I was recently perusing a popular saltwater aquarium forum and came across a post from a novice hobbyist who is considering making the switch from freshwater to saltwater aquarium keeping. He had heard that the saltwater side of the hobby can be exorbitantly expensive and wanted to know which of a list of devices other forum members would consider indispensable to success. Among the devices in question were UV sterilizers, ozonizers, biopellet reactors, GFO reactors, ATO systems, and various and sundry other gadgets. As you might imagine, responses varied considerably depending on the individual’s unique circumstances, experiences, and preferences. It was clear that everyone who offered a recommendation meant well and genuinely wanted to help this person get started on the right foot—and most did indicate the devices they consider worthwhile investments. However, a few offered a different sort of advice that can be paraphrased thusly: “Don’t worry about all the gadgets right now; focus on the fundamentals first.” Jeff’s new Coral Vue Reef Octopus protein skimmer This viewpoint definitely got my upvote because, despite our hobby being necessarily equipment-intensive (all saltwater systems need certain core equipment to provide proper water circulation, heating, lighting, etc.), no ancillary device on the market can replace good aquarium-maintenance and livestock-husbandry practices or compensate for poor ones. But that’s not my only concern when it comes to focusing on equipment before fundamentals. Having been in the aquarium hobby nearly 40 years (initially freshwater and then saltwater), I’ve noticed that opinions on the utility of the latest, greatest ancillary devices can change quite dramatically with the passage of time
It’s important to reach novice marine aquarists with good information early in their hobby experienceA few weeks back, I had the privilege of speaking at the first annual Buckeye Reef Marine Expo down in Bowling Green, Ohio (which, by the way, was a tremendous success, thanks to the tireless efforts of Jesse Lambdin, Joe Perkins, and all the other folks at Buckeye Reef, who clearly went all out to make this a stellar debut event!). In the presentation, I discussed the role of information in promoting success in our hobby, particularly with respect to beginners. Among the various topics touched upon was “Challenges to Effective Information Sharing.” Today, I’d like to share these challenges with you and invite your input on others that might belong on the list as well as what you think we could do to overcome them—not just here at Saltwater Smarts, but throughout the hobby.Anyhow, here are some of the reasons we think we’re collectively “missing the boat” when it comes to reaching novice hobbyists with good information in a timely manner. But we’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject, so if you have anything to add, please don’t hesitate to share it in the comment section afterward. 1. The Echo-Chamber Effect In this all-too-familiar scenario, hobby information—or misinformation—gets picked up and repeated ad nauseam across the internet (e.g., garlic cures Cryptocaryon irritans). It can be very difficult for the novice hobbyist to distinguish between fact and fiction, and the repetitive nature of the information lends it an air of authority that may or may not be justified.