With 2018 be­ing all about ‘brand iden­tity’ and with Joe Pub­lic get­ting on board with that, how do you de­fine what it is you do? And does it even mat­ter?

Practical Fishkeeping (UK) - - Letters -

1 They have evolved the abil­ity to shoot down prey with a jet of wa­ter. Some have been recorded fir­ing jets as high as 5m!

2 Th­ese fish hunt in schools and spend a huge amount of time feed­ing on fish that live above the wa­ter­line, rather than in it.

3 Con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, most species live in fresh­wa­ter and only a few are eu­ry­ha­line, liv­ing in brack­ish wa­ter.

4 Th­ese fish form a mono­typic fam­ily with 10 species within a sin­gle genus, all bound to­gether un­der the sci­en­tific name Tox­otes.

5 Th­ese wedge-shaped fish look a lot like white or sil­ver perch with flat­tened backs, to fa­cil­i­tate their life at the wa­ter’s sur­face.

Are you em­bar­rassed by the word hob­by­ist? And if you are, how would you rather de­fine what it is that we do? I ask be­cause I en­coun­tered a cou­ple of folks re­cently who ab­horred me us­ing it. When I slipped the ‘h’ word out, it was as though I’d just un­leashed some vile in­vec­tive. They re­coiled, dis­tanc­ing from the term. A world of la­bels Let’s cut to the chase. I could, if I wanted, ap­ply a lot of la­bels to my­self. I’ve been in­volved in con­ser­va­tion work be­fore – am I a con­ser­va­tion­ist? I’ve been for­mally em­ployed in a pub­lic aquar­ium – am I an aquar­ist? I’ve spawned many species of fish – am I a breeder? I’ve set up a planted tank and en­tered the In­ter­na­tional Aquatic Plant Lay­out Con­test – am I an aquas­ca­per? I’ve set up au­then­tic biotopes – am I a hard­core habitat recre­ator? I’ve trained a gold­fish to go through a hoop for a re­ward – am I a cir­cus mas­ter?

We live in a world where ev­ery­one wants to de­fine them­selves along ar­bi­trary lines into tribal groups. It’s a weird self-iden­tity cri­sis that seems borne of the mil­len­nium and fish­keep­ers are just as guilty of it as any­one else. My only con­tention is that folks don’t use th­ese terms with any irony.

There’s noth­ing wrong with giv­ing your­self a la­bel and mark­ing your­self out from oth­ers. Noth­ing wrong, that is, un­til folks start to see them­selves as su­pe­rior in their clique to the other cliques out there. “What, you’re ‘just’ a fish hob­by­ist and not an aquas­ca­per...?”

I could give my­self any of the ti­tles from my list, and I’m sure any fans I have out there (I see you both) and my de­trac­tors could add many la­bels of their own – au­thor, idiot, what­ever. But the thing is, giv­ing my­self a la­bel doesn’t change one as­pect of who I am or what I do. I’m a fish hob­by­ist. Not one of those ti­tles negates that fact. Not one of those ti­tles is mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive from the term.

In fact, the only way I could see some­one not be­ing a hob­by­ist in this... erm... hobby, would be if they didn’t get any en­joy­ment from it whatsover – af­ter all, reg­u­larly en­gag­ing in an ac­tiv­ity for the pur­poses of en­joy­ment is the very def­i­ni­tion of a hobby, whether that’s col­lect­ing (that’s most of us, then), or be­ing artis­tic (wav­ing at the aquas­ca­pers here).

There are three broad groups of leisure ac­tiv­ity – ca­sual leisure, se­ri­ous leisure and project-based leisure. Hob­by­ists of all stripes fall largely into that mid­dle ‘se­ri­ous leisure’ cat­e­gory, which is to say our hobby may be pur­sued with such vigour that the even­tual out­come is one of re­ward and ac­com­plish­ment. That’ll be the likes of set­ting up a fish house for a se­lec­tion of never-bred-be­fore species, and then fo­cus­ing on spawn­ing them over the next year. you can dress such a project up any way you like – re­searcher, aquar­ist, what­ever – but that’s still a hobby. I came away from my run in with the guys who hated the word – just the most re­cent of many such in­ter­ac­tions I’ve had like this – scratch­ing my head.

Maybe there has been a nega­tive as­so­ci­a­tion with the word that has gone memetic and I’ve just missed it. Per­haps ‘hob­by­ist’ has be­come syn­ony­mous with an im­age of a parka-clad, sickly kid with a notepad writ­ing down train num­bers. But per­son­ally I’m happy to be a mem­ber of a huge club of hob­by­ists with achieve­ments I can only as­pire to one day match. Now stop pre­tend­ing there’s some­thing bad about the word. you’re one of us, af­ter all...

Yep, still a hob­by­ist.

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