I was discussing some of my fave themes in the hobby with a friend the other day- and the topics of patience, tolerance, and analysis came up again and again as we reflected upon our own hobby experiences and mindset.
I've always been a sort of consistent, yet flexible hobbyist...adhering to many long-held personal beliefs, while accruing new knowledge and making adjustments to my mindset as needed.
I think I've evolved a bit, believe it or not!
What is your hobby mindset?
Are you the type of hobbyist who is a technical, "go-by-the-book" type, analyzing every facet of something before you move? Everything has to be "perfect" or it's a no-go? Or, are you more spontaneous; the kind of hobbyist who looks at something, tells yourself, "It's just good enough", and make your move?
Can this behavior evolve or change over time?
I think so. Here are some examples from my fish-geek life:
Selecting fishes has always been indicative of my personal weirdness.
I recall driving my LFS employees crazy when I was younger, because I’d spend literally hours in the store, scrutinizing every aspect of a fish before I’d pull the trigger…or not (that must be why I drove ‘em crazy!).
I would scrutinize at every fin ray, every gill movement…I’d look at every twitch and scratch and correlate it with known disease symptoms versus regular behaviors for the said species…I would sometimes bring my reference material (like Axelreod’s books for FW, and maybe the early Albert Thiel stuff after the dawn of the “reef” age, notes from Bob Fenner’s books in my hand later on), and would just geek out.
It was a bit...odd, I admit.
Of course, I would second guess everything the LFS employees said because “the books” said otherwise, even though the employees worked with these animals every day of their lives, and were in the ideal position to speak from genuine firsthand experience…
My first brush with aquarium-keeping “dogma”, I suppose.
My how things change! I've since become the king of "anti-regurgitation" of stuff you have no personal knowledge about in the hobby!
And of course, I knew at an early age that I’d never be an “impulsive aquarist"- one who just makes quick, tank-altering decisions on the spur-of-the-moment. I think that mindset might have come about because, when you’re a kid, you have a 10- gallon tank and $5.67 that you’ve painstakingly saved for months to spend. You need to be absolutely sure of your purchases.
Hey, I think I was a "millennial" before the title existed!
I was very thorough! Perhaps, a bit too thorough.
Even as an adult, with a 225 gallon tank, and much more to spend, I still found myself doing the same thing (okay, maybe with my iPhone in tow, instead of some well-worn reference book). You should have see me when I would go to the wholesalers here in L.A for my prior business….it could take me half a day to pick like 5 fish or 2 brood stock coral colonies!
At least when we would obtain stock from our usual sources overseas, we had built up personal relationships to the point where these guys knew our tastes and tolerences, so that it actually became easier and less aggravating to order from them than simply to the wholesaler’s facility! Yes, you can "evolve"...I now routinely purchase the bulk of the fishes for my personal aquariums sight unseen from online sources, relying solely on the skills and communication from suppliers I've developed a trust relationship with over time.
More than "just good enough..."
Equipment choices for my tanks are even more subject to analysis and absurd scrutiny, because hey- how often do you purchase a new filter or an LED lighting system? (OK, wait- don’t answer that-especially if you're a fellow reefer. We LOVE to buy new equipment as causally as hardcore F.W. guys buy frozen brine shrimp). But seriously, when you’re sending the big bucks on a critical piece of life-support equipment, you want to get it right!
And, with lots of money and the lives of your fishes on the line, it makes sense. The problem is, there are so MANY choices of different categories of stuff...and then, some manufacturers have incremental variations on specific products that require more thorough analysis before purchase...It's a big deal, right?
Of course, impulsiveness- or lack thereof- can permeate every aspect of being an aquarist, including setup and configuration of your tank. Personally, I"m all over the map on that. I may not be overly impulsive in terms of additions and purchases, but I CAN be spur of the moment on tank decisions. What exactly do I mean by “tank decisions?”
For example, I’ll be scraping algae or some other mundane maintenance chore in my tank, and suddenly, I’ll notice a rock or driftwood branch that seems “not right” somehow…”Hmm, what if I move this guy over here…?” Of course, this almost always leads to a spontaneous “refreshing” of the aquascape, often taking hours to complete. Often, after numerous iterations- I'll end up right back where I started (Okay, sometimes, not as good...).
Somehow, I find this relaxing. Weird. So it’s entirely possible to be analytical and calculating on some aspects of aquarium keeping, yet spontaneous on others.
I believe that this behavior applies to many of us. I mean, I HOPE it does, lol.
And of course, there are aquarists who are entirely impulsive, which is why you see entire 200 gallon tanks full of every plant and fish imaginable, with rock wool pots sticking out from every conceivable angle, and all sorts of gadgets and stuff. Of course, I cannot, in all honesty, say anything negative about them, because some of these impatient types keep the aquatics industry in business, lol!
On the other hand, we spend insane amount of times preaching patience, acceptance, observation, slow moves, etc. So, like on a "macro" level, I think it's all about slow, deliberate moves...On the micro, short-term level...it is often a faster, less rigid mind set. A real "yin/yang" approach, which, if kept under control and not allowed to go off the rails, can result in real progress in the hobby.
A balance, where "good enough" can result in "better than we imagined." Of course, we should always push ourselves to do our best work, and to put the interests of the animals under our care above our own. The same mindset that looks at a new botanical tank full of biofilm-covered leaves, says, "Natural!" and stays the course is the one that will likely cause you to evaluate all of your hobby-related moves and make the decisions in a way that makes the most sense for you.
Enjoy. Embrace. Evolve.
Stay quirky. Stay open-minded. Stay honest with yourself. Stay uniquely YOU...
And Stay Wet.