Tempting fate...rolling the dice...trying to beat the "sure things" of our hobby.

“They” say that there are no “sure things” in aquarium keeping, and on the surface, I’m inclined to agree. However, there are some things that you can do that will simply tempt the “Aquarium Gods’ to kick your a-- more than others, trust me. Things that seem normal, but when you go below the shiny surface, have "tempting fate" written all over 'em.

Over my lifetime as a fish keeper, I've experienced some of them, as no doubt you have. Here are a few things, as experienced by myself and others, that you will no doubt find can lead to exceptionally bad outcomes if you’re not careful and try one of these risky maneuvers with your aquarium:


*Never move “just a couple of rocks” or "that one driftwood branch" around in your aquascape within, say,  an hour of going to sleep at night- particularly on a week night, or before a morning when you just have to wake up early! Trust me, you won’t be getting restful sleep any time soon. It’s almost a certainty that moving even one rock with the intention of “opening up space” or making a minor “tweak”, will lead to you pulling out a dozen rocks, or even the whole aquascape before the job is done, which could take hours and hours without completion. In fact, the job may not be done for days! At some point, after numerous attempts to “correct” things, you’ll throw in the towel, and try to just make things “the way they were” before your started this futile endeavor…And guess what? You’ll NEVER be able to re-create what you had before…total bummer, which will take hours and hours to correct. Just don’t do it, trust me.



Changing light bulbs, settings, or lighting systems before a trip- This one is like the “kiss of death!” I mean, really, changing light bulbs is no big deal, right? Oh, trust me, it is, especially when the new bulbs are a different spectrum (like T5’s), or if you’re changing lighting formats from Halide to LED, for example. Not only will the plants (or corals, if you're a reefer) react a bit differently than you expect- they will undoubtedly demonstrate their apparent displeasure at the worst possible time (like when you are away), and you may come back to a disaster in the making, or worse! Yeah, it really happens…Don’t ask me why, but it’s nerve-wracking enough just doing such a change when you’re going to be home…but if you’re leaving town- be ready to replace some plants or corals upon your return…yikes!


(My friend Marc is a world class reefer. He'll change his reservation before he changes a controller setting when leaving town...)

Tweaking controller/light timer settings…Or, for that matter, installing a controller! -Oh, sure, controllers and timers are great tools for aquarium management, and I think highly of them…But tweaking settings must be done: a) Very early in the day, on a day when you’re not going anywhere, b) for only one or two parameters at a time (like temp or light timing), and c) Never within 2 days of leaving on any kind of trip…(sensing a theme here?) Bad idea- really bad- to make any kind of controller change before leaving town. Inevitably, you’ll realize that you had the wrong start time for your lights, or forgot to properly program the max intensity time, or…whatever. The upside is that most of the better controllers and even some timers allow you to correct or tweak remotely (which is good and bad!). Again, controllers= good. Changing things on controllers when you don’t have time to monitor= BAD.










Turning the flow adjustment valve on your filter output when you’re in a hurry, because you want to make a “quick adjustment.” -You’re sooo screwed! I mean, there is no such thing as a “quick adjustment” to these things…Regardless of brand or quality- no matter what you htink-they’re totally finicky, and a sure ticket to headaches when you’re in a hurry…Or even when you aren’t, right? The same caution applies to making adjustments to your CO2 solenoid or feed valve on a reactor or air/water mix on a protein skimmer…ridiculously small adjustments are the only way to go…I mean, almost non-existent changes…Air/water mix ratios, chemical feeds, and other dynamics can just get screwed over so easily it’s not even funny. Subtlety and time are everything with these kinds of changes. If you rush them, have plenty of Tylenol or your other pain reliever of choice available- it’s a virtual certainty that headaches will be waiting for you when you’re done. 


Taking a chance on that fish that was a perfect citizen in your buddy’s tank. Are you KIDDING ME? SERIOUSLY? NO! NO! NO! It’s a virtual guarantee that, say- the innocuous cichlid that resided in your buddy’s 200 gallon assorted Mbuna tank for 4 years without incident will suddenly develop a great appetite for little fishes. Your really rare, pricy ones. I mean, you can practically take it to the bank!  You can adjust this little "rule" for almost any kind of fish- Catfishes, Bettas, whatever. Same goes for  reef tanks. Like, the anemone that your buddy offered you...the one that "never moved" in your friend’s reef. Ask yourself, if the animal is such a model citizen, why is he or she getting rid of it? Prepare for knocked-over corals- or worse. Why on earth reefers even think of tempting fate by trying these sorts of “additions” is beyond me sometimes!

Skipping quarantine with that new addition- This isn't just superstition talking- it’s firmly grounded in reality..Skipping quarantine with one fish can open up your entire system to a limitless number of diseases or other maladies that can create dire consequences for your reef. You know this, of course. Totally not worth it. Quarantine is a vital, logical practice that is employed by every public aquarium on the planet, and scores of successful hobbyists everywhere. You definitely  are playing “Russian Roulette” with your aquarium if you skip this practice. Even if you know the source, have observed the fish repeatedly at the store or in its prior owners’ tank, it’s not worth it. Trust me. Totally not worth it.

Going to a club auction with the intention of just “checking stuff out”- Please, seriously? You have  just about guaranteed that you’re going to leave with bags full of something. In fact, you’ll probably leave with bags of several “somethings”. Club auctions and coral swaps are irresistible to fish geeks, and the generosity of hobbyists is well documented. “Oh, you’re a newbie? Here- have a  few of these Acara fry. They're not really mean at all, and they're super easy to keep…Can’t lose!” Even if you didn’t bring money, you’ll leave with way more than you intended. I have seen numerous times where hobbyists even ended up borrowing from their teenage kid to grab a bag of fish (because he was determined not to tempt him/herself by bringing cash to the event). So my advice if you’re attending a club auction? Bring cash. Bring a cooler. Bring teenager. Leave restraint at home.

Okay, so that was just a quick rundown of “sure things” in the aquarium hobby. I mean, there aren’t that many certainties in this game, are there? Well, actually, there are. Sure, I focused on a few with some potentially bad consequences…There are no doubt countless others with the possibility of better outcomes…but it’s far more fun to highlight the bad ones, isn’t it? LOL

So, let’s hear your “Sure things” in the aquarium hobby? I know that you’ve got way many more examples of this that you can add to our “Sure things” database!

As always, we appreciate your opinions, ideas, input, and humor. Thanks in advance for your participation!

Stay cautious. Stay respectful. Stay careful.

And Stay Wet,


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics

Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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