Let's play Simon (science) says

ryanr

Hey everyone, (sorry, might be a long read)
Some of you might remember me from such posts as the Saltwater Beginners series, or various other posts on the forum.....

I want to tackle a subject that is becoming more prevalent on our forum..... Disputing experience with science, or trying to shroud the hobby with science. Let me preface, this hobby is meant to be fun. Keeping fish shouldn't be any harder than keeping a cat or dog or snake or rat, or whatever domesticated animal you'd like.

I'm not saying that science doesn't play a part in the success of an aquarium, the nitrogen cycle is well documented. Every hobbyist should gain an understanding of this fundamental aspect of fish-keeping.

There are many aspects of this hobby that involve chemistry and other aspects of science, but for the most part, the specifics are irrelevant to many hobbyists. As an example, my own mother is not a fish "nerd" (so to speak), she relied on me to setup her tank, get it cycled etc. And to this day, some 3 years later, her tank is thriving. The only thing she knows, regular water changes, how to use the test kits, and to call me if the colours aren't right. She's not interested in the science, as long as she knows how to tell something is not quite right, she'll call me.

There's a lot (and I stress A LOT) of science in this hobby, but for the most part, it's not relevant to the hobbyist. I do encourage all aquarists to understand the nitrogen cycle, but beyond that, unless you're trying to breed fish, or propagate corals, is the science really that relevant to you?

I mean, with my Saltwater reef tank, which in my view was successful, I read the science about the studies of the Great Barrier Reef, I read the books, understood the parameters they live in, and what is scientifically the correct parameters for my tank.... Guess what.... it didn't work in my setup. Science said a certain alkalinity, calcium level, flow rate blah blah blah (the list is endless) - end of the day, I lost corals, some expensive, some not, all because science said. I found levels that worked for me. It's why to this day, that I promote parameters within a range of x to y, "should" work.... I quote "should" because every setup is different, but I quote the number range as general "seems to work".

And believe it or not, I joined this forum (many years ago now) because my ammonia wouldn't go down, yup, it's true! Same reason many people joined this forum. I took the advice of the community, and my tank and stock got through it, and survived; I learnt so much, and I'm eternally grateful to Fishlore for getting me through those early stages.

I'm not posting this against science, I love science, but just be aware of what's out there. Don't trust anything you read on the internet. If the scientific evidence is not published (aka anonymous), seek more advice, consult multiple sources, seek experiential accounts... The people's experience will speak louder than anonymity. And experiences should trump such claims.

I know from experience that "scientific fact" did not work for me and my setup

T
 

MacZ

There's a lot (and I stress A LOT) of science in this hobby, but for the most part, it's not relevant to the hobbyist. I do encourage all aquarists to understand the nitrogen cycle, but beyond that, unless you're trying to breed fish, or propagate corals, is the science really that relevant to you?

Science is relevant to me, as I strife to recreate the biotopes my fish come from originally and I always want to be able to inform others about those biotopes, why they are important as examples and so on. Do I take everything to the perfect recreation? Nope. Do I try to get as close as possible to my abilities? Yes, for sure.
 

juniperlea

I'm so glad you posted this. I was very kindly advised, when I was young, to give up on science and math and to focus on what I was better at, which was literature and history. Frankly, I'm grateful to this day! Recently, I found myself confronted with Science again when I 'discovered' fish! It's been confounding and brought on flashbacks to the horrors of the science classroom! I've done everything wrong, but it's turning out ok, most of the time. However, where would we be without aquariums be without you scientists who discovered the nitrogen cycle in the first place!!!
 

KinderScout

It's good to dispel myths but don't knock people for doing what they do if it works for them. One of the big arguments recently has been about filter media and tap water. Now I won't panic if a little tap water gets in my tank or on my filter media but I do rinse in tank water - I'm sure that tap water won't kill my BB but tank water is what my BB lives in so I know it won't do any harm. Pages of 'science' won't change that and, at the end of the day, is it any harder one way or the other? It is irrelevant - so thanks for this post.

Science is relevant to me, as I strife to recreate the biotopes my fish come from originally and I always want to be able to inform others about those biotopes, why they are important as examples and so on. Do I take everything to the perfect recreation? Nope. Do I try to get as close as possible to my abilities? Yes, for sure.
That's a good use of a scientific approach to refine your environments and achieve and help others rather than the 'I know better than you' variety that just seeks to put others down.
 

MacZ

It's good to dispel myths but don't knock people for doing what they do if it works for them. One of the big arguments recently has been about filter media and tap water. Now I won't panic if a little tap water gets in my tank or on my filter media but I do rinse in tank water - I'm sure that tap water won't kill my BB but tank water is what my BB lives in so I know it won't do any harm. Pages of 'science' won't change that and, at the end of the day, is it any harder one way or the other? It is irrelevant - so thanks for this post.

You might want to look at the perspective. To us in Europe that specific problem is basically non-existant nonsense, while it's the norm in North America (and Australia?)

That's a good use of a scientific approach to refine your environments and achieve and help others rather than the 'I know better than you' variety that just seeks to put others down.

Thanks and I agree!
 

juniperlea

I love science. I simply want everyone else to do the work for me, so that I can reap the benefits, while not doing the actual work. However, is it work, if you love it?
 

AvalancheDave

Science has no place on a site named fishLORE.
 

MissPanda

I actually love the science part of fish keeping. To some degree you do have to understand the science part of it to be a successful fish keeper. If you're mother didnt have you, she would end up on here one day when the colors of her test kit weren't right and then she would learn.

Science is always evolving too. I think people some times correlate science to an unchangeable fact. It isn't. When something new is discovered we change our understanding. Science can be wrong at times.

There's probably so many unknown variables that haven't been discovered that affect fish health. I've seen many posts about dying fish with perfect parameters after water changes. Makes you wonder what is missing from our tests kits that we should have. Maybe one day there will be more test kits that are part of the standard for fish keeping. I'm still relatively young, so it will be interesting to see the test kits and new things that change in this hobby after 20 or so years. I would love to see a meter that tells you what deficiencies you have in the water. For example it could tell you low iron or potassium so you could know exactly what to dose for healthy plants.
 

chromedome52

Experience and science are based on the same thing: Observation. Experience is what you've seen and done to make something work. The science explains why it works. Without the science, you cannot know if someone else's experience will work for you. Circumstances are different in different places and situations. So another part of experience is the science: understanding what it is about a situation that makes it work. Raw science, that is, reported parameters for a situation, are also subject to misunderstanding if there are facts missing. Knowledge truly is a weave of the basic science learned, combined with the observations of experience. Either one alone can lead you astray, but together they will light the path.

Geez, that sounds too philosophical even to me!
 

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