Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of fish-related events, and have had the pleasure of interacting with quite a few experienced hobbyists. During our discussions, we often reflect on where the hobby has been, where it’s going, and the people, products, and trends that have helped define- or sometimes-detract from- the hobby landscape. I thought it would be fun to reflect upon a few of the more polarizing ones in recent years, so here are several of my personal favorites:
“Wet Skimming”- I LOVED this one! Basically, you took your highly efficient and expensive protein skimmer and “tuned” it so that all it did was remove some yellowish water from the system. This “technique” was though to help assist in nutrient export by creating continuous “water changing”. Really? I always laughed at this, because if you ask me, it would have been a lot easier to just pick up a siphon hose and remove a few gallons of water regularly the way hobbyists did it for decades. It’s amazing what some people will do in the laziness to avoid water changes! This one ties in nicely with the paranoid hyper-husbandry of our next great trend from the past:
“Rock cooking”- A great example of “viral stupidity” perpetuated by means of the Internet. Some incompetent hobbyist’s tank “crashed” into a mass of scunge and algae, so he went on line blaming live rock and sand for his woes. It had to be the rock and sand, because he was allegedly really experienced! ALL aquariums with live rock and sand were viewed as “time bombs” waiting for the great apocalypse. It launched a vitriolic hatred towards use of live rock and sand in reef systems, and suddenly you were advised to remove all of the sand from your tank, and to take your live rock and scrub it with a stiff brush and “swish it” in water until it rinsed “clean”. Then, in an ultimate act of stupidity, you were supposed to “cook” your rock by placing it in a darkened container of saltwater for months, essentially killing all photosynthetic life (both good and bad) on the rock. This supposedly helped to “eliminate detritus and phosphates”, and then you’d place this barren rock back into your display aquarium (without sand, of course), to start the process all over again. Loyalists to this “technique” proffered detailed “instructions” for neophytes on a certain hobby message board, and a lot of criticism towards those who wouldn’t embrace this stupidly perverted form of “hyper husbandry”. I’m not sure what was worse- the concept or the attitude! Of course, if these guys would have simply learned how to manage an aquarium in the first place, they wouldn’t have had to create this stupid concept!
Feeding Lettuce to herbivorous fishes– Well, at least the intention of this one was good. Since macroalgae and other prepared foods for herbivores were sadly lacking back in the day, Romaine lettuce was offered up as a substitute. While terrestrial greens were never considered outstanding nutrition for marine fishes, this was one of the easiest substitutes at hand, so we used it. I mean, the stuff was green, right? It wasn’t until we started keeping macroalgae, such as Caulerpa, in our systems in the mid eighties, and experimenting with other marine algae products, such as Nori sheets, that our beloved herbivorous Tangs and Rabbitfishes really began to thrive in captivity. Nowadays, we can purchase the ultimate Tang feed, propagated Gracilaria macroalgae, from online sources such as Indo-Pacific Sea Farms. It’s a great time to be a Tang!
Cycling aquariums with Damselfishes-This idea is sooo last century! By keeping hapless Damsels in a newly set up aquarium, their waste products helped to feed the beneficial bacteria that we require in our systems. In theory, it works, but why would you subject a fish to the discomfort and negative health affects caused by ammonia and nitrite toxicity in a brand new aquarium? There have always been better ways to help “kick start” the nitrogen cycle in our closed systems. Yet, this practice still continues today, with thousands of Damselfishes each year needlessly subjected to the rigors of “cycling”. It also serves to perpetuate the belief that these beautiful, interesting fishes are expendable aquatic “popcorn” as one author referred to them. With a wide array of bacteria products and alternatives, today’s hobbyists don’t have to resort to this primitive technique any longer.
So that’s a look at just a few of the strange ideas that have been embraced by the hobby over the years. I suppose the proponents of these techniques and practices really believed that these techniques were the way to go, so I can’t simply bash them without acknowledging this (well, actually- I can, because this is MY blog!). Yet seriously, it’s amazing how various hobby practices arise and then fall- or evolve- over the years. If we learn from our indiscretions, then we truly have evolved. As one of my relatives so eloquently put it, “Nothing is ever wasted. Something can always serve as an example of what NOT to do!”
That about sums it up.
Till next time,