Future...perfect? Maybe. Maybe.

It’s the year 2035.

Seriously...it's, like...the future, man.

And it actually sounds like a nice number, right? Just far enough away to be “in the future”, but not so far away as to lost in the realm of science fiction, ya know?

You’re a fish geek…Yeah, the hobby still exists.

In fact, it's thriving!

The politicians in our nations' capitals and the over-zealous environmentalists finally realized, thanks to the efforts of tireless hobbyists- that captive propagated fishes, plants, and corals are helping to manage wild populations and supplement carefully- managed responsible collection practices to assure species survival for generations to come.

We have a long-established, viable and sustainable trade. Breeding of African Rift Lake Cichlids, Angelfishes, Tetras, and Rasbora has long-ago relegated significant wild collection of these fishes to history. Others are carefully managed to help maintain the wild populations and the environments themselves. The aquarium trade has collaborated with governments around the world to create guidelines for long-term stewardship of wild reefs and freshwater aquatic environments.

Fantasy? Perhaps. But it’s MY vision of the future, so indulge me for a bit, okay?

The typical hobbyist is not wearing a jet pack, driving a gravity-modulating vehicle, or walking around with a microchip imbedded in his head. Not that kind of Hollywood-esque, dark future. Unfortunately, the USS Enterprise is still 300 years away, and “getting away” still means climbing on a noisy, "high-carbon-footprint" subsonic jet to Tahiti.

What else is happening in the hobby in 2035?

Let’s take a look at some of my hoped-for predictions. You can smack me or something in 2035 if they don’t come to pass, but the way I see it, I have like 18 years before you get to call bullshit on my predictions!

Here are  just a few:

As mentioned above, captive bred fishes are the standard. More so than even today.

Perhaps even clones of world-champion guppies or Bettas.  Collection pressures on many wild populations has forced the hobby/industry to embrace captive-bred fishes once and for all as the "standard", particularly in the marine side of the hobby. The “new norm” for marine aquariums is not big, Ocean-going Tangs, Triggerfishes, and such...Nope,  it’s small, colorful, Gobies, Dartfishes, Clownfishes, Assessors, Dwarf Angelfishes, Blennies and Wrasses, the majority of which were bred in captivity by boutique breeders and larger commercial operations.

Big fishes have fallen out of favor, with hobbyists finally realizing that they are just not practical for most tanks…Keeping a Naso Tang, Pacu, or Aisan Arowanna in a 200-gallon tank is now viewed the same way as if you or I chose to live in our living room for the rest of our lives…I mean, you have a couch and Netflix, but you’ll go nuts after a few months, right?

The new mantra is “Small Fish- Big Tank.”

(Okay, maybe this one is a personal "pipe dream", but hey...)

Water movement in aquariums is via ridiculously small, low-power consumption, ultra high-tech internal pumps. It is now possible to generate widely dispersed flow rates of thousands of gallons per hour with electrical consumption in the single digits of watts. Or, you'll be able to create specific flow patterns/energy levels to match various aquatic environments, right down to how many meters per second the Upper Orinoco or whatever is pushing out... Don’t think this will happen? It already is, to some extent.

And it's only going to get better.

When I was in Hanover, Germany a couple of years back, visiting a company called Panta Rei (the guys who make those really cool "Hydro Wizard" pumps- Google them if you're not sure what I'm referring to..these things are beasts!), and saw some prototypes of pumps that were ridiculously advanced, super-efficient, and really, really small, made in a high-tech facility that had us convinced that some kind of deal must have been struck with extraterrestrials to get this technology. We even saw a prototype of a pump that was the size of a pencil eraser, which put out like 80 GPH..Sheer craziness..and it’s all coming very soon.


We’re all trying to give our fishes, plants, and corals the best possible environment; a replication of nature. To that end, the industry and hobby have cumulatively spent decades of energy, millions of R & D dollars, and lots of brain power trying to develop additives, salt mixes, and other "elixirs" to try to help accomplish just that. In the very near future, it will be completely possible to replicate natural reef water chemistry in the aquarium from locations worldwide with relative ease, and I think precise freshwater replication is right there, too.

Thanks to the work of Triton Labs, another German-based company, a database is being developed of super-detailed ICP-OES water analysis from reefs around the world, and pure formulations of the constituent trace elements contained within them. This will enable a hobbyists to mimic the exact chemical/trace element composition of water from a specific locality.

Picture this: You’re on vacation in The Maldives. You see an epic coral reef that you’d love to mimic in your home. you have the tank, you have the lights. You have the water movement. You can go online and look up the location and glean exact water composition information about it..Now, you know EXACTLY what the trace element levels are in that fabulous ecosystem, and have a means to replicate them in your home aquarium.


