The instinct of fish keeping

itiwhetu

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I played golf today, I had a down hill right to left putt, that I hit and it went in the hole. I said to my playing partner, you can't teach that it comes from years of playing. That got me thinking about fish keeping, a lot of what we do we can't teach, we have an instinct after years of keeping fish, a tank either looks happy or not. Some of those things we can't teach to people who are new in fish keeping. All that we can do is encourage people to stick at it, encourage them to research and gain a greater understanding of fish keeping, and then one day have the instinct that those of us who have been keeping fish for years have. To the people who have just started out I say enjoy, this will be one of the most rewarding things you do in your life. ;)
 

Guyb93

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Sometimes that instinct dives you crazy , it’s happening to me now I know something is wrong with my tank I can smell it in the water lol just non of the fish will tell me what
 

EllRog

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I know what you mean, it's tough to actually articulate it. There's information out their you gain and a rule of thumb to follow, after that, it's just the experience you've gained and the 'feeling' you have isn't it.
 

Wills

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I agree but I would call it experience rather than instinct - I think a lot of people act on instinct in the hobby and dont always end up in the right place. Instinct would sometimes suggest keeping tanks pristine and clear where as experience tells you this isnt always the best thing to do.
 

AbbeysDad

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I've been in the hobby for 50+ years and long before the information age, it was sometimes books, but largely learn as you go. 'You don't know what you know until you learn it'. Although experience is a good teacher, it's sometimes slow and there can be casualties. But much of this can be taught which in part is why I created the MJV Aquatics Blog.
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Now I don't play golf, but I expect that a lot can be taught. Like you don't use a putter to drive a ball 100 yards. The shot takes into account the lay of the land and the wind direction....etc. And then there is skill that comes with paying your dues with time on the course. But again, the basics can be taught/learned.
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What surprises me are the many myths in the hobby that keep getting repeated over and over by well meaning hobbyists. And then there are those that seem to obsess over mulm, algae, and/or snails. All natural parts of the 'package'.
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Anyway as a seasoned (or grizzled) fishkeeper, I learned the hard way...but these days, there's an easier way. One of the ways is participation right here and in other discussion forums like this, including the many Facebook tropical fish related groups. And then there's the internet...but you need a filter because there's a LOT of good information out there, but there's also a bit of nonsense you have to get past. :)
 

snailaquarium

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I don't think its fundamentally difficult to keep fish if you can accurately replicate the natural environment.

Whether or not you are working on good or bad information is another issue in itself which will affect the fish.

Why do you feel you are unable to explain to someone what you are doing?
 

mcordelia

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My husband is taking a course on teaching right now, and this theme is something that he told me came up in the class a few weeks ago. He said something like "a good teacher is able to identify what the student is doing wrong and fix that one instance, a great teacher is able to identify the problem and teach the student how to identify the problem in the future". I profess I suck at teaching myself, I can show someone what the answer to a particular problem is, but I can't teach them the process of thinking that it takes to solve the problem themselves. And I think this is really common in general, if you think back to primary school, you're given worksheets to repeat the same type of problem over and over again so that you effectively self-teach how to resolve it, since in those cases it may not be possible to teach / we don't have enough qualified teachers to teach the thinking process involved in solving the problem at the more fundamental level.

I think that there is definitely that deeper "je ne sais quoi" about fishkeeping that a seasoned aquarist is able to identify and predict what will happen with a fish tank before overt symptoms manifest themselves, and we try to package that knowledge into rules about water parameters and temperature and what to add to a tank when etc. But I definitely agree that it is difficult to teach/learn past the rules-based knowledge to the level of being able to predict and prevent issues, and I'm not sure how that would be achieved in the aquarium hobby. With youtube, I think we are closer to that than ever since the audience can follow along firsthand as a seasoned aquarist talks through their thinking process while being "live" and showing as they go, but like with most things, the difference between being book smart and wise are the actual hours spent in practice.
 

