Quite a few new aquarists who have owned an aquarium for a while are quite satisfied with the situation and have no interest in becoming more advanced or knowledgeable. There’s nothing wrong with that.
The problem can start when the aquarist begins to take the aquarium for granted. Everything was set up with care and after research and advice, and to date all is well. The aquarium is there day in and day out, and becomes part of the fixtures and fittings. There isn’t any reason to give it any particular attention. It’s a bit like a new really up to date large screen television, buying it is understandably exciting and when it arrives home the excitement remains. After a while, the large screen that was so amazing at the start becomes normal and no longer new and unusual. Hopefully the television will continue to function without attention. The marine aquarium will not.
Without attention the aquarium will deteriorate slowly. Yes, the livestock are being fed and look fine, but the deterioration often begins with seawater quality reduction, which leads to algae problems, which leads to frustration. As deterioration continues, the livestock show the effect. If nothing is done, disaster is not too far away. If losses occur the aquarium may well be given up.
So what has all this got to do with helping the hobby? It’s obvious that culturing corals or breeding fish is helping the hobby, but allowing an aquarium to deteriorate certainly isn’t. Helping the hobby in this context is considering if a marine aquarium is really desired, or would painting or golf be more appropriate?
Setting up an aquarium is exciting and so is the prospect of it. Perhaps a reef aquarium has been seen, and an enthusiastic retailer has shown how all the equipment is available to maintain it. A little expensive maybe, but not a problem nowadays with all the technology available. So, with enthusiasm bubbling, the would-be aquarist dives in, so to speak.
There needs to be more consideration than ‘will a tank fit?’ and ‘can I afford it?’ Those are important considerations of course, but there are more that are not so tangible.
How about ‘what work and time will this entail week to week?’ Or how about ‘am I a patient person?’ Patience is the indisputable ally of the marine aquarist.
So the question it boils down to, disregarding the fact that an aquarium will fit in and can be afforded, is ‘do I really want an aquarium?’ It’s a bit like Toad of Toad Hall and the car that caused desire to turn his eyes glassy. There’s more to keeping an aquarium than putting one in and obtaining the equipment. There’s an ongoing commitment with maintenance to ensure the aquarium environment continues at a high standard. The basic commitment is a contract between the aquarist and the livestock.
So if the potential aquarist is not quite so keen on the ongoing commitment having given proper consideration to all its aspects, then it is better to spend the money on golf clubs or photographic equipment. They’ll give pleasure too and require less maintenance.
It is the assessment of the future demands of becoming an aquarist and the honest outcome of that assessment that will help this hobby. The potential aquarist who is willing to give up some time and spend some ongoing money to keep the aquarium in good condition is helping by expanding the hobby and providing high quality homes to fish and corals which should have a long healthy life. Maybe he/she will continue to develop and reproduce corals or even breed fish, though this is not particularly important.
It is of help too that those who cannot give this commitment, or are unsure, decide to try their hand at something else, probably avoiding the unnecessary suffering and loss of livestock. If the decision not to proceed is reached, it is not a failing but should be applauded.