Will this technology and data-logging be applied to freshwater? Oh, it will. Give it a little time.

Further, just imagine if collectors, wholesalers, then fish retailers had this information all along the chain of custody from wild collection point to retail, being able to provide fishes with the exact water conditions they enjoyed in the wild- and then providing that to you! Could you imagine this technology turned loose on the Igarapes of South America or Mangrove Swamps of Asia? 

Since replicating the natural environment is a key to successful husbandry, it only makes sense that linking technology and biology together will propel the hobby/art of aquarium keeping forward.

In 2035, and maybe sooner- I have absolutely no doubt that we will see real-time connectivity between technology as diverse as satellites and aquarium controllers. Huh? For example, a storm is a-brewing down in Amazonia…Your aquarium is set up to mimic a stream down in “those parts”...Your aquarium's electronic controller/monitor (yeah, you have one...they're cheap and pervasive now) is set to monitor the conditions down there via subscription service (Much like satellite or streaming services do for entertainment programming) to link satellite weather reports and/or NOAA ocean buoy information from that region to your controller monitoring service (either third party or from the manufacturer- whoa- can you say “niche market opportunity?”). 

Through an algorithm (or whatever you computer-type geeks call it), a set of conditions is developed at the monitoring service, and your water pumps, LED lights, and yeah- even pH and/or trace element dosing, feeding and whatever other functions are tied to your controller- are adjusted accordingly. 

Biotope aquarium environmental changes...in real time!

To some extent, we have these kinds of things now…However, in the future, you’ll see pumps automatically and seamlessly adjusted to produce crazy water currents, LED-generated “lightning”, “cloud patterns”, and perhaps even water levels and temperature swings that coincide with real-time location data- occurring right in your aquarium!

Think of the implications for fish breeders and biotope geeks here!

Of course, these changes would be “stepped down” in terms of energy levels and intensities, based on tank size, so as not to create ridiculous, deadly environmental swings or monsoon flooding- but there would be changes to the environment! If it’s a bit too “Big Brother”-ish for you, I suppose that you’d receive ample warning from a forecast feature on your mobile device, so you could “opt out” of the encroaching storm if it interferes with your next house party..LOL


How many times have you had this argument with an aquarium keeping buddy at the auction, show, LFS, or even a friend’s house? “Dude, that’s an Pseudotropheus perspicax.” “No, it’s a galanos.” “Nah, I think it’s a “saulosi…”

Okay, whatever. You have. You know it.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know, once and for all if the “Blue striped whatever” really IS the “Blue-Striped Whatever”, and what species it REALLY is? Well, think about this: We have the Human Genome Project, and DNA sequencing is used for all kinds of crazy stuff. It’s only a matter of time before someone applies the DNA analysis techniques used in fish and coral-specific research to create practical and stupidly accurate ID for the industry and hobby- kind of like what Triton and others are  doing with ICP-OES for water analysis.

The impact would be dramatic and revolutionary.

(Gaphic by Abizar lakdawalla, used under CC BY-SA 3.0)

ID would forever be 100% accurate, and we could develop a body of knowledge on the husbandry of various aquatic species the likes of which has never been done before- simply because we’d know EXACTLY what species we’re dealing with. The “Limited Edition” garbage of the coral trade would be put to rest once and for all, and true “lineage” could be established for all sorts of  fishes, plants, and corals.

Vendors would be better informed, right along with hobbyists.

This ID would also be great for enforcing trade restrictions, proving that a fish or coral is from captive-propagated stock, a specific population, breeder, etc. It’s not at all far-fetched- and really has amazing practical implications!

As the technology impacting the hobby continues to evolve, I’d like to think that hobbyist will, too.

We’ve already seen it- thanks to the internet, and forums. Communication on a global scale is immediate and far reaching. Ideas that pop up to a Betta breeder in Battle Creek, Michigan can immediately be relayed to a Betta breeder in Glasgow, Hokkaido, or Burkina Faso, for that matter…Collaboration, kinship, and the perpetuation of hobby “culture” will always be possible, thanks to technology- and even more so because of the sprit of the hobbyist…unshakable, grounded in science, yet tempered with passion.

A formidable combination for the present, and into the future.

Well- those are a few of my predictions of the not-too-distant future of the hobby…Some are already coming to fruition- others are likely still a ways off- but they WILL come to pass…along with hundreds of ideas not even postulated here.

What sorts of visions do you have for the future of the hobby? Share your insights, theories, and feelings…

As always, keep an eye on your tanks, another one on the future…

Stay curious. Stay optimistic. Stay bold. Stay diligent...

And Stay Wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics





Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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