AbbeysDad

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To a point, I can relate. I remember in a past life taking a Kepner Tregoe Analytical Troubleshooting course. But of course, this is solving problems at the root cause rather than slapping on band-aid after band-aid.
But managing an aquarium is not rocket science. Once a few basics are understood, with routine maintenance and proper feeding, things should be good.
One trouble that I see is the shear number of prevailing myths that serve to confuse newer hobbyists and just keep getting repeated over and over by other well meaning hobbyists. (Myths v. Facts) Largely, because 'they heard it from an experienced hobbyist' (so it must be true). The trouble with these things is that once a 'lie' is repeated often enough, it becomes a pseudo truth. (okay, it's not really a lie, but you know what I mean). :)
 

AdoraBelle Dearheart

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What surprises me are the many myths in the hobby that keep getting repeated over and over by well meaning hobbyists. And then there are those that seem to obsess over mulm, algae, and/or snails. All natural parts of the 'package'.
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Did you write the mulm, algae and snails article??

I remember reading and loving that article a while ago, long before I joined the forum, when I was still new to the hobby and was googling mulm, since I was reading conflicting things about it, and I found your article so reassuring, so thank you!
 

mcordelia

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Really enjoyed that myths vs facts article! It gave me a nice boost knowing that I was already aware of most of the grey area associated with these bulleted items :) the only one that was new to me was the "wash filter in tank water only" one, but that's pretty benign :D

I do have a question though: for the "air stones add oxygen to water" item, couldn't the argument be made that any time there is an interface between air/water gas diffusion occurs? I can see the argument that the air floats up too quickly and the surface area of the interface in the air bubbles itself is not meaningful enough for much gas exchange to occur, but I would certainly question completely discounting it? Sure, you're not bubbling straight oxygen into the tank and thus the partial pressure probably isn't enough for much gas exchange to occur over the time/distance that the water bubble travels up to the top of the tank, but what are the actual numbers/proportions on that? Or, is the argument that due to the small volume of the bubbles that come out of an air stone the colligative force of the water prevents gas exchange from happening? If the bubbles were huuuuuge, would that diminish the relative "force" of the colligate property compared to the partial pressure of oxygen and thus result in more gas exchange, or is it simply an area question? Because if it was simply an area question, then many small bubbles have a large total surface area for gas exchange than one large bubble. Enlighten me!
 

Herpin Man

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I do agree that there is an "instinct" which goes beyond the accumulation of knowledge and experience.
I can relate to the development of this instinct, primarily through the keeping of reptiles and amphibians, as that is my main hobby. There seems to be a developing and unfortunate trend in that hobby, particularly with snakes, that there exists "no such thing" as a beginner snake. Newcomers are being counseled (mostly by other newcomers) that any snake is suitable for beginners, provided they do enough "research". Now- imagine how difficult it can be to find accurate and insightful care information for certain fish species. I can assure you that with snakes, such information is usually much harder to find, particularly for the more advanced and difficult to care for species.
Research is great. I highly recommend it. However it cannot replace experience, and the instinct, or "sixth sense" that comes with it, and enables those who possess it to navigate uncommon or complex situations that develop.
 

Ch4rlie

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When I first started this hobby many moons ago, I must profess I knew very, very little about fish-keeping and I delved into the books and the internet to glean as much information as I could before I actually started setting up my first fish tank.

The amount of misinformation and myths is astounding whilst I was researching is huge and I found myself struggling to see what was fact and what was myth or inaccurate information so a lot of my learning was down to trail and error as well as a natural instinct to sort of know what would work and what would not.

Certainly made my fair share of mistakes that came at a cost to a few of my livestock but my mantra had always been the best thing you can do after making mistakes is to learn from your mistakes and not to repeat the same mistakes in future.

So in my opinion is that instinct certainly plays a part but largely I think researching, asking experienced keepers on forums such as this and learning from your own trail and errors and experience all can be the making of a decent fish keeper.

Sure some keepers are better than others but we all have to learn for ourselves at the end of the day, it’s all down to how far and how committed you are to become a good keeper and a good thing to do is to teach others about your mistakes and genuine experiences rather than repeating what others have said or done counts for a lot imho.
 

AbbeysDad

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Because if it was simply an area question, then many small bubbles have a large total surface area for gas exchange than one large bubble. Enlighten me!
The point was that the air bubbles themselves do not infuse oxygen into the water. It is only when the bubbles break the surface, that the O2/CO2 gas exchange occurs. The exchange also happens with any surface turbulence.
There are no air stones in my 60g display tank, but the two Aquaclear 70 HOB's create plenty of surface turbulence.
 

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