Let’s put a stop to fishkeeping trolls on social media and make this wonderful hobby of ours welcoming to all – particularly newcomers, says Nathan.
How about we all take a step back, reassess who we are and what we do and maybe get off other people’s cases? Wouldn’t that be a lovely hobby to be a part of?
Why on earth do we always have to jump down each other’s throats? I know it’s not exclusive to fishkeeping because I see it everywhere, but it seems that the last decade has been an especially toxic environment to the newcomer.
He who dares...
There was a time that if you wanted to provoke a hostile response, you had to say or do something particularly stupid or offensive. But in 2018, everyone gets ‘triggered’ by the most innocuous actions.
Point in case. I saw a wonderfully novel tank layout on social media. It wasn’t to my taste, but, hey, it was funky, quirky and a bit different.
Within seconds, the community had turned on it and the owner, like some black-and-white horror movie where the townsfolk gather to tear apart the local castle and kill everyone inside. Remarks ranged from pragmatic (fish may get stuck... there may be toxins), through needlessly critical to outright hostile. There’s nothing to keep people in the hobby quite like telling them that they should give up immediately and are terrible fishkeepers.
He who casts the first stone...
Given that social media has a certain ‘openness’ about it, and given that I wanted to know more about the mindsets of people commenting in such a hostile manner, I went profile hopping. of special interest, it turned out, were the photo albums. Many folks still have their earliest photos wide open to public viewing and among these I found... novelty tanks! Worse still, those who shouted the aforesaid tank down the loudest displayed, among their decadeold photos, tanks of a similarly ‘artificial’ calibre, seemingly without a hint of irony.
Was this a forgotten aspect of their past?
It’s nice to be nice...
Fishkeeping is a hobby. It’s what you make of it. As long as the livestock that you keep is happy and healthy, then I have no truck with you.
My face-to-face debates with Steve Baker (this issue and last issue) have given me a new perspective on my views. I used to be more convinced of myself. But there has been value in playing devil’s advocate, as I have done this month in trying to defend fishless cycling. The more I considered my contrived position, the more I realised that my old views were stubborn and dogmatic. Previously, I’d considered my position on fishless cycling to be infallible.
I think many modern aquarists make a similar error. They have often learnt, through trial and error (and maybe through dead and diseased fish) what works and what doesn’t. or, at the least, they know what did and didn’t work for them, at that time, in their particular circumstance. But that doesn’t mean something that they failed with won’t work for other people in different circumstances.
Fishkeeping has, for a while now, become something of a closed paradigm. People treat this hobby as though it’s a scientific subject of its own. They impose on others what is ‘right’ as though any other way of doing things is borderline criminal.
I repeat: fishkeeping really is a hobby. We’re in this because we love fish and fish tanks, and how we express our take on the hobby is entirely individual. Some of us want authenticity, while others want something more lighthearted while still providing a healthy environment.
There is no set right or wrong way to keep an ornamental fish beyond alive and thriving. We’d all do well to remember that.
Don’t like it? Keep it to yourself.
Nathan Hill is Practical Fishkeeping magazine’s associate editor, biotope fancier, aquascape dabbler and part-time amateur skateboarder.