Destination: Unknown. A "manifesto" for the bold.



“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice.  And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”  -Steven Jobs

I was speaking with a friend last week, who is a very talented aquarist. She was relating to me a sound thrashing (there's simply no other way to put it) she was receiving on a hobby forum from some self-procalimed "experts" about an approach to breeding a certain fish that she was taking (with considerable success, mind you) which went against the grain of what "they" said was "the correct approach." She was told she was the recipient of "dumb luck" by one, and that her approach was "reckless and flawed" by another. And some other things not worth repeating here!

And the bottom line was that she was successful. Her idea was correct. Her approach was rational. And some people just didn't like it.

She was near tears.

Years of work, successful spawns, and she simply was getting trashed.

Just..because. I mean, there literally was no other reason. She was an "outsider" to this forum and specialty, and "they" didn't like it. There was simply no other explanation. She came with humility and open-hearted sharing, and received a beat-down because her ideas challenged the prevailing thought in this self-immolating dystopia she had somehow "infiltrated."

Now, sure, it's easy to simply say, "Shake it off" and just deal, but that's an easy way out. Mental toughness is important, but what about the issue which brought this all up? What about the bigger picture here...This is not entirely uncommon in our hobby.

I've seen this crap before in the hobby. And it's poisonous.

Time for a gentle ass-kicking, and I might as well do it.

As you know, I tend to get a bit..."worked up" about some stuff- particularly when people are unfairly negative and so cruel to others. And particularly when it's not deserved, and focused on friends of mine. You know, THAT kind of bullshit. I'm sure there will be many who take this wrong- as if I am up on some high horse, spouting my own form of dogma or hate.

If that's how this is interpreted, I suppose I might have failed. However, I think I have a valuable mesage- based on decades of being in "aquarium cutlure." Yeah, I need to air my opinion here. So, rather than go on that forum and make an ass of myself, I figured it might be just as therapeutic to do it here, in the relative safety of my own blog! 😜

Seriously, though, this little rant is for those of you who occasionally face grief from the self-proclaimed "gatekeepers" in our hobby. It's for you to take some comfort in knowing that, regardless of if your idea works or not, the fact that you're even doing something different, bold, maybe even contrarian- in the pursuit of knowledge and success- is a HUGE victory. 

All of you out there who have those ideas that are perhaps a bit "unorthodox" by hobby standards, maybe a bit "unusual", even...take heed.

And keep going.

Just because you reject the "status quo", the popular, or the safe, doesn't mean that you're wrong. Just because your idea of an aquascape features soil and decomposing leaves instead of a cliche-ridden "Middle Earth Hobbit-Forest" doesn't mean you're not creating aspirational work. Just because you're breeding Danios instead of this month's "Apisto of The Month" doesn't mean you're not talented. Just because you're specializing in Anacharis instead of Bucephalandra doesn't mean that you don't have "plant game."

Maybe you decided to start a company that sells leaves and plant parts to recreate blackwater habitats... (Yeah, had to throw the personal reference in there...I took some heat, too when I started out!) 

Sure, you could "crash and burn" spectacularly- but you're doing instead of sitting on the sidelines and pelting those who are forging ahead with stones- metaphorical or otherwise...

I say, it's time for the hobby at large to lighten up a bit. 

As the second decade of the new millennium unfolds, the “state of the art” in the aquarium hobby is in total flux. New technology has worked its way into what we do daily with our aquariums  Emerging LED lighting technology is delivering on the promise of energy-efficient, highly focused, “nutritional” illumination. Water movement has become “intelligent”, with microprocessor-based controllers commanding powerful, low wattage electronic pumps to create currents and flow that mimic nature in ways previously unthinkable. Foods based on fishes'specialized nutritional requirements have entered the market that promise levels of nutrition for fishes and corals that were simply considered unsustainable in years past.

Crazy cool.

This stuff puts incredible results in reach for even aquarists with relatively modest experience. Maybe it levels the playing field a bit. It helps facilitate experimentation and implementation of ideas which were just thoughts on paper a few years back. 

It’s not just the technology that has evolved, of course.

Today’s hobbyist, with convenient access to the latest science, Internet connectivity, and the ever-evolving benefit of an expanding global aquatic“culture”, brings new energy, creativity, and imagination to the game. The courage to break free from convention is more apparent than ever. Marry the progressive hobbyist with groundbreaking technology, and you have a formidable combination.  It is out of this milieu that the biggest breakthroughs and hobby advancements are arising. 

And those of us who have been in this game for decades need not be afraid. We need to celebrate. Don't hate on people who are utilizing some of the new advantages to further the state of the art in the hobby.

It's simply not constructive.

Individuals who feel that the “status quo” of the aquarium hobby is due for a little shakeup are emerging, proffering new ideas, unique methodologies, and new aquariums that are pushing back the "outside of the envelope" of modern aquaristics- your time has come!

The best part about this is that we as a whole in this hobby are benefitting from this progression, thanks to our open minds, tireless dedication, and the power of the Internet to spread new ideas rapidly. The hobby is changing. For the better. Evolution is becoming revolution, it’s “open source”, and everyone is invited to come along for the ride. 

And the big winner? Our fishes. Our plants. Our corals. And the natural habitats from which they come. Understanding both helps us treasure, protect, and preserve them for future generations to enjoy.

The fantastic fishes and aquariums we see on forums and such are but a small sampling of the dozens of aquatic breakthroughs achieved each year, which represent fundamental paradigm shifts in the hobby. Some are unique for what they do, others for what they represent, and all for how they make us look at what we know to be “conventional” in the aquarium world.

Criticism is important and welcome.

Flat-out hatred, driven by reluctance and fear of change- or worse yet, a perception of being "left behind"- is not. No one should be afraid to be who they are in this hobby. To try what they feel is correct- and most important- to share what they've learned, good OR bad.

Ever changing, ever evolving, the aquarium has come a long way from the simple glass bowl form centuries past…or has it?

With the benefit of technology, scientific knowledge, and the skill of a “postmodern” aquarist, perhaps we have come full circle. It is now possible to create aquariums as simple as a vessel containing water, or as complicated as a near perfect re-creation of a coral reef ecosystem. In our little world, we're playing with some of the most basic things in nature- leaves and botanicals- and regularly achieving results that may have been eluding us previously with other techniques.

Mind sets are shifting. Old ideas being re-evaluated, reviewed, embraced- or dismissed as necessary.

We're not just sitting still, accepting "no" or "not possible", or "it can't be done that way." Not anymore.

The marriage of nature, skill, technology, and creativity has allowed aquarists the freedom to create dreams as never before. Our legacy of centuries of aquatic experience provides us with inspiration for new challenges, new approaches, and new executions for aquariums and husbandry achievements once thought of as impossible. 

Please, don't cower in the face of those who would like to bring you down, quash your enthusiasm, or simply lash out. Accept the constructive criticisms of those who are genuinely helpful, and flat-out ignore those who proffer only hate and nothing else. 

It gets really quiet in your head when you do that. Trust me.

One can only hope that we will continue to push the state of the art in aquaristics, and follow our dreams to destinations once thought impossible. It’s time to cast off and head forward into uncharted waters, towards destinations unknown.

Now the future starts.  

Stay bold. Stay courageous. Stay diligent. Stay humble. Stay open-minded. Stay innovative...

And Stay Wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics 

Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


1 Response


July 26, 2018

Very well put Scott.

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