We always refer to the new, empty aquarium we have sitting in our office, living room, etc. as a "black canvas", ready to come alive with whatever awesome ideas we have in our head. And I love that reference. And there is a lot of anticipation to fill it! However, every once in a while, you have one of those situations where you're forced to look at that "empty canvas" for a more extended period of time than you originally anticipated. And during that time period, it's amazing what you end up doing. It's interesting to reflect upon what you want to do for that tank, to almost go through a mental "proof of concept" in your head as you wait to finish the project.
This has happened to me recently, with a new brackish-water system I've been teasing you with for a few months. This tank started off with a burst of excitement and ideas, and the installation of a pretty cool hardscape idea. I was all ready to run fast- ready to document what should have been a very quick build process. Of course, then various factors conspired to "hit the brakes." First, I discovered a disturbing hairline fracture in one of the seals, which, after much assessment and discussion with those more experienced at tank repair than I, was repaired in situ.
Of course, this had to be done without disrupting what I felt was a really great hardscape. And of course, that simply isn't possible, and I had to photograph the damn thing from every angle before I disassembled it, as I tried to document how I would re-set everything once the repairs were made and the tank was filled and leak tested. And that wasn't an easy process, let me tell you! However, I managed to get it within a very close proximity to what I had before- extraordinary for me!
And then, there were those "minor technical things"- like trying to replace the noisy, under-powered pump which came with this all-in-one tank with a more reliable, powerful, and quiet Eheim. And of course, the damn thing didn't quite fit in the compartment available, necessitating modifications to the pump and developing a set of procedures to create proper access. That took a while- like, way longer than I thought. And then, there were those issues trying to find parts to create perfect plumbing connections between to varying metric/US sized parts. And then there was the auto top-off reservoir that I needed to get made to fit the stand...and then there was an issue getting the ATO system (was out of stock for a while).
And then there was...well, you get the picture.
Now, I don't know about you, but of course, there reaches a point when you start looking at how ridiculous it is and want to just get the damn thing up! I mean, since I wasn't making this the highest priority in my life, it simply took a back seat to other things. And this was a really new experience for me in the aquarium hobby, because I was always hell-bent on just getting my projects done.
And this is a very basic, off-the-shelf "all-in-one" tank that should be ridiculously simple to get up and running (like, the same day you take it out of the box, right?). I mean, I have friends who have set up and broken down several tanks in the time it has taken me NOT to get this one up and running. It became a bit of a joke around here about how this tank, with it's remarkable "low concept", was being treated as if I developed some sort of breakthrough work or something! I mean, even Space X has launched four or five rockets since I've started my project!
So, now we're on our way again with this project. The only delaying factors have been simply prioritizing time to work on it. And that's funny, because being a fish guy, I've always had a lot of impatience about every project I've worked on...Yet, for some reason, this time, I've managed to restrain myself from the usual desire to fast-track this. I developed some sort of genuine patience about getting a tank up. Very different for me!
However, during my "waiting period", I kept myself busy researching, thinking, scheming about how I wanted to proceed. I changed a few ideas within the overall project. And I told myself that I should use this delay as an opportunity to document the process of building this tank- something I have constantly told myself that I would do "one day." And I think this might be a lot more helpful than me simply showing off the finished product like I always do.
Now, don't get me wrong. I know it's possible to push things along more quickly. I could have fast-tracked most of the things which delayed the project. None of these were insurmountable.
But I didn't fight it.
So, my thesis of late is that not rushing to completion of your tank build- for whatever reason- is a really good thing. It gives you opportunity and context. It gives you the chance to share, iterate, research, change, and evolve the project. And staring at an empty tank for a long period of time is sort of like looking at a vacant plot of land or a empty place in your garden: You get intimately familiar with the tank, even in it's barren, unfinished state- during this time.
You can visualize how it looks in the overall room setting. You can contemplate how to install the lighting system in a way that optimizes aesthetics for both the tank and room. You can get really down and dirty into the process of creating the world within tank. You know, the mindset. Contemplating how the tank will function when you execute your aquascaping plan and stocking. You might even change and reverse direction. You might realize that what you are contemplating for this tank- this "blank canvas"- might not be the right execution for your vision. And you'll really learn patience on a different level.
The real value of "detours" in our world?
It's that they provide us a different view- a chance to really get to know our project on a different level.
Stay patient. Stay curious. Stay creative.