Sunday, September 10, 2017

New Series: 50 Ways to Kill Your Fish

When I got serious about the aquarium hobby two years ago, I did tons of research. I was determined to succeed and consumed books, websites, and YouTube videos on freshwater fish. Despite being armed to the gills with data, I was shocked to find myself making mistake after mistake. Some of them were newbie blunders, and others were more complex cases that even veterans deal with. None of the how-to guides had prepared me for the onslaught of trouble this hobby brings.

So what did I do wrong? Nothing. Honestly, studying can only take you so far; hands-on experience is where the true learning happens. And I've definitely had my fair share of both successes and failures. Rather than write an overly detailed technical manual on everything you need to do right, I figured it'd be funnier to hear stories about all the ways things can go wrong. Welcome to the "50 Ways to Kill Your Fish" Series!

I hope you'll enjoy this series of mishaps and miscalculations that I've run into along the way. If you want the quick and dirty version, here are the top takeaways that summarize what I've learned:

1) Patience is key

Don't. Rush. Things. Seriously, this hobby is all about waiting — waiting for the coast to be clear, waiting for the conditions to be just right, waiting for what you really want and not just settling. I didn't take this subtle hint to heart because I was so excited about owning fish asap. Trust me, after the third time you have to take down your tank because of disease, you will be more than happy to wait as long as it takes to have a safe and healthy aquarium.

2) Disaster WILL happen

If you're following this series, I'm already assuming that you're a researcher. You want to be prepared, prevent unnecessary fires, and avoid the failures of your peers. Sorry to burst your bubble, but we live in a fallen world where Murphy's Law reigns. No amount of research can save you from hardship. Maintaining proper care and a backup plan will of course go a long way, but I'm just saying, lower your expectations on having the perfect, bulletproof tank. Like, by a lot.

3) Don't believe everything you read

If you don't know something, just Google it, right? But sometimes the internet lies. >_< There is a lot of information online, both good and bad. Followers on one forum will be adamant about Method A, and then people on another website will insist on Method B. So who should you believe? The best advice I got from my local fish store was "Sometimes you just gotta try it." Living creatures are sooo complex and nothing is guaranteed. Listen to the rule of thumb, but take it with a grain of salt and be willing to change things up if it's not working for you.

(Speaking of which, I'm going to publicly state right now that I am not a fish expert or professional ichthyologist. Everything on this website is merely my opinion and personal experiences, so no need to burn me in the comments section if you disagree. Let's keep the dialogue helpful and respectful for the purposes of educating and encouraging others.)

4) Learn from your mistakes

This sounds weird, but keep an aquarium log or diary. I have an Excel spreadsheet with columns for recording water parameters, but I mostly use the "Notes" section. It's useful in remembering how I've treated certain diseases or symptoms in the past, but it's also a great reminder of how far I've come when I get discouraged or impatient with the hobby.

Hope these high-level tips are helpful and whet your appetite for the series to come. Good luck and keep on swimming!

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