I'm not sure what it is about New Year's in the context, but it somehow makes me reflect upon the way I've operated as a hobbyist for years. How I got started in the hobby and them any directions that I've taken in my aquatic "journey."
We spend a lot of time reflecting upon the natural habitats of our fishes, which is an awesome, amazing thing. And many of us dedicate a tremendous amount of time, effort, and energy to replicating them in our aquariums in as much detail as possible. Also amazing.
Yet, there are scores of hobbyists who simply want to maintain their aquariums in a more "natural" format, but have no desire to dedicate all of their energy to recreating that stream on the Igarape Mapinguari in Brazil, or a peat swamp in Kalimantan, Borneo. Rather, many are content with creating a natural-looking aquarium, with a sort of "generic" mix of favorite fishes from around the world. The classic, beloved, "community aquarium."
I'd venture to guess that the community aquarium concept has launched more hobbyist "careers" than just about any other approach. Now, sure, there are people, who, because of an introduction by a friend or family member, or simply because something "spoke" to them, jumped immediately into Discus, Catfshes, corals, or guppies and never looked back. That's pretty incredible, too!
I know many aquarium hobbyists who have started in saltwater, with reef aquariums specifically, who have never known anything else in their aquarium experience but refractometers, protein skimmers, and calcium reactors. And I've known an even greater number of hobbyists who've created some of the most astounding planted freshwater aquariums in the world, or bred world-class Apistogramma, who have never even tasted saltwater.
It's actually kind of awe-inspiring to me that the world of aquariums is so vast- so varied, and so large, that we have "specialists" in areas that many of us have never even heard of, let alone, played with. I mean, I admit that, short of a few Melanotaenia species, I haven't kept, nor know much at all, about Rainbowfishes. Yet, there are hobbyists- incredible, talented ones- who I barely know of, who have collected, kept, developed techniques for, and maintained dozens of Rainbowfish species. What could YOU learn from them? What practices do they engage in that you've never even thought about...which could have profound impact on something you are doing in your area of interest? We should talk to each other a lot more about a lot of things hobby-related..
Think of the hobbyists who win those "Breeder's Award Program" trophies at your local aquarium club...I mean, they have often bred 75-100 species or more of all sorts of fishes! That blows me away! I mean, I've been keeping aquariums literally since I could walk, and I've maybe intentionally bred 50-some different species of fishes, and a good percentage of those were killifishes and livebearers. It's humbling to think that, even though I'm a huge fan of characins, that I've only bred maybe 5 types...and two of those were accidental!
Like many of you, I've chosen to concentrate on other areas of the hobby- husbandry, aquarium ecology, concepts...and breeding, although fascinating to me...has always taken a back seat, so to speak. Not that it doesn't interest me...it's just that I have chosen to concentrate on other areas of the hobby.
Again, that's what's so amazing. Here I am, decades in, and if I want, I can switch gears next week and simply start learning about___________ and working on breeding them. Or I could go full-bore into a planted "high tech" aquarium. Or I could get really into the trendy, self-agrandizing aquascaping contest thing...Wait- no chance. What the &*^% was I thinking there?
However, the point is that you are never "too late" to try something different in the hobby. The skills that you have acquired in one area are often applicable to your work in another hobby specialty...well, many of them are.
Okay, a whole lot of disjointed, sleep-deprived ramblings about something we've probably all thought about before.
Well, damn it. Think about it some more...But execute on it!
As we enter 2018, I say...go for it! Whatever "it" might be. If you've been itching to breed knifefishes, make this your year! If you have always wanted to create an aquarium filled with only with Zebra Danios, do it! If you've wanted to test out this whole "blackwater thing"...well, hell, yes! (of course I'd be enthusiastic about THAT one...)...
All it takes is an idea and a willingness to be a bit humbled- to open your mind and do a bit of research; a bit of work. Be willing to ask questions of those more experienced than you. Be willing to accept some failures along the way.
Dream, create, achieve.
And never be too deep in a single aspect of this hobby to overlook the wonder of it all.
Happy 2018. You've got this.
Stay bold. Stay experimental. Stay humbled. Stay enthusiastic...
And Stay Wet.