Elitism in the Aquaria Community

Evan Baldonado

By Evan Baldonado
(Founder of AquariumKids)

Tropical Aquarium by 16toki

Elitism against beginners

Everyone starts somewhere. Many of us kept goldfish in bowls as kids, not knowing that it is a cruel practice. Some of us had no idea what the nitrogen cycle is, accidentally killing fish as a result.

Keeping goldfish in bowls is not okay, and neither is exposing fish to toxic levels of ammonia, but should we really blame those who didn’t know better? No.

In my time spent online, I have seen a disturbing amount of elitism in aquaria, primarily consisting of experienced aquarists hating on beginners. Don’t get me wrong: I am not condoning the abuse of fish, but I am also not condoning hate as well.

I completely understand where these experienced aquarists are coming from -- they see someone horribly mistreating their fish and get angry. However, venting this anger upon the one who is mistreating their fish is both uncalled for and detrimental.

For starters, these beginners simply do not know better. They often do not know what the nitrogen cycle is, and have been indoctrinated to believe that fish bowls are okay. We can not, and should not blame them for something that we can not expect them to know. Instead, we should focus on how to get them to change their ways without insulting them for something that is not their fault.

Peacefully educating someone on what is okay and what is not is much more likely to be effective than flaming their posts online. After all, who wants to listen to someone who is yelling at them online? Doing so is likely to result in hurt feelings and possibly even scaring the new aquarist away from fishkeeping for the rest of their lives. Who wants to be in a community where they are afraid to speak, fearing that they will be immediately put down?

Experienced aquarists, I strongly urge you to adopt a more peaceful approach, one that revolves around constructive criticism as opposed to ranting, one that focuses on praise and support. By doing this, you will make our community a nicer, more inviting place to be.

Elitism against beginners

According to Sans-Vertigo on Tumblr, "There is a lot of elitism with older fish keepers who scoff when people keep common tropical species, small tanks, non-planted, bettas [and] goldfish," and against people who do not breed their fish. This kind of elitism is inexcusable. While it is certainly okay to have a preference as to what type of aquaria you maintain, forcing this opinion on others has no place in our community. If you are going to act this way, please do everyone a huge favor and leave.

While I have seen this kind of elitism a few times myself, it is much less common than elitism against beginners.

Thanks for reading this rant about elitism in aquaria (published 3/19/16)! For more information, please browse around! Feel free to contact me at evanb [at] aquariumkids [dot] com with any questions.

Have you experienced elitism in the aquaria community? Have you even been an elitist yourself? Let's start a discussion in the comments section below:

Evan Baldonado

PS: When people keep repeating the same mistake over and over, it does get old. I am not trying to say that all people in the aquaria community are elitist, nor am I trying to say that most are. To all fishblrs who responsed to my post: the elitism that I have seen is primarily on Facebook as opposed to Tumblr. If someone can not afford to care for their animals appropriately, then I completely agree that they should not be keeping them. The issue here is that some people who are capable of affording proper care for their fish but who simply don’t know how are being put down by some overly vocal and experienced elitist aquarists.

Image credits: