Being a "guardian of knowledge?"

As a supposed leader in the world of botanical-style aquariums (blackwater, brackish, and otherwise), we are often asked a lot fo questions about various topics related to our love for this unique specialty. I think it's pretty cool, and I'm always happy to help out however I can.

Sometimes, I receive questions that are simply out of my depth of knowledge or experience- like detailed chemistry questions, specialized fish identification, or aquatic plants.

Now, I've been a hobbyist literally my entire life, and I've "dipped my fingers" into all sorts of different aspects of the hobby. However, that doesn't mean I know everything. It certainly doesn't mean that I'm any more qualified to talk about or offer advice on a topic which I have no experience with. If you notice, we tend to stay on a few central "themes" here in "The Tint", because they are where I can bring greatest value to the greatest number of hobbyists. Simple as that. Now, there is a lot of context and content within the relatively narrow focus that we do work with here, providing a LOT to talk about!

Sometimes, I'll get questions which start out innocently enough, and just lead to a place where I'm alternately scratching my head and trying to figure out what just happened, while simultaneously wanting to (metaphorically) smack a fellow hobbyist "upside the head" for sheer audacity and laziness.


Case in point...

Not too long ago, I participated in an email exchange  that went something like this:

"I'm thrilled to have found your site!  It's amazing! So much cool stuff and lots of information! I'm about to start a blackwater aquarium and was wondering which botanicals to use..."

Okay, pretty broad question- but I was at least able to ask some pointed questions and perhaps give some recommendations based on my experience. Which I did.

Then things started to unravel...

"Okay, well, how do I add the botanicals to my aquarium?"

Hmm...Well, I referred her to a few (dozen) blog posts on the topic right here!

"Well, could you just give me a rough idea...?"

(Patience starting to wear just a bit thin....) Again, I decided to take the high road, and told her to research the materials that she wanted to add to her aquariums, to prepare them carefully, and to go slowly...

Another email rolled in...

"How do you 'prepare' them? And what do I have to do this before adding them to my aquarium?

ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Final time- a referral to our preparation infographic and a blog from not too long ago on botanical preparation...

"Can't you just give me a quick overview?"

BP 130/89 at this point, no doubt...Deep, cleansing breaths, Scott....

"Umm, I just did. Please refer to the link to the infographic for a preparation summary."

Literally, like 2 minutes later...

"You've been great. One more thing. Where do you recommend that I purchase my botanicals? I saw this listing on eBay for catappa leaves. What do you think of the price..? Seems pretty good..."

At this point, I had to simply place palm to face, close up the MacBook, and move on to something else. I tried. I really did. Perhaps I was too nice? Too approachable?

I mean, I do my best to help our my fellow hobbyists. 

Many of us do. 

Yet, for some reason, there exists a subset of hobbyists who you can literally hold their hands and give them a gentle push to get going, yet they still simply refuse to take absolutely any further initiative. It's literally like, if YOU are not the one pushing them along and answering every question, they'll make zero effort to find out even the most rudimentary information on their own about a subject..

Particualrly vexing is the fact that was we do here is a hobby- it's supposed to be fun and enjoyable, and you'd think that a newbie would WANT to do just a tiny amount of research on stuff that they are supposedly interested in?

I think it's a personality thing, not a "Millennial thing" or "Boomer thing" or whatever...People of all ages and types have hit me up with these types of inquiries before- and I'm sure that you've had a few hit you up in a similar manner! I think it's a "LAZY thing.."

Like, I get it. Sometimes, we are excited and perhaps a bit overwhelmed at the apparent complexity of a new subject, but we're eager to learn. We just need a push in the right direction. I get that, and I'm always here to help. However, for a small but noticeable sliver of the aquarium hobbyist population, there is this "thing" about taking even the slightest initiative to do some research. 

"C'mon Scott, it's hard. There's so much stuff out there. Besides, you understand this stuff. And I didn't grow up doing this..."

That's literally a "mashup" of some of the "feedback" I've received from people who asked tons of questions for which the answers were readily available. It makes me scratch my head.

I mean, Google, for example, is one of the greatest resources we've ever had as a species. It's so easy to use and so powerful that it can literally make one wonder if the library as we know it is simply a relic of a gentler, kinder era, perhaps having outlived some of it's usefulness as a "go-to" resource for knowledge (It hasn't IMHO, but you could argue that it has diminished just a bit in value for some...)

I guess I'm a bit "ornery" at times, but I can't for the life of me figure out why someone could visit a website on the very topic they are interested in, allegedly spend time perusing it...taking the time to acknowledge that it's a great resource- and then just ignoring all of that and trying to ask for a "quick answer" on a very broad topic.

It makes no sense. Perhaps it's human nature, or a desire to just get somewhere- fast. Perhaps for many, the destination is way, way more important and interesting than the journey? I suppose.  I don't agreee with that, but I guess I could understand that...sort of.

Maybe I need to organize our blogs a bit better. I can see that. We are working on it! However, in the mean time, the rudimentary search feature that we have can at least pull up some stuff. I've searched for some pretty arcane stuff within "The Tint" and found it pretty easily, so it's entirely possible if you're patient and take the time to search. Still, we can improve a bit here, I won't ever stop doing that.

Yet, still, it's a "personality thing" I suppose, which makes it tough for some to go beyond simply asking for the "summary" of something. I wish that I could somehow instill in everyone who embarks on a journey into our world of botanical-style aquariums the wonder of the process, the education, the discovery..the evolution and the journey- and how AWESOME that really is.

I think- I KNOW- that if we could get more people to "buy in" to the idea that the process of learning, researching, and experiencing is so much more gratifying than just trying to get the "quick answer" (which is almost always not so "quick"), that they'd be even more enthralled with the game we play.

I think that's a big part of my mission...To keep inspiring, enthralling, and motivating my fellow hobbyists to push, learn, and experience for themselves the wonder if this incredible specialty area.  Is suppose I'll always take a moment to attempt to provide a "quick answer"- but I'll also push the person asking the question to get out there and learn a bit by other means, too.

I think we all have a bit of responsibility to do that.

So much better than a "quick answer."

So much more gratifying to all. So much more beneficial for the aquarium hobby as a whole.

I'm not a "guardian of knowledge." I'm just a fellow traveller on a journey that never ends. One that we can all take, savor, end enjoy.

Stay curious. Stay helpful. Stay generous. Stay patient. Stay bold...

And Stay Wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics 


Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


1 Response

Ryan Taylor
Ryan Taylor

May 04, 2020

Spot on Scott. What a great article…and about life in general; not just regarding our hobby.

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