One of the best things about the aquarium hobby is that there is an endless amount of inspiration provided by Nature, which generates a seemingly endless amount of ideas.
Like so many of you, I love thinking about ideas for unusual concept aquariums. I like to look at things a bit differently. Tannin was founded based upon looking at things a bit differently; helping hobbyists re-think the way Nature really looks, and to promote the creation of aquariums which replicate not only the look- but the function- of natural aquatic habitats.
This philosophy has influenced so much of what we do here. I think I have a strong sense of the kind of aesthetic that I find attractive, like many of you do. I tend to sort of "stay in my lane", so to speak. I try to stay true to my interpretations of Nature and this is reflected in my aquarium executions. And I try to take my ideas to fruition whenever possible.
However, occasionally- I get these bouts of what I call “aquatic indecisiveness.”
Do you get what I mean by that? I've touched on this before, but it's really become a predictable habit with me. Let me explain. It’s like, I’ll have this awesome plan for stocking the aquarium I've been working on for a while; I get this vision of executing on the plan and ending up with an aquarium that looks just like I imagined it would, aquascaped exactly how I envisioned, stocked exactly how I envisioned, and running just like I expected.
So, I tediously conceive, design, build, and equip the system. When I finish setting it up, the concept that I spent countless sleepless nights conceiving comes together. Then…I stare at the promising, yet unstocked new tank and just…edit.
Yeah, you heard me, I’ll “edit.”, gradually dissecting my beautiful concept and morphing it into something else.
Moving this. Re-positioining that. Taking out an element, adding something. Now, a lot of people will call this process “evolution”, or view it as a necessary stage in the development of an aquarium. I call it “A.D.D.” or sure. It's like all of the sudden, I’ll see an article about "ephemeral floating leaf litter beds" or an underwater video of an Amazonian igarape, and my carefully conceived African River biotope goes straight out the damn window.
Off we go... into a totally different direction!
I think I’m what I like to classify as a “Perpetual Editor” -type of aquarium personality. At least, in terms of my ideas.
It's a bit odd that I edit ideas so quickly, because, as you know- I'm obsessed with the process...I have huge patience in establishing my aquariums and leaving them to evolve largely unmolested. It's really at the initial execution or ideation phase where I get detoured.
Now, don’t get me wrong. My core beliefs about aquarium keeping are typically unchanging..well, they evolve, as you've seen on these pages, based on experience-like everyone else. And, like you, I am always open to suggestions to do something better. Sometimes, this is a good thing. I mean, if your idea was to develop a Knifefish community in a 50-gallon tank, and you "pivoted" to a 700-gallon tank after running it by some friends, that’s a very good thing!
“Coming to your senses” is what it’s called.
However, my changes are often more subtle: For example, I was planning on stocking an all-South-American characin system, but ended up creating a Rasbora-dominated biotope instead.
You know, that kind of thing...
Totally different part of the world and all that.
Or I'll tell myself something like, "I don’t want any cichlids in this tank!" That is, until I run across a source for amazing wild Dicrossus…You know, that kind of chance meeting that throws the whole plan into disarray! Sounds oddly romantic and exciting, only we’re talking about an aquarium, not meeting the girl or guy of your dreams, ya know?
Yeah, it’s a burden, this endless "susceptibility to suggestion", right?
Perhaps- maybe- it’s an advantage, because it gives me the chance to correct things that would otherwise be disastrous, shortsighted, or just..stupid. Or, perhaps it has stifled some brilliant work. I’d like to think not, but you never know. I greatly admire those of you who can create- and stick- to a plan for your tanks. Now, don't get me wrong, there ARE many times when I've created a plan, stuck to it, and was richly rewarded for my effort.
I can think of a couple of examples from fish keeping history where hobbyists have executed exactly what they intended- with amazing results and surprisingly influential impact on the hobby.
Look, I’m not saying that you need to have architectural renderings, a monumental checklist, and never deviate for one second in order to have success. Rather, I’m suggesting that conceiving- and sticking to- a plan for your aquarium is never a bad thing.
Okay, I'm probably doing this as form of "reassurance", huh?
Yeah, like I can take my own suggestion so well, right?
It can get really crazy. During one particularly frenetic period of time in 2017, I re-did the same tank three different times in a span of about 3 months.
It can get a little bit crazy, I know.
On the other hand, being a “Perpetual Editor” archetype of fish keeper also has his/her advantages. mainly, the ability to modify a plan as he/she goes if he sees a better way.
Almost categorically, the “Perpetual Editor” has a looser, more flexible approach to aquarium planning, construction, and management, and is perhaps more in tune with the latest and greatest trends, techniques, and philosophies of the aquarium game. (and of course, more susceptible to being influenced by a lot of stuff!) Now, I hate "trends", personally. However, I do find myself influenced strongly by new research I conduct on various wild habitats.
Yeah, I personally hate chasing trends. Really.
There is a sort of “sub-category” in the “Perpetual Editor” classification…well, actually, two: The “Trend Jumper”, who, as the name implies, switches direction at the drop of a hat in order to capitalize on the latest trends, fads, or ideas. I mean. good for them if they want to replicate the latest and greatest trends they see on Instagram or wherever. Respect.
The other, what I call an “Active Listener”, will make changes based on discourse with other hobbyists, who share ways to do the thing that you’re trying to do in a different, or perhaps, better, more efficient manner.
A good thing, I believe!
One thing about being a “Perpetual Editor” is that you are constantly availing yourself to the latest information, and, in the case of the “Active Listener”, probably having great dialogue with other hobbyists who perhaps have more- or different- experience doing what you’re thinking of doing.
The online world and social media have enabled the “Active Listener” to develop his or her idea to the ultimate degree. Although, the "danger" of being an “Active Listener” is that you can easily “lose control” of your plan by listening to every critique, suggestion, and opinion out there.
And the "trend jumpers?" Well, e-commerce has completely enabled these people, right? You can switch gears in an instant. Regardless of your aquarium-keeping philosophy, a certain degree of independence and individuality is a key requirement to be happy, I think.
In a way, being a “Perpetual Editor” is not really a bad thing.
I mean, you’re always aware of what’s going on in your tank, you’re constantly thinking of improvements and changes, you're totally aware of the “Latest and Greatest” in the hobby, and you are “nimble”- able to change directions "on a dime", as they say. The key, in my opinion, is to stay consistent with your management philosophy. Like, just because the new tank is getting that patina of biofilm, it's not the time to tear out everything and start over. That's not editing...that's interfering!
Yeah, understanding when NOT to "edit" and why is as important as understanding when to edit!
So, don’t despair, sufferers of ADD (Which, IMHO is pretty much everyone in the aquarium keeping world, IMHO...a thesis I'll have to revisit at some point), it helps you be a better, more “agile” hobbyist.
And the great 'scapers, like Jeff Senske of Aquarium Design Group, listen to what's in their heart- pull inspiration from the world around them- and execute based on their instinct and aesthetic. They approach it with an almost yoga-esque calm and vision that comes from being totally in touch with their feelings. It's amazing to see the work that comes from guys like Jeff, Johnny Ciotti, Luis Navarro, George Farmer, Oliver Knott..
They do it with real "soul."
So being a "perpetual editor" is an interesting "burden"- or blessing, depending upon how you look at it. And I've just looked at it from the tank design and hobby perspective!
I’d like to hear from those of you out there who “suffer” from this double-edged sword, and how it impacts your hobby experience.
Are you a “Perpetual Editor?”
Ponder that…And until next time…
Stay creative. Stay inspired. Stay true to yourself. Stay open-minded. Stay bold. Stay on track...if you can!
And Stay Wet.