Ever noticed that, as a hardcore fish geek, you have a certain outlook on stuff- and a certain way of reacting to things that sort of affects everything else you do?
Yeah, you do.
For example, only a real fish geek understands the incredible emotional satisfaction of waking up to discover , say- that the pair of Plecos that he or she has painstakingly conditioned and nurtured for months has delivered...A spawning event yielded a nice clutch of eggs...A cause for rejoicing on par with the emotions of a promotion at work; news of a friend's engagement, or your birthday.
Not really. We put so much of ourselves into this hobby. An aquarium becomes the fish embodiment of our souls...an expression of who we are.
We run the full gamut of emotions, and we share them with others who understand what we're feeling.
When something goes wrong, there is a palpable sense of disappointment that we sense...and that we can sense from others. You've seen it before: A fish geeks experiences a setback, like an algae bloom or an inch infestation. You see the desperate, emotional pleas on the fishy forums, asking for any grain of hope to overcome the problem. And you understand exactly what the fellow hobbyist is feeling. They reach out, and the community of fish geeks, who totally get this- reach back to help find answers. And the collective sense of accomplishment- even, rejoicing- when the problem is solved, is immediately apparent, spontaneous, and, well- beautiful to see.
And fish geeks act on their emotions a bit differently than a lot of people- but other fish geeks understand it.
I recall, a few years back, when I was giving a talk to a reef club on the East Coast. After the meeting, everyone went to the home of a prominent reefer who had some amazing tanks and a cool fish room. We were sitting around admiring the tanks, when someone tripped over a plumbing connection to an imported calcium reactor, which served an amazing reef tank that had been established for years. It was an accident, and the reefer was not at all angry.
But he was emotionally "traumatized"- the reactor was critical to the stability of this long-established reef tank with a priceless trove of rare corals...And suddenly, like that- the tank was in peril. Everyone present felt the sense of concern, and outright horror- at what had just unfolded. And of course, it was after 11PM on a Saturday night, and to obtain the replacement part needed to affect a repair would require ordering it on line- at least a 4-5 turnaround time at best. Everyone sat around, as fish geeks do, tossing around potential solutions to the problem.
Finally, one of the hobbyists in attendance remembered that his buddy had a similar reactor, and kept some spare parts for it. He promptly called his friend (by now it was after midnight), who immediately did what a true fish geek does- offered it right up...After midnight, to a perfect stranger. Of course, the only catch was that he lived an hour and a half away. And it was in the middle of a significant rainstorm.
What did the reefer do? He did what any serious fish geek would do.
Right then and there, he jumped in his car and drove to the guys' house, picked up the part, and drove right back- a three hour plus round trip under challenging driving conditions. Immediately upon his return (about 4 AM), he began to affect the repairs to his reactor, completing the work, exhausted but satisfied at around 6AM, ready to attend a family function later than morning, secure in the thought that he had saved his aquarium. He repaid the other reefer's kindness with a ton of coral frags- only accepted after much duress by the other reefer, who asked for nothing in return.
Not an uncommon story, right? I've heard many a tale of hardcore fish geeks going to great lengths not only to help their own systems, but to assist other hobbyists- often asking for no compensation at all for their kindness.
It's this kind of attitude, feeling, generosity- which permeates the culture of fish keeping. It's this kid of feeling that only a fish geek knows. An unwritten "norm" in our "culture", which makes this wonderful hobby all that more satisfying.
So, the next time you're devastated because you heater failed in the dead of winter, or because your rare Apistos ate their first clutch of eggs- feel what you feel- and reach out to other members of the aquarium community...They are there to offer support, reassurance, wisdom- and occasionally, even a spare part or two.
Stay generous. Stay involved.
And stay wet.