Many in this life go by the ideas that our time on this planet is too short, so enjoy it to every extreme possible. Phrases like “YOLO” and “life’s short, eat dessert first” immediately come to mind when thinking about all of the ways people justify making stupid and irresponsible life choices. Unfortunately, the poor decision making doesn’t just impact daily living, but also the way many aquarium hobbyists assemble their setups and pick out their livestock. We love life, and try to enjoy every aspect of it. But there is a need for strict responsibility when it comes to keeping any pet, especially marine animals in a captive environment. That said, it is just not present in the day-to-day decision making that is required for a successful aquarium, and it has already had a significant long-term impact on the aquarium hobby.
There is no single situation that has drawn me to this soapbox, but after joining many aquarium-centric groups on Facebook over the recent weeks, I have found that the “act first, think later” approach when it comes to purchasing aquarium livestock is far too prevalent. In the particular posting that set me off, a hobbyist had purchased an anemone, but was asking group members something to the effect of “What is this?” and “How do I feed it?”. Digging a little deeper, I found that the individual knew that the animal was, in fact, an anemone, but what they were looking for in particular was the type of anemone. Multiple users chimed in, many of them giving the wrong ID and sparking conversation about a few other nems.
Chances are that this anemone will die within a week of being placed in this person’s aquarium. It’s a sad fate that many animals in thie hobby face simply because people don’t want to do their research. They just show up at a store after only two weeks removed from setting up their aquarium, and going off the terrible advice of a fish store employee, they load up on animals that have very specific needs. In an alternate scenario, the employee may have good advice, but the customer wants the animal anyways and continues on with their ill-advised purchase.
So, there is a responsibility and a few critical thinking steps that are bypassed just for quick gratification. On one hand, the hobbyist wants to fill their tank with all sorts of stuff. They don’t want to wait for the aquarium to cycle, research the animals they plan to keep, or slowly add them to the aquarium. They want the “Tanked” approach…a tank instantly up and running with a hundred fish in it.
On the other hand, much of the responsbility lies on the store and its employees. Having worked in a fish store through college, I knew which customers had a grasp and which ones didn’t. If there was ever any doubt as to their skill level, I would engage them in prolonged conversation to better feel them out. In any situation, I advised against certain purchases and promoted others. I was guiding them down a conservative path that left out delicate, hard-to-care-for animals and nudged them toward safer purchases. On many occasions, I would even ask the store owner to avoid buying certain animals as well, such as sea pens and various species of octopus. Many of my comments were ignored (hence why I no longer work there), but the fact remained that I advocated for responsible reefkeeping, not just the next purchase to get something out the door.
To wrap things up, there needs to be responsibility on the consumer level that just isn’t there. Stores need to know the limits of their customers, and hobbyists need to know their own boundaries. Quit making impulse buys and starting making informed decisions. Pick up a book, read an online article…do something with the right information.