Ever had one of those times when you're checking out a friend's aquariums, and you just can't recall the names of what you're looking at?
I had one of those experiences last week. I went to visit the reef tank and outdoor coral propagation system of my friend Dave. I hadn't been to his house for a while, but we talk fairly regularly. Upon arriving, of course we marveled at the many amazing corals and fishes in his reef tank. And I would look at such-and-such a coral, and be like, "Oh, wow, that's an amazing Anacropora", or "Man, I love that Sunset Montipora!"- some of the obvious species and "named" (gulp) variants I would pic up on right away...you know, you own a coral facility for a few years, immerse yourself in the culture...that stuff is just ingrained.
Yet, for many of the "middle ground" species, I'd just be...struggling to remember the names. Out of practice. A bit "rusty." It was kind of disheartening. I mean, it was only two years since I was completely immersed in the stuff...coudl I have lost it THAT quickly?
It was like a sort of "ego blow" to me at first...like, I was telling myself that i should KNOW all of these things right away..
However, I'd often stumble upon a very specific specimens, "cultivars" if you will- or species that had a story attached to them )"Oh, that's the one where our propagator pulled it from the lagoon in Into and got his foot stuck in the coral tray.." or "Oh, that's the one where they found an identical mother colony 100 miles away"... Or, "wasn't that the one they sent us and the bag came in with no water, but we saved it?"
Little stories, pieces of stuff...memories that brought them back.
It's the same with freshwater stuff, too. Sure, in a lifetime of fish keeping, you remember a fair amount of stuff...but some things just slip into the recesses of your mind until you need to recall them. Like, I hadn't kept killifish for quite a few years, until very recently. And, if you know anything about killies, one constant is that the taxonomy of like every genus is whacked out and constantly being revised. Walk away from that world for a few years, and you'll show it immediately: "Is that an Aphyosemion, or a Diapteron...or isn't it now Fundulopanchax , or...?"
And cichlids? Much the same. It's like, if you're not IN that world intensely, it's awfully difficult to remember everything. Taxonomy revisions, variations, captive strains, etc...all affect that world immensely.
And of course, don't even get me started on the catfishes! The whole "L series" thing is amazing and fascinating and- utterly confusing for me. Another one that, unless you're "knee deep" in that world, you couldn't tell the difference between an L202 and an L134 and a...Yeah, you get it.
Oh, and of course, it goes on and on. The shrimp people know seemingly every variation and grade of each type of Bee Shrimp or "King Kong" version, or whatever...Us "outsiders", who admire them for their beauty, often just think "Oh, cool blue shrimp there!"
And the best part about this stuff is that the aquarium hobby has experts in just about everything. Resources you can turn to; fellow travelers on the road to relate with; share stores and experiences with.
Remembering that the fish we now have 7 variations on was once considered exceedingly difficult to get to spawn in captivity is a testimony to the work of fellow hobbyists, and the skill set of our global community.
And the fact that, over time, you might forget the exact name of that color morph of Endler's Livebearer, or the correct genus that the "Columbian Ram" is found in doesn't mean you're some clueless throwback...It just means that you've been working in some different areas, exploring some new avenues, and trying some different stuff. It's hard to remember every minute detail of every fish, plant, or coral you've ever kept...and that's okay.
Just ask someone who knows.
And be proud of what you DO know...
Because you have one thing that overrides even the memories of the scientific names or perhaps the specific identifying factors for each one...You have the experience of working with them, trying to get to know them, and to figure out what they need. It's important to "refresh" your memory on this stuff, of course, so that you can be conversive and helpful to others. And I've found that it takes a surprisingly small amount of exposure to "old friends" before many of those memories stream back (good, bad, and otherwise...).
And we always really can "get by with a little help from our friends"- fellow hobbyists who are currently working with the species in question...people who's depth may go far beyond what you ever even cared to know about the fish or plant or coral...At the end of the day, it's the sharing of information and experience that is so important.
And I've found, over the years, that "coming home" to species which I formerly knew, and maybe even took for granted- and looking at them andapPreciating them in a whole new light- is as rewarding and gratifying as any experience in the aquarium hobby. Yeah, you CAN go back again!
So, it's not such a bad thing to ask for help...ask the correct species name, or query a fellow hobbyist about how they breed that species you once though un-breedable...You not only might learn something new- you might just surprise yourself on how much you already knew.
Keep learning. Keep sharing. Keep asking.
Stay educated. Stay curious. Stay hungry. Stay humble.
And above all...