You are not a scientist!

Science word cloud. Image from

I’m going to guess if you are reading this, it’s because you either keep cichlids or you want to for the enjoyment. Neither of those makes you a hobbyist, necessarily. For a lot of us, however, cichlid keeping is a hobby. If your collection of tanks and cichlid species seems to grow, your thoughts are often consumed with cichlids and aquariums, and you spend a lot of your free time maintaining or watching your fish, you can consider yourself a hobbyist. As such, your fish keeping journey should be something to be enjoyed. But it is also a responsibility. 

It’s that latter part that I want to focus on with this post. I’ve covered this before in a previous post, titled A bigger responsibility. But here I want to focus on a different component of responsibility. I don’t do this very often but I am going to begin proselytizing here, so feel free to click away or leave the site.

If you want to be a hobbyist, then be a hobbyist. But don’t try to be a scientist. For you, the hobbyist, fish should not be an experiment. Yes, you can experiment with different aspects of fishkeeping (e.g., lights, heaters), but if you are not a researcher then your fish are not an experiment.

The majority of cichlids involved in research are sacrificed at the end of the research. Yes, that means they are killed. There is no easy way to say that unless you prefer me to use the word “euthanized.” This is done humanely and follows specific protocols often authored by various agencies. There is a method involved and it is strictly followed. However, quite often there is nothing physically wrong with the fish when it’s euthanized. I’m not criticizing science here.

The greater point is that the fish’s life is your responsibility…which means you are supposed to maintain that life. A scientist’s responsibility is to the research and to follow whatever protocols have been put in place to complete the research. Scientist don’t look at their fish as more than research subjects. They can’t because it could potentially cloud the science.

Fish used in science are part of a formalized, controlled effort to advance our understanding of living things. Thus, they are research subjects that become pieces of a much larger puzzle…nothing more. You have no protocols as a hobbyist…at least not formal ones other than the protocols required to be morally responsible (e.g., maintain appropriate water parameters, space). You have a responsibility to provide your fish a suitable environment and one that maximizes its health. Focus on that just a second. Your number one objective should be – do what’s best for the fish.

I’ve said it before in previous posts, but I see examples of too many hobbyists who don’t take what they are doing seriously enough. “Lighten up,” you say. “It’s just a fish.” It’s not just a fish. It’s a living organism you took on the responsibility to keep alive the second you acquired it. Yes, fish keeping is a hobby and, as such, should be enjoyed. However, your enjoyment should never come at the expense of your fish. Please leave the experimenting to the scientists.

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