I had a conversation not too long ago with a customer of mine who is doing some experimenting with a non-photosynthetic gorgonian (a maricultured "Blueberry" Gorgonian) that he obtained, and it was one of those typical "aquarium bro" conversations. We talked about the challenges involved, and various ideas to feed the animal without polluting the system, etc. What was really cool about the conversation was that we were talking about doing something that, until really recently, would get you a lot of criticism from fellow reefers for even thinking about it. They would tell you that it was "irresponsible" to purchase and attempt to keep an animal that required specialized, intensive feeding, and that they belong left on the reefs.
And they wouldn't be too far off, either.
However, what was even cooler was the "qualifier" that my customer slipped in at the outset acknowledging that this was a challenging and different avenue, and that he was fully aware of the ethical considerations about trying to keep an animal that has a reputation for touchiness. Further, he was very careful to only purchase an animal that was maricultured, which was a pretty cool thing.
Think about it. Hey was taking on what had been long viewed as controversial, but was at least taking the most responsible type of approach, utilizing a maricultured specimen. It walks a fien line, still, but...
This is an example of the kind of "self policing" that we do as hobbyists. It's a bit different than in years past, when you'd simply be pounded from all sides for even considering trying something a bit out of the norm. In this more "enlightened" era of aquarium keeping, we're encouraging responsible experimentation, and we as hobbyists seem to be going into these types of new adventures with full consideration of the ethical and ecological impact of our work.
Granted, there are still many "taboo" things in the hobby that we dutifully avoid (like keeping deadly venomous animals in open top aquariums, or buying extra large breeder-size wild Altum Angelfishes, Rays, Sharks, etc.), but the fact is, we are trying different approaches and different ideas all the time now in a much more open-minded environment. Responsible experimentation is encouraged.
Skepticism is vital. However, it's one thing to discuss potentially important issues about hobby topics, but it's quite another to discourage people from exploring the real benefits for themselves. Those attempting to split hairs on every issue of every new product, idea, or technique that comes along are missing the point of the hobby, IMHO.
We have amazing companies and hobbyists offering captive bred fishes that have never been in the hobby before, such as new varieties of Plecos, Apistos, and even wild Bettas. Livestock vendors tell me that customers are now are asking for pairs or groups of these rare fishes because they want to see if they can breed them...I mean, this is a quantum shift in the hobbyist mindset of decades past when just KEEPING a specimen of some of these fishes was cool!
I know more than one hobbyist who has a basement fish and plant propagation system that rivals those of some smaller professional vendors. Hobbyists are doing real propagation work with the intent of not just making a few bucks off of their hobby, but to FURTHER it by trying new techniques, different species, and new equipment to do the job. they're really going for it!
For the first time, we have super high-tech controllable DC water pumps that provide precise control for all sorts of applications. Electronic controllers that can create simulated weather patterns in lighting and water movement offer environmental simulation possibilities that could only have been dreamed of before! Efficient, reliable alternatives exist for hobbyists to make almost any of their dream tank ideas work. Sure, not all of them are inexpensive, but the technology is there. More important, the thought process is there! Almost anything is possible!
In other words, hobbyists no longer speak in hushed whispers about creating some cool display system like they might have in the past. Sure, there will always be a few people that love to be "buzz kill" out there, but the majority of hobbyists, skeptical though they might be, seem to be rational, forward-thinking people who love the idea of pushing the hobby forward. As a group, we don't like unsubstantiated claims and vaguely-defined products with seemingly larger-than-life "benefits", but we DO like the ability to experiment and differentiate between what's real and what's hype. The truth seems to sort itself out more quickly these days. Products that make bold claims and assertions without the proof don't last long. Hobbyists are too smart, too resourceful, and thanks to the Internet- too communicative- to allow garbage products and ideas to linger long. It's an exciting era of "new responsibility' for manufacturers, vendors, and hobbyists alike.
We've come a long way in just a few decades, and the best is yet to come.
So if you have a dream, chances are there's an idea, product or person out there to help you achieve it! Don't keep the dream to yourself...share it with the world, discuss it...experiment. Don't be afraid to experiment responsibly. That's how we move forward. Forever forward.
Go for it.
I can't help but close with the motivating words of some unknown author (often erroneously attributed to Mark Twain) that sum it up best:
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
And, until next time...