There is a phenomenon that has arisen in the past decade or so: We want to only share only our ultimate-our very best stuff-on social media. We flex. We primp and preen and...
I'll come right out and say it: That sucks. It sucks shit.
Because, all of the things that we do- especially in an up-and-coming hobby speciality like the botanical-style aquarium movement- are important, special- and inspiring!
All of it.
Even the stuff that that we think is not so good. Or, not fully-fleshed-out just yet.
It's all good. It's all important. Because what you may think is an undeveloped idea could very well be the spark- the inspiration- for someone else who may have been "stuck", and was just waiting for the right idea to come around.
We have to overcome this phobia that we have collectively developed which says, "I can only share my best work!"
Because people might see that your tank had to start somewhere? Because you might have some algae in there?
Because you haven't yet arrived at the final wood configuration? Don't have all of the leaf litter in place?
For every excuse, I can think of several reasons why you should share.
Even ideas that I thought were a bit "out there", or "not quite ready to show the world" based on the idiotic standards we in the aquarium community have set for ourselves, I shared, and continue to share.
Because to not share not only perpetuates this absurdity, it glorifies the finished product over the process- the journey to get there. And where exactly is "there?"
When is an aquairum "finished", anyways?
I don't think a tank ever is "finished." Especially not the types we play with.
One of the interesting things I've found over the years about botanical-style natural aquariums is that they evolve over time. Sure, you can set 'em up to look great from the start, and place everything meticulously- but the reality is, Nature will dictate not only where things end up- but in what condition. Currents and fishes can move stuff. Fungi and bacteria can break down the leaves and botanicals, etc.
I was wondering if it had to do with some inherent impatience that we have as aquarists- or perhaps as humans in general-a desire to see the "finished product" as soon as possible; something like that. And there is nothing at all wrong with that, I suppose. I just kind of wonder what the big rush is? I guess, when we view an aquarium in the same context as a home improvement project, meal preparation, or algebra test, I can see how rapid "completion" would take on a greater significance!
Yet, in that rush, we miss the "in-between days." Those seemingly mundane periods when your idea is blossoming, developing. Evolving.
At home right now, I am in the middle of a big remodeling project, so all of my larger aquariums- and the bulk of my extensive collection of aquairum gear and gadgets and stuff- are in storage. All I have to work with at home is a shelf full of nano tanks. And I tinker with them. I tweak. I make do. All the time. And none of them- not one- is what the hobby would consider "insta-ready!"
And I couldn't give two fucks.
Because they are developing and evolving ideas. Testbeds for future tanks. temporary features, "gerry-rigged" and equipped differently than any "permanent" tank I'd do. And, quite honestly, I've never had more fun with tanks than I am now. My little collection of nano tanks in a near-empty home office is providing me tremendous pleasure, sanity, and the ability to iterate, evolve, and share!
Honestly, it doesn't matter if they're not "perfect" by someone else's standards- or even my own. They're interesting, and I learn from them daily. So I share, as these little tanks go through their motions and blossom.
Things change regularly.
I can't think of how many tanks I've started where the finished product bore little resemblance to how it looked in the early days.
On the other hand, if you look at an aquarium as you would a garden- an organic, living, evolving, growingentity- then the need to see the thing "finished" becomes much less important. Suddenly, much like a "road trip", the destination becomes less important than the journey. It's about the experiences gleaned along the way. Enjoyment of the developments, the process. In the botanical-style aquarium, it's truly about a dynamic and ever-changing system.
Every stage holds fascination.
Many of my favorite tanks that I've ever done simply started out as an idea- an itch I had to scratch, with no intention of ever making it "The Tank" of my dreams...Yet, sometimes, that;'s kind of what you end top with, isn't it?
IS there even a "finish line" to an aquarium?
Part of the pleasure is working with nature; being challenged by her.. adjusting, pivoting. And that's what makes stuff fun! I mean, when there is nothing more to do but change water, tweak a few gadgets, and feed, is it still an enjoyable hobby? Is THAT a hobby in and of itself?
I suppose, but...
Have you EVER gotten a tank to that stage? Where you're simply observing it and nothing else? What's that like?
Sure, the reality is that an aquatic display is not a static entity, and will continue to encompass life, death, and everything in between for as long as it's in existence. Yet, what is it that really happens in a truly "mature" aquarium?
There might be some competition between fishes, plants, or corals that results in one or more species dominating all of the rest. Maybe. Or, does diversity continue to win, with lots of different life forms eaking out an existence in your artificial microcosm, just as they have managed to do for eons in Nature?
We don't have all of the answers.
And that's okay. However, we should enjoy those times when our tanks are doing their thing...evolving...
And we should share them. Form sterile, disorganized beginning to what we feel is their "best state"- and everything in between.
Yeah, those "in-between" days- those are the days I live for.
Stay brave. Stay patient. Stay creative. Stay generous. Stay observant. Stay entranced...
And Stay Wet.