One joy that accompanies ones entry into the status of Senior Citizen is having grandchildren. I have three grandchildren and I grew up at a time in our history when television played a much smaller role in ones growing up. In my case, TV barely played a role at all. Nowadays, it’s typical for most folks to watch TV for an average of five hours/ day. In the “olden days,” without TV one had lots of time to do other things – read, sew, knit, hobbies, etc. In any case I hope my grandchildren are given the opportunity to explore the world outside of TV. This brings me to the topic of this editorial: the aquarium as science center or, put in another way, a learning tool.
I’m sure most advanced aquarists are fully aware that many of the essential laws of nature are at work in an aquarium, from the growth and reproduction of carbon life forms to the cycling of nutrients. It’s not possible to have a successful aquarium without maintaining a reasonable balance between the producers and consumers of waste. As an aside, what to do with man made waste is one of the critical subjects in the world today. Furthermore, we have come to recognize the intricate relationship between micro and macro organisms. In nature, even aggression serves a vital purpose in species survival. The more one recognizes the myriad intricacies inherent in the biological world the more fascinating the aquarium hobby becomes. So, let’s not keep this to ourselves; let’s share our hobby with our youngsters. For all of us, the aquarium is an incredible learning tool.
By this I mean a lot more than saying to a youngster ‘come look at my pretty fish!’ You need to have the patience to involve the youngster in the whole process. Take them to the pet store, have them help change water, explain how and why you’re measuring the pH, etc. As I write this I’m reminded of the way my deceased wife empowered our three sons in the process of cooking. Not only did she love to cook, but she had the patience to have the boys, from quite a young age, help her in the kitchen. It made the process take a lot longer, but in the long run, it paid rich and tasty dividends. Incidentally, today all three men are excellent cooks and do most of the cooking in their respective families.
My dear friend Doug Robbins – the columnist who reviews books for our publication – was introduced to our hobby by his father’s freshwater, 50 gallon, Metaframe tank over 50-years ago. What’s especially wonderful is that Doug took that tank all the way from NYC to Hawaii, where it is now a beautiful Dutch style planted aquarium. There’s a lot more to life than watching TV, unless of course you’re satisfied with a virtual fish tank.