Zen Reefing Approach - Finding a Balance (StoryGuide)


New Member
Aquariums - as good for our well being and state of mind as they are for the millions of creatures that inhabit it's seemingly small, and at the same time, unendingly vast and bountiful landscape. To us giants, we see the glass box with rocks, and coral, and it's torrents of water swishing about; however, those who live within the contents know it's lush fields of green and red plant life - rolling rocky hills and cliff faces perched above an undersea beach. To each and every inhabitant, the scale is immense, and their habitat as vast as our imagination will allow. Journey further down, deep deep down into the miles upon miles of sinking undersea caverns hidden amongst only one of your live rocks, uncountable measures of micro life creep and squeeze their way into unexplored caves and crevices in search of a new feast, or toward their resting spot for a particular night. Back outside and down below, bristlely serpents slither beneath a desert of breathing sand, tiny bugs, slugs, and everything else that serves a purpose in it's jungly world. Wait till nightfall... What strange creatures lurk about then? And above? What a wild world we have in our living rooms, offices, and sleeping quarters.

What role might we play in fostering an environment with so many scales and sizes; the thinker, the tinker, the observer?

What ultimate goal do we aim to achieve? Are we to be messing with this box forever and ever, or do we let go?

We have a punishingly large array of strategies to pick from; laying at our disposal to ensure the environment succeeds, while also ensuring we succeed in enjoying the environment and find peace with our role as the thinker, or the observer of it all...

Many strategies aim to cater for any and all reefers - some observers have not one at all, simply relying on their intuition to guide their every move. Whatever the strategy may be, it's easy to fall into a routine of repetitive tasks, high maintenance chores, and a long list of activities which involve everything besides enjoying the aquarium for what it may be... a pleasurable little ecosystem.

The key to ultimate aquarium enjoyment lies in one simple chest -a book of knowledge, that far exceeds your expectations and dreams. Find your way back to the mystery and wonder of reef keeping with a Zen reefing approach, or simply ponder it's possibilities for your own strategy adaptation.

All we must do is find the balance our tank is seeking.

Autopilot, equilibrium, the balance... whatever you wish to call it... is that magical moment where you do not a thing more. After all the tinkering and toddling around, getting this and that just right, the aquarium needs hardly and further adjustments and it shall continue growing itself forever and ever, with us as the observer taking our place. When we finally achieve that ultimate aquarium state, we can then learn the true purpose of our aquariums existence. It is... to exist, and to exist within itself, with us taking a backseat and observing it's magnificence.

How hard this position is to take... not everyone is able to accept this as the results of their labor, for many find the laboring on to be the enjoyable part of reefkeeping. It was only a moment ago when we had dreams of starting out our tanks. Planning far deep into the details of every little component with napkin sketches, diagrams, and overlays - many of us not doing this sort of thing since we escaped our education.

We'll always remember the moment we brought the tank home, and laid it into its resting spot. Sitting proud upon it's stand, empty in all it's glory, we dreamed every possible fish and coral it might contain. It began by carefully pouring in bags of our freshest sand... placing each rock just right so as to make an impression. Buckets of the saltiest and sweetest smelling water go in one after another. Slowly the aquarium comes closer to being a living thing, but, how living can it be without fish? We work to get the parameters just right, waiting patiently. But as soon as they are almost ready, we head to the pet store. What an adventure - arriving to the pet store. Taking one broad stroll over each display, at first, then going back tank by tank to observe every single inhabitant and judge their suitability by our deep desires - as much as our previous planning for a stocklist mattered, we all know it only last so long once the doors have opened. Each fish specially chosen for the way it caught our attention, whether or not it meant to - maybe they did? Maybe they chose us...

One after another they were added to the family. A family that has just as many arguments, laughs, feasts, and playful events as any of us primates. Although they don't speak, they more than make up for it with their personalities and traits. You could buy a hundred clownfish, and, if you observed enough you might tell each one apart from it's other. It is the fish that form the foundation of our attention in an aquarium, their social aspects by far - at least until you start buying corals.

Corals are alien. They don't make noise, hardly move, and they are extremely difficult to project any personality onto, but they do tell us whether or not they are happy - just as our fish do. Stumble in at the right time, and you'll find them as shriveled as a grape, basically screaming as much as any infant, demanding to be moved, fed, or have the lights adjusted - most of the time for no particular reason. That is, until we actually do make adjustments, and they actually do end up unhappy; however, in what seems like all cases when nothing is done, they will simply vanish along with all the money that was spent on gambling them into our aquarium. The fish were never as picky - only wanting to be fed, but now we have to worry about so much more, and worry we shall. That is, until one steps back to the calm sweet air of our miniature ocean. Ah, remembering the reason we began: to enjoy our slice of the ocean. Now back to reality. See, the aquarium reaches a point where it inevitably becomes more and more complex, whereby adjusting one thing may throw off another. And fixing a parameter for one of your corals might throw their neighbors into a tantrum. This is the struggle, and many reef keepers are stuck in the struggle, and will be stuck there forever - that is, until one master's the art of letting go.

It is difficult to watch a superman shroom slowly lose it's color and fade to white. A lifeless jellybean devoid of any symbiotic zooxanthellae which sends alarm bells to reefers within a 100 mile radius. How many adjustments do we make? One, two, three, four, five, six.... hmmm. I think you see where this is going. At some point, a particular specimen, or problem, begins to pose a greater risk to all the other inhabitants, not because it poses a danger, but because it sends us down the rabbit whole that ultimately leads to our tanks (and our own) undoing. If we stop at six adjustments, we would most likely be too far gone.

The worst case scenario caused by our fabulous bleaching jellybeans is when we forget to enjoy the world that lays just beyond our reach - one which we have even created.

The fish long for our naïve gaze and dance the moment we decide to master the art of letting go.

Zen Reefing, or the art of letting go, allows us to gauge our rationality more effectively toward a particular situation - when problems arise, test your parameters, make one or two moves, pause and reflect... and then, go grab your favorite chair and plop it right in-front of the tank. Enjoy the beautiful landscape. Just breath and take it all in.... just stay there for a minute - pull up a chair and don't leave. Life doesn't have to be so fast. It can be bliss.