Not so fragile....

Isn't it funny how, in our own minds, we tend to overthink some aquarium-related stuff?

Okay, maybe it's just ME; however, perhaps you can relate? An example?

I recall not too long ago, when I would work on my aquariums and needed/wanted to do something that would be sort of disruptive to the tank, like moving some rocks, wood, tearing out some plants, etc.- I literally had to "psych myself up to do it.."  I was always of this mindset of "Don't do THAT- it'll upset the whole system..."

I used to feel that the whole idea of keeping an aquarium was to keep it pristine and untouched, like the day it was set up...sort of like a new know...don't get that first scratch on it! Like, I was afraid to do stuff that would stir up the sand or to move stuff around too much. I mean, I felt that this activity could disrupt the system to "the point of no return."

I was worried it would stress the fishes too much, or whatever.

As if Nature isn't a rather chaotic place, filled with all sorts of natural occurrences for which our fishes need to compensate for in some manner? Now, I realize that in Nature, a fish can escape pretty far away from a disturbance, but still..a disturbance is a disturbance, right?


Now, I realize that digging deep into a long-established sand bed or tearing out all of the long-established biological filter media in a highly populated tank are examples of "no fly zones"- stuff you'd be foolish to do- stuff that CAN have real negative consequences for our fishes. Disrupting the function of the biological filtration of your aquarium is always a sketchy prospect, at best. 

But stuff like moving some rocks...or just netting out some fishes temporarily while you do a major disruptive cleaning...That would typically stress ME out more than the fishes I'd be so worried about. And, in decades of working on tanks, I honestly think I could count the number of fishes lost during heavy-duty work in their tanks on the fingers of one had...I mean, I can't really recall any incidents! I mean, for a LOT of fishes, it's just not as big a deal as I seem to have made it over the years...Really.

Sure, moving around fry or newly settled-out marine fish larvae, or disrupting fishes tending to their brood is an obvious "no-non", but really- moving 'em around periodically is not such a big deal. Breeders and people with 50-tank fish rooms know this initmately!

I have no idea where this mindset/perception of "disruption=catastrophe" came from? 

And, as I heard a little kid say once in the LFS to his dad, attempting to convince him to buy that Red Tailed Shark right then and there, while they still had a day of shopping ahead, "Dad, fishes don't break so easily...."

Brilliant. Perfect, even.

I couldn't have phrased it any better! The little guy was spot-on!

I think that we,  as hobbyists tend to get a bit nervous about new tanks in particular...And I also think that we tend to use all the fancy technology and "infrastructure" we can muster to create a sort of "hedge" against some sort of disaster that we feel is inevitably lurking out there...Another topic for another time, but at least, tangentially related.

Yet, I can't help but think that a well-thought-out aquarium which embraces biological stability and common-sense aquarium practices can create a natural "line of defense" that will provide protection and foster resiliency in our fishes.

There are other things that we do in the hobby which- whether we know it or not- foster this resiliency.

And then, there is the “community tank” philosophy. Its never left our collective psyche in the hobby, so we tend to use very comprehensive approaches to ensure that the broadest variety of life has the greatest possibility of success...can't argue with that, really..

And we do it with reef tanks, and planted tanks, especially: If you’re keeping a huge array of plants from all different parts of the river or stream environment, multi-stage CO2 systems, additive dosing regimens, automatic top-off/water change systems, and high-intensity LED lighting all have their place, right?

We use the broadest brush to cover the most canvas — all the possible scenarios. Technologically complex systems and approaches seem to have become a necessity. We rely on them for so many aspects of fish life support...It's almost like we have developed a sort of "dependency" on them, right? 

Well, maybe not.

I mean, the reality is that amazing work is done daily by killifish breeders, Betta fanciers, and other hobbyists in bare bowls, plastic shoe boxes, and glass jars. They perform frequent, large water exchanges and are often moving fishes all over the place...They rarely lose fishes maintained in these decidedly simplistic systems.

Hardly the pinnacle of "high tech"...but it's worked well for generations. 



It's about skill, faith in our abilities. Confidence.

A confidence that goes from the realization that our fishes and aquatic organisms are not always as "delicate" as we tend to think they are...In fact, they are remarkably tough, adaptable, and responsive to what we do.

Fishes are some of Nature's most adaptable and successful organisms...I mean, they've been around for hundreds of millions of years for a reason, right?

They're not so fragile, for the most part.

Sure, serious environmental disruptions and changes always carry risk. Rapid changes can stress or kill fishes. However, the daily or weekly activities of maintenance or "tweaking" our aquariums is not as detrimental to them as we might have harbored in our imaginations...

Yeah, so the next time you want to move a few rocks, pull up a few plants, exchange a few botanicals, and get a little anxious...just remember the words of wisdom from that 8-year-old in the LFS:

Fishes don't break so easily.

Remember those words. The might just come in handy sometime.

Stay relaxed. Stay strong. Stay bold. Stay confident. Stay diligent...

And Stay Wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics 






Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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