Practical Fishkeeping (UK) - - Contents -

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.

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