It's been extremely gratifying to hear about so many fellow hobbyists playing with botanicals, blackwater/brackish, and niche biotope aquariums. I love that, more than ever, hobbyists are trying new stuff all the time! I love the effort. The discoveries. The education...The sharing of ideas, triumphs and failures, and the results of hard work.
Yet, all too often, I hear people talk about their tanks in an almost "fear" that "they" probably won't think it's good, or it's not the right "style", because___________ or _______________ aren't exactly right, or whatever.
I hate hearing that. This thing about "style" and those who apparently "dictate" it.
And I hear it a lot.
Who are "they?"
WHO in this hobby has the monopoly on taste, style, and knowing everything? And for that matter, knowing how YOU should execute and enjoy YOUR tank, right?
There is NO "style manager" for the aquarium world.
It's an art, a science, and a means of self expression. There is never ever, ever a need to apologize for your work, unless you're offending people or out-and-out ripping off someone and claiming it as yours.
I feel really bad when some hobbyists starts off sharing his or her tank on Facebook or where ever with, "Well, it's probably not that good...."
I think we need to get over this right away. I think it's probably an artifact of our social media environment, and everyone showing only their best work, in it's "ultimate" state. There's an unstated "peer pressure" that seems to develop around this in our hobby.
As fish geeks- we all love this stuff, and are remarkably accepting of almost everyone's sincere effort to enjoy their hobby the way they want to.
For the most part.
Yet, apparently, those "exceptions", whomever they are, seem to make a lot of hobbyists feel kind of inadequate at times about their own work. I know, because I hear it regularly.
No one should be judging, outside of contests.
Don't apologize for aquascaping your tank the way YOU want to, even if it's "not exactly" the way "they" say it should be, or according to some prevailing collective "style" mindset. There is no need to conform to someone else's standards of "cool", or to gain approval of "them" whoever "they" are.
Constructive criticism, helpful input, and advice are important. However, the rigid "groupthink" rebukes I'm hearing about are a different animal altogether.
And not a very good one.
It sounds insane, but I literally hear this "apologetic" attitude form hobbyists presenting their work to the world all of the time, and I hate that we somehow feel that we "must" pander to "them" in order to be considered a "successful" hobbyist.
Every hobbyist can learn something useful from every other hobbyist.
Thats a fact.
There's likely someone out there who is executing some idea you never even thought of. Something that the majority of the hobby hasn't thought of. Just because it doesn't conform doesn't mean it's not good...or great.
And "greatness", whatever that may be, often comes as the result of multiple failures.
And that's okay.
And even when we try and fail at something in the hobby, it still serves a useful purpose. Something can always serve as an example of what NOT to do, right? So, nothing is ever wasted in the aquarium-keeping universe.
The takeaway from all of this isn't about us being judgmental, or negative. It's about being ourselves.
Every day, little victories are won by ordinary every-day hobbyists like you and I, who set up amazing tanks and accomplish things with them that provide them and their family with hours of pleasure. That's what it's all about. In fact, that's the ONLY thing that this is about.
What I think the aquarium world needs is simply for you, me- all of us- to be ourselves; march to our own drummers, and to share our experiences. Not in a dogmatic way, mind you- but in the spirit of sharing hard-won knowledge, for the benefit of all. Sure, our efforts may make our aquariums "aspirational" for someone, but they should not be presented to others with an attitude of undisputed authority, nor with the aforementioned apologetic attitude.
I'll declare right now that there will never be an official "Tannin Style", in terms of how an aquarium should look. No rigid rules on "composition" or arrangements. Just the natural rules of biology, which govern aquatic ecosystems. We look to nature. Nature dictates our "style"; writes our "rules."
Our mission statement is clear:
"Tannin Aquatics is more than just a purveyor of aquascaping materials. We’re a mood, an atmosphere, a space to be inspired. Our products support an earthy, organic canvas upon which you can express yourself through the art of aquascaping. We provide information, the muse, and natural materials for you to create blackwater and brackish microcosms which blur the lines between nature and aquarium."
"Style" is subjective in our world. Inspiration is everywhere.
It's far more important for us all to do things the way we believe they should be done, consistent with humane, acceptable standards of animal husbandry. You don't need to do something a certain way just because someone tells you that theirs is the best way, or that it's the hot new trend. And if by chance, it inspires others along the way, you could hardly ask for more!
The best hobby discoveries and breakthroughs come from people who do things because...they want to.
That's being "in style", IMHO.
Enough said. Enjoy your day, and your hobby.
Stay true. Stay humble. Stay engaged. Stay open-minded. Stay tenacious...
And Stay Wet.