One of my favourite parts of the hobby is getting new fish, particularly keeping fish that you have never kept before. Doing the research before you buy and learning as much about something before you buy is something I enjoy, but often confusing and misleading. In the past you would head off to the library for a look in one of the six books in existence that might have some relevant information – now we’re almost cursed with too much! The internet has a wealth of information out there (often good and bad!) to help such as Facebook groups of like minded people (quick plug for the Aquarium Adventures Facebook group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/aquariumadventures1) but it isn’t unusual to find advice that appears to be contradictory – if not claiming polar opposite positions!
I want to offer a few simple tips to steer you in the right direction – it is my belief that if you are interested enough in fish and aquarium related stuff to even be reading this, you’re unlikely to go far wrong – so my first tip is ‘Relax’. People tend to have entrenched positions on topics, and some of those people have personalities that make them defend those positions in strange ways – sometimes aggressively, illogically and even comically. At the end of the day you are responsible for the wellbeing of your pets – not ‘CrzeeDave420’ on the interweb. Take advice, but make your own decision. In discussions with other aquarists in the past, some claim this approach leaves room for people to make their own rules or ignore advice – I argue that people already do that, and throwing more ‘rules for fishkeeping’ at them isn’t going to make a blind bit of difference. If we can encourage more people to make their own rules, based on their own informed critical opinion, I think it will lead to overall better outcomes.
The key is categorising advice or information into ‘best practice’, ‘acceptable practice’ and ‘harmful practice’. For example;
|My new goldfish tank is…||100 l||50 l||5l|
|I’m going to feed my betta fish…||a good quality granule||some flake that went out of date last month||leftover kebab|
|Will my discus be ok with a temp range of…||28 – 30||26 – 28||90 – 100|
|I love my fish because…||I enjoy caring for them and they are very calming and beautiful while having a positive effect on my stress levels and general wellbeing||they look pretty||they’re delicious|
You need to set the limit where one crosses over to the other by determining how much you value the source of the advice or information, and how comfortable you are with it. I’m fine with keeping 6 discus in 180 litre tank, some people say 200 minimum. I think I’ve done enough research and have enough experience to put ‘6 discus in 180 litres’ into my ‘acceptable practise’ category. The ‘200 minimum’ people are never going to agree with me, and I could never convince them – but for the sake on my own sanity, I’m not going to try, and I’m not going be the one that gets upset about 20 litres of water. I can live happily knowing other people have other opinions. You might be a terrible person – you may have decided you’re keeping a red tailed catfish in your 100 litre tank because you’re comfortable with that – and there is nothing I can do to change your mind. I’m still going to live happily knowing I don’t share the opinion of a ‘terrible’ person. There is also a 4th category of ‘Irrelevant’ – If you like neon pink gravel in your aquarium, put neon pink gravel in your aquarium. It doesn’t matter that I won’t like it – it is your aquarium.
So, where are you going to employ your newly sharpened critical thinking skills? It may sound clichéd but Facebook is a great resource. Groups specific to the thing you’re interested in can be full of knowledgeable and experienced people. I tend to look for busy/large/established groups as most likely to be ripe for learning but sometimes the small ones are just as fruitful – That’s where you tend to find that one guy who already keeps the fish you want, knows all about it and is so into it he made a Facebook group about it!
Societies / Fish clubs. Full of other fish geeks and generally the type of people who you regret asking if they know anything about breeding killifish as they power past the 20 minute mark, while clearly not even remotely near halfway through their breadth of knowledge on the subject. Given the situation with Covid, many of these have moved online to forums or Facebook. There are still traditional internet forums too, but they seem to be having a tough time with Facebook being the main competition.
It’s important not to forget the places you buy fish – they are obligated to give you as much information as you like, after all they’re trying to make a sale. It’s important to remember there is a sale going on though – sometimes advice is fudged or glossed over in the attempt to make the sale. Sometimes frustratingly the salesperson just plain doesn’t know. If you’re buying from a specialist or breeder rather than a big box store or local fish shop you know they will at least have some specific experience, but don’t write off the chain store completely – often some very committed hobbyists work there, but it’s worth trying to figure out if you’re talking to the fish person or the one that’s into rabbits who is covering the fish persons lunch break!
Another good place for species profiles and care guides is https://aquadiction.world/ which is a site run by hobbyists covering an ever growing wide range of species and topics – I make no endorsement or take no responsibility for the content, but they seem like good people and gave me some fish, so as you probably already know, in the end I’m just another internet wind-bag!