On occasion, I get restless...

I am not sure what it is with me, but, although as a hobbyist I can be as patient and goal-driven as hell, I occasionally get "restless."

Like, I'll start off on an aquarium project with a good idea and the best of intentions, and then, early on in the thing, I'll completely change my mind and do a 360 degree switch. And I honestly don't know what causes this. Maybe it's because I wanted to just DO something, and I started working with an idea that really wasn't what I wanted...and then when that "muse" strikes- I just tear the whole thing down and start anew.

It's not a great attribute for a hobbyist to have, I'll admit. 

Sometimes, the trigger can be something as simple as a piece of equipment I don't like...For example, I had a filter once that, in addition to being obtrusive in the tank, was just making too much noise. And because the other filters that would I could use wouldn't be much quieter, the entire project was scrapped. Like, I didn't try to do a workaround. I didn't try to see if there was some way I could live with it.

I scrapped it. Took it down.


Because I believe that life is too short to have things which don't bring you pleasure. I never would have liked this tank, because I couldn't handle the filter. And I was honest with myself about it.

"Champagne problem, Fellman." "You're so entitled.."

Yeah, I suppose one could say that.


But when you think about it, how is it any different than say, purchasing a new outfit or a TV, getting it home. and realizing it just isn't working for you?

I mean, sure, in the case of an aquarium, you generally want to determine this before you've added fishes and gotten them acclimated and adjusted to the tank. Sure, it's not very humane to uproot animals simply because you're not happy with the filter or whatever. 

One of the things I love the most is to be able to switch up an idea...to reflexible. Now, like many of you- I'm obscenely patient in some respects. However, when it comes to the idea- or getting the idea executed, well, that's where I can be a bit impatient. 

I have this thing about getting stuff started right. Like, if there us an annoyance- a noisy pump, an obtrusive piece of equipment...these things usually manifest immediately, and they set the tone for how the experience in general will go with the tank. I mean, if I'm ten minutes in and the sight of a big ugly filter or something else is already annoying me- well, "game over!" 

I have great admiration for some hobbyists- the ones who are able to sort of let filter intakes, outlets, heaters, etc. simply "disappear"- and by disappear, I mean not bother them. Like, they'll have this amazing aquarium, and right in the middle is a filter outlet...but no biggie- you just don't even notice it. I don't even notice it...because the rest of the tank is THAT good.

I wish I could create work like that! 

But I can't. And Im okay with that.

So I will often literally tear apart  a hardscape multiple times to get to "it..." That "thing" I was envisioning...and often I'll tear up my "final", only to end up right back where I started...and somehow like it. 

Changing stuff up- "messing" with things- is part of the creative process. And it's part of being an aquarist for me. It may not be how everyone works. But it's how I work, and I'm okay with that. 

Perhaps it's weird. Perhaps it's even fucked up.

But that's my "process", lol

It's a burden, on occasion. Other times, it's led me to some of my bast work.

Yet, I've come to realize that I'm no aquascaper. I'm no super-guru of creating the perfect hardscape or whatever. I will never be one of those guys who could be some kind of champion 'scaper, or become an authority on creating awesome aquaecapes. It's not me. I admire those who have those skills and attributes that allow them to nail every tank they do. It's just not me. I'm a guy who just has ideas that I want to play with and execute. Sometimes I can pull them off. Other times, I fall short. And when I fall short, I change them up until I hit what I wanted.

I'm totally not afraid to do that.

At least I know when I'm not hitting the target that I want, and I can admit to myself that I don't like what I'm doing, or what I've ended up with. It's a sort of comfortable feeling, knowing that what you did is NOT what you wanted to do, and being okay with admitting that and either fixing it, or simply "pulling the plug" and starting over.

I think a key component of being a successful aquarist is having a healthy dose of self awareness.

I am a sort of "self editor" of my work. It's a very honest process.

Yeah, you heard me, I’ll “edit.”, gradually dissecting my concept and morphing it into something else, until it feels right to me. 

Moving this. Re-positioining that. Taking out an element, adding something.

Now, a lot of people will call this process “evolution”, or view it as a necessary stage in the development of an aquarium. I call it “A.D.D.” or something! Not sure.  It's like, all of the sudden, I’ll see an article about "ephemeral floating leaf litter beds" or an underwater video of an Amazonian igarape, and It'll realize that what I have done is not what I really wanted to do, and my carefully conceived African River biotope or whatever, goes straight out the damn window.

Off we go... into a totally different direction!

I think I’m what I like to classify as a “Perpetual Editor” -type of aquarium personality. At least, in terms of my ideas. Perhaps, it's as a result of embarking on a path that, deep down inside, I knew wasn't where I really want to go. I think that's why, although I have great admiration for my friends who are masters of planted aquascapes- that I'll never do one on my own initiative. A lot of people ask me why I don't keep a full-on, high-concept planted 
aquarium. I have a simple answer..

It's just not ME.

