Obsessed. To be obsessed about something. It’s such a beautiful word. Loud. Expressive. Used to convey an insufferable expression of fixation about something. Isn’t it wonderful? To be filled with that mind controlling thought. The poison that drips from the very cosmos of the human brain. And yet, something so primeval in its core, has become something of little value.
It’s easy to throw that word around. I’m obsessed with this cheesecake. This new pair of jeans are my latest obsession. Do you really mean it? In the strictest sense of the word, are you really obsessed with that cheesecake. Does it take up all your thoughts, all your concentration? Well for me, I am obsessed. Obsessed about fish. I love it. And few people can truly understand the feelings that I feel, or the joy that I experience when it comes to fish.
Do you ever get that feeling? The all consuming, numbing, blindingly overwhelming joy of seeing a fish that has piqued your interest for days, or weeks, months or even years on end. Are you a fish geek? Now i’m not talking about the common passion we all share for the hobby. I’m also not talking about the general love for expensive fish or the willingness to liquidate your bank account just for that one angelfish. No. It’s that unrequited love, that spine tingling moment when you see something for the first time.
It could be because it’s rare. Or because it’s deep. It could be any number of reasons that only you yourself find rational. For example, contrary to popular belief, I do not get excited at only rare or expensive fish. I’m not a fish snob. I get excited over a tiny, inch long BROWN and totally inconspicuous Plectranthias. It’s the story behind the fish you see. Why does it look like this? How has it evolved in its environment to become what it has become today? Why does it look so different from all the other members in its genus? Why is its range so isolated? How did it get its name? The Etymology behind it. Why does it live so deep? Huh, there are regional geographical variations to this fish! That’s interesting.
You see, it could be anything. But the bottom-line is, do you ever get this excited? Have you ever stared at a fish so hard with a hundred different questions and emotions running through your head. That obsession. When I visited Koji Wada for the first time in Osaka, I was floored. The shop was small, cosy. The fish he had though, was reason enough for me to visit. In a futuristic and neat clean cut acrylic tank, swam two deepwater butterflyfish from the genus Prognathodes. He had three Lipogramma species, teeny tiny fish they were, but one of them was until that day, never seen alive before.
When he took me to one of his customer’s place, the collection of fish that he had was literally out of this world. Imagine over the years, flipping through magazines, pointing and screaming at every rare fish on the page. And then imagine seeing all these in person, swimming in one tank. For that moment, just that moment in time, the world comes to a stop, and your mind races at the speed of light trying to make sense of what you’re going through. I could churn up a list of fish that I saw that day, but that’s not the point. The point isn’t about looking at list filled with 20 different names in latin. It’s not about the “oh wow, look at that! I need to validate this amazingness to everyone” feeling. It’s that unspoilt happiness that for a minute, makes you forget about you, and only about the subject.
I spend a large portion of my free time talking about fish. On my phone, I partake in daily messages with people of fellow interests. On my computer, I engage people like Kevin Kohen, who is one of few people who really gets where i’m coming from; In fact, just recently I visited Kevin and LiveAquaria, where I had the best time talking to him about fish. Or when I scour the internet, digging up stories and pictures to share with you guys. The readers. Navigating the internet to look for stories to share is difficult. Navigating the internet in Japanese and Chinese, that’s even harder. But I love it. It keeps me alive, and everyday is a learning experience for me. Literally, I learn something new everyday. I even have a folder archive where i’ve amassed hundreds of photos of reef fish, hybrid fish, aberrant fish etc. Every now and then I stumble upon a new image from somewhere and I go, this is new! This could be a new species to science, and an underwater photographer just photographed it knowingly or unknowingly!
See this dull, unobtrusive looking wrasse? It’s a juvenile Halichoeres bathyphilus, and in its juvenile form, it looks very similar to a few other common Atlantic species. The slippery dick is one example. But H. bathyphilus is one of the most interesting members of its genus for me. In the wild, it can be found at depths of up to 190m (620ft). It only starts appearing at 100ft in the Atlantic, and it is one of the deepest living members of its genus, which are mostly shallow warm water reef fish. The females are breathtakingly beautiful, being red overall with two horizontal yellow lines. The males, which have never been offered alive in the market, is green with a lovely flag like pattern on its tail. To appreciate the fish at more than just face value is something that not many people can do.
There are so many more examples of seemingly ordinary fish with extraordinary stories, or character. I’ve not been in this industry for a long time, but I have had the fortune of meeting many great people, people who i’ve admired and looked up to, and people who share their same love and passion for fish. I’m sure there are people out there who share the same crazy fish obsession that I do, that we do. So then that begs the question. Are you a fish geek? I am. And i’m quite proud of it.