I believe that too many people start their aquariums with the aim of its inhabitants surviving. I would like to suggest that this hobby is now way past this simple aim. Due to a lack of information and technology, aquariums once had a reputation as being hard to keep.
I have done some study into the mindset of people that have aquariums that thrive as opposed to those that have aquariums that merely survive. I have found that the difference involves more than a choice, it to be able to see an aquarium with a new set of understandings.
When I say thriving I mean beautiful, clean tanks that are easy to maintain, full of fish that are happily growing and breeding and plants or coral that that are growing and propagating.
The first thing I want you to understand is that your aquarium is perfect and it is exactly what it should be. So many people blame their aquarium for its problems e.g. I would love my tank if it didn’t have so much algae or I would love it if the fish didn’t keep dying, like it is the fault of the tank. Guess what, its not the tanks fault, its your fault and only your fault.
These people seek advice on how to fix these problems and may take a step in the direction of it being fixed but just don’t get there e.g. they find out that their algae problem is caused by elevated phosphate levels, so they do a water change, cut down food and even add a phosphate sponge and wonder the very next week why the problem is not solved. Many people fall short of creating a solution, even though they did take a step in the right direction. I need you to understand that much of what you do today will not show up tomorrow, even next week, more likely next month. Using algae as an example, let`s say that you find out that the algae is caused by phosphate so you do every thing you need to do to get your phosphate down to zero but still the algae lives on. Well guess what, the algae doesn’t want to die, it will cling to life until it is literally starved of the conditions it needs to live e.g. present phosphate. This will not happen over night, but with time it will happen. The good news it that once it is gone, it is gone and it will take a while until it returns, once original conditions are present again and at least this time you will easily have the power to fix it again.
Another area that people complain about is that one person says one thing and some one else says something else - how will I ever know what is right if experts can’t even agree, so why should I bother? Let me share something with you - everything you know about your aquariums and everything that anyone knows about their aquarium has all been made up! Understand that there is no truth, so stop looking for it. People will share their experience of what to do and how things happen but that is all it is, their experience and this is true if you are talking to a marine scientist, an expert aquarist or your neighbour. Understand that there are many ways of doing things and none are the right way, they are all made up, either by them or the person that told it to them. Just do what makes sense to you and you will soon see exactly how your aquarium reacts, which may be different to how your neighbours aquarium reacts.
An example of getting information on a solution from one person to the next is lets say I have a 10lt bucket of water and I need to get the water from one 10lt bucket to the next, so I ask one person and they say siphon it, someone else say no, no, no, you have to scoop it, until someone else sees you scoop it and says hey just pour it, this all makes sense until you see someone happily splashing it in. The point that I am trying to make is that if you know what you are trying to do e.g. get water from one bucket to the next it doesn’t matter how you do it, if you know what you are trying to do. When learning about your aquarium the aim is really to learn what are you trying to do. Too many people argue and focus on how to do it. Once you know what you are trying to do you will not be confused about how to do it, you will feel freedom in choosing how you decide to do it. Everyone has an opinion on the right and wrong ways of doing things but having an aquarium is about you giving it a try and learning what works for your system.
Learn to accept your tank just the way it is and just the way it isn’t. The aquarium does what the aquarium does and that is exactly what it is supposed to do. When you understand this, it will bring you new power to enjoy your tank e.g. one fish doesn’t get along with another one, so watch and enjoy this natural interaction until you believe the life of the weaker fish is in danger then remove one of the fish to another aquarium, but don’t resent the fish as if that wasn’t supposed to happen, because exactly what happened is exactly what is supposed to happen. You are meant to watch and enjoy every interaction in your aquarium, not just the nice ones. Do you think that some fish don’t get along in the wild? Ofcourse they don’t. You will never control your aquarium, but you will have control over it. Too many times, people have come to me and said that over the last year one fish has killed off all the other fish in their tank. Remembering that you do have control over your tank, at this point it would be a good idea to possibly move this fish to another tank once it has killed the second fish and save all the other fish. Your observations and actions are the key to a thriving tank.
Never forget that you bought your aquarium to watch it, so watch it. Watch what happens, enjoy what happens, be alert to what happens and use your control over it. I would like to suggest that most problems that occur in your aquarium could be avoided by learning the rules of how to keep an aquarium and using your control over what you see happening. You have some control over your aquarium but you will never control it completely, so except this and enjoy it.
It is your job to create the possibility of your aquarium thriving. If your aquarium is not the way you want it, create the possibility that it will be great and give it time to show you results. The way to create a new possibility with your aquarium is to start doing something new, which will allow something new to show up, remembering that when you make a change today you can often expect to see the change show up next month. Thriving aquariums are often the result of patience. Most chemical or biological changes in your aquarium take about 3 weeks to really make a difference.
