Why we do what we do....

Okay, part of what makes us unique as hobbyists (and people) is the way each and every one of us seems to approach stuff in the aquarium hobby in our own unique or slightly personalized way.

Over time, and with enough personal experience, we often develop our own hard and fast "rules" for how to do things. Much like rules we've created for ourselves in our everyday lives (always log out of your PayPal account when using your iPad, never get your sushi from a supermarket, etc.), the way we approach our aquarium practice is as individual as we are.

I know that I have a few "hard and fast" hobby "rules"/practices that I have personally developed over the years...And when I reflect upon them, I realize that many of them were simply as a result of my "socialization" within the hobby when I was younger and more impressionable or something, lol! 

Like, I have this thing about never feeding dry/prepared foods to my fishes... I just don't. I mean, like, EVER. I'd literally sooner swat houseflies or collect ants from the backyard by hand before I'd throw in some flakes these days...It's that ingrained in me.

I think I have an idea why/how this sort of weird practice evolved: "Back in the day" (like, my teenage years) I was obsessed with killifishes. The prevailing wisdom at the time was that you should feed them exclusively with live and (maybe) frozen foods. It was almost like there was a "taboo" about dry food- especially if you were serious about breeding them. And there were plenty of "experts" who said that killies wouldn't even eat prepared foods!

Umm, I call B.S. on that...

Now, this was at the dawn of the high-tech influence on the hobby, with all of the insanely scientifically-derived dried foods we take for granted now just starting to really appear, so guys from my generation were still strong influenced by the old-school hobbyists who collected/grew their own Daphnia, Brine Shrimp, White Worms, Glass Worms, etc., and perhaps a bit spooked about the idea of "high quality nutrition in a can."  

And being a really young guy in a hardcore hobbyist group like the AKA at the time, where I'd hazard a guess that the average age was like 55, I couldn't help but be influenced by this crowd. Some of these people were serious hobbyists in the pre WWII era, and pretty much "invented" many of the practices that formed the basis of our hobby for a generation!

Live food was just considered "what you do." If you weren't into "growing your own", frozen was THE option to fall back on. And of course, even the use of frozen foods would cause a few murmurs and hushed comments about your "skill and devotion" (or lack thereof) to the hobby. I mean, how lazy ARE you if you use frozen food?  

Yeah, it was a rough crowd! :)

Using dried food was almost seen as a "shortcut" that "not-so-serious" hobbyists would take. I mean, if you couldn't even be "bothered" to thaw out some frozen food, your skill set and dedication was highly questioned. And of course, there was the widely accepted opinion that dried/prepared foods were not as "nutritionally sound" as the live foods we grew and collected (which, at the time, probably wasn't that far from the truth!).

So yeah, this sort of "tribal influence" from the hobby elders really set me into my habit, which to this day I almost never deviate from. I'm 100% frozen and live to this day- for all my fishes, as a matter of practice. In fact, other than those occasional samples you receive at hobby conferences and as raffle prizes, you'll never see dried or freeze dried food in my house. Crazy. Stupid. Stubborn...and entirely outmoded thinking, because todays's prepared foods are probably 10X better than the frozen foods of 30 years ago! 

But hell, I'm stubborn.

And it's kind of funny- absurd, even..because there are some insanely good foods out there. Yet, in my own weird way, I've convinced myself that live (and by extension, my "lazy" use of frozen) foods is just "how to do it...I have all of the stubbornness of my predecessors (without the judgmental part, however)! Yikes.

Yet I"m not completely stubborn and unyielding in my thinking, however. 

Now, I admit I have tried a couple of the insect-based dried foods, which I was REALLY excited to use...and was profoundly disappointed by the results. My fishes showed like ZERO interest in them...which was weird, because- well, flies! I mean, HELLO! It's their natural food...yet...

Can fishes be stubborn? Maybe? Well, maybe MY fishes can be stubborn? Yeah, probably.

Yes, this is one of those things that we take for granted...stuff that becomes a habit, and then a sort of "rule" in our hobby practices. Now, unlike my predecessors, I wouldn't look down on anyone who keeps a pack of flakes in her home and swears by high-tech, scientifically formulated pellet foods...Our lifestyle as humans has changed so much over the decades, and these foods offer not just convenience- they offer overall practicality and cost effectiveness. 

I mean, yeah, we're in a world where tweets and hashtags have replaced long-form conversations and such, and where many hobbyists won't read the massive amount of information that's readily available to them wth a simple click (Don't believe me? I get at least 5 emails a week from customers who order botanicals from me and ask, "Okay, do I prepare them for use, or can I just add them to my tank?") 

I mean, I literally want to slap myself sometimes...having spent hours and hours creating detailed prep instructions on a dedicated section of our website for every botanical we sell.

It might be a "thing" with culture...A shift of sorts...

Time and convenience tend to relegate stuff like culturing live foods (and even reading INSTRUCTIONS!) to the hardcore DIY-type hobbyist crowd. Hatching brine shrimp eggs SHOULD be "Aquarium Keeping 101",  but it might just become one of these extinct skills, like horseshoe making, growing our own vegetables, mixing our own cocktails, and changing our own oil in our cars, which simply become "unnecessary" because of the developments in our world. Cool stuff to know- a novelty, even- but not "necessary."

I mean, our culture has evolved. We stream movies to our iPads, use websites to deliver food from local restaurants, and let total strangers drive our 16 year old daughters around town in their own vehicles with a simple smart phone app and no concerns whatsoever- something that would have freaked out any parent just a decade ago. Most people will tell you that they have less free time than ever, and that the demands on their leisure time are many. Time is more valuable than ever. We value different stuff...

Times change. It's cool. 

And it's probably for the better, right?

I mean, I know that my mom would not have been all that disappointed if I fed lots of freeze-dried Tubifex worms instead of laying out cantaloupe rinds in containers of water in the backyard to encourage mosquitoes to lay their eggs so I could collect larvae! 

Sure, we could romanticize stuff like growing Daphnia. We could lament and think it's sad that "Most people don't do it that way any more..." It's silly to do that. Culture, people, and the hobby evolve and change over time, and that's a great thing. "Growing your own" is enjoying a sort of rebirth of sorts, with culturing life foods more and more prevalent among even less than totally hardcore hobbyists! Almost becoming a sub-hobby of sorts!

Yeah, times change. Sort of. 

Gotta run...thawning out some frozen bloodworms for my fishes. No time for netting Daphnia today...


Yeah, it's fun to contemplate why we do what we do, isn't it?

Stay unique. Stay progressive. Stay skilled.

And Stay Wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics 








Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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