Re-writing the code...

Many of us have been playing with this botanical-style, blackwater aquarium idea for a while now. We've dispelled a few myths, I think, and have probably chased down some crazy ideas and false leads. Perhaps we went down a few paths which led us astray, but we've learned.  We haven't stood still. We've thought through some stuff that was previously accepted as "the way to do things" without any question- and we've...questioned it. We've challenged the status quo, and I think, we've pushed the needle forward on aquarium practice a bit.

(The incredible evolving botanical aquarium of JT Martin, Needle Mover.)

I'm coming off of another amazing regional fish geek event this weekend, in which I had the great pleasure to interact with a large number of both fresh and saltwater hobbyists. It's rare to have an event with both fresh and salt people under the same venue! And it's cool. Something interesting happens when you mix freshwater hobbyists and reefers to tether: They talk. They mix. They talk about ideas and concepts that are applicable to both disciplines. They teach each other new stuff. They find common ground.

It’s a remarkable thing to see.

Any time that you mix hobbyists from different backgrounds together, you’re bound to find dozens and dozens of new ideas, re-validate old ones, and come up with stuff that you probably never even considered before. I always learn something. Enormous talent and knowledge in this hobby.

There is a certain synergy that occurs from playing both sides of the fence. I think that, once you throw aside the immediately obvious differences (like, specific gravity, lol), you end up with dedicated individuals who play with fishes. 

It’s like...that simple. It works. It's cool.

I hope to see more of these fresh/salt conferences. They really work for the hobby. 

The skills that we need to develop in order to run a successful reef aquarium- patience, observation, and diligence- are absolutely the same ones we need in order to run a successful freshwater aquarium. 

There is a certain impatience, and a certain feeling of obligation “to do stuff” that I have seen evident in the reef world, which is crossing over just a bit into the freshwater realm. For example, I talked to at least three reef hobbyists who asked me if there is a recommended way to grow corals “more quickly…” And my first reaction was to ask them, “Why? Are you growing the coral out for resale?” And each time the answer was, “No…I just…um…” It was typically because they thought they had to somehow force growth of the corals…It wasn't their "fault" or anything. It was just this unusual "default" that we seem to fall back on...It’s like we’ve somehow written some lines of "programming code" in the mindset of hobbyists that tells them they must do “X”- for whatever reason…



Is it because we are looking for "shortcuts?" Are we trying to get permission from...the hobby, or something? Or is it because "that's how we do it" in the aquarium world?

I think we, as a hobby, and perhaps an industry, tend to force things to be a bit more complicated than they need to be…We simply pile on needless complications of procedure, equipment, and expenditure out of some weird sense…Like, "you need to add _______ because it does _______________." 


Don't get me wrong here. Many ideas and technologies we use in fish keeping are essential and important. However, some seem to me like just ways of adding another layer of complexity to something that might be more easily managed through technique or observation. Just because we can "automate" any old process doesn't mean that a) we need to, or b) it's better.

Yet we buy a lot of unnecessary "stuff"...just because....why?

And "rules.  I hate "rules."

Sure, there are certain unavoidable truths that oblige us to comply- the nitrogen cycle, for example. But "rules" on how to arrange rocks, or what colors to use in an aquascape...I am not much of a fan of them. In my opinion, they tend to stifle creativity and create uniformity, compliance- rather than to encourage greatness. It's just my opinion...but I think I might be correct! 

One of the things I enjoy most about Tannin, and I know it will be the same with Estuary- is to look at things the way they are in the hobby-the way they've been practiced for generations- and to question WHY. Not for the sake of being an arrogant jerk- but in the spirit of questioning why we do stuff the way we do. Is it because it's the BEST way? Or is it because that's what worked well with the prevailing skill set/knowledge/equipment available at the time the idea was presented to the hobby, and we've just accepted it as "the way" ever since, even though all of the "back story" which lead to this unwavering acceptance of the practice has long since changed? A practice or idea that may have been appropriate and optimum 30 years ago may be woefully outdated now. I mean, it still "works", but there are better ways now...

Accepting ideas, practices, and techniques in the hobby "...just because we've done it that way forever" is, in my opinion, a way to stagnate. And in all fairness, an admonition to change things "just because" is equally as detrimental. Rather, it's better to simply look honestly and boldly at how/why we do something, and ask ourselves, "Is this really the best way? Is it really necessary?"

Is it a practice we should keep embracing?

Or is it time to "rewrite the code?"

I think so.

Simple thought. Powerful implications.

Stay fascinated. Stay moving. Stay thinking.

And Stay Wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics


Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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