Despite all of the bickering about what approach is best, what the coolest fishes to keep are, and who makes the best water pump, as fish geeks, we can all agree about one thing: The aquarium hobby offers you a dazzling array of incredible experiences, many of which those who aren't attend to our geeky obsession just don't understand.
Yet, we DO.
After a lifetime in the hobby, I've arrived at a few of the things that make me feel best in the fish-geek universe. Here are just a few:
Hatching killifish eggs. Isn't there something just amazingly delicious about packing your fish eggs in peat fibers in a ziplock bag for 2, 3, 6 or even 9 months, storing them in a drawer some place, in anticipation of "hatch day?" Pouring some water on them, and...waiting. Yeah, and when the first fry actually appear, sometimes only after a second, or even third "inundation"- you tell yourself how cool this all is; how worth the wait it was, get lost in the wonder..and then we reach for the brine shrimp eggs, of course!
"First water". Yeah, I don't care if you've set up one aquarium, or 4,000 of 'em in your "hobby career", there is something just amazing about adding water to a tank for the first time. There is a sound, a "new tank smell", a feeling of anticipation...all of that potential, ready to be unlocked. Is this the aquarium in which you'll spawn those Pencilfish that have been eluding you for so long? Will this be the one that you use to grow out and breed the cichlid pair that your friend collected in The Congo? Is this the tank in which you're going to create the award-winning aquascape? The excitement is palpable, the anticipation is great, and the experience...well, only a fish geek understands, right?
Adding new fish to your collection. If you're a real fish geek, you just cannot take the addition of new fishes to your collection for granted. We study, prepare, each, and even lust after that one fish, so when it finally becomes available, you're more than ready to strike. We all have that ONE fish...you know the one. Something about the whole process- research, sourcing, preparing- that appeals to some instinctive "hunter/gatherer" thing we have in our DNA. And after careful acclimation and quarantine (hey, a guy can dream, right?), when you add it to your aquarium and see it swimming there for the first time- it's undeniably special. The end of a long pursuit. The beginning of a new experience!
Sharing your work. Let's face it, everyone likes to show off a little, and we're not an exception. And, in 99.999% of the cases, with fish geeks, it's not about "bragging." It's about the satisfaction of sharing something you love with others. So, wether it's that new Amazon-themed aquascape your "debuting" to the club, or the Betta channoides fry that you've painstakingly reared, or even that beautiful custom stand that you've built, sharing is one of the best parts of our hobby. You inspire, teach, learn- and gain friends i the process. What could be better?
Helping out a hobbyist in need. Yeah, there is something incredibly unique about the way we as fish geeks help each other out in the hobby. We've all been there before: Something goes wrong; your favorite fish contract a disease, your aquarium springs a leak, you have a major equipment failure. And you turn to your fish-geek friends...who ALWAYS come through. Wether it's answering a question, helping collect gear and fish for a hobbyist who's fallen on bad times, or physically helping with your tank, this is an amazing thing. I know many, many fish geeks who will, with almost no reflection, happily drive 45 minutes...on a Tuesday night...in bad weather...to help a fellow fish geek out in an emergency. Even one they just met. This is one of the most incredible parts of our hobby community. The way we care for members of our "tribe" when they need it. A testimony to the awesome bond that is created by sharing a mutual love for all things "aquarium."
There are countless other amazing feelings and experiences that only those of us who play with water understand. These are just a few of my faves; you no doubt have your own. And isn't it nice to look back and reflect on some cold winter night in front of your aquarium- to realize that the journey you've taken as a fish geek has given you so many incredible experiences? And isn't it even better to help others in the hobby accumulate and enjoy their experiences? It sure is.
It feels great. And yes, only a fish geek really knows the feeling.
So, help spread it.
Stay humble. Stay devoted to the craft. Stay generous. Stay inspiring.
And Stay Wet.