Re: NANFA-- Pet peeve

Nick Zarlinga (
Sun, 31 Mar 2002 21:17:36 -0500

> In a message dated 3/31/02 4:51:54 PM Eastern Standard Time,
> writes:
> << What other public aquariums have you been to? Obviously not many.
> are many public aquariums that have specactular displays which will rival
> any hobbyist's tank. >>
> You are right Nick, My experience is limited but you would think that out
> the six or so I had been to one would have a live coral display that
> look like somebody's sump. If the money, time, effort or experience isn't
> available to keep coral then maybe the display should be kept in the back
> until someone gets the hang of it instead of presenting dying pieces of
> corruption as live coral.

Your 40 years of experience should teach you that every display is
different. You can not tell me that every "hobbyist" tank that you have
seen or every pet store tank that you are comparing it to are alway perfect.
The same is true for every public display. If a tank is going through a
slump and not looking good, the last thing that you need to do is take it
off exhibit as you suggest. Coral die, even in nature. Look at what is
happening in Fiji at this very moment. Corals are bleaching and algae is
predominate over much of the northern reefs of the islands. If instances
like this can happen in nature, don't you think that they can much more
easily happen in a closed system? It takes time for systems to break in or
recover. Granted, a graphic might have been the way to go if things are as
grave as you say, however I think that you are being unfair. Remember that
you are dealing with a living system, corals and fish are just small parts
of the system.

I stand by what I said about the Ph.D. I have
> encountered many people who thought they were experts just because they
had a
> title. It doesn't work that way, neither does having an aquarium make you
> expert. I think my 40 years of constant learning and experience gives me
> right to critique.

Critique is one thing, I agree. To make such a stereotype such as you did
will not go without challenge. Just because you visit an exhibit or two
that does not meet your standards does not mean that public aquariums are
"50 years behind the times". Many of the best authors are curators and
aquarists from public aquariums. Have you heard of Stephen Spotte? Paul
Loiselle? Charles Delbeek? Chris Coats? Chris Andrews? They all have
great books on various subjects written from the '20s through the late 90's.
I will agree that much of the latest reef craze has broken major ground in
the hobby and public aquariums acknowledge the wealth of anecdotal
information that has been learned. Every reef keeper I know of will easily
admit to this-and learn from our hobbyist colleagues. I will also agree
with you that having a title does not mean diddly. Just because you had a
bad experience with a professional aquarist certainly doesn't mean that we
all feel we are superior.

I have had to cut back my own aquarium spending to almost
> nothing in the last few years but instead of trying to do things I cannot
> with the money I have available I try to do what little I can well. maybe
> people who cannot keep coral due to budget constraints should do like
> Nearly all public aquariums I have seen do large predators well but the
> farther you get from them the worse it gets.

You definately need to visit other public aquariums. This last statement is
totally untrue. Most every public aquarium these days have fine exhibits of
various invertebrates. The National Zoo has a wonderful aquatic
invertebrate section. What about seahorses and jellyfish? Public aquariums
have lead the way for success in keeping these animals. Most every aquarium
has these exhibited

I am sorry I insulted you Nick,
> if your aquariums are all perfect I applaud you but think for a moment.
> you display sick and dying animals just to be able to say you have them?
> you allow sick individuals to populate your displays?

No, my exhibits are far from perfect. Much of it has to do with the
configurations of the tanks that were installed. I am limited to the
dimensions that I have to be able to do a great display. But I am trying to
make them better. You can not tell me that as a general rule, public
aquariums "display sick and dying animals just to be able to have them." If
you make a statement like this, you need to back it up. I think that you are
inferring this meaning from an exhibit or two. A couple of fish with
lateral line erosion in a display in one aquarium does not fit into this
category. You know as well as I that many of these fish are difficult if
not impossible to remove, especially from some of the larger displays.

I have no doubt that
> many public aquariums do have perfect displays. But sadly I have found
> many do not.

The only display that is perfect is in nature, I believe. I would agree
that many have bad displays, and there are several here at my
institution-under my care!. Once again, it is work in progress. You can
not open an exhibit or an aquarium looking perfect from the get go. It is
how an institution deals with them that determines the quality of the
insititution. In order to make that judgement, you have to frequent the
place, not take a one time look.

In several instances I have asked aquarium employees (away from
> anyone so as not to create a scene) about certain sick or dying and fish
> invariably I was treated with disdain and told that I didn't know Jack.
> though I tried to be as nice about it as I could.

I agree that personalities are different for everyone. I have dealt with
many public aquarists that I don't like. I have also dealt with many more
hobbyists who think that they are fish gods. The only reason why I say many
more hobbyists is because there are more hobbyists than public aquarists!
It is not a profession issue, it is a personality issue.

As I said many of the
> obvious mistakes could be avoided just by reading a few modern books on
> subject and applying the information contained within.
> Moon

I would bet that you would find that aside from corals, many public
aquariums actually lead the way when it comes to inovative displays,
nutrition of fish, disease treatment, and definitely husbandry and longevity
of the animals. When it comes to corals, aquariums have definetely learned
from hobbyists on how to be successful in reef displays. Ten years ago I
would say that public aquariums were way behind the hobby in keeping reefs,
however also understand that some public aquariums (such as my institution)
were keeping corals, and still have corals, from the 70's. The displays
were not necessarily the best back then, but they certainly have improved.
I would totally disagree that public aquariums, these days, have a hard time
keeping reef displays. Some do, I grant you that, but if you take the
percentage of public aquarists keeping reefs and the percentage of hobbyists
keeping reefs, I would say that public aquariums have better success these

Nick Zarlinga

"Your modesty will shame those with lesser knowledge.."
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