Hacking the hobby...

I have to admit, I'm hardly what you'd call a "do-it-yourselfer" when it comes to a lot of things. However, I think I suffer from that most common, yet insidious of hobby afflictions: The desire to "modify", "tweak", or otherwise customize fish stuff. I think pretty much every hobbyist does, to some extent. And I think, to be perfectly honest- that many manufacturers are aware of this. I just like to change stuff...it's in my nature. Yours too, no doubt.

And the hobby offers so many ways to do this.

Now, electronic controllers are perfect for tech-savvy DIY'ers- If you can code, or figure out the software included in your controller, you've got a whole world of things you can do: Tweak the light intensities to take a "siesta" mid day and then ramp up lighting later in the day, while dosing more nutrients? No problem. Want to maximize flow intensity and back off pumps and other water movement devices for feeding? Yeah, you've got this. You guys make it look easy.

Guys like me- the more "challenged" ones- well, we have to resort to changing stuff you can unscrew, twist, snap on, or saw. Don't like the piece of crap pump your all-in-one tank comes with? No sweat, yank it out, get that high quality pump, and figure out the fittings during an hour in the plumbing section at the home improvement store, and voila! You've got FLOW! Don't like the look of the filter return? You've got a dozen ways to fix that..

We have  DIY solution or "hack" for almost everything, don't we? We use stuff in ways manufacturers never even imagined...and it's like, totally normal for us...right?

It works with almost everything in the hobby...even botanicals! Hey, I'll admit it- don't want to pay $4.00USD for some seed pods or leaves? Collect you own, if you can find them! Don't like frozen food? Well, you can easily grow worms and keep brine shrimp in your refrigerator, right? All of these things can save money. Not certain that they will save time. But I think the point of our DIY projects isn't necessarily to save time. I think it might not even be to save money all the time. Rather, I think it's about customization. We love stuff on our terms in this hobby. And we kind of enjoy the process, too.

Besides, who really cares if that high tech DC pump costs more than the aquarium, right?

Leaves are free...I mean, if your a hobbyist who lives in India, you laugh at our selling some types of leaves.

On the other hand, you work, you don't want to deal with collecting stuff...

That's how modern life is, right? Off the shelf solutions don't work for everyone. That's why most of us watch TV on-demand, via our DVR or services like Hulu and NetFilx. It's about doing it in a way that's best for US. No commercials. Ever.

Why be held back from what you enjoy?

And that's part of the reason I hate "rules" when it comes to things like aquascaping. Stuff that's subjective, open to interpretation doesn't always need rules. I mean, suggestions are great, but hard and fast "rules" (short of, "Don't decorate your tank by stringing a live electric wire covered in Christmas Moss") just sort of create barriers that we all seem to dispose. Nature imposes "rules", like the nitrogen cycle, pH, and day/night cycles. But as hobbyists, "rules" never seem to work. It's more like "suggestions" for so many of us. Besides, the best work often is based on eschewing them.

Now, granted, we might venture into unsafe and unfamiliar territory, and sometimes even  get ourselves into trouble when we go against "conventional" aquarium wisdom...On the other hand, it's these little detours that often lead to the best developments, the coolest innovations, and the unexpected breakthroughs. Call it happenstance. Call it giving in to frustration. Call it gifted insight. Pushing back boundaries is not always an invitation to trouble.

"Hacking" the aquarium hobby is a good thing- when we go in with our eyes wide open- knowing that stuff could go south in a hurry if we let it. 

I'm still going to change out that pump in my All-in-one tank.

Stay bold. Stay sort of reckless...sometimes. But always have a "Plan B."

And always...

Stay Wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics 



Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


Leave a comment