One of the things that has been hardest for me to accept, in both life and in my "fishy career" is...compromise.
I used to sort of HATE that word.
Yes, that's always been a point of contention for me. In the hobby, for the longest time, I always saw it for its negative aspects: Having to compromise getting that fish I'd been drooling over for years, which I finally accept achieves too large a size and could be aggressive or even predatory in the small tank I'm working with...Or the desire to keep plants in the tank with the fish that occasionally digs. Or, compromising the size of the aquarium, the location, or even the the "theme" (Oh, I guess you can't have Danios in that West African-themed tank and be true to the biotope, huh?").
"You can't have that, but you can have these instead" is a refrain heard at the local fish store over and over again, when the eager neophyte really wants to keep a dozen Celestial Pearl Danios in that 20 gallon tank with those sexy African Rift Lake cichlids and is (correctly) counseled to accept the limitations of his or her aquarium.
Stuff like that.
Compromise. For the best, of course. But a compromise nonetheless. However, is that always a bad thing?
And I've come to realize that, sometimes, you accept and make these so-called "compromises", and end up with something totally, unexpectedly cool. The initial disappointment of, "Damn, I really, REALLY wanted that group of 'Rio Nanay' Angels, but the reality is that I my tank can only accommodate a group of Dicrossus instead isn't such a bad one, when you look at it objectively, right?"
With botanical-style blackwater aquariums, we initially dismissed the idea of planted tanks with a variety of aquatic plants, because we felt that the conditions (both chemically and light intensity) wouldn't work for them. And of course, after a little research from members of our community, it turns out that, with a little compromise, not only can you keep the "expected" plants, like Cryptocoryne, in these types of tanks- you can actually keep many aquatic plants if you compensate with lighting, fertilization, etc.
You can't have it all...but you can have MOST of it. Usually!
I think it's fun to discuss concepts and application for botanicals and blackwater aquariums with hobbyists who are trying a wide range of things. In the past few days alone, I've talked about this kind of aquarium with child breeders, Raimbowfish enthusiasts, planted tank guys, and killifish fans. They question. They research. They learn the ins and outs and the potential compromises they might have to make to go with a blackwater system for their application. And it's pretty exciting!
Compromise has such a feeling of "finality" about it, but the reality is that, in our hobby, compromising can often yield exciting results, unexpected benefits, and occasionally, breakthroughs. Sometimes, it's as simple as not being able to accommodate that one larger tank, and ending up with two, or even three smaller ones (in reality, is that EVEN a compromise for a fish geek?). Or not being able to afford or obtain the one prized specimen of Apisto or whatever, and ending up with another species that you not only fall in love with, but learn to spawn, rear, and foster breakthroughs with. Or thinking you were going be trying one type of aquascape, only to be "forced" into compromising a bit due to budget, space or time restrictions...only to end up with something amazing you never thought about before.
It happens. A lot.
The reality is that being flexible, adventurous, and being willing to accept new ideas and approaches on perhaps a smaller scale or under a different set of circumstances is really one of the best traits that you can have as a hobbyist. Compromising some aspects of an idea has, on so many occasions in my fishy "career", enabled me to accomplish stuff I never thought possible, with benefits, enjoyment, and opportunities that I could never have imagined previously.
It's all really a matter of perspective. Think about it. What "compromises" have you made, only to come to realize that they were not compromises at all?
So, the next time you face the realization that you need to "compromise" some aspect of your fishy plan- don't immediately think the worst. Consider the possibilities, the advantages, and the enjoyment that can come with "tweaking" your plans a bit. Open your mind. Meet yourself where you are. It's a pretty cool place to be in the hobby.
Yeah, you can't always have it all. But you sure can enjoy it all.
Stay Bold. Stay excited. Stay curious. Stay adventurous...
And Stay Wet.