With the start of a new year, it is traditional that we all try to begin it with resolutions that will make us healthier and happier throughout the year. So we all try to exercise more, eat healthier, drink less, read more etc.
Unfortunately as surveys have shown, even though only the first week of the new year has passed fully 50% of us have already failed in our attempts at these resolutions and by the end of the month over 80% us will be back on the same track. I would love to say that I am still following mine, but I hate to lie to you.
Fortunately I did not make many resolutions this year so I don’t feel I failed that badly. However, since this hobby is my passion, I decided to do something different this year and do resolutions in regards to it, knowing I would be more likely to keep them and if I did the hobby would be more fun and my tanks would benefit.
And I feel good about this as to date I have kept these resolutions for my tanks far better than I have the ones about myself. Now it may sound silly to have resolutions for your tanks, but since most of these resolutions are about making yourself healthier and happier, it is my contention that when my tanks are healthy and happy, I am also happier and healthier. So here are some of the resolutions I have come up with for 2016.
My first resolution was to sit down and list all the things I needed to do to make my tanks better. I know better is a relative term, so in my case better means healthier, more stable, easier to maintain and less expensive to operate over time. Now I realize this is different for every tank, so I made a list of these things for all of my tanks.
In some cases it was very simple like remove excess live rock that is just taking up space and allowing detritus to build up, or removing and cleaning a head of Pocillopora that is being overgrown with a pesky soft coral or cleaning this pest from everywhere else in the tank where it is becoming problematic.
These lists are as all encompassing as possible with the goal of them being that I now have things that I know need to be done and I know I can’t do them all at once, but as I complete them I take them off the list. This may seem simple but with how busy we all get some times things slip through the cracks or we forget them, like I did with cleaning the Pocillopora, until it becomes a real problem.
So now that football is over, and it is cold out, I get out my lists on Saturday and try to get at least a few off the list each week. In addition to this list I also made a list of the corals, fish and equipment I would like to get this year. Some of the items on here I am likely to get, while others are kind of iffy unless I hit the Powerball, like a pair of Joculator Angels.
But I made these lists to try and keep me from going off the rails as I have been known to do and buy things on impulse rather than through planning. In this way I hope to maintain a better budget, but also keep from buying unnecessary stuff. While the lists are fairly comprehensive about each tank, there are also some universal things about the whole hobby in my house that have resolutions of their own.
The first of these is my resolution to get things more organized around the hobby. So to start this my first attempt at organizing things was to better organize the zillion electrical wires around my house so that I do not need to constantly worry about not only the unsightly clutter they cause, but also the potential for an electrical fire.
So to make these wires manageable, my resolution is to cable tie them so that they can be hidden away and just as importantly label them. So my goal by the end of this month is to have every wire on every piece of equipment tied and stored or hung so that it is no longer visible around the tanks.
At the same time I also hope to place them in such a way that there is little chance for the plugs to come in contact with water and cause a fire. Sadly in my own case and in tanks I have seen this is often not done and the results can be devastating. While being better organized is a frequent New Year’s resolution for both hobbyists and non-hobbyists alike, this hobby seems to especially induce disorganization.
It is not just the clutter around the tank that diminishes from the overall aesthetic of the tank, but also the clutter that can occur throughout the house as a result of the hobby. So as we all know, the rule is if you have not worn it or used it in a year, throw it out, this is also one of my resolutions. However, there is one caveat to this, just as with clothes, if you keep them long enough they eventually come back into fashion, so too does old equipment.
So rather than throwing out things I haven’t used in a year, my organizational resolution is to clean from my cupboards, and I have 2 big ones dedicated to my tanks, everything I haven’t used and as long it is not a perishable item, remove it from the shelves and store it in a well-organized manner in a big plastic bin.
I am also taking this one step further and I am making an inventory list of what I am placing in the bin. In this way rather than scrambling at midnight when I need a clamp or fitting or something else that I think I may have placed in this box, this list will let me know if it exists or if I’m just wasting time looking for something that I never had.
