Getting away with it?

There are amazing life lessons that we can learn just from playing with this hobby.

Have you ever made one of those stupid mistakes in fishkeeping? You know, a really stupid one...A mistake that you should "know better" than to have made at this stage in your "aquarium career?"

You know, something basic- like not quarantining a new fish and getting your whole tank sick. Or using some sort of additive (like algicide or something) that you knew would have some kind of long-term (potentially detrimental) effect on your tank? You know- a shortcut. An ill-advised move. A lapse in judgement, protocol, procedure.

One of those things that, perhaps in a moment of indecisiveness, frustration- or even mild panic- that you "pulled the trigger" on and just did?


I'll digress a bit here...

I have a friend who brags about his flagrant "violation" of the fundamental principles of aquarium practice. He proudly shirks every guideline that's been offered up over the years. Happily disregards all of the common "best practices" of the aquarium hobby.

And gets away with it. Most of the time, anyways.

Or so it seems...

I mean, I suppose we all have gotten away with stuff that we shouldn't have...maybe once or twice?

I suppose that it's human nature to get a bit "complacent", relaxed, or just over-confident. Call it whatever you want.

I know I've made that bad judgement call before: "Oh, that fish looks fine, and there were no sick fish in the tank at the store- I'll chance it and just add him." Or, "I don't know why they say that fish is supposed to be so aggressive. He hasn't even chased anyone...yet." 

You think you're getting away with something that no one else has...

Everything is just fine. What's the big deal?

Yeah, you've gotten away with it!

Or, have you?

I mean, as "advanced" aquarists, I wonder if we sometimes think that we've "paid our dues" to the "aquarium gods", and that, even in moments of irrational decision making, we'll get away with it because we're, well- "advanced?"

I think so. 

I know that I've made really lazy, impulsive decisions before, even when I knew that I shouldn't have. Like taking on some fish I won at the club auction when I really didn't have the space. Or using aged tap water to fill a new aquarium in a hurry when I should have just waited the extra few days until the replacement RO/DI cartridges arrived. Maybe I should have rinsed that sand first...

Sometimes, I'd get away with it.

Other times, I wouldn't be so lucky, and fate would bite me on the ass and teach me a lesson.

The "lesson" isn't really even not to do the specific action that you did to cause the problem. It's not the feeding of the contaminated food, or the failure to remove the eggs from that batch of Discus with a reputation for eating them, or whatever...

It's the decision to proceed when that little voice inside your head tells you- well- SCREAMS at you- to "stop, drop, and cover!"

It's not falling back on the hard-won experience that you've accumulated during years of fish keeping. 

Even as a beginner, you can "trust" what "they" say online, in books, at clubs etc., and do things the (often) slower, more tedious way- or you can tempt fate and take the shortcut. 

 And, of course, the problem with taking the shortcut is that you might be one of those people for whom it works. For a while.


And you'll convince yourself and others that "they" are full of shit.

Everyone is making too big a deal out of it- because you've done it this way for years without any of the nasty results that "they" warned you about. You're like, "immune" or something from the fate that befalls most everyone else who flaunts the rules...

And, before you know it...this becomes "normal" to you. The bad habits become a routine part of your repertoire.


It's been said that the "fail safe" of human endeavour is failure, so why play into that? Why go against the grain on everything? I mean, trying something different than everyone else is doing is cool. However, when I am talking about this idea, we're talking about stuff like  breaking the "rules" of aquascaping, designing a different type of breeding setup, etc.

We're NOT talking about immediately adding 100 Cardinal Tetras to a brand spanking new 40 gallon tank- shit like that.

That's trying to break the laws of Nature...Assuming that stuff as mundane as the nitrogen cycle doesn't apply to YOU.

That's just stupid.

Think about the so-called "fundamentals" for a moment, and why they exist in the hobby.

"Fundamental guidelines based on natural processes" are what they are because, well- they're fundamentals!

Nature runs based on them. 

She's done it pretty damn well for billions of years, too...

We can't just "edit" and pick and choose what basic laws of nature we want to adhere to. Oh, we can, but the payback- which WILL come inevitably, eventually- is a bitch! Why gamble with the lives of helpless animals for our own arrogant means?

One that I would hear all the time in the reefkeeping world is, "I haven't done a water change on my tank in over a year, and my fishes are just fine."

Okay, good for you. Why are you doing that? What benefit does this provide your fishes?

Are you doing it to prove a point or whatever? What's the "end game" by doing that?

It makes no sense to me.

We can change.

And my friend? The guy who constantly takes pride in how he defies the "laws" of aquarium keeping?

Well, his beautiful and long-established 300-gallon African Cichlid tank, the pride of his fish collection- is now a breeding ground for at least 3 different fatal diseases, all of which would have been prevented if he would have quarantined.

Did he finally learn his (expensive and painful) lesson and mend his ways?

He said no, he'll keep doing things his way.  He felt that this was just a fluke. An aberration. An unusual occurrence.

Of course, the battery of 11 gallon quarantine tanks in his garage fish room tells a different story!

So, perhaps you can teach an old fish new tricks?

He's just to fucking proud to admit it, that's all. 

He learned!

"Getting away with it" has its price. And it's usually quite high.

Regardless of your level of experience, don't give in to the temptations. take the long way home, and be great.

Stay thoughtful. Stay careful. Stay humble. Stay bold. Stay decisive. Stay patient.

And Stay Wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics 

Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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