Almost everything we do in the hobby involves some sort of risk, doesn't it? And many of the most important hobby advancements required us as hobbyists to assume some risk; to take a chance. And, if you're objective, I'll bet that you can look back on your hobby "career" and find a bunch of examples where you took a chance and achieved results better than you expected.

I know that I did...Not all of them are earth-shattering, long-term-impactful hobby breakthroughs, yet each represented a personal triumph achieved as a result of assuming some risk and taking a chance.

When I took a chance and incubated a spawn of "top-spawning" killies in peat instead, I netted 130 fry.


When I took a chance and attempted to keep a leaf-litter only aquarium and eliminate all external food inputs to see if the fishes could be supported by natural food sources- it worked beyond my expectations.

When I took a chance and acclimated my store-bought Glowlght Tetras to a low pH, blackwater habitat, they responded by spawning about a week and half  later.

When I took a chance and shut off my protein skimmer in my reef tank for a week, and fed the tank nightly, all of my stony corals that were pallid and colorless began coloring up and extending polyps throughout the day.

When I took a chance and created my vision of a tinted, muddy, "functionally aesthetic" brackish aquarium, it thrived beyond any brackish system I'd ever had.

Risk. Chance. Opportunities to improve. 

Few of the above examples are "earth-shattering" hobby accomplishments. Rather, they're examples of personal hobby growth that can be achieved by assuming some risk.

They are most assuredly not a boastful set of my hobby accomplishments designed to show how awesome I am... Some have been regularly done by hobbyists for years- but I feared attempting them for a while for some reason. Yeah, they're a simple list (that is likely overshadowed by most of you) of examples of stuff we can and do achieve when we "get out of our own way." 

You will almost always take chances in the aquarium hobby. Whether you realize it or not.

You will often study the associated risks, weigh the potential consequences, and ultimately "pull the trigger." Sometimes, it will be a spontaneous move spurred on by a specific situation that forced you to act. Other times, jumping ahead in your hobby journey will be a result of beautiful, blissful ignorance...Other times, it will be the end product of a protracted, deliberate evaluation. 

Regardless, it will often be an assumption of risk that yields an unexpected reward.

Sometimes you'll fail. Spectacularly. Other times, you'll succeed beyond your wildest dreams. Many times, however, you'll gain something by trying.

There are no certainties in the hobby. The only certainty is that if you don't take a good risk once in a while, you'll not have the experience of knowing what it's like to try.

It's important to follow basic "rules" in our hobby, such as understanding the nitrogen cycle, temperature control, the need to export nutrients from closed systems, etc.

Yet it's equally as important to play a hunch, try a different route, or take a chance on a new idea now and again.

The worst consequence of trying and failing with a new idea is that you might lose some animals. That's pretty awful. 

The worst consequence of not taking a chance with a new idea is that you will never have the opportunity to know if your idea was valid- and you might lose some animals anyways.

And that's awful, too.

The downsides to both are similar. Yet the reward for taking a risk and trying something new in the hobby is...progress. 

To not attempt anything- such as taking a risk when trying to breed a relatively rare, "import-only" fish- is that we will continue to rely on wild imports, further degrading the natural environments from which they come, and reduction in wild populations.

To lose a few animals in an attempt to save incalculably large numbers is tragic and risky, and would have some questioning if we should do it at all. It's a choice the intrepid tropical fish keeper needs to make for his or herself, and weigh the moral implications of such decisions carefully.

There has been, and always will be, opportunity to push the envelope in the aquarium hobby. There has been, and always will be risk associated with doing so.

The consequences of not taking risks at all are well known, too.

The choice is ours.

Stay brave. Stay adventurous. Stay optimistic. Stay focused. Stay relentless. Stay focused...

And Stay Wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics


Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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