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Marines are difficult. Never, technology make it easy.

By : Moolis Moolman – Pet stop

“Marines are too difficult to keep alive” This is a statement that I hear daily and every time I go thru the explanation that it is not difficult but the hobbyist are responsible to ensure that he/ she do their homework before they start. Homework? It sound like going back to school and then some shy away, others just look at you like you are talking to the wall and still go on buying that marine aquarium.

This brings me to a friend and good customer of the shop, let’s call him Jim.

Jim have been in this exciting marine hobby for more than 10 years and have seen the growth of this hobby from a time where no info was available and even less stock, to today where every Tom, Dick and Harry make themselves out to be an expert.

Last month Jim visited the shop after a major shipment of corals (exceeding 200 specimens) and fish (exceeding 200 specimens), and as per his usual boisterous personality he announced his presence even before he properly entered the shop. Immediately there was this vibe of excitement as Jim always ensured that his visits to the shop leave someone in the shop with something to think or laugh about. This time was no exception.

I was busy with a regular marine customer and Shawn was busy with a new hobbyist that just started his aquarium the previous week. After greetings have been exchanged between Jim, myself, Shawn and my customer, Jim went on to inspect the new corals with low grunts, snorts and murmurs. But this was normal for him as he always find some coral or species that I should not have imported or have placed in a position with too much – to little flow or lighting. But this time was different, exactly what was different became apparent when I rounded the corner of our 2500 liter coral holding aquarium.

There Shawn was standing listening to this new hobbyist that complained about the fact that he wants his aquarium to look like those on the internet,but he cannot wait another few weeks or months for that, he needs it next weekend. This is the age of technology and everything must come plug and play. But all those noises coming out of Jim was not while inspecting the corals but rather listening to this customer and it even look like he is agreeing with this guy.

This stopped me in my tracks. Even the customer I was assisting frowned at Jim’s enthusiastic response to the new hobbyist. But all came very clear when the newbie paused to regroup his thoughts on this subject. Jim told him that he agrees with him 100%, this is the new age of technology and everything come plug and play, so the marine aquarium trade should have gotten their act together. Jim have been in this hobby for more than 10 years and the hobby should have grown more in this period, it is definitely lagging behind the rest of the world.

I started to get a bit agitated with his comments, it look like we (the marine trade) have not embraced technology and that all the knowledge, new and much better equipment, water treatment and lighting did not make his (Jim) life as a hobbyist easier, not to talk of those species that was previously classified as imposable to keep, that we now recommend to hobbyists after their aquariums are established.

Before any one of use had any chance the newbie started to explain all over that he is into IT and their technology changes daily, thru out all of this Jim was listening very attentively with his normal noises. This went on for a while and became a bit repetitive so I went on with my customer, knowing that Shawn with his SAPS and shop experience will know how to handle the situation if necessary.

After my very happy customer left with some very healthy corals and a Moorish idol, we have ensured it is eating with gusto, I returned to Jim and the newbie. Now the vibe changed and the newbie was listening very attentively as Shawn was explaining to him about the nitrogen cycle and the purpose of live rock in a marine aquarium and Jim was doing what he was suppose to do, making noises at the corals. Live returned to normal, but what happened to change the newbie’s attitude?

After the newbie left with his book, live rock, the 2 green chromis’s Shawn allowed him to add for some movement in the tank and a promise to come back the following week with the results of the water test kits he bought, I asked Shawn what happened. He just laughed and told me to ask Jim.

Typical of Jim he found a Euphelia sp. in too much flow, an SPS one shelf to low etc.etc and refused to answer constant pestering as to what happened, before it was moved. So out came the steps, on with the glove and in a flash these problems was rectified. Now Jim was milking it and asked if I received this or that species in this or that colour, till I was ready to burst.

Finally he gave way and told me what happened.

When he heard this newbie complaining he thought back to his early years and how he struggled, with limited pet shops that kept marines in the old Transvaal and even less that knew anything worth listening to. His wife was pregnant with their second child and money was a bit of a problem. ……

His wife was pregnant! This gave him an idea. This newbie’s wife was slowly browsing the aquariums in the shop and clearly expecting a child. Setting up a reef aquarium is working with nature and the inception to birth of a child is a wonder of nature.

So he gave the newbie time to rant and rave for a while, then he asked the newbie how far his wife was into the pregnancy. The newbie brightened up and told him she was 6 months pregnant with twins, this is the first twins in the family and he hopes one is a boy, like most fathers would. Jim carried on discussing the wonder of birth and how proud he was when his own children were born.

Finally he asked the newbie what would happen if his wife should give birth now and not when she is 9 months. The answer to this the newbie knew, the children might not survive.

Jim explained to him that his aquarium was exactly the same, he needed to work with nature otherwise all those beautiful corals and fish he wanted to add would die. WOW the newbie saw the light, work with nature and not against it. Immediately he asked Shawn to explain to him how the nitrogen cycle work AGAIN as last time he did not listen, cause last time he thought there will be some way to make it easier or even to totally ignore the nitrogen cycle!

Now the newbie is a regular weekly customer and are reading a lot. So much so that he and Jim ensure that they visit the shop at the same times to talk shop. I just hope he does not name his son Jim, one Jim in my life is enough, 2 might just be the end of me.


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