You can't do that.

I was chatting with an old fishy friend yesterday- a guy who is really talented; a really progressive aquarist who has many novel approaches to stuff we do in the hobby.

Approaches honed by doing things...Sometimes, they're unorthodox. But they always work! Sadly, he's taken a "hiatus' from the hobby...worn down, it seems, by some negativity he's encountered.

He related to me a recent situation where he was just pummeled in an online reef keeping forum for suggesting that there was a better way to do something. He was humble and gracious. He presented his idea, and showed how he does it. Showed how others could do it. Successfully.

Yet, he was hit. Hard. It was incredibly ugly.

You're in this hobby long enough, and you want to try some new stuff. Things that may just go against the "status quo"; the "way things are done", the "commonly held belief", or the "best practices."

You do this because you're perhaps frustrated with the way you've been doing something. You feel limited by the processes, mindsets, and challenges that you're encountering with an aquarium project you're working on.

So, you embark on the new road. You develop the proverbial "better mousetrap." You're having some success...and you share your rather unorthodox idea on a forum or user group, because you're excited and think others might enjoy hearing about it.

And then it happens.

From out of the dark corners of the dusty backroads of the internet comes the response to your work, "You can't do that."

We've seen this dozens and dozens of times. Way too many times. And it's often from someone who has, quite frankly, never even tried what you're doing. Or never approached it in the way you're approaching it. Yet, often times, this person is perceived as an "expert" in his/her online community, yet sometimes it's simply because this person is really good at intimidating others who "invade" his/her self created "utopia", where their version of "normal" is the only way.

It's so predictable that it's almost funny. But it's not.

(I'm not sure if it's unique to the aquarium world, but I suspect that it isn't.)

And these bullies-that's what they are- all operate in the same way...

They'll bombard you with all sorts of arguments, personal attacks, random google links, etc....but almost never will you see them have a personal experience with the very thing, done in the very way that you are. You know, the thing they are tearing you down about. They're "armed for battle" with somewhat vague, third-party information and "experiences" ("This guy in Seattle tried that and his tank melted down twice!"), and tremendous amounts of often dated material, citations from quasi-related work- often high-level scientific stuff that has little to do with your idea, yet cobbled together to intimidate and impress others.

And the gang gathers. Supporters of the "expert" will rally behind him/her. You'll receive more and more, often moderated, but just as negative- "feedback" from these people...again, most have absolutely no personal experience which they can offer to show you why your idea or approach is so horrible...they just "know." Because...that's not the way we do it..."And we're a community..."

Don't cave. Don't even bother to argue with these small-minded people. In fact, one of the things I've found to be best is to simply and politely leave the situation.

Get back to DOING. Prove the validity of your idea by doing. Iterating, modifying...demonstrating. I'm not suggesting that everyone is going to get along. But it's no reason to abandon your own essence.

Believe in yourself. Some people will never come around, despite your obvious success. Some will continue to dwell on the parts of your idea which are challenging, tricky, and perhaps hard to understand...but that work if you do them.

Keep doing them. Keep showing and sharing and taking heat. But keep doing.

If you believe in your idea, don't let anything stop you.

A lot of people won't try your idea, because they're afraid. Or because it's NOT what "you're supposed to do." Or, because it's hard. But keep sharing anyways.

You can lead a horse to water....

Often, by simply doing, over and over again, others will come to understand that your idea is actually pretty good. They'll realize that it can make them successful with their aquarium projects, too. It will be beneficial.

And they share. And the idea germinates...and spreads. And more and more hobbyists have success; build upon your work, and share their ideas, their modifications. Their successes, and failures.

Or, you can simply get into arguments with the naysayers who dismiss your ideas, spend all of your time engaging with people who will never "get it", and you'll simply never progress, because you get 'burnt out", like my friend did. It's horrible. He's like...done.

Negativity sucks.

Please don't fall into the negativity trap. Don't become a naysayer. Don't be one of those people who says, "You can't do that..."

And don't become a jerk.

It's poison for the soul.

When someone tells you "You can't do that", just show your work. Over and over.

Maybe THEY can't do that, but open-minded, interested people can.

Believe. Declare war on negativity in this hobby. Enough is enough. There is way too much good out there to get caught up in pettiness and hate.

Simple advice for Saturday, in honor of my friend, who sadly submitted to this.

And to you- those of you boldly pushing back the limits; challenging the "status quo"-despite what "everyone" says:

Stay strong. Stay bold. Stay humble. Stay relentless...

And Stay Wet.

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics 

P.S.- Still time to get your proposals in for your "Tint Grant!" Let's see 'em!

Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


1 Response

Peter Short
Peter Short

April 01, 2017

Sadly it’s not just in the aquarium forum world, but I feel I see it in all the forums I’ve had interest in over the years. Such a person that had a new idea, tried it out and had success, and then is generous to try and share it deserves to be praised, not ridiculed like often happens. Plus I feel like the agitators are often internet warriors, talking the big talk but never actually doing anything.

I often don’t chime in on discussions even though I have been I this hobby for nearly 20 years, simply because no matter what you say you can be bombarded with ridicule. And heaven forbid you might ask a question to actually learn something.

I really wish I knew the forum and discussion you are referring to, sounds like the type of thing I love to read, to try to learn something new. Innovation can only ever come about from someone trying something new. Just think not that many years ago a tannin tinted tank was looked upon as dirty, and crystal clear water was always the aim……

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