This writer was fortunate enough to have been invited to write for this magazine when Animal Scene was at its infancy. It was a year that most of us probably can’t even remember, but the sweet memories of having my first article published lingered forever.

After the contribution of three articles, the column “Aqua Basics” was born and this writer became a fixture in Animal Scene. Pounding on the keyboards month in and month out, no one predicted that this column would go on for over a decade.

Alas, all good things come to an end. Some time over a year ago, this writer went on a sabbatical. You could call it an early retirement. Things have changed; more challenges have been offered and writing had to take a backseat. But then, just recently, a call from Animal Scene woke me up. It was nice to get a call from an old friend. I must admit, my heart skipped a beat and I was really so excited about the possibilities. After turning the phone off, I smiled. I guess it is time to crack those rickety fingers and hit the keyboards… I’m back!

While I may have been away from writing, I have never been away from fishkeeping. This is something I had the luxury of, unlike a few friends who have dropped the hobby. Some of my fish friends are no longer active in fishkeeping for one reason or another. Some have pursued other interests while others have opted for a more simple and private approach to fishkeeping. While we remain good friends, these fish keepers are no longer active in the fishkeeping circles.

But once in a while you bump into them in fishkeeping related activities. Fish shows are a good venue to have a reunion with old fishkeeping buddies who are no longer active in the scene. Some just happened to be near the venue and decided to check things out; while others took extra effort to visit the fish show and test if they still have fishkeeping running through their veins.

For a former fish hobbyist, returning to the hobby is something very easy to do nowadays as compared to many years back. It is much easier to be enticed and make a comeback in the hobby since there are now more avenues to do so.

Temptation is all around… Google a pic, watch a video, receive a news feed, reply to a status message, comment on a picture, search for information, surf through the net, shoot an inquiry, post a thread, chat with a hobbyist–just about about any activity you can do with your phone or computer can potentially get you back into fishkeeping. Giving in to these temptations is easy.

Nowadays, one is just a few clicks away from information on fishkeeping. This was an opportunity not afforded to fish keepers in the past, one which hobbyists nowadays are very fortunate to have. When I was starting in the hobby, the only person who would give you information regarding a fish was basically the sales person in the pet store, and I bet you 80% of them didn’t know anything about fish, but it was their job to sell fish.

Today, information is literally at your fingertips. Thus, a former fish keeper can easily be swayed to take up the hobby again because information, which was very difficult to get then, is now very easy to access. If you have any problems or questions, an expert opinion from fellow hobbyists is always available very quickly.

A fishkeeping returnee would also find fishkeeping more exciting nowadays. With the basic knowledge learned from past experiences, the future looks so much more exciting with today’s aquarium technology. While advancements in aquarium hardware have leaped forward tremendously, the basic principles of good aquarium keeping have remained the same for the past 50 or 60 years.

Take for example filtration. Hobbyists of the 21st century talk about bacteria roll, P.E. biocells, bacteria house, sintered glass rings, Siporax, quartz beads, bio balls, and a host of other high-tech filtration materials. These materials are far more efficient than the sand or gravel that fish keepers before the turn of the century used as biological filtration media. The old-timers though were able to make good use of these crude materials because they knew the basic principles of good biological filtration.

And since these basic principles haven’t changed, you can just imagine how much fun these guys will have tinkering with the new filter materials available. The new filter materials available nowadays are merely the tip of the iceberg. Almost every aquarium gadget we used in the past has been upgraded in terms of design and technology. Thus aquarium accessories nowadays are far more efficient than before… pumps, filters, heaters, lights, etc. are of so much better quality nowadays.

Gone are the days when you had to rap on the aluminum casing of the aquarium light to get it to light up despite the fact that it had already been switched on. Sometimes you also had to tap the aluminum casing of the aquarium light gently to check if there was electricity running through the metal case because you didn’t want to get electrocuted when you grabbed the aquarium lights.

These were common occurrences we hobbyists experienced before which current hobbyists need not suffer any more with today’s better gadgets.Today’s fish selections are so much more exciting than what we had a few decades ago. As youngsters, our choices were restricted to goldfish, guppies, mollies, angelfish, swordtails, a few barbs, and gouramis. But over the years, many more species and varieties of fishes have been made available to the Filipino fish hobbyist.

In the past, if you kept guppies, there were maybe about 5 varieties to choose from. Nowadays, if you want to keep guppies, better rummage through a catalogue of about 100 varieties to determine which ones you really like. And after getting those that you like, refrain from checking your friend’s stocks, because most likely you would like to have those too!

The international aquarium fish trade has grown tremendously, and there are now many fish exporting countries that culture aquarium fish for which there are high demands. Suddenly, the number of fish species available has multiplied by the thousands. Those that were rare in the past are now available year-round. Furthermore, new species are continuously being introduced in the market. Fishes you only see in books are now available in your local fish store. Advancements in packing and shipping technologies played a significant role in making these fishes available to the Filipino hobbyist. Nowadays fishes from anywhere in the world can find their way to your tank if you really want them to.

But while the developments and advancements in the aquarium industry have made the hobby much more interesting and exciting, its is the hobbyist interaction has made the fishkeeping hobby so much fun. Today’s communications have made it more convenient for fellow hobbyists to interact with each other. Websites, fish forums, Facebook groups, fish clubs, and societies have given Filipino fish hobbyists more opportunities to meet and have fun while talking about a topic they love the most.Social media has made the exchange of information among hobbyists very easy and quick. It also enabled them to correspond with local and international fish hobbyists with ease. Thus, present day Filipino hobbyists are much more passionate about their hobby because they can easily share their knowledge, experiences, accomplishments, thoughts, successes, and failures with others who can truly understand them.

If you were a former fish keeper who happens to have picked up this issue of Animal Scene, let me convince you to clean up that old tank you have stored in the garage or maybe the backyard. This is the best time to relive the joys you had staring at the tank, feeding the fishes, and even doing partial water changes.

With new aquarium technologies and the diverse fish species to choose from, fishkeeping in the country is reaching new heights. From Apari to Jolo, the community of Filipino fish keepers is growing and are in touch with each other. With your fishkeeping background, you are actually not much behind and can easily catch up with the master fish keepers of today. So get your hands wet and set up a tank. I promise you fishkeeping will be sweeter the second time around.

For comments, suggestions, and questions, write to Angel Ampil at AngelAmpil@yahoo.com.

This appeared in Animal Scene’s January 2016 issue.