I remember, when I was much less experienced in the hobby and industry, I would get this sense of excitement, fascination, and anticipation every time I looked into my tanks, visited the LFS, or a friend's fish room. I loved that feeling. That...spark.
Over the years, as I became more entrenched in the business side, I always had that more than casual interest in fishes, but it was from a different viewpoint, and there was something almost "casual" about the whole thing. I think that was not so good. Perhaps the spark was fading a bit.
Then, I started writing...a lot. And speaking at clubs and events throughout the world, mostly on reef aquarium topics, and after a while, I'd start getting that familiar sense of excitement again, every time I'd speak. It was starting to feel exciting again! I figure that I've probably done over 300 talks in the last 10 years or so, and at each one, I meet stoked hobbyists who get excited over the simple, beautiful art of aquarium keeping. It's cool.
Within the last year, it was as if something inside me really woke up. I walked into my facility at Unique Corals one day and was like, "Ohmigod", I have 15,000 gallons of water here, with fish, corals...stuff!" It was pretty amazing. The excitement was...back..the pure, unadulterated, unfiltered hobbyist-grade excitement.
And then one day, the longing to do something more with freshwater became too powerful to ignore, and I began planning and plotting Tannin. I wanted to share my love of my specialized freshwater interests with other hobbyists...to serve as a resource for all of the cool stuff fellow hobbyists would need to create displays different than what they have before...to foster a sense of adventure, creativity, and excitement. To develop a community, a camaraderie, around some of the stuff we love. The spark was ignited yet again.
I haven't looked back since. Working with my customers every day and experiencing the hobby once more as a "practicing" hobbyist has reinvigorated my love of the aquarium world. I'll never look back.
Last week, I gave a talk in Kansas City, where I met some amazing people at the Heart of America Aquarium Society. My host, David Whitcraft, showed me his fascinating fish room, choked full of cool cichlids, catfishes, and even some corals...and yet again, that excitement was there! Burning brighter than ever.
It was a cool space...filled with all sorts of tanks, projects, ideas...it oozed of that "special something" you see my gush about so much on these pages.
Seeing David's cool Shell dwelling "Lake Tang" cichlids got my pulse up and the creative ideas flowing...
And of course, the rare Plecos and Ancistrus were enough to throw me over the edge again!
The big takeaway from all this meandering?
If the hobby has somehow become a bit "mundane" or "routine" to you...visit a friend's fish room. Take in the sights, sounds, smells (LOL), ideas...And open up your mind to the remarkable possibilities that come when you simply "do" stuff. Don't let it get to the point where it's not amazing. Don't take it for granted. Enjoy every second, every experience of this fishy world we're all in.
I'll never let that spark fade away again, for sure. It can't...this stuff is in my blood.
Don't let this wonderful thing called the aquarium hobby ever become routine, because it isn't. Every day, we get to see and work with the finest examples of nature's creations. It's an awesome thing. A beautiful thing...and an important thing.
Enjoy it. Obsess over it. Share your love for the hobby with others.
Stay excited, engaged- in the game. And most important...