Before you hit "return..."

Part of being a modern aquarium hobbyist is the inevitable interactions, debates, differences in opinion, and even flat-out arguments. With so many people from so many walks of life being in the aquarium hobby, it's little wonder that there are so many opinions on everything! And, with online forums and social media platforms forming a vital part of our hobby interactions, it's easier than ever before to engage with fellow hobbyists.

Sometimes, you'll get into a conversation where the other person makes an assertion that you know is wrong, perhaps admonishing or "correcting" you...and you're faced with that tough decision to respond and "gently correct" the person right back...or to "stand down" and walk away, avoiding what is likely to be one of those all day, back-and-forth post wars. You know. The "high road." Being the "bigger person." Whatever.

You've had this happen before, right? You've been in that moral dilemma?

What did you do?

I've done both over the years...You know, sort of walked away and just told myself that my time is more valuable, as well as "re-engaged", ending up in the aforementioned all-day, online slugfest in which "victory" usually ends in a draw caused by a war of attrition, with two hobbyists who would be better off working with each other on stuff, "butt-hurt" over some stupid issue that only they cared about.


Is it ego? Is it pride? The need to be correct? To show the other party you know more? To save your reputation? To set the "record straight" and make sure accurate information is disseminated? What is it that fuels the desire to respond? Probably some form of all of those things and more.

And you know how it goes...some will say that you look like a straight-up asshole, and other people will back you 100%...and the vast majority will simply pull up a bowl of popcorn and watch the fireworks. In fact, a lot of online forums have an emoji for that! The reality is that a pretty good percentage of people on the forum won't give a damn at all.

So the desire to respond is, as they say, "...all about YOU."

I had one of those "it always happens on social media" incidents recently. Might as well share it wth you.

I was answering a question about something related to brackish water aquaria, and I made a comment that I was operating the tank in question at 1.005. Another respondent authoritatively stated that 1.005 is "not brackish." And then made another assertion about ocean specific gravity that, well, let's say, was very open for debate (I wanted to tell him so badly that I was a reefer and that I co-owned a successful coral-propagation business, and that he better BRING it if he's gonna play on my turf..Ya know, the usual idiotic ego-massaging attitude, from which nothing good can come..Stuff like that.)


But of course, what really stuck in my head:

"Not brackish."


Like, for hours. I had a response ready to go. All I had to do was hit "return" and this guy would be "put in his place"- yeah! 

What to do. What to do...

Damn, I would have liked to have written back that I disagreed, based on a LOT of research and even talking to a marine scientist who can really confirm the correct answer.  And the fact that I have a company which offers materials to support brackish water aquariums made me feel like I SHOULD sort of "clear the air." But it also made me realize that it's shitty "optics" to get into an argument online in front of a huge audience, cementing my business reputation in that forum as a jerk! And quite frankly, I had no interest of not getting into an endless loop of back and forth tit-for-tat arguments over minutiae that, at the end of the day, will only benefit a tiny percentage of indiviudals.

And really, why? What was my ego so challenged by this? Am I the only one who gets this way about stuff? I doubt it...but when you're in the middle of it- in the "fog of battle- it feels like it, huh? And the guy who "corrected" me was probably a normal, nice guy who was just trying to do what I felt I was doing- helping to clear the air; to be helpful in general. Probably meant nothing malicious at all, right?

And remember, when you hit "return", and the other party's "game on." If he's ready to go with tons of stuff from "Google Scholar" or whatever to back up his argument, you better have the energy and resources to go at it. And all of your high-fallutant friends in the fish world that you have on your iPhone's speed dial? Well, they're too busy watching "Game of Thrones" or whatever to back your ass up. 


Better be ready to go it alone. That's the reality.

I opted out and said nothing further. I figured that having someone pissed off at me, and then my company, because we disagreed on a public forum on some petty issue (and oh, if he escalated, I would have just schooled the guy, because I have some very scholarly information from a scientist friend that would be hard to argue against...), but I deferred. Glad I did. What was the point? Besides, most of the information I had to back up my argument was so esoteric that it was at the extreme fringes of my own comprehension to even explain properly...

And the reality is, we should all make the effort to learn from each other. Everyone has something cool to share, and we owe it to them to listen... Kumbaya, mother f------.

But this guy was WRONG! 

Part of me really wanted to respond! But I was over it. Yep.

Yet, it sort of stuck in my mind. All friggin' day.

And the issue at hand- what brackish water really is, is not the "tightest" definition around. I suppose it could be argued from lots of angles, to the point of exhaustion...and no doubt exposing the fact that I barely peeked out a passing grade in college chemistry. I mean, what if the guy was a chemist? What if he had super-current information that trumped mine?


Although I know I have the right answer. LOL

So what is the deal?

The definition of "brackish" is...well- admittedly, a bit vague! Technically, what we call "brackish" water by definition contains between 0.5 to 13 parts per thousand (ppt) of salt, which corresponds to a specific gravity between 1.005 and 1.010. It's all over the map, but science generally concurs that it falls into that range. In fact, by some definitions  water up to .30 ppt (roughly 1.022) is still "brackish." I've kept reef tanks at 1.022! Perhaps debatable what the "optimum" brackish water specific gravity is, but the fact is, 1.005 is by most any standard in science, brackish.

So, rather than engage the guy there, look what I did to slake my ego's thirst for revenge...I made my argument on my own damn forum. So I only look like a jerk to you, my audience? Yeah. That made a lot of sense, huh? That's mature. That's logical.




"Mean spirited."

Yep. All those things. But it feels so damn good.

So, the next time someone gets under YOUR skin on line...before you hit "return"- Think it through. In the grand scheme of life, and in the greater fish geek world, is it worth it?

Oh, HELL yes!


Stay calm. Stay collected. Stay mature. Stay focused.

Yeah, right.

Okay, well...

Stay Wet.

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics 






Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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