Imagine, visualise and plan your perfect aquarium before you start - if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. So many people walk into an aquarium shop because they would like a new fish, without any idea of what type of fish they are looking for. They will ask the staff on duty how these fish will go with the few fish they are able to name in their tank. As you can imagine sometimes this works and other times it doesn’t. Creating a plan for your tank including a wish list is a very good idea. This way you are able to show your wish list to many aquarists before you start buying your fish and learning the hard way which fish don’t often work together. Imagining, visualising and planning your tank is the best way to make sure that your tank turns out with the best result.
Taking responsibility for what it will be will ensure you don’t have to focus on what it is. What it is is a product of what you did in the past. Learn that there is no one else to blame but you for why your aquarium is not thriving and I don’t mean just surviving. Never blame the people that give you advice, they are only trying to help and next time they may help. An aquarium has many factors that must be taken into consideration when giving even simple advice, only you are able to understand the happenings of your tank, so don’t get angry at the guy at the aquarium store that has tried to help you in a five minute conversation, when what he has said didn’t work out. Learn your aquarium yourself and remember that whatever happens to it in this time was supposed to happen and each incident will carry lessons to help your grow as an experienced fish keeper. Good experience is often born out of bad experiences. Never give in and keep seeking the best advice.
Keeping an aquarium is a game, play the game. You need a vision with results to make it worth playing the game. No matter what happens, don’t forget that it is just a game and one that if you lose the game you didn’t play it well enough and you can always play again and win next time. When playing a game you often need a good coach so it can be important to seek out and create a relationship with a good aquarium adviser that can help you win the game of keeping a thriving aquarium. Ask around, because you will find this person and your relationship with them will bloom as they get to contribute to and share in the adventures of your thriving aquarium. If you are not an aquarium expert it is as important to have an aquarium coach as it is to have a mechanic for your car.
Aim to have a perfect tank, don’t aim to just see how it goes. You need to have a vision that truly inspires you in order to have a tank the really thrives. Don't aim to have a tank that survives, aim to have a tank that thrives.
The way your tank is today is the way it always will be, unless you change it now - tomorrow never comes. So many times I hear people say that they will improve their aquarium when this and when that. When is now, now or never, your fish deserve nothing but the best so why would you give them any less? When you break down what really needs to be done to have a thriving tank, it never takes as long as it seems, and anticipation and procrastination are huge killers of this beautiful hobby.
People pretend to be good and that they look after their tank. Understand that you are never doing the best you can and try to do at least one thing better. This simple understanding can allow constant growth in you and your hobby.
How good your aquarium goes is governed by your vision, equipment and knowledge. Enrol people around you and yourself in how wonderful your aquarium is and what it brings to you. Create the possibility of what you want it to be and don’t focus on the things that you don’t want or you will attract them to you. Sharing the joy your aquarium means to you is the best way to bring your joy alive and to allow you to really feel and get in touch with what your aquarium really means to you.
To have a perfect tank you will have to be unreasonable because many reasons will stop you from having the tank that you desire. A reasonable tank is an average tank, don’t be stopped by reasons. You will always create the most amazing results when you are unreasonable. Enjoy your hobby and learn to monitor your internal chatterbox or the voice of reason in your head. Learn that this voice in your head it not you, it is just a little voice which will hold you back in every thing you do, including keeping the aquarium of your dreams. Listening to this voice will limit you and stress you out. If the voice tells you that tank is too big or I am too tired to clean the filter now, listen to the voice but choose what you know you should do. Don’t listen to that voice because everything it says is reasonable and you want a better tank than a reasonable tank. Get in tune with how the success of your aquarium affects you life. For many, how their aquarium is going affects their whole outlook on life.
Train yourself to enjoy and do your regular maintenance and don’t anticipate it, because the anticipation is always worse than actually doing it. So many people will literally be scared of their tank because they know that their filter is overdue for a clean and they tell themself that they don’t have the time to clean it. In the mean time, they have spent more time stressing about cleaning it then they would spend if they actually just cleaned it. Enjoying your maintenance is a major key in having an aquarium that thrives. If you know you don’t want to spend the time cleaning your tank, then get someone in to service it for you. This may cost you money but will save you money in the long run by not having to replace fish and will keep you enjoying your hobby, which is why you got the tank in the first place. Having a poorly maintained tank with fish dying will make you hate this hobby that you wanted to love.
Don’t be scared to fail because sometimes you will. All great hobbyists with the most amazing tanks that you dream to have can tell you some horror stories of things that happened to them early on while they were developing their skills. These experiences were necessary to allow them to have the thriving tank that they have now.
Good luck and enjoy Paul Talbot