RSS Things I hate in the aquarium hobby

MASA Admin

8 May 2007
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In a recent psychology article I was reading about relationships, the author made an interesting observation. To paraphrase, the author basically said that our strongest friendships and most passionate love affairs may not simply be based on us liking the same things as our friends and lovers. Our most intense relationships may actually occur when we hate the same things.

That is, hating the same things may produce a far deeper sense of commitment than liking the same things. Since my last article was on reasons why we love the hobby, I thought I would try to drive stronger relationships by addressing things I and some of my fellow hobbyists hate about the hobby.

I’m not going to talk about how much I hate being stung, or cut, or shocked while working in my tanks, which drives anger at my own stupidity rather than hatred, but rather the big picture things that I hate. I hope this will not come across as a rant, but after having time recently to catch up on my online reading as well as having the opportunity to discuss the hobby at some reef based events, I found some commonality in things we all seem to hate.


So THAT’s where my corals went off to . . .

First among the things I hate is that shipping is still to my mind one of the biggest reasons for the loss of our animals. I know to many, Pittsburgh, which is near where I live, may seem like the edge of the earth, and this is especially true of the airlines and Fedex. Although I must admit the airlines in the past year have gotten better.

But even after years of phone calls, emails and letters, three to four out of ten of my packages via Fed Ex still get delayed by a day or more. Even sadder I have yet to speak with anyone there who actually cares or is willing to do anything about it. The airlines at least try and usually succeed in getting live animals on the next flight. In speaking with other hobbyists I have found that this still occurs to many of them, luckily not to the same degree as it does for me. So I hate that I am still dependent on these unreliable shippers.
Also among things that I dislike, hate is a strong word, are people who have become online gurus without actually paying their dues. Due to the anonymity that the internet provides, a 12-year old kid with a 10-gallon tank may be considered by some to be an expert simply because he has thousands of posts on a site.

I do not begrudge the individuals who spend much of their time away from their tanks posting. But if you do get above a certain number of posts, maybe it would be good if next to your Avatar/Profile pic you included a picture of your tank(s), your years of experience, your last post, and lastly the biggest calamity that happened to one of your tanks.


In this way it could quickly be concluded if you had paid your dues and more importantly if after making a major mistake you learned from it and still stayed in the hobby. By paying their dues I do not think it is necessary that you have wiped out X number of tanks like some of us have done. But if you gain expert status I think you should obtain it by doing more than having 10,000 posts, many of which have the insight of saying “bump” or “yep”.
In a similar vein, the need for so many individuals to be contrarians to anything and everything that is posted has never been so great. Seriously, after reading many of the more interesting recent online discussions of things, I am convinced that if someone said that ‘water was wet’ someone else would immediately post their contrarian view that their tank water was dry.

To be honest this hobby has always been somewhat competitive, but sadly the amount of flaming and vitriolic speech that now occurs is out of control and not good for the furtherance of the hobby in my opinion. I am not saying that there should not be differences of opinion and debate, just that the arguments should remain civil and facts rather than opinion should rule the discussions.

When reading some of these discussions or comments about an opinion it is clear that many people want to be the smartest guy in the room, and it is guys, I actually do not see many of our female reefers getting into these types of frays. I don’t know if its ego, the need for one-upmanship or what, but it takes away from the enjoyment of the hobby, at least for me.


Even when most of the information about the hobby came in reef society’s newsletters there was much debate, but the meanness that is see today did not occur

But more importantly it stifles new ideas from being presented as no one wants to be ridiculed just for having a new idea. Some of the forums do a better job than others of policing this, but the battles and meanness still occur and detract from what should be for most of us an enjoyable hobby.
I think a lot of this could be reduced or eliminated if, as Julian Sprung and Carl Coloian have opined, most people when they present an observation or an idea said “in my experience this is what I observed or happened”. That is, I think a lot of the anger and meanness in the hobby could be reduced if most ideas were not presented like they were gospel and that there was only one way or only the author’s way to do things.

If there was one perfect way to do things we all would be doing it that way. Since there are myriad ways to do anything from lighting a tank to moving the water, people should express their opinions as just that: their opinions. By the same token, new ideas should not immediately be rejected out of hand simply because they are new ideas.


Sanjay was able to grow corals out of the tank with great color without using much blue light contrary to how most of us do it and was one of the firt hobbyists I know to go against what was the standard back then and do it.

If it weren’t for new ideas constantly being tried and tested over the past three decades it is highly unlikely that we would have gotten near to the level of success we have today. We are all in this together, so I really hate when I see this level of meanness in many of the online discussions.
While I hate the meanness I see, I similarly hate how some of our manufacturers present their equipment by making false claims such as that their equipment can do far more than it actually does. Or that it can do it for an extended period of time or that they have only brought it out after ‘years of extensive testing’, when they have only existed for a short time.

Unlike the Tang Police, there is really no one out there to protect us from these companies making false claims. Sure many eventually go out of business once the truth about their snake oil comes out online, but in a hobby where a large percentage of the hobbyists are new, this kind of hucksterism undoubtedly has hurt some of the new hobbyists. Since the hobby has gotten so big, I am waiting for the day when a publication like Consumer Reports examines the equipment we use.


Almost everyone who has been in the hobby for any length of time has boxes of junk that did not live up to the manufacturers hype

With the success that we have had, there has been an explosion in the number of hobbyists now doing this all over the world. With this increased demand and limited supply we have seen a jump in the cost of setting up and stocking a tank. And while you may be able to set up a nice 40-gallon tank for a reasonable price, the price of stocking it has skyrocketed, which I hate.

Let’s say you set up this tank for $800, which seems reasonable. If it were stocked with say 10 maricultured sps colonies with a cost of around $80 each or $800 more and then added 10 fish, which cost $400-500, the $800 cost for set up, which was reasonable, is now up to $2000+ or at least $50 per gallon, and that only if nothing is lost and no bounce mushrooms or Walt Disney frags are added. Not to sound like Fred Flintstone, but up until rather recently the cost for doing a tank this size was well under $1000 total, and for bigger tanks the increase in setting it up and stocking it it is even more.


Even as far back as the early 90s we have been cast as the raiders of the reef

Lastly I hate that even after all of the success that we have had, that the hobby and many of us are portrayed as “Raiders of the Reef”. The press and many of our politicians view us as simply a hobby that would pluck every coral off the reef and every fish from the sea in our stupid desire to have a reef in our homes.

This was seen over 20 years ago in a Audobon Magazine article through the hobby’s portrayal 13 years ago in “Finding Nemo” up to last month in a National Geographic article on how 90% of the fish for our hobby were collected with cyanide. From the countless hobbyists I know there are few other groups who care more or knows more about the reef and what is occurring on it than us, yet we are considered villains and accomplices to everything from bleaching events through the demise of food fish.

Fortunately some members of industry are now doing their best to try and enlighten our legislators as to what the hobby is and what we have accomplished in a relatively short time. Unfortunately I do not think they or the coalition of forces against us understand that if things continue to deteriorate on the reefs, our hobby and the corals in our tanks may be one of the last large repositories for the corals on the reefs. But what I would hate the most is if the forces against us won out and we were no longer allowed to keep our reef tanks, which might hasten the further demise of the reefs.


A recent article in National Geographic magazine using false and old data to try and depict us as the destroyers of the reef

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