Obviously with there being less clutter and less stuff that I’m not using filling the shelves, it should be easier to do more in the tanks in an efficient and less time-consuming fashion. In this regard, one of my other resolutions is to determine how much time it takes to do things and experiment at least some, to see if it is possible to find less time-consuming ways to do them.
Some things, like doing water changes, I have already been able to cut down on the time to do them from 45 to 20 minutes. The goal was not necessarily just to save time however, it was also to find ways to do things quickly so as to limit the stress I put on the corals. Also it has been my experience that the easier and quicker it is to do something, the more likely I am to do it. So trying to find quicker ways to do things and keeping track of them is a resolution that offers a lot of benefits.
Since we all seem to constantly strive to save time doing things and sometimes cut corners to do so, I’m trying to do the opposite in this regard in that one my other resolutions is to actually read and understand the owner’s manual for any new piece of equipment I get. I know this may be a male thing in that we generally don’t ask for directions nor read directions.
But I have learned the hard way that today where most equipment is no longer simply plug and play it is necessary, check that, actually mandatory, to read the owner’s manual to have the expensive pieces of equipment we all buy work to their optimal level. And I don’t mean simply read enough to be dangerous using it like I used to do, but take the time to fully read it.
The last two resolutions are ones that I shouldn’t have had to make, but with how life and time are, they were necessary. The first was to make the hobby as fun as possible and to try new things. While I started two new tanks last year with mixed results, I did so with seemingly the kind of mindset of someone who was getting ready to run a marathon.
I focused too much on the outcome and getting things done, rather than enjoying the process. Also after having done this for over 30 years I found that I set up the one tank exactly the same as I had set up dozens of other tanks previously. While it was slightly experimental, it was my first tank in sunlight, everything else was done the same as most of my tanks and the tanks I had set up for others.
Amazingly the tank that I had the most fun with last year was the freshwater planted tank. It was something I hadn’t done before, it was a total experiment and it was just fun. As I have come to realize fun comes when it is spontaneous and new. So this year I am setting up a tank that will be completely different from anything I have done in the past, I will describe it next week.
And while I realize that not everyone can set up a new tank, or has a reason to experiment with a new set up or new untested technology, but everyone can try at least a few new things and try to make the hobby as much fun as they can. Also in my desire to make the hobby more fun I am going to try and keep my purchases of high-priced frags to a minimum.
I say this as I have come to realize that I stress more about a high-priced frag dying than I do about my job or other events in my life and this has detracted from my enjoyment of the hobby. So I am going to see if not getting as many of these corals this year adds to or detracts from my enjoyment of the hobby.
And the last resolution I have for this year is the simplest of all: I resolve to sit and watch each of my tanks for a minimum of 10 minutes each day. So while I have 6 tanks and I know I don’t usually have a free hour to look at them every day, 3 are attached and in one room and two sit in front of me at breakfast and dinner, so in reality I am only spending an additional 30 minutes a day just looking at them. While I have only been doing this since before the holidays, I did look at them every day I’ve had them, but I did not make a conscious effort to just focus on them for a time each day, I have seen a lot of things I did not know were occurring.
I resolve to sit and watch each of my tanks for a minimum of 10 minutes each day
I will not get into specific details, but watching them every day instead of just when I was feeding them or eating, or doing some task on them has allowed me to see much more of the interactions that are occurring within them and to get a better feel when things are good and when there is a problem.
Also doing this without planning on doing some work or other on them has allowed me to relax while watching them, which is one of the true benefits of having these tanks that we often forget. So if you only do one of the New Year’s resolutions that I suggest this year, the one you should definitely do is take the time to just sit back, relax and watch your tank.
Lastly in the context of these weekly blogs I am have made a couple of resolutions. First I am going to try and write about some of the things you have requested I write about, so if there is something you are interested in let me know. And while I think things are pretty good in the hobby I am also going to discuss some of the parts of what I consider the “dark side” of the hobby, things that have the potential or are hurting the hobby, sorry I couldn’t resist with the success of Star Wars.
Hopefully it is not too late for you to start these resolutions and I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year of successful reefing!