Impulsive...? Or is that "strategic?"

Are you an "impulsive aquarist?"

I ask that not to get some secret marketing data I can use to exploit your psychological weaknesses for my own nefarious purposes (hmm..but that does sound like an interesting idea..). Rather, I'm curious because I think that most aquarium geeks are not. Usually. Okay, maybe sometimes. Occasionally...

As fish geeks, we're taught that nothing good ever happens quickly in a fish tank, and I'd tend to agree with that. However, as consumers, I think hobbyists sometimes make things happen quickly with last-minute purchasing decisions!

"I can make room for it on the left side of my tank. Yup."

I deal with lots of hobbyists every day, and I love our almost predictable behaviors! When I owned Unique Corals and sold marine livestock, I was often surprised at the additional purchases that people made to "fill out" their orders- you know, to hit free shipping, get an extra coral to share with a friend, or just to "scratch that itch" to try a new species. It happened just often enough to make me think that fish geeks are not necessarily impulsive, but they are strategic. In other words, the purchase may not be something they would start their order with, but it justified purchasing at the end in order to hit that free shipping number, etc.

I honestly think many hobbyists really wanted that extra piece in the first place. A lot of times, they'd mention, in passing, at the end of an order or other conversation, "So, are those ______ really that hard to keep in good color?" I get a sneaking feeling that they intended buy the coral anyways, and maybe just needed some assurance that it was a cool piece, or within their skill set to maintain, or something like that. The impulse buy is almost always something unrelated to their primary order (for example, 5 zoanthids, and then an Acropora added at the last second)!  With freshwater, it's like two pairs of Apistos and a Pleco "chaser!"

So very like us fish geeks, isn't it?

And then, of course, there are those of us who are the polar opposite of this:

I recall driving my LFS employees crazy when I was younger, because I'd spend literally hours in the store, scrutinizing every aspect of a fish before I'd pull the trigger...or not (that must be why I drove 'em crazy!). I would look at every fin ray, every gill movement-I'd look at every twitch and scratch and correlate it with known disease symptoms versus regular behaviors for the said species! I would sometimes bring my reference material (like Axelreod's books and maybe the early Sprung and Delbeek stuff after the dawn of the "reef" age, notes from Bob Fenner's books in my hand later on), and would just geek out. Of course, I would second guess everything the LFS guy said because "the books" said otherwise, even though the employees worked with these animals every day of their lives! My first brush with aquarium-keeping "dogma", I suppose. My how things change!

Our "aquatic personality" is forged at an early age, I think.

I knew at an early age that I'd never be an "impulse aquarium keeper." I think it might have come about because, when you're a kid, you have a 10 gallon tank and $5.67 that you've painstakingly saved for months to spend. You need to be absolutely sure of your purchases. I was very thorough! Even as an adult, with a 225 gallon tank, and much more to spend, I still found myself doing the same thing (okay, maybe with my iPhone in tow, instead of some well-worn reference book). You should see me when I go to the wholesalers here in L.A. It can take me half a day to pick like 5 fish. At least when we would obtain stock from our usual sources overseas during my Unique Corals days, we'd built up personal relationships to the point where these guys know our tastes, so that it was actually easier than going to the wholesalers' facilities! (well, faster anyways!)

Equipment choices are even more subject to analysis and absurd scrutiny, because hey- how often do you purchase a canister filter or a lighting system? ( OK, wait- don't answer that). But seriously, when you're sending the big bucks on a critical piece of life-support equipment, you want to get it right! One of the things I love most about my hobbyist friends on the forums is that they will analyze the heck out of almost anything, from an algae magnet to a new aquarium controller. Useful stuff for many of us- essential for anal-retentive fish geeks like myself.

The LFS- Where it gets serious...

Of course, impulsiveness can permeate every aspect of being a hobbyist including setup and configuration of your tank. I may not be overly impulsive in terms of additions and purchases, but I CAN be spur of the moment on tank decisions. What exactly do I mean by "tank decisions?" For example, I'll be scraping algae or some other mundane maintenance chore in my tank, and suddenly, I'll notice a rock that seems "not right" somehow. "Hmm, what if I move this guy over here? Of course, this almost always leads to a spontaneous 'refreshing" of the aquascape, often taking hours to complete. Somehow, I find this relaxing. Weird. So it's entirely possible to be analytical and calculating on some aspects of aquarium keeping, and spontaneous on others. I believe that this applies to many of us.

"If I just reposition that one rock..should just take a sec..."

And of course, there are hobbyists who are entirely impulsive, which is why you see entire 200 gallon tanks full of every fish imaginable, with plants sticking out from every conceivable angle. Of course, I cannot, in all honesty, say anything negative about them, because some of these types keep vendors in business, lol!

What's wrong with a few more fishes?

Not that it's worth analyzing, ¦but those of you who follow my rants all the time know that I love to postulate on- well, everything aquarium-culture related, and this is just another aspect to ponder. 

So, it begs the question: Are you an "impulsive aquarist?"

As always, share your thoughts...speak your mind...

...and Stay Wet!

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics

Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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