I recall not too long ago, when I was working up my aquariums and needed/wanted to do something that would be sort of disruptive to the tank, like moving some rocks, tearing out some plants, etc.- I literally had to "psych myself up to do it.." I was always of this mindset of "Don't do THAT- it'll upset the whole system..."
I used to feel that the whole idea of keeping an aquarium was to keep it pristine and untouched, like the day it was set up...sort of like a new car...you know...don't get that first scratch on it! Like, I was afraid to do stuff that would stir up the sand or to move stuff around too much. Disrupt the system to the point of no return.
I was worried it would stress the fishes too much, or whatever. As if nature isn't filled with all sorts of natural occurrences which our fishes need to compensate for in some manner? Now, I realize that in nature, a fish can escape pretty far away from a disturbance, but still..a disturbance is a disturbance, right?
Now, I realize that digging deep into a long-established sand bed or tearing out all of the long-established biological filter media in a highly populated tank are examples of "no fly zones"- stuff you'd be foolish to do- stuff that CAN have real negative consequences for our fishes.
But stuff like moving some rocks...or just netting out some fishes temporarily while you do a major disruptive cleaning...Well, for a LOT of fishes, it's just not as big a deal as I seem to have made it over the years...Really.
And, as I heard a little kid say once in the LFS to his dad, attempting to convince him to buy that Red Tailed Shark right then and there, while they still had a day of shopping ahead, "Fishes don't break so easily...."
Brilliant. Perfect, even.
I think that we as hobbyists tend to get a bit nervous about new tanks in particular...And I also think that we tend to use all the fancy technology and "infrastructure" we can muster to create a sort of "hedge" against some sort of disaster that we feel is inevitably lurking out there...Another topic for another time, but at least, tangentially related.
The “community tank” philosophy has never left our collective psyche in the hobby, so we tend to use very comprehensive approaches to ensure the broadest variety of life has the greats test possibility of success...can't argue with that, really..
And we do it with reef tanks, and planted tanks, especially: If you’re keeping a huge array of plants from all different parts of the river or stream environment, multi-stage CO2 systems, additive dosing regimens, automatic top-off/water change systems, and high-intensity LED lighting all have their place, right?
We use the broadest brush to cover the most canvas — all the possible scenarios. Technologically complex systems and approaches seem to have become a necessity.
Or have they?
I mean, the reality is that amazing work is done daily by killifish breeders, Betta fanciers, and other hobbyists in bare bowls, plastic shoe boxes, and glass jars. They rarely lose fishes maintained in these decidedly simplistic systems.
Hardly the pinnacle of high tech...but it's worked well for generations.
It's about skill, faith in our abilities. Confidence.
A confidence that goes from the realization that our fishes and aquatic organisms are not always as delicate as we tend to think they are...In fact, they are remarkably tough, adaptable, and responsive to what we do.
Yeah, next time you want to move a few rocks, pull up a few plants, exchange a few botanicals, and get a little anxious...just remember the words of wisdom from that 8-year-old in the LFS:
Fishes don't break so easily.
Remember those words. The might just come in handy sometime.
Stay strong. Stay bold. Stay diligent. Stay confident...
And Stay Wet.