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How to Increase Your Fishkeeping Fun
Are you really getting the most enjoyment out of your fish, or is it hampered by little worries and anxieties?
Do you sometimes worry that you might be spending too much time with your fish? I often hear people remark that although they enjoy their hobby, the routine maintenance tasks involved take the fun out of it.
In this month’s feature we’ll explore how we can increase our fun, perhaps by taking a different approach to those mundane activities that are so essential if we want to keep our fish in peak condition.
Create a plan
When you get some time to spend with your hobby, do you go through some kind of mental conflict wondering what to do?… and when you finally decide, half your time has already passed.
WELL… you are not alone, most aquarists share the same dilemma. BUT… it is possible to overcome this problem, even double your fishing enjoyment. HOW? Well, certainly not by adding more tanks or even devoting more time to your hobby… the answer lies in a change of mental perspective, a change of approach.
Have you ever noticed how some people always seem to be on top of their work, how their fish rooms and tanks are always tidy? how do they always seem to have a lot of time to enjoy their hobby? Yet others never have a minute to live, they always seem to have a lot to do and yet nothing seems to get done. The most important ingredient in our formula for increased fishing fun is planning.
Most of us lead busy lives, holding down a full-time job, and taking care of family commitments etc. Without a plan it is all too easy to put off our fish care tasks until another day when life is a little less hectic. Unfortunately, more often than not life doesn’t get less hectic and our maintenance chores grow until our tank(s) get dirty and our fish start to suffer.
That’s when the pressure starts to build.
Include the family
This can be especially difficult when your partner does not share your love and enthusiasm for the hobby. It is natural that they will have different priorities for your time than you and if harmony is to be maintained then some sort of agreement must be reached. Having a plan that includes both the family needs and your hobby needs goes a long way in ensuring that everyone’s needs are met. The biggest hurdle to overcome in any hobby is distraction. It is very tempting when we have the time to spend with our fish to waste that time on trivial things or even just admiring our fish.
Now don’t get me wrong… I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t take time to admire our fish, after all that’s the reason we started keeping fish in the first place. What I am suggesting is that there are probably better times to sit and admire our fish. We can fit in time for this when we are relaxing with the family, for example.
What I am saying is that on those precious occasions when we can devote some dedicated time to maintenance, we should focus only on maintenance activities. The most important ingredient in making the most of our valuable time is one of mental perspective and organization. Clear thinking about your fish is the key to getting maximum pleasure. No matter what your hobby or interest is, there can be no pleasure in it if it causes anxiety and frustration. Your hobby will only be pleasurable if it brings you satisfaction and relaxation.
Ask yourself… is your thinking absolutely clear about your fishing? Maybe when you have some time one evening, get a pencil and paper and make some notes along these lines. Have you ever considered how much time and money you can afford to spend on the hobby? Think about it and write it down. You might think, for example, ……I can afford to work 2 evenings a week, 3 hours each evening and 5 hours every other Saturday. ……I can afford to spend £10 a month or £20 a month. Be as specific as possible although some weeks may need to be changed. The main thing is to have a clear idea of time and money commitment. These will be different for each aquarist, of course. The important thing is that they are commitments that you are comfortable with.
One of the common traps many of us fall into is letting our hobby fade away. We get involved in fishing, either through a visit to a garden center, a pet or through a friend and set up a tank in our living room. Before long the bug has caught on and we introduce another tank, then another and before we know it, we find we can’t stand the water changes and cleaning the glass etc., which we have to do just to be able to see the fish. !
One of the temporary steps we may have to consider is shutting down one or more of our tanks, perhaps just as a temporary measure until we get better.
The next step is to set a specific goal for yourself and your fishing. This is not necessarily to be achieved immediately but it must be specific.
“Conserving and breeding every species of fish” is perhaps a dream of many breeders but hardly a specific goal. When you set your specific goal, keep your time and money commitment. The great thing about fishing is the wide range of possible targets you could hit. For example, if you are a fish breeder, you could specialize in one fish and set a goal for a breeding program. If you are not a breeder but enjoy collecting, you could perhaps try to collect all the species within a genus. Whatever your interest, make sure you narrow it down to a specific goal that is practical in your time and money goal. It could be “Collect as many species of Dwarf Cichlids as possible”, “Develop a strain of albino Discus” or set up a tank housing only the species from a particular geographical area – a Madagascar tank for example.
Having decided… think about your first step towards achieving this goal. This is your short term goal, something to be achieved in the near future.”Find a good source of dwarf cichlids and buy one pair” or “Keep an adult discus alive for x months”.
Think it over, but once you’ve decided write it down and remember your previous decisions all the time.
OK, Next Step…
With your new goal in mind, go and look at your setup. Ask yourself – “does everything in my current arrangement contribute to my short-term goal?” The answer will almost certainly be NO. There will likely be fish and equipment that have nothing to do with your goal. NOW comes the hardest part… Anything that doesn’t contribute to your goal should be sold or traded and the proceeds put toward your goal. When you have achieved this you may well find that you have doubled your tank space without buying a single tank!!….
Create a list of priorities
Most aquarists have regular jobs that they do over and over again. Daily chores. However, we regularly waste a lot of time deciding what to do, often every day. I’m sure many of you can relate to the scenario;
You come home from work, take care of immediate priorities, sit down to dinner, finishing at 7:00 p.m. Maybe you now have 2 hours to spend with your fish. So you are now going through the decision sequence of what to do tonight. We can lose 15 valuable minutes every time we stop to decide what to do next.
How can we overcome this? As we identified above, most aquarists have routine jobs plus a few special ones. With our short-term goals in mind, write each job on a separate card.
For example a fish breeder could list the following 7 items:
Hatch young fish and move into a larger tank
Set up new pairs to spawn
Check for disease; treat any observed
Check water; change if necessary
This is not a complete list, of course, you will probably end up with a much longer one but 7 items will do for our example of how to set priorities.
Now look at the list and rearrange the items like this: Any disease can spread quickly and if left untreated could wipe out your entire tank – it only takes a minute.
Do a visual check for unusual behavior…hanging in corners…clamped fins…scratching etc
So No1 on our list is:-1. Check for disease
Check out the remaining list. What should you do next? Feed the fish? Well…maybe…but would you put food in a cloud tank??
No, so it’s best to check the water and if cloudy, change some water.
So No2 on our list is:-2. Check water – change if necessary
You may ask, would you change water before cleaning/changing the filters? Yes, I would be. It is important to remove dissolved solids and debris (bacteria) in suspension that can create harmful nitrite before changing the filter, where debris is partially broken down anyway. It is important to change the filter in my opinion, but not before water changes.
We mentioned feeding the fish above and this is very important and only items 1 and 2 above should come before it.
So our No3 is:-3. Feed the fish
Follows:-4. Clean the filters
Now the last three.
-Bring a young one
-Highlight new pairs
After completing this exercise we now have a priority list to work on.
Having established that, whenever we have a few minutes to spend with our fish, we start at the top of the list and work our way through.
Check for disease; deal with any necessary
Check water; change if necessary
Hatch young fish and move into a larger tank
Set up new pairs to spawn
We’ve eliminated the delays caused by having to decide what to do each time. In the 15 minutes we might have wasted trying to decide what to do, we could have found ourselves in the middle of our list. The priority list will be different for each aquarist but the principle will be the same.
Finally….get in the habit of keeping a journal of all your fishing. This will provide valuable information about frequency of activities and when things like water changes are due. Time has a habit of going so fast that several weeks can pass since our last water change but without having notes to refer to it can, and often does seem like a week ago.
Create your plan, work towards it and replace the worry with pleasure.
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