the same thing.
May the blessings of the Holiday Season bring joy, peace, and freedom from want to you and your family this year, and may those of you who are facing health or other personal challenges take comfort in your hobby and the community that surrounds it. Be thankful for what we have accomplished, for the sacrifices that others have made so that we can enjoy our endeavors, and never lose sight of the fact that we are all sharing the same planet. Share and learn from each other about aquarium keeping - and life. Embrace our differences and savor how they help create stronger and more satisfying bonds between each other. Most important, let’s never forget that the people who comprise the hobby community are the number one reason why we enjoy the greatest hobby on earth!
And above all...