Guarantees in the hobby- and dissing the "Aquarium Gods!"- Words to the wise...

If you read my blog and listen to my podcasts, you know my complete disdain for "guaranteeing" anything we do in the hobby to give absolute results. And that goes to stuff we do, as much as the stuff we use in the hobby. 


Yeah, there are some things that we can do as hobbyists which will simply tempt the "Aquarium Gods" ( I am pretty certain that there ARE some!) to pretty much kick your ass...some more than others.

"Examples, Scott?"

Okay... How about this one:

Never move “just a couple of rocks and wood pieces” around in your aquascape within an hour of going to sleep at night- particularly on a week night, or before a morning when you just have to wake up early! Trust me, you won’t be getting restful sleep any time soon. It’s almost a certainty that moving one rock with the intention of “opening up space” or making a minor “tweak”, will lead to you pulling out a dozen rocks, a few driftwood pieces, a plant or two- or even the whole aquascape before the job is done, which could take hours and hours without completion.

I recall, in years past, attempting that one "quick adjustment" before heading out to work for the day, only to find myself deeply involved hours later, calling in sick to work, no closer to resolution- and the room filled with wet towels, lots of pieces of rock and wood all over the floor, and the wet footprints of a very frustrated fish geek! 

In fact, the job may not be done for days!

At some point, after numerous attempts to “correct” things, you’ll throw in the towel, and try to just make things “the way they were” before your started this futile endeavor…And guess what? You’ll NEVER be able to re-create what you had before…total bummer, which will take hours and hours to correct. We know this well- but we still do this.  Just don’t do it, trust me.

Changing light bulbs, settings, or the lighting system before a trip- This one is like the proverbial  “kiss of death!” I mean, really, changing light bulbs is no big deal, right? Oh, trust me, it is, especially when the new bulbs are a different spectrum (like if you use T5’s) ,or if you change up the colors or photoperiod with LED's-  or if you’re changing lighting formats from fluorescent to LED, for example. Not only will your plants likely react a bit differently when you expect- they will undoubtedly demonstrate their apparent displeasure at the worst possible time (like when you are away), and you may come back to a disaster in the making, or worse!

This shit really comes into play when you have a reef tank. Corals HATE adjusting to new lighting formats, spectrums, and photoperiods, and the inevitable meltdowns which occur are excasserbated when you're not around...and the whole aquarium can go into a big, stinky "death spiral!"  Coming home to a tank of dead coral is a sight and smell you definitely won't soon forget! Yeah, it really happens…Don’t ask me why, but it’s nerve-wracking enough just doing such a change when you’re going to be home…but if you’re leaving town...You are absolutely tempting fate! Be ready to replace some plants upon your return…at the very least! Yikes!

And just for my fellow reefers...

Turning the ball valve on your protein skimmer to make a "minor adjustment" to water intake when you’re in a hurry -You’re sooo screwed! I mean, there is no such thing as a “quick adjustment” to a protein skimmer…They’re totally finicky, and a sure ticket to headaches when you’re in a hurry…Or even when you aren’t, right? The same caution applies to making adjustments to your CO2 solenoid or feed valve on a reactor…ridiculously small adjustments are the only way to go…I mean, almost non-existent changes…

Air/water mix ratios, chemical feeds, and other dynamics can just get screwed up so easily it’s not even funny. Subtlety and time are everything with these kinds of changes. If you rush them, have plenty of Tylenol or your favorite pain reliever, wine, or beer available- it’s a virtual certainty that headaches will be waiting for you when you’re done. 

Taking a chance on that "cool cichlid" that was a perfect citizen in your buddy’s tank. -Are you KIDDING ME? SERIOUSLY? NO! NO! NO! It’s a virtual guarantee that the innocuous fish that resided in your buddy’s 400-gallon Malawi “community” tank for 7 years without incident will suddenly develop a great appetite for your precious juvenile Taeniolethrinops macrorhynchus or Mylochromis species. Yeah, your really rare, pricy ones.

I mean, you can practically take it to the bank!  Reefers know that the same goes for the anemone that never moved in your friend’s reef aquarium. Ask yourself, if the animal is such a model citizen, why is he or she getting rid of it? Prepare for knocked-over corals- or worse. Why on earth aquarists even think of tempting fate by trying these sorts of “additions” is beyond me sometimes!

"He seemed SOO nice!" (image by Oosh CC BY-SA 3.0)

Skipping quarantine with that "healthy" new addition- This isn't just superstition talking- it’s firmly grounded in reality..Skipping quarantine with one fish, or one coral, if you're a reefer- can open up your entire system to a limitless number of diseases or other maladies that can create dire consequences for your aquarium. Totally not worth it. We know this, but many of us tempt fate anyways. Some even get cocky and BRAG about it! And as we all know, bragging about shit like this a guarantee that the Universe- and those pesky "Aquarium Gods"- will even the score with you at some point.

Quarantine is a vital, logical practice that is employed by every public aquarium on the planet, and scores of successful hobbyists everywhere. You definitely are playing “Russian Roulette” with your aquarium if you skip this practice. Even if you know the source, have observed the fish repeatedly at the store or in its prior owners’ aquarium, it’s not worth it. Trust me.

Totally not worth it.

Going to a club auction with the intention of just “checking stuff out”- Pu-leeeze! Seriously? You have just about guaranteed that you’re going to leave with fry of something. In fact, you’ll probably leave with fry of several “somethings”. Auctions and "frag swaps" are irresistible to aquarium geeks, and the generosity of hobbyists is well documented.

“Oh, you’re a newbie? Here- have a frag of this Xenia, and some fry of these Nothobranchius guentheri…Super easy to keep…Can’t lose!” Even if you didn’t bring money, you’ll likely leave with way more than you intended. I have seen numerous times where aquarists even ended up borrowing from their teenage kid to grab a fish (because he was determined not to tempt him/herself by bringing cash to the event). So my advice if you’re attending a club auction? Just bring cash. That little group of Boraras? You'll find space in your fish room for them...somewhere! Seriously.

Bring a cooler. Leave restraint at home.

Okay, so there is just a quick rundown of “sure things” in the aquarium hobby. I mean, there aren’t that many certainties in this game, are there? Well, actually, there are. Sure, I focused on a few with some potentially bad consequences…There are no doubt countless others with the possibility of better outcomes…but it’s far more fun to highlight the bad ones, isn’t it? LOL

Oaky- that's a quick rundown of  some of my personal "guarantees"-based on decades of experience and learning-finally- not to tempt the "Aquarium Gods!" 

So, let’s hear your “guarantees” in the aquarium hobby!

I know that you’ve got way many more examples of this that you can add to our “database!"

So, go ahead- tempt fate...but don't say that I didn't warn ya!

Stay bold. Stay thoughtful. Stay diligent. Stay careful!

And Stay Wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics

Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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