"Sacrifices" on the road to fish-geek "success"...Are they really?

The aquarium hobby is just that- a hobby. However, unlike many hobbies, it’s engrossing, all-encompassing, almost obsession-inducing for a lot of people. Many aquarists invest enormous amounts of time, money, and themselves into creating and maintaining tropical fish.


It’s almost scary to the outsider, yet interestingly, just “par for the course” to a fish geek! This enormous resource expenditure often leads to rewards for you as a hobbyist, but only after a surprisingly large number of early-on “sacrifices”, right?

Ever looked at it from this kind of perspective? It’s kind of interesting, if not a bit scary! For example, look at the basics on this “list” of stuff you give up:

Sacrifice #1) Cold hard cash- Yeah, it’s not something easily avoidable for most of us. To build a reef aquarium requires capital. Tanks, gadgets, gear, livestock- even water- all cost money, and that’s a reality that doesn’t end once your tank is up and running, right? I mean, there’s the ongoing expenses of operating aquariums…Electricity, chemicals, filter media, gadgets, fishes, plants…It keeps adding up.



Sacrifice #2- Time- Well, of course, it takes a lot of time to plan, assemble and create a great aquarium or fish room. Now, you can say that it’s not really a “sacrifice”, I suppose- because doing all this stuff is what makes it a hobby. However, I know a lot of fish geeks who make their vacation “tank build week”, or who have given up going to other events because they’re re-plumbing their system, etc. And think about all of the club people who volunteer their time during conferences and club events.They’re giving up something, weather you see it this way or not.


Sacrifice #3- You’re dealing with live animals and it may not work- Yeah, THAT one sucks. Let’s face it, your idea to maintain 4 different types of Apistogramma in a 40 gallon breeder looked good on paper, perhaps- but the fishes themselves will dictate what works! It’s easy to theorize about a mixed Mbuna tank or a biotope full of adult Discus; a lot harder to execute! Sometimes, despite our best plans, stuff just doesn’t happen the way we think it will. This may result in loss of life, discouragement, and other issues. All are tragic (with loss of life being the worst!), and each one is a sacrifice in and of itself.


Okay, now I’ve just generated a huge amount of "buzzkill" on the whole hobby, so maybe it’s time to look at the positives…What about the long-term results of such sacrifices?


Long Term Benefit #1- You’re in complete control- sort of. Yeah, you can create the exact type of environment you’re trying to replicate, complete with water chemistry, lighting, flow, and associated plants and fishes. Sacrificing “having everything”  (ie; the “community tank”) gives you more control over what you DO decide to keep. This is something that is often overlooked during the planning and creation process of a specialized aquarium.


Long Term Benefit #2 - You can even learn from failures and struggles. Nothing is ever really wasted. Despite setbacks and near disasters, it seems like every experience we have in aquarium keeping can be a learning experience that makes us better aquarists. Often times, recovery from failure can teach us more than success right out of the blocks. Seeing what CAN go wrong and what steps work to rectify the situation is valuable knowledge- heard-won, but exceedingly useful. Which brings us quickly to the next, related benefit:


Long Term Benefit #3- You learn what works- and what doesn’t- quickly- and you get to keep the skills! In other words, if something kills your fishes, you’ll get a really great feel for what works and what doesn’t…And you’ll make those adjustments if you want to continue to play the aquarium-keeping game…And you will have that experience to fall back on.


Long Term Benefit #4-  You accumulate friends and experiences to share. These are the priceless intangibles of this hobby and journey… the thing that really matter in this whole game of aquarium keeping are often the things that matter to us in the rest of life- friends, relationships, etc. Conferences, club meetings, collections trips- all add to the joy of the hobby.


In the end, are any of these things really “sacrifices?” Are any of the lessons we learn from aquarium keeping- the experiences that we accumulate- are any of them truly a “sacrifice?” I think it all depends upon how you look at things, in actuality.


If you’re successful- and sometimes even if you’re not- you make your mark, influence people, interact. Win. And you can contribute to the body of knowledge that is aquarium keeping. Success.

Think about that for a bit...

Have a great day. Stay excited. Stay motivated. Stay happy. And most of all...

Stay Wet!


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics


Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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