Banging on the "bucket list..."

As fish geeks, we pretty much all have that “bucket list” of things we want to do with our hobby. Some of us have less lofty goals…you know, stuff we’ve intended to do but just haven’t gotten around to it. Going to The Amazon to collect your own Diamond Rays, breeding the African stuff.

You must have a bunch of stuff like that, right?

I know I certainly do!

In a lifetime of aquarium keeping, I still have dozens of things that I want to do…when I get around to it. In fact, the scary thing is that there is this sort of “inverse” law going on…The longer I’ve been in the hobby, the larger my list of things I want to do but haven’t yet grows! Please tell me that I’m not the only one who this has happened to?

Yeah, okay, whatever…I’m still trying to get to that list…I mean, I have like hundreds of diverse things I want to do, some dating back to my teenage years, or even earlier! That’s one of the cool things about spending a lifetime in the hobby- you get to be exposed to lots of ideas over a very long time span…good for the imagination- but a huge a strain on the budget and your free time!

And the list is really extensive, running the gamut from freshwater to saltwater dream tanks, experimental systems, biotopes, breeding schemes, plumbing setups, etc. The expansiveness of the list is only matched by the amount of fish-related crap I’ve accumulated over the decades in my garage…We all have “that closet” or place in the garage dedicated to THAT stuff, so don’t get me started…

So, I figured that if I’d come clean and list a bunch of stuff from my lifetime aquarium keeping “to-do” list, it might inspire some of YOU to jump on yours!

Anyways, here are just a few real gems from my list, which I actually keep in a little notebook I’ve had since high school…sort of geeky, I know, but still.. In no particular order:

*Large, seasonally-depth-changing Amazonian Igarape biotope aquarium, with Tetras, Knifefish, Discus, and Altum Angels (okay, so what if the Angels and Discus don't really go there...But it IS a fantasy tank, right?  Apparently I failed to think that one through all those years back!)

*Black sand monospecific reef aquarium covered with contrasting bright Pink Pocillopora damicornus (that’s not such a bad one, huh?)

*Super shallow look-down tank with a bottom comprised only of Ricordea or so-called "Bounce" Mushroom corals (I think it would cost most of my annual income to complete this project, however)

*Intertidal Brackish water biotope, with Scats, Monos, Puffers, and Pipefish (I mean, who HASN’t had this fantasy before, right? LOL)...okay, I"m actually working on a variation of this one!

*Marine Paludarium (look up this term if you don’t know what it is…I know you do by now!) designed to replicate a Palau “Coral Island”, complete with terrestrial tropical plants topside and lush corals underneath. (If you know me, you know I’ve been talking about this stupid idea for years- I should just do it already!)

*Shallow wide aquarium dedicated to only blennies and gobies (I dedicate this one to my friend Dave, the man who pretty much invented the concept of keeping dozens of what he calls “doinker” fish.. in a huge tank)

(Nice pic by Ted Judy, who gives me all sorts of crazy ideas!)

*Saltwater bare bottom “hardscape” with only Tonga branch rock and 20 assorted Damselfish (okay, so it’s really just an ill-fated FOWLR tank, right? Let a guy dream a bit, okay? I actually did something like this in the 1990’s, starting out with two dozen assorted damsels and ended up with just one big ugly Domino Damsel- ironically the ONLY Domino I had- as the “survivor.” What an awful “Lord of The Flies” type of experiment, right? Perhaps next time with Chromis?)

*The “Expedition to Easter Island.” The mission: Collect the ugly but uber cool Easter Island Pygmy Angelfish, Centropyge hotumatua…Why? Just because. Well, if you know me, you understand the obsession I have had with this fish. This absurd one actually had some legs to it, when Centropyge geek John Coppolino and I, apparently emboldened with too many gin and tonics or whatever, actually talked nose to nose about it in the lobby of a hotel during a MACNA some years back, literally for “like 4 hours straight..”(according to my then girlfriend.) Hmm. We got to the point of whipping out Iphones to look into airline prices, etc, before I finally came to my senses and opted to buy a house instead. Ah…still on my bucket list, nonetheless. I mean, EASTER FRIGGIN' ISLAND! Yeah.

"Can't get you out of my head." Centropyge hotumatua, photo by Leonard Ho.

*Seahorse and Pipefish Seagrass Biotope- Yeah, I actually started this one…Got the seagrass part going. Just never got around to getting the Seahorses. Did get some Pipefish…It was probably just a bit too ambitious for my 40x40x22 cube…I KNOW I could have completed it if I tried it with a smaller aquarium. Yup!

I'm still scheming...came close. Oh, so close...

*Fancy guppy breeding system- Um hmm- the full-blown dream scheme, complete with like 10-20 tanks, water sprite, and the ambition to show up the stodgy, arrogant old school breeders who dominated the show circuit back in the 1980’s. (Alas, I was a teenager, with bigger dreams than budget- and there were only so many tanks I could stuff in that bedroom of mine…Sigh. One day. One day.

(Weird side note...I co-owned a 5,000 square foot warehouse with like 15,000 US gallons of water, and STILL never did this...urghh!)

I just needed a bigger bedroom...sigh.

*Royal Gramma tank- So, how many reefers actually dream about this stuff? I do. Ever since a dive trip that took me to Belize, Roatan, and Grand Cayman, were I saw whole harems of these "beginner's fishes" living together in caves, I’ve had the urge to recreate something like that…Like 20 specimens, a rock overhang, Halimeda macro algae .maybe some gorgonians and a Hamlet, Blackcap Basslett or two as well..Complete with a colorful palette of maroalgae…(Maybe someday)

Well, there you have like 1/25th of my “Things I’m gonna do but haven’t yet” list. Every fish geek has one- or should have one, IMHO. Because without dreams, goals, and “one day I’m gonnas,” life can get kind of dull. Yes, live in the moment, but keep your dreams in front of you…There is so much out there to tackle in the aquarium hobby. Some of it is still the stuff of fantasy (yah, the swim-through Eagle Ray touch tank is a bit…ambitious), yet many of our dreams are easily attainable. Some are downright practical (“Someday I’m going to rearrange my sump so that I can actually change the reactor media without tearing apart the entire sump…’)

So, to borrow the phrase, “Just do it.” Or, just “try to do it..” Whatever. Have dreams. Build fantasy tanks, if only in your head…But don’t ever fail to write them down..take notes…discuss them with other fish geeks. The hard truth is that you may never actually get to some of them…Or, you may get to all of them. Regardless, just having ideas and working them into your current reality is pretty satisfying. It can benefit your reef, your animals, the hobby- and your spirit!

Let's hear some of your "I'm gonna get to" ideas.. Inspire others- or yourself!

So, dream the dream, live the reality, and make things happen. Stay ambitious. Stay creative.

And Stay Wet.

Oh, and buy some more botanicals from us, ‘cause we have some killer stuff right now! (Shameless capitalist plug…)

Catch you soon...getting on a plane to give a talk in Nebraska. Hope to have some cool pics and such to share throughout the weekend!

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics 

Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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