If it's Thursday, it must be time for me to get up on the old "soapbox" again...
This is for all of us. Me, you- everyone in the hobby who shares all of those pretty pics of our tanks on a regular basis via social media.
We all share a special responsibility to be a bit better.
When it comes to the art and science of creating and maintaining aquarium systems, I think that we need to do more than just create aquascapes that will satisfy our aesthetic tastes and tout the visuals. More important, I think that we need to create aquariums which meet the continuing needs of our fishes, by embracing natural processes which dictate their function.
This is sort of why I've spent a lot of energy railing on the hobby trend of creating "diorama-style" aquascapes- with the emphasis on appearance above all else. I have a real problem with these types of concepts as they're shared on social media- NOT because I dislike the look (Okay, I admit that I DO dislike some of them!). Rather, it's because little energy is expended by the talented creators on discussing the function behind them in greater detail. And worse to me, little mention is made of their lack of long-term viability, and the "game plan" is often simply to rip them apart and do a new scape when the contest period is over.
Or, more succinctly- many are executed only with short-term goals in mind (ie; a contest, etc.), with little consideration paid to their long-term function, while they're shared via social media as aspirational models for fellow hobbyists.
I see this as a sort of problem.
Why is this a problem?
I think that it's a problem because it relays the message to the typical hobbyist on Instagram, Facebook, or whatever, that your aquarium is really a piece of art. We are in a highly visual culture, and these media are geared towards aesthetics. It's up to us to take things further.
Look, do your tank the way you want..And tear them down quickly if you like..However, if you're going to blast it on social, at least discuss some of the function and thought behind the aquarium. Share that the intent is to make the tank look awesome for a short or defined period of time, then to take it down.
By only highlighting the superficial aesthetics and effectively transmitting the message that an aquarium simply needs to look nice, rather than to be an evolving, ever-changing ecosystem which needs to embrace biological and environmental processes over the long-term, we're overlooking the most important part, IMHO.
More "capital" needs to be spent by all 'scaper/content creators on sharing the concept of "functional aesthetics"- how the "look" of the tank can be dictated by the ecological/biological functions that drive it, and how a closed aquatic microcosm functions over time. Just showing rocks, plants, and wood arranged in a certain way doesn't relay this.
Sure, we can attract new hobbyists with the "look"- but we need to discuss/demonstrate the function as well.
We need to go further.
And lest you accuse me of asserting that everyone needs to talking only about the nitrogen cycle, stocking, etc. at the exclusion of everything else, or rather than featuring beautiful, inspiring imagery- that's assuredly not my point. I'm suggesting, rather, that we need to also show how an aquarium can be set up to replicate many functional aspects of Nature while still having a certain "look" to it, and that these factors are every bit as crucial as the aesthetics. Oh, and that Nature calls the shots- even when we don't think about it.
Ammonia and Nitrite don't give a crap about your Iwagumi rock arrangement being in conformity with someone else's idea of what is "correct."
As aquarists, we need to highlight the art and science of aquarium design and husbandry. We need to highlight the real natural habitats and consider/discuss why they look the way they do, and to consider what it is that makes them a suitable environment for fishes. To gloss over these important details is to deny us all the opportunity to truly learn from Nature.
To learn. To feature. To share what we know with others...
Those are things that we ALL need to do in order to create a more sustainable, viable, long-term hobby with successful outcomes for as many people as possible. We have to be able to look at ourselves a bit more critically- to look beyond the pretty pictures and consider the "science" behind the "art." To understand how our tanks are a functional microcosm of the real world- something that is obvious to all who look at this on a deeper level...
It's a win for us. It's a win for the hobby. And most important- a win for Nature.
Stay creative. Stay inquisitive. Stay involved. Stay diligent...
And Stay Wet.