If one of my friends wanted to do one for me, I'd totally agree to it, and manage it. I love the look. I'd be stoked to have on in my home. But I simply won't create one myself. There is a certain patience and love of the process in planned tank that simply isn't "active" in me. At least not right now- and in the past four decades or so. I won't hold my breath on the chance that it will activate soon. But you never know, right?

Reef tanks, on the other hand, hold a certain fascination for me, and I'm actively counting down the days until I start my next one! It's part of me- in my core, and it installs a certain passion in me.HOwever, it's not my sole passion in the hobby, and I'm able to "compartmentalize it" while I work through some of my other current hobby priorities, like brackish, etc.


Yet, at the core of it all, I'm an "editor", I suppose.

It's a bit odd that I "edit" ideas so quickly, because, as you know- I'm obsessed with the process...I have huge patience in establishing my aquariums and leaving them to evolve largely unmolested. It's really at the initial execution or ideation phase where I get detoured. And if I start executing too soon, before I've really settled on the idea- that's when tanks get broken down and shuffled around.

Now, don’t get me wrong.

My core beliefs about aquarium keeping are typically unchanging..well, they evolve, as you've seen on these pages, based on experience-like everyone else. And, like you, I am always open to suggestions to do something better. Sometimes, this is a good thing. I mean, if your idea was to develop a Knifefish community in a 50-gallon tank, and you "pivoted" to a 700-gallon tank after running it by some friends, that’s a very good thing!

“Coming to your senses” is what it’s called.

However, my changes are often more subtle: For example, I was planning on stocking an all-South-American characin system, but ended up creating a Rasbora-dominated biotope instead.

You know, that kind of thing...

They're based upon what I was really feeling. 

It can get really crazy. During one particularly frenetic period of time in 2017, I re-did the same tank three different times in a span of about 3 months. 

It can get a little bit crazy, I know.

On the other hand, being a “Perpetual Editor” archetype of fish keeper also has his/her advantages. mainly, the ability to modify a plan as he/she goes if he sees a better way.

Almost categorically, the “Perpetual Editor” has a looser, more flexible approach to  aquarium planning, construction, and management, and is perhaps more in tune with the latest and greatest trends, techniques, and philosophies of the aquarium game. (and of course, more susceptible to being influenced by a lot of stuff!)

Now, I hate "trends", personally. However, I do find myself influenced strongly by new research I conduct on various wild habitats.

Yeah, I personally hate chasing trends. Really. 

One thing about being a “Perpetual Editor” is that you are constantly availing yourself to the latest information, and, in the case of the “Active Listener”, probably having great dialogue with other hobbyists who perhaps have more- or different- experience doing what you’re thinking of doing.

And it opens you up to re-thinking ideas that you may have had before which, for whatever reason, never came to pass. Maybe you needed more information. Perhaps you needed to see something in Nature to push you. Or maybe, you just had an "itch" that you finally wanted to scratch, and did it!


The online world and social media have enabled the “Active Listener” to develop his or her idea to the ultimate degree. Although, the "danger" of being an “Active Listener” is that you can easily “lose control” of your plan by listening to every critique, suggestion, and opinion out there.  

And the "trend jumpers?"

Well, e-commerce has completely enabled these people, right? You can switch gears in an instant. Regardless of your aquarium-keeping philosophy, a certain degree of independence and individuality is a key requirement to be happy, I think.

In a way, being a “Perpetual Editor” is not really a bad thing.

I mean, you’re always aware of what’s going on in your tank, you’re constantly thinking of improvements and changes, you're totally aware of the “Latest and Greatest” in the hobby, and you are “nimble”- able to change directions "on a dime", as they say. The key, in my opinion, is to stay consistent with your management philosophy.

Like, just because the new tank is getting that patina of biofilm, it's not the time to tear out everything and start over. That's not editing...that's interfering!

However, that "honesty" of knowing that what you've pulled off in that tank is NOT what you really wanted, is supremely valuable. Letting yourself change it up because YOU don't like it is a good thing.

Now sure, the argument can be made that this sort of nonsense can stress out animals and such- and it's legitimate. However, if you exercise proper due diligence during your process- and have the means to temporarily house your fishes while you ideate- that's a less disruptive thing.

Again, part of knowing yourself is admitting that this is how you work, and having an extra tank around to house fishes while you "redecorate" is a morally proper thing.

Self-awareness. A powerful tool for the aquarist.

So, if you find yourself a bit frustrated with what you've done; "restless"- oddly dissatisfied, and maybe just plain "over it"- fear not. You can and SHOULD switch it up. The "restlessness" you feel is not some sort of "mental problem" you have...Rather, it's your own heart telling you what you need to listen to: The fact that what you did wasn't what you really wanted to do.

Trust yourself. Listen to yourself.

Change it up.

It's okay.

Stay honest. Stay bold. Stay passionate. Stay creative. Stay persistent...

And Stay Wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics 


Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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