There are countless clichés about love and falling in love and most of them are clichés because they are true. My two favorites are ‘it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all’ and ‘love is a force more formidable than any other’.
After being in this hobby for most of my life and talking with many other who share this passion it has become quite clear that being in the hobby is like being in love. I know to some this may sound crazy or foolish but when you think about it does induce many of the same feelings that occur when one is in love.
There are many positive aspects of being in love and I think they apply to those of us in the hobby in similar ways. The first of these is interest. When you are in love you are completely interested in all aspects of your partner. More than any other hobby I have been involved with, due to how broad and diverse it is, and how new things are constantly appearing, it induces interest like no other.
There is always something new to learn or see or try so as least for me this aspect of the hobby constantly keeps me interested. Along with interest the hobby has provided countless hours of amusement. I have been entertained by the antics of the inhabitants of my tanks, the many lectures about it that I have listened to, videos about it and just hanging out with my fellow hobbyists.
Also when things have gone exceptionally well the hobby has brought me joy. I also hear this when other hobbyists tell me about something special that has happened in their tanks as well, so I am not alone in feeling joy about this. And as occurs when we are with a truly special person, this hobby can also produce a sense of awe like few other hobbies.
I still feel this sense of awe when I see someone else’s tank that I know took so much time and effort to produce. I also feel awe when I come across a new fish or coral that I have not seen before and this can be multiplied when I successfully keep this animal in my own tank or see it being kept in someone else’s tank long-term. And I also think many of us also feel this sense of awe when we sit back and see how beautiful and interesting many of the animals we keep are.
I know at times we often get caught up in having the latest frag of the multi-dimensional rainbow this or the piece of equipment that will make it unnecessary to ever do a water change again, but in reality sometimes it is just sitting back and watching a pair of mandarins spawn or realizing how nice a head of coral looks when it is viewed from above the tank to induce this awe.
But even when nothing spectacular is going on and my tanks are just doing well, they can provide a sense of serenity. As has been documented for the past 20 years or more, simply sitting down and watching a tank has been proven to be relaxing and to actually even be able to lower one’s blood pressure. So for many of us and happy healthy tank does provide a sense of serenity that may not be provided by many other hobbies.
Similarly, this hobby also can provide hope. I know this may seem like I am stretching things, but think about it. How many of us have gotten little tiny frags of some spectacular coral, which we then nurture and care for with the hope that we are going to one day see a spectacular colony that lives up to the time, effort and cost we put into it. As with being in love, most hobbyists I know have this hope that good things are going to happen.
By the same token when our tanks are doing good, and even when they are not, we can and should take pride in what we have accomplished. And why not, considering how much time effort and money most of us put into making our tanks be what they are. For the most part very few of us go overboard on this, but we should pat ourselves on the backs especially when one considers that not too long ago it was thought impossible to even keep corals or many fish alive, let alone get them to grow and reproduce in our very own little microcosm, that we have created.
Because of the internet now and getting to travel in the early days of the hobby I have gotten to see many tanks and as is the case in a good relationship these have provided inspiration. Even though I have been doing this a long time, I still do get inspired every time I am fortunate enough to come across a well-done tank.
And by well done, I do not mean just one stocked with named frags or expensive fish. At least to me, a tank is inspiring if it was well thought out, it looks natural and the animals are thriving and growing over the long-term. It can be a huge tank or a nano, but when done right they all are inspiring.
But as with most love affairs at times there is heart break. Unfortunately, in this hobby when that happens it usually results in someone getting out of the hobby and often for good. However, I know of several individuals who seemingly got out of the hobby for an extended period of time and then came back.
In my friend Howard’s case he actually got out three times, but then came back. Each time he got out it was the result of him having a gorgeous thriving tank and then due to time constraints of life he got a little neglectful of his tank and it crashed. Each time after the crash he decided it was enough and he took down the tank.
Interestingly, each time he came back and he set up a bigger and better tank. When I asked him what drew him back he said that when his tank was up and thriving it gave him a sense of accomplishment as he knew that the tank was basically all his.
He also said that as in a relationship you had to go “all in” you couldn’t really fake it or do it half way or it was bound to fail. This sounded much like a relationship to me, do you agree? He also said that as with a relationship he has learned to go slow, that is unlike past tanks he has done he is taking things incredibly slow with his latest tank.
To me this sounds like someone who has been burned in past relationships and has learned their lesson. I know it might sound like I am stretching the analogy, but it does sound like one of the many clichés we know.
A similar tale also occurred for a more well-known member in the hobby Joe Burger. Many of us saw Joe’s beautiful tanks over a number of years and then we heard that he had suddenly left the hobby and none of us knew why. In Joe’s case it was a number of mishaps that combined to drive him away.
First while doing an upgrade and storing his live rock it got infected by sponge that effectively killed any corals it came in contact with. Then after clearing that out a hurricane flowed by a home renovation. After this Joe felt he had had enough and decided to leave the hobby or at least get out of the public view of it.
So as a result of these events Joe was effectively out of the hobby for almost 3 years. As with Howard, Joe missed the hobby and it stayed in the back of his mind while he was out of it. Fortunately, neither of them sold their tanks or equipment and while they were out the kept in touch with what was going on a little bit by reading about all the new stuff that was going on online. Both regret that they missed the advent of LED lighting and the Australian invasion, but they new that things were getting better while they were away.
In talking with them part of the allure of getting back was that they knew that they had been successful but factors beyond their control led to their tank’s demise. So when I asked if it felt similar to how the felt about the one that got away they did not disagree. This is why I think some hobbyists fall back in love with the hobby, even after a failure while so many leave after they don’t achieve success.
Those that leave probably never had the level of success that Joe and Howard had so the never felt the sensations that I described above. That is if you have only failed at something why would you continue to pursue it, it is the very definition of insanity. But if you have had success there is nothing to keep you from being successful again and in doing so feeling those positive feelings.
As anyone who has been lucky to be in love knows there really is not a better feeling. And for those of who have had success with their tank the feeling can be similar. As Howard said now that his tank is back on the road to being successful again “when I walk into the room and see it I just feel more relaxed and content”.
Most of us who have been in successful relationships hopefully feel the same way. While I know that a reef tank cannot replace a loving relationship, for many of us it can at least in part make us feel the same way. And in the best of all worlds, our partner will enjoy it as much as we do.