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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:
Monday, June 29, 2009

More than a Profession

By Patrick Donston

Store Owner, Absolutely Fish

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New Castle, Pennsylvania, early 1970s.

I found myself sitting and staring at the aquarium in my grandmother’s living room. I was mesmerized by the sound and colors as the fish swam about in the glowing light through the decorations.

I noticed a community of life, a society that seemed to depend upon each individual. I can’t recall all of the fish except for a red tail shark.
It was magnificent—jet-black with a blood-red tail. To a 9 year old, anything with the name shark is awesome. I would sit and follow the fish. I noticed how it searched for food and whiskered up to other fish, sometimes chasing them away.

I didn’t realize until later in life how important that aquarium would be to me. I learned the importance of a balanced ecosystem and a healthy society. I witnessed the beauty of fish and gained an admiration for artistic expression—each clearly on display in that fish tank in my grandmother’s living room.

As I started on my own journey of aquariums, I advanced and learned more about fish than I ever could imagine. Growing up, I always wanted to create and build things. I found refuge and a passion for zoology, and science in general, because of the beauty each aquarium expressed. There are more than just fish in an ecosystem; there is an underlying current that comes to the fore with jubilance. Aquariums transpose us, much as when people are inspired or transfixed by something that sets them outside themselves.

More than likely, that’s why I wanted to teach and express science and the biology of animals. For that matter, I like to teach anyone anything I have experienced—it’s my contribution to a healthy society.

Someone once told me, “I have a greater appreciation for life and our oceans after setting up a marine aquarium.” I never thought about it in that manner because I’ve felt that way my whole life. It probably started that day in my grandmother’s living room. I believe I was inspired to discover what I now truly know: Fish are living proof that what goes unseen beneath us is quite wonderful.

In the upcoming weeks, I will explore ideas in hopes to better your systems and practices. Sort of like a master chef’s recipe, you can be given the ingredients, but it’s the passion behind the preparation that makes the end product great.

Anything worthwhile, including fishkeeping, takes guts, sweat, long hours and hard work—efforts that are not insignificant. It’s about what’s in your heart and what you want for the community you serve that gives your intentions meaning. When you have passion and compassion, the insight to systems and practices will make more sense and your goals will be easier to achieve. Trust me.

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