We receive a lot of email, as I tell you constantly.
Some of them are asking for more details on a product, others are getting our opinion on a project, some are requests for us to give our bank account number to an exiled African diplomat so that they can transfer $16 million to us to hold and split when the diplomat is released from captivity. Others are questions, statements, or affirmations on how we do stuff. Some of those affirmations are like oxygen for us. They feel good. We also get constructive criticism, and the occasional hater who tells us that we have a bad attitude and they hope we fail! Nice!
And sometimes, we'll get a question that makes us think about why we do stuff the way we do. Questions that make us ponder our own core values, motives, and ideas.
Someone asked me a few days ago how I keep coming up with esoteric or unusual subjects for "The Tint" every day. Like, how we think of new stuff for hobbyists to play with, or asking questions about stuff that, on the surface, everyone seems to know, but that in actuality drives everyone crazy! Stuff we don't usually talk about in the hobby. "Taboo" stuff, or just things that are usually left unsaid.
Now, the answer, of course, is not that I am some brilliant hobby visionary. Most of you have forgotten more than I'll ever know about fish stuff. I'm pretty old-fashioned, really. The short answer is that I think that much of the stuff we talk about in the hobby has had the element of "wonder" or curiosity stripped away from it, which is sad. And we need a few people to look into the neglected corners of the fish world now and then, so I might as well be one of 'em. In other words, we have a lot of "How to breed____", or "How to arrange your rocks to comply with someone else's rules...", or "Selecting an aquarium heater" and we simply need some other stuff.
Not that these aren't needed and very good topics, and well written, too. They are needed. However, when you do a google search and find 11,232 articles on "How to select a lighting system for your planted tank", it makes me realize that no one is covering topics like "Functional diversity" or "Why a little algae is okay", or "Fish geek complication syndrome" or what not. Stuff that provokes more thought and discussion. I believe in my heart that the hobby still cherishes stuff like that. I mean, hell, we started a company that specializes in blackwater aquariums. Doesn't get more "niche" than that!
The hobby has also coexisted in a world where all of the "basic" stuff has been whittled away for us, and- in our case- it's thought that we simply want a chart to tell us which filter to select, or what the best scavenger is for your 40-gallon tank. We want the fast answer...or, at least that's how those who present and curate information seem to view it. And I tend to disagree. So I don't write that way.
I don't always like fast answers. It's why we have long product descriptions, romantically describing the texture of a botanical. Or an extensive section on how to prepare said botanicals for aquarium use. It's totally anti -"web 2.0", but it's how we are. Sure, I could have made a simple chart. But that's not how I think. Rather, I believe- and I'm wagering on the fact- that people obsessed with a specific topic- like, using botanicals to create blackwater aquariums, for example- will want to be "romanced" a bit. They'll want to be given not just the "how to", but the why about a topic. Maybe not all of it, mind you- but enough to get the juices flowing and the wheels turning!
Provoking thought is equally as important as providing the quick answer, IMHO. And you've proven me correct, day in and day out with your embrace of "The Tint!" We don't do "fast" here...usually! Those of you who don't like this stuff don't stop by. Or you look at the pretty pics and bail. I get it. No problem. We're not about "fast" here, as you probably gathered (although when you find all the typos and editing errors, you might think so, lol).
And aquarium keeping has never been about doing things quickly. Yet, in the interest of-what-maybe selling stuff(?)-we don't preach enough patience, both as a hobby and industry. "Turnkey" aquariums are one thing, but "aquarium by menu" stocking and aquascaping is quite another. I personally don't need or want someone telling me how to arrange wood to conform with some "established" way of doing stuff so that I get the nod from some company or group of aquarists I've never even met.
Rather, I want to know how wood falls down into the streams and rivers in tropical regions and what happens to the water when it does. I want to know why sand accumulates the way it does in an Amazonian Igarape, and what the implications are for the fishes who end up there. I want to know what happens to the loaches in an Asian stream when rocks accumulate along the shoreline. The "whys."
And you do too, I think.
It's just that there have been less alternatives lately, and we tend to digest what's there. Human nature. A cultural thing.
Now, at first glance, all this comes off as a big "diss" against, well- everyone. And that is NOT the case. There are many amazing hobbyists and hobby authors who "get it", and are turning out amazing, informative, and thought-provoking stuff daily. The problem is, a lot of their work is lost in the "cultural climate" of charts, graphs. FAQ's, and uber-fast, instant answers.
It's kind of insulting. Even in this world of 15 second videos and tweets, you can still provide decent, though-provoking stuff, I think. Many do. It's just that culturally, the standards have fallen. Do you, as a hobbyist, find the video of the guy diving into the garbage can in a dress more interesting than the 15 tendon video of the 50-tank killifish breeding room with all sorts of cool tanks? Yeah, didn't think so. We as a group don't typically like "dumbed down" stuff.
Hobbyists are a bit different. We want- and offer- more. So yeah, this isn't a disrespectful attack on the state of the hobby world...It's sort of a middle finger to the cultural attitude that says we're too stupid, busy, impatient, or whatever to thing for ourselves. It's an observation that we as hobbyists are-well- a bit better than everyone thinks!
It's actually a big call to everyone in the hobby to simply be more of themselves. You. Yeah, not a day goes by when I don't talk to a hobbyist that's trying some crazy idea that I've never even contemplated, or working with some fishes that are popularly thought to be impossible to keep, or whatever. It blows my mind how much cool stuff is going on out there in the basements and fishrooms of hobbyists around the world. And we hear so little about what's really going down in the hobby..It's kind of sad.
So, in summary, the reason why you read numerous articles here about throwing leaves in aquariums and why biofilms are okay and collecting and preparing your own oak leaves and how Neon Tetras got their stripes and stuff like that is not just because we're trying to sell you our stuff. No. It's because we're trying to provide value, inspiration, and "sell" you on the idea of doing stuff that maybe you wouldn't normally do. Pushing yourselves out of the comfort zone.
Encouraging you to do things a bit differently. And sharing your results.
Because when serious hobbyists do cool stuff and tell others about it, we all win.
And it's a hell of a lot more interesting than a 15-second cat video.
Long answer to a seemingly simple question. On a Sunday morning. I'm way too opinionated.
Stay unique. Stay thoughtful. Stay creative.
And Stay Wet.