Defying the odds? Tempting fate? Or just human nature?

Have you ever made one of those bonehead mistakes in fish keeping, even after years?

You know, something basic- like not quarantining a new fish and getting your whole tank sick. Or using some sort of additive (like algicide or something) that you knew would have some kind of long-term (potentially detrimental) effect on your tank? You know- a shortcut. An ill-advised move. A lapse in judgement, protocol, procedure.

I have a friend who brags about his flagrant "violation" of the fundamental principles of aquaristic practice. He proudly shirks every guideline that's been offered up over the years. Happily disregards all of the common "best practices" of the aquarium hobby.

And gets away with it. Most of the time, anyways.

Yeah, I think we all have, at least once or twice, right?

I mean, it's sort of human nature to get, well..."complacent." Relaxed. over-confident.

Call it what you want.

I know I've made that bad judgement call before: "Oh, that fish looks fine, and there were no sick fish in the tank at the store- I'll chance it and just add him." Or, "I don't know why they say that fish is supposed to be so aggressive. He hasn't even chased anyone...yet." And of course, the inevitable painful lesson that arises is not soon forgotten.

Or is it?

I mean, as "advanced" aquarists, I wonder if we sometimes think that we've "paid our dues" to the "aquarium goods", and that, even in moments of irrational decision making, we'll get away with it because we're, well- "advanced?"

I think so. I know that I've made really lazy, impulsive decisions before, even when I knew that I shouldn't have. Like taking on some fish I won at the club auction when I really didn't' have the space. Or using tap water to fill a new aquarium in a hurry when I should have just waited the extra few days until the replacement RO/DI cartridges arrived.

Sometimes, I'd get away with it.

Other times, I wouldn't be so lucky, and fate would bite me on the ass and teach me a lesson.

The "lesson" isn't really even not to do the specific action that you did to cause the problem. It's not the feeding of the contaminated food, or the failure to remove the eggs from that batch of Discus with a reputation for eating them.

It's the decision to proceed when that little voice inside your head tells you- well- SCREAMS at you- to "stop, drop, and cover!"

It's not falling back on the hard-won experience that you've accumulated during years of fish keeping. 

Even as a beginner, you can "trust" what "they" say online, in books, at clubs etc., and do things the (often) slower, more tedious way- or you can tempt fate and take the shortcut. 

The problem with taking the shortcut is that you might be one of those people for whom it works. For a while.

And you'll convince yourself and others that "they" are full of it. Everyone is making too big a deal out of it- because you've done it this way for years without any of the nasty results that "they" warned you about.

And then the bad habits become a routine part of your repertoire.

The "fail safe" of human endeavour is failure, so why play into that? Why go against the grain on everything? I mean, trying something different that everyone is cool. But we're talking about breaking the rules of aquascaping, designing a different type of breeding setup, etc. We're NOT talking about immediately adding 100 Cardinal Tetras to a brand spankin' new 40 gallon tank- stuff like that.

"Fundamental guidelines" are what they are because, well- they're fundamentals!

We can't just "edit" and pick and choose what basic laws of nature we want to adhere to. Oh, we can, but the playback- which WILL come inevitably, eventually- is a bitch! Why gamble with the lives of helpless animals for our own arrogant means. It makes no sense to me.

We can change.

And my friend? The guy who defies the "laws" of aquarium keeping?

Well, his beautiful and long-established 300 gallon African Cichlid tank, the pride of his fish collection- is now a breeding ground for at least 3 different fatal diseases, all of which would have been prevented if he would have quarantined.

Did he finally learn his (expensive and painful) lesson and mend his ways?

He said no, he'll keep doing things his way. This was a fluke. An aberration. An unusual occurrence.

Of course, the battery of 20 gallon quarantine tanks in his garage fish room tells a different story!

So, perhaps you can teach an old fish new tricks?

Regardless of your level of experience, don't give in to the temptations. take the long way home, and be great.

Something to think about on a Monday.

Stay optimistic. Stay practical. Stay open-minded.

And Stay Wet.

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics


Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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