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July 2012 Aquarium Fish International Editor's Note

A Way of Life.

By Clay Jackson

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Aquarium Fish InternationalI asked AFI Associate Editor Cassandra Radcliff what she thought about our “Lifestyle Issue.” Her reply: “Every issue is a lifestyle issue.” Her point is that unlike most hobbies — which are just that: hobbies — aquariumkeeping in all its forms (reefkeeping, planted aquariums, etc.) is often more than a hobby. It is a lifestyle. When set up and maintained properly, aquariums become living works of art. They become the centerpieces of apartments, family or living rooms, and classrooms.

An aquarium can take a substantial commitment from the aquarist in terms of time and money. You can’t just leave, go on vacation and hope your reef tank cares for itself. Nearly anyone can dogsit — but not so with a humming, bubbling aquarium filled with a variety of fish, plants and invertebrates all with unique care requirements. I’ve heard numerous horror stories from aquarists who trusted challenging setups to novices (or worse, nonaquarists) during an absence, only to return to dead fish, corals or plants. Aquariumkeeping can quickly go from bug to full-blown fever in short order.

In his “From Gulf Stream to Aquarium” article, Steve Abrams discusses the joys of collecting tropical fish from an unlikely area: the south shore of Long Island. The opening photo shows a child of a couple belonging to the same aquarium society as Abrams. The unbridled joy on 7-year-old Lillian’s face is evident as she holds a pufferfish just netted by one of the adults. Getting kids away from video screens, away from the television, and off the Internet and out of social media sites is a recurring theme of modern parenting. The aquarium hobby is one gateway to accomplish this. A simple hands-on interaction with a “citizen” from Atlantis might be all it takes to set the course of a young person’s life.

Author Rosalie Henson, herself little more than 10 years Lillian’s senior, shares her own journey as part of Des Moines’ Central Campus High School Marine Biology and Aquarium Sciences programs in her article “Marine High.” Henson continues in the Central Campus program and owes a debt of gratitude to it and its visionary, Karen Stiles, Ph.D. Chances are that you’ll see Henson someday caring for the animals at a public aquarium, as well as educating the aquarium’s young visitors. Or maybe you’ll attend her talk as a featured speaker at a future Marine Aquarium Conference of North America. And might Lillian follow a similar path? Time will tell.

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