I spoke with a customer the other day who told me that she was taking a "hiatus" from the hobby for a while. After a series of losses and other distractions, she just wasn't enjoying the hobby like she used to. I mean, really burnt on the whole thing.
A Full Stop.
We've all been there if we've been involved in the hobby long enough: That time when, for whatever reason, you just fall into a malaise of sorts. What used to be compelling and enthralling elicits a little more than a casual nod now and again.
As a lifelong aquarist, I understand.
I'm not embarrassed to say that, every once in a while, my interest needs to be "recharged." What causes this? Familiarity? Lack of progress? Lack of a new challenge? Apathy?
Not really sure.
What I am sure of is that this hobby is absolutely engrossing, endlessly fascinating, and can be lifelong. I know. I'm a "lifer"- I've had fishes and aquariums in one form or another since I was literally 3 years old- and will until they pry my cold, lifeless body from my aquarium!
It's important to enjoy the hobby- in multiple aspects. The key to keeping it so is to make it "fresh." Yeah, switching it up; trying stuff a bit differently than what we've done in the past. Not only is this "re-invigorating" it can spur your hobby into completely new, and even more engrossing directions- ones you may not have even thought of.
That being said, let's look at some ways to re-energize your hobby interest, should you find yourself in one of those aforementioned "ruts."
1) Re-aquascape your tank- Oh yeah- super easy. And sometimes, all it takes is a slight change of scenery, if you will, to re-invigorate your interest in your tank. Just like putting a fresh coat of paint in a room, there are few tanks that couldn't benefit from a little less rock,more plants, a new hardscape, a re-configuration, or something entirely different.
2) Re-configure systems that create maintenance issues- Are you driven crazy every time you try to access a filter for routine maintenance? Is it next to impossible to dial down the ball valve on that reactor because the body of your protein skimmer gets in the way? Heater in an annoying location? Need another power strip in the stand? Stuff like this- access and "user friendliness" issues- can really put a damper on the enjoyment of your tank.
So, perhaps now is the time to re-configure and rework those pesky access issues once and for all!
3) Grab that new fish that you've been coveting, even if it means trading or giving away something else to make room- Yup, if you want that crazy new Aulonocara but just don't have the real estate for it, it may be time to donate or trade some fishes to another hobbyist, donate to the club raffle, or to a school that would appreciate them! Sometimes, the key to enjoying the hobby even more is to simply acquire that fish that you've been drooling over for the past year. And the trade-offs? Well, they're usually worth it..Trust me on that!
4) Help a fellow aquarist get his/her tank up and running- Remember the burst of excitement you felt when you set up your first tank? Experience it- if only vicariously- through another hobbyists just getting started! Take pleasure in his or her awe as they watch their first Pleco, attach their first Anubias to their woodwork, clean their canister filter for the first time (okay, well, maybe not!), or any number of a hundred little things that you take for granted, but are an endless source of wonder to the neophyte. It just might rekindle your love four the hobby more than ever! (even if the smell of used filter pads never did anything for you!)
5) Try something totally different- You've always thought it would be cool to create a tank devoted only to Shell-dwelling Lake Tanganyikan cichlids, wild Bettas, Amazon Leaf Fish, etc. Well, maybe now is the time to cut loose and try it. Or, if space and funds are an issue, perhaps you should consider a total "do-over" of an existing tank, re-booting it as one of these "pipe dream" projects. It could change your entire outlook on the hobby!
6) Give fish breeding a shot- Sure, why not? There is a reason why so many hobbyists are breeding fishes in their homes. Not only is it fun, challenging, and educational- it will reduce dependency on wild-collected fishes for the long-term good of the wild biotopes- and the hobby/industry. There are literally hundreds of fishes which have not been bred in captivity to any great extent that you can choose from to focus your breeding project on. And the secrets you unlock during your efforts will benefit hobbyists all over the world when you share them.
7) Automate- Ok, I know I'm like the last guy you turn to for tech advice, but even I appreciate the simplicity and control that a well-thought-out automation system can provide. Imagine if some of your fish room workload" was reduced? Think of the savings in time,effort, and cash that could result. There are many different controllers and aquarium automation systems out there- and as many ways to configure them as there are hobbyists! Not long ago, I installed a couple of simple auto top systems on my tanks, and they literally changed my life! I couldn't believe that it took me so long to try one! Don't be afraid like i was- unleash your inner "tech-head"-and there is a lot of support out there on the forums if you need it!
8) Share your experiences- really, it's almost therapeutic for me to get up every morning and throw down on the computer whatever happens to be on my mind about aquairum-keeping. Sure, some of my blogs are more interesting, insightful, and popular than others, yet they all provide me with some sort of psychological benefit- and many of you tell me that you enjoy reading them, too, so it's all good. Try it- it's a lot of fun, and if you're not careful, you might enjoy it!
9) Join (or start) a club- Wanna commiserate, share, and bounce ideas off of fellow fish geeks? What better way to do that than to join group of like-minded people who understand your obsession! No club in your area? Start one! You'll be surprised what kinds of amazing experiences and friendships can develop from clubs! One of my favorite things to do is talk in front of clubs, see the friendships and closeness..it's way cool!
10) Take a break- What? you're telling me to step away from the hobby? Yup. Sometimes, it's the best- or even the only way to rekindle that fire you once had. It's extreme, and the thought of a quiet house, with no worries about pH swings, feeding, water changes, or pruning plants may seem awesome for a while. If the fish-keeping obsession has bitten you hard- and I'll bet it has-you'll want back in way sooner than you expected. Those of us who are "lifers" just can't keep away. If you don't miss it, there is a very good chance that stamp collecting, Sudoku, role-playing games, or some other diversion is in your future-at least for a while!
Okay, so I've given you a few ways to get your fishkeeping "groove" back. I'm sure many of you out there can think of a few more. I'd like to hear them, as would your fellow hobbyists.
Remember, we can't always be stoked on every aspect of the hobby 100% of the time. Sometimes, we just get burnt on the whole thing. That's understandable. The important thing is that you don't lose sight of the whole love affair that you have with the whole world of aquairum-keeping, and that you at least make an effort to rekindle the flame that may have been flickering out within you.
Stay stoked. Stay engaged. Stay creative. Stay curious...
And Stay Wet.