Oh, we love to play those "what if" games as hobbyists, huh? You know, "What if you had a million dollars and access to any fish you wanted...what kind of dream fish room would you build?" Blah, blah, blah...stuff like that. We love the hypothetical. And I know from time to time, I've posed that classic Facebook fish poll: "If you could only keep one fish, what would it be?"
(Yeah. I'm not proud of it. Just admitting that I've asked it.)
But it did get me thinking about the idea of keeping one fish. Well, not the way you think. I mean, think about this: What if every hobbyist, in addition to keeping their usual menagerie of fishes, took it upon him or herself to dedicate some tank space and resources to maintaining one species of fish that he or she truly loves, and which doesn't have a high degree of hobby representation, for whatever reason?
You know, like that one species of obscure Apistogramma that is amazing, but has a reputation for being touchy? Or that one wild Betta species that is maybe not the sexiest looking thing, but comes from a habitat which is threatened, and may not be around in the wild much longer?
The Hatchetfish which would be awesome if it was just more hardy? You know, that sort of thing. Fishes that would benefit the hobby- and vice versa- from some love. Imagine you as a hobbyist really making the effort to learn everything possible about that one fish; it's needs, it's habits, it's breeding secrets. And really going all-out with it to give it the best possible care and dedication. Being an "expert"- you know, someone who "knows more and more about less and less", as they say.
Now I'm sure that a lot of you are already doing this. And I commend you for it. In fact, I know you are, as I just wrote a pice the other day talking about how cool you wild livebearer guys and gals are...But I'm thinking about it in a broader sense, kind of like the Breeders Award Programs we have at many clubs, except maybe no "reward" or glory, other than the knowledge of knowing you're doing something special for that one fish, and the satisfaction of sharing your findings with others. I just think it would be cool. And of course, there are tons of people who breed, say, fancy guppies, or Angels, or whatever. Duh. That's not what I'm getting at... Allow me to digress.
I remember when I was a kid, I was obsessed with the Black Ghost Knifefish, Apteronotus albifrons. I loved everything about it..I was completely taken by it. I learned as much as I could (this was just before the internet really took off, mind you- so it was all about magazines, books, and word-of-mouth from other hobbyists) about this unusual fish: The lore, the collection story (which we'll definitely touch on in a future piece!), its habitat, etc. As much as the fish was popular in the hobby- not much was known about it. It wasn't yet bred in captivity, and there was simply a lot to learn.
I thought it would be awesome to be "the guy" who figured out how to breed the fish...not just breed it, but to MASTER it! My mind ran off (as teenage kids' minds often do) and I imagined that I was SO good at breeding this fish that I had even created different "strains" of it- like the "Red Ghost", "Purple Ghost", etc.
Yeah. Okay. Earth to Scott...come back.
Now, my flight of fantasy was kind of absurd, although my heart was in the right place. I mean, it was a $20 plus fish back then, which was a lot of money to a kid. it needed a large tank. They were not all that common, either. Not he best choice, really. But I tried. I did keep a couple of specimens, learned what I could, Created a sort of "biotope" of tangled Azalea roots for them to swim in...dim lighting conditions (a single, low wattage fluorescent back then), and- I know you'll never believe THIS- blackwater!
I never did succeed in breading the fish, of course. However, I learned a LOT about it. The fishes I had lived for many years (through college, in fact, before I gave them away because I didn't have the space). I sort of considered myself an "armchair expert" on it. All because I was an obsessed fish geek who devoted some extra resources to this fish and it studied it. That idea; that feeling -never left me.
So many fishes out there to try this with. Obsessing...
We all do this to some extent. The idea of dedicating ourselves to one species has driven a lot of hobbyists; created a lot of multi-tank fish rooms!
Yet, I can't help but wonder how cool it would be for the hobby, the fish, and the environments from which they came if we all-each one of us- made the personal vow to obsess over one species. Like kind of a "right of passage" to being a fish geek. Something you just do.
One fish...not at the exclusion of all the others you love, of course. But, one fish that gets a bit of extra TLC and attention- for the advancement of the hobby, and the protection of the species...
What would your species be?
Simple idea for an early Sunday morning here in Los Angeles.
Stay focused. Stay obsessed. Stay geeky.