So I recently obtained my first pair of Apistogramma!
MY FIRST PAIR! After a lifetime in the hobby...I can't believe that I just never got around to trying these fish before. They are absolutely...intoxicating. I mean, I can't get enough of them. They have amazing personalities, beautiful colors, and are near perfect fishes for my South American-themed environment! I completely understand the obsession-inducing quality of these fish.
Before that, it was the Yellow Assessor (Assessor flavissimus) from the South Pacific. Before that, it was Centropyge hotumatua, the "Easter Island Pygmy Angelfish", which I've written about on these pages before.
And of course, there were Killifish. Specifically, the genus Epiplatys...and to be exact, Ep. dageti Monrovia, the "Killifish of my childhood." I fell hard for that fish, and it was one of the coolest fish I ever bred. Still love it to this day!
What is it about the hobby that keeps making us try new things, even decades into our hobby careers? It's interesting to me; maybe we like to collect stuff, and trying new fishes appeals to some instinctive "hunter-gatherer" thing in our genes. Or, it could simply be that there is such an incredible diversity of fishes that we just can't help but want to try 'em all!
Sometimes, I do wonder why certain people obsess with certain kinds of fishes. For example, for the longest time, I thought that he people when were into the big, predatory cichlids were missing a few screws! Then, I will spend some time with some obsessed hobbyists, see their aquariums, fish rooms, and systems devoted to these cool fish, and..I get it!
It's the same with Betta and Guppy people. They may have chosen to specialize with one type of fish, but most of them have multiple strains- or in the case of Betta enthusiasts- different species. I recently fell hard for Betta albimarginata and some of the other "wild type" species, so I get it. There is so much out there!
And what's really cool to me is the serious fish room of a hardcore fish geek! It's like Disneyland for fishes! And it seems like even the most ardent lover of say, African Cichlids or Rainbowfishes will still have a few random tanks devoted to totally unrelated species...And you'll ask these hobbyists why, and they'll tell you those beautiful words, "Because they're cool!"
Love that. And that mindset, by the way, has perpetuated the whole "multiple tank syndrome" thing- where we have 30-50 tank fish rooms...I couldn't love it more!
I spend a lot of time in the reef hobby world lecturing and writing about various topics. There are lots of amazingly talented, devoted hardcore reefers out there. But there is also what I feel is a "dark underbelly" of the reef aquarium world that, in my opinion, is a dark stain on a lot of the really good stuff that's going on there.
One of the more recent things that I've railed on (yeah, I don't feel good about it) is the Facebook "auction" pages for coral frags. I hate them because, in my opinion, it's created this ridiculous sub-trade for overpriced, photo-manipulated, microchip-sized coral frags of what typically are just subtle color variants of common coral species that can be had at almost any legitimate coral vendor (brick and mortar or online) for a fraction of the price without a stupid name and the accompanying ridiculous hype.
Why does the reef world embrace microchip-sized coral frags of so-called "rare" varieties (which means nothing- just that someone gave a common species a ridiculous name), hacked off the tips of "mother colonies" the size of legitimate frags themselves (like 1.5-2" in many cases!)? It's not that everyone selling coral frags at auction is a greedy, hype-mongering, photoshop-abusing perpetuator of absurdity. However, it's an attitude of craziness that sort of unofficially violates the "unwritten rules" of aquarium hobby "purity", if you will. Yeah, the "shadow economy" of the "auction frag trade" is, in my opinion, ruining the reef hobby, as it perpetuates absurdity.
This is not the same in other areas of the hobby. You simply don't see virally-hyped auctions for Plecos or say Mbuna or Lake Tanganyika "shellies", for example. Sure, you'll see some high prices for rarer varieties, but what you see mostly is people selling cool fishes that hey've bred, because they have too many of them- NOT because they're trying to make a ransom on an overpriced specimen. In fact, what I've found refreshingly cool about the freshwater auctions is that you find many times that the seller is almost sadly divesting him/herself of beloved fishes because he or she simply has no space! And of course, when a new fish comes along, they do mysteriously carve out room somewhere for them!
The contrast of course, is that in the coral "auction frag trade", it's not really about love, IMHO. It's about chasing the almighty dollar and the craziness that goes with it. Look, plenty of reefers love to collect different corals and coral frags. That's part of the reeflkeeping game just like a FW fish and egg auction. No biggie. The difference is that the real collectors are being forced to pay ransom prices for what I feel are often vaguely distinguished "color morphs" or variations of relatively common corals, like Acropora tenuis, many of which can be enhanced with blue-flavored reef lighting or photo post production (saturation). And it causes a lot of confusion when the same coral is given 4 different absurd names by 4 different people. A sad standard that we've created for ourselves.
Anyways, my point here is not to bash the reef world (well, maybe kick it in the shins until it gets a bit more sense- I'm well known for doing that). The point was to celebrate the wonderful trait that all aquarium hobbyists share: The delight over trying new stuff, and to point out how easily it can be ruined by just a few people who don't seem to get it.
It's amazing to me that we can still find new delights in a hobby that we've been in all of our lives in many cases. It amazes me that many wonderful people generously share, trade, and outright give away fishes and corals that they're obsessed with- simply because they want others to enjoy them (and perhaps, to make room for more cool stuff!).
It's an honor to be a part of this wonderful hobby, and to be in the presence of a group of people who, despite occasionally needing a kick in the ass, overall are wonderful, talented geeks with a great love for what they do, and an appreciation for what they have.
Okay, need to get back to setting up that new tank...I'm going to get some killies...
No matter how your interests change or evolve: Stay honest. Stay obsessed. Stay generous.
And most important-