Blogging – What a way to start my 21st year of reef keeping! When I started in 1991, I never imagined I would be doing this 20 years later. While I always had freshwater fish when I was growing up, little did I realize that keeping fish (and now corals) could be fascinating for so long. It has never reached the point where I have had to say “It’s easy to keep corals and reef tanks looking good, it’s become boring.” Looking back at 20 years, it’s fascinating to see the advances that the hobby has made in keeping and growing corals from small frags (even single polyps in some instances). While some may attribute this to technology, I would attribute it to the knowledge gained and shared through the years – through experience, experimentation, accidents, and scientific exploration.
When I was first asked to blog, the first things that ran through my head were “I don’t have anything to blog about,” and “who cares?”. I was quickly convinced by my fellow peers that surely after 20 years of reef keeping I surely had something to say, and as for “who cares”- you will never know until you do it.
So here it is – my first blog post. Now being the “old” guy in the hobby I guess can use that to my advantage and make this a continuing blog about “A Random Walk though an Old Reefer’s Head.” In my “real” world, where long, connected, coherent writing on a single topic is the norm, blogging randomly on short, loosely connected topics might just turn out to be different and interesting!
I often get emails on reefkeeping asking for my “expert” opinion… by definition, at dictionary.com an expert is “a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field.” This got me thinking about what makes a person a “reef aquarium expert.” Can one proclaim themselves to be an expert, or is it a consensus title bestowed, by the public, upon someone by virtue of their accomplishments? I don’t consider myself an expert, because I know that I barely scratch the surface when it comes to knowledge about all the different aspects of reef keeping. So clearly, “expert” is a relative term. To a novice and beginner I may be an expert. However, with respect to a novice’s frame of reference there are a lot of experts out there. The role of experts is to provide opinions, advice, and review. Life would be much simpler if all experts agreed. When experts differ in opinion or advice, what is a novice to do? How do they decide what expert opinion to rely on? Do they follow the opinion that they wanted to hear in the first place? Are they willing to hear a difference of opinion? At some point the different opinions will need to be evaluated. How a reef keeper evaluates the opinions is a critical step in moving toward themselves becoming an “expert” in someone else’s frame of reference. Trust is another important element. When faced with differing opinions which cannot be easily validated, opinion from an expert that you trust often becomes the criteria for selection. Being labeled an “expert” comes with responsibility. A responsibility to provide advice and opinion that is grounded in fact or personal experience. After 2o years of keeping corals and fish, killing corals and fish, propagating corals and fish and keeping a thriving reef tank while fighting through problems – I guess I could qualify as an “expert” in someone’s frame of reference. I have a lot to learn. Maybe I’ll become the expert’s “expert” some day. 🙂