The difficult decision to make decisions...


Yesterday, a customer asked me to help her decide which botanicals to buy for an aquarium she was designing for some wild Leopoldi Angelfish. She had a cool idea for her tank...And I was stoked to be able to be a part of the process!

Not an uncommon thing in my daily existence, both at Tannin and my personal hobby adventures...It's a fundamental thing that we do here.

Decision on seemingly esoteric, yet actually fairly critical stuff are not uncommon here. These kinds of calls are fun, but they used to scare the shit out of me. Like, I'd be agonizing over stuff...



Because making decisions about what to do in your aquarium can have consequences, right? Helping make decisions about someone else's aquarium- well, that's a whole different layer of craziness! Like, I'm bummed out if I kill my fishes...I'm devastated if I do something that leads to killing someone else's fishes!


The customer's call required a seemingly simple decision, actually- a choice between two different aquascaping materials; however, choosing one over the other would take the aquascape in a definite "direction", so I suppose the consequences of the decision would be lasting..We went back and forth over the pros and cons, and following our discussion, the customer, apparently pleased/impressed with how I helped her arrive at a decision, asked, "How do you arrive at these decisions with such confidence?"

It made me think for a minute. Fooled her!

After I laughed, of course...Because I have not always made easy decisions! I used to agonize over everything. "Analysis paralysis" was like my modus operandi. And also laughed because we spent 40 minutes discussing wood and seed pods! I love that. What I get to do is really cool...and it's important to some special people.

How to make better aquarium-related decisions is actually pretty easy, but you have to be honest with yourself and stay focused on the primary issue. Of course, just deciding to share my thoughts on the process involved me weighing the potential "risks." ("Oh, there goes Fellman spouting off more wannabe psychobabble stuff." or "See, he DOES think he's the most important person in the industry.." or "Anyways, on to the next blog!"

It’s all about how you approach it, really. 


Here's how I've stumbled through the aquarium decision making process after a lifetime of getting wet:

1) Deciding between, for example, two amazing fishes: A classic one, actually. Go with your first choice. Period. You can always get the other one another time. Think about it this way- If you’re taking all that time to mull over the decision, is it to gather data or to postpone a decision? Maybe the best decision is to pass on both? Maybe?

Or, better to purchase both! 

Yeah, I like THAT one! 

2) Make the most pressing decisions first: In other words, if you know that you have to replace that canister filter and you also have the opportunity to purchase that crazy rare pair of cichlids…get the canister filter first. Yeah, because you have a lot depending on that filter, whereas the fish can always be picked up at a later time. Really.

Of course, I say that now, because the last time I made one of these "decisions" it was 7 years before I found the goddam fish again...

Who the f-ck am I to be dispensing advice on THIS call? 😂

3) Don’t change your mind once you’ve made the decision:  Unless, of course, there is a very compelling (ie; vital) reason to change it. Like, the new addition is killing everything in the tank, or the plumbing modification you made is flooding your new hardwood floor. Or it's your anniversary and you forgot to get a gift! 

4) Avoid soliciting 5 different decisions on “Which one” to get, or “which way to go”: I absolutely lose it sometimes when I see hobbyists post those, "Which fish should I add to this tank?" posts on Facebook or wherever.  Like, "You're freaking out-sourcing the stocking decisions to people on Facebook? WTF?" Forums are great, but they create decision-making roadblocks, IMHO. Because, if you receive 19 answers, it's pretty likely that 16 of them will be different, and 13 of those would take you in a totally different direction than you ever intended for your aquarium...

So, yeah- Just don’t ask the world. Ask people whom you trust, who can bring specific value to their recommendations. Or make the decision yourself, and deal with the consequences- good or bad...You can always get another tank, right?

Sure! That's the way I look at it, anyways...😆

5) Blow through simple decisions with little reflection: Example: You need to get more carbon. You use a pound of the stuff a month. Should you buy one pound or two pounds of the same brand? Who cares? Just get the carbon! I mean, this kind of stuff ties up so much "mental capital" it's not even worth it. Look in your purse/wallet. Have enough cash to purchase the large size? No, then purchase the smaller size.

Done. Enjoy the pretty Spring sunshine.

OMG, how insultingly simple I'm making everything sound...And really, that's not my point. I guess, having been through a lot of personal changes in recent years (seeing life, death, relationships, business all change in a heartbeat) has given me a different perspective than I've had in the past.

Like, I know that you can screw up anything at anytime, so why sweat it, right?

I've learned that you need to spend more time doing something than deciding about it. Then you can move on and do something else (or fix your bad fucking decision, of course!)

I mean, you can grow old and die just deciding which Tetra to purchase...Why? 

Wait. Don't answer that.

I screw up. A LOT. Like, more than you do. Like, way more, I'll bet. I mean, I sell twigs and seed pods for a living, right? I know screw-ups! But you know what? I learn from every screwup.  I own them. And sometimes, I actually make changes.

It's not that bad. Seriously.

And, it gives me more material to share with you guys! 

So, next time you have a tough decision to make...just make it, move on, and enjoy whatever happens.


Anyways, a lot to do today- you guys have been ordering like mad!...

Enjoy your cup of coffee, go for a walk, and enjoy your Friday.

Stay decisive. Stay thoughtful. Stay resourceful. Stay bold...

And Stay Wet!

Scott Fellman
Tannin Aquatics

Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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