visiting a real reef

What are your other hobbies?

One thing we all share in common here is our love for saltwater fish, corals, and other invertebrates–educating and having fun around that hobby is core to the mission of, but it certainly isn’t my only hobby.

Which made me wonder–what else might we have in common? Are there other hobbies and interests we share? The inspiration for this post, therefore, is a bit about finding connection with you, constant reader (I always wanted to use that phrase, Stephen King uses it), but also is sort of inspired by all the online shopping I’ve been doing from quarantine.

You know that ad section that says…people who bought this also bought…


You might also like…

Then it serves up a few suggestions.

So I thought…why not…it’s a bit off-topic, but why don’t I share a bit about some of the other ways I keep busy and have fun… and ask you to share a little bit about how you have fun with a comment at the end of the post. Sound good?

Let’s give it a shot.

Here are a few other hobbies that I enjoy.


Ok, so, this one probably isn’t much of a surprise. Nothing beats seeing a real reef (or even just some fish and rubble) in the ocean. When it’s vacation time, I am certainly drawn to the warm sunny waters and hope to catch some time floating on top of the water.

visiting a real reef

Do you like snorkeling? I bet you do.


Ok, so, I haven’t ventured very far away from fish yet. To be honest, I was a little timid about sharing this broadly. I hope you don’t find this to be too barbarous, but I do, also, love to go fishing. It seems like I shouldn’t love it–I care so much about preserving the lives of the fish in my tank. I care about proper handling practices, humane treatment, providing the right environment for them to thrive.

But my joy of fishing goes back just as far as this hobby. And I feel like they are connected hobbies, in some strange way. Understanding the behaviors and patterns of the targeted species is required to have a successful day on the water catching…and not just fishing…and so this is definitely a dopamine stimulating hobby for me.

What do you think? Do you enjoy it too? Do you find this to be a conflict of interest? I do want to hear from you…just…don’t be too mean, okay?


I promise we’ll break some new ground, soon. Still attached to the water. Still fascinated by the ocean’s bounty. Still hungry…still amused each time the crabs grab onto that chicken neck and won’t let go.

The best part about this one is that the action is usually so good that my girls will join me out on the dock (as long as it isn’t too hot).

Crabbing, anyone?

If you’re looking for an aquarium related crab article to dig into, check out:

the Amazing Arrow Crab

Emerald crabs for algae control


Let’s keep with the food theme…but venture away, a bit, from the old fish and invertebrates, but something else I love to do is gardening. Fruit and vegetable gardening, to be precise. The goal: maximum production of delicious food.

I do think it stimulates the same pleasure gland (ew gross…that’s not even a thing…) as the reef keeping–it’s all about learning about the care needs of something (the different vegetables, in this instance), assigning myself a few menial tasks, like weeding, watering, fertilizing and then taking all the credit when the plants do what they do naturally.

Also, like in this aquarium hobby, there are plenty of mistakes to make (like planting too early and having everything wiped out by frost). Parts of it are like growing and fragging corals, as well.

How about you–do you like to garden? I recommend it highly

Making maple syrup

Sticking with the food them here (no wonder I’m overweight), I want to share this unique hobby–making my own maple syrup at home–from the (regular, not sugar) maple tree in my yard. Yup, you can do it too. It requires very little equipment and you can do it with any species of  Maple tree (or even a few other trees that produce sugary sap). I had so much fun with this in the previous winter but took this year off because of all the damage my tree took in the storm last May. But I’ll be back in action next Jan/Feb.

If you’re interested in learning more, I did start a small website to share my journey about making maple syrup at home. One of the biggest questions is when exactly do you start? The whole thing is weather (temperature) dependent and you have to guess when to start. So I posted with a weekly journal style to help give some transparency to the impact of the weather on the yield to help others who are interested jump into the guesswork with at least one data point.

This would be a tough hobby to get into if you don’t have access to a maple tree nearby, but it is fun, relatively easy, and delish!

Homebrewing and mead making

So…I like beer. I like to make food. I like to see if I can make stuff grow. Homebrewing is all of those things. Mix together the right ingredients to create the right environment for the yeast to grow and…see if they reward you with alcohol. Happy yeast, happy me…that is, until they die, sink to the bottom of the container and then I siphon them out.

However, as a guy who has done…thousands of water changes…racking the brew (or wine) off the lees, which is what they call the dead yeast, for some reason, is no sweat. Neither is testing and enjoying the end product.

You’ve probably heard of home brewing and I bet you’ve at least thought about trying it. But how about this mead making…what’s the deal?

Mead making

Nerd alert. Mead has to be the nerdiest alcohol one could make at home. But, I’m going to own that here. You already know I’m a nerd. How else would this website about fish (usually) even exist without having a nerd-card?

So, here’s the deal. I remember reading Beowulf in high school, I’ve always thought Vikings are cool/tough (not a statement on their political and social policies, just…you know beards, axes, treasure, etc.) and it’s sort of an ancient technique…So I wanted to see if I could master it.

I can’t. Half of the batches taste like burnt rubber. The other half like prison hooch. Every now and then, I get one right. I’m a much bigger fan of beer than wine…so I haven’t gotten into grapes…yet.

If you’ve ever thought about homebrewing beer or making wine at home–or want to know more–here’s what it feels like, to me. The most important thing is cleanliness. There is a lot of cleaning and sterilization-related items. So if you are good at quarantine and other maintenance-related tasks in the aquarium hobby–you might index well into the beer making. There is definitely an element of baking/cooking. There are recipes, ingredients, even kits to make things easier. For beer making, many of the kits seem to be pretty foolproof. And of course, there is new gear to add to your wishlist. Isn’t that what all of these hobbies are about? There is also the challenge of getting the techniques right, learning how to be successful, and the reward of trying something you created, in partnership with your yeast and something to showcase to your friends.

Sourdough bread

My latest little ‘hobby’ was to learn how to make sourdough bread, with a wild yeast starter. Yes, you too can have delicious, daily, bubbly bread, simply by mixing some flour with water and nurturing some wild yeast. The process of activating and purifying the strain reminded me a lot of my days growing phytoplankton, rotifers and copepods in my basement, for my fish larvae…only way, way easier.

Oh, yeah, and you get to eat the bread when you’re done. My kids love to eat fresh bread. Who doesn’t?

Sourdough bread making is part…Eureka! sense of accomplishment when you magically conjure an active yeast strain out of thin air and make your first loaf. Part ‘keeping a pet’, because you have to keep the strain alive by feeding & watering it, and discarding the waste. And, of course, it’s baking. And since we’re friends…I’ll admit…there’s something fun about playing with (stretching and folding) the dough. It starts out as a mess…a disaster…and then your hands transform it into something with shape, structure…and then you bake it into something delicious. And oh, by the way, even the failures taste good (unless the disaster is that you forgot to add salt…).

The usual stuff

Okay, so, I also like some of the usual stuff–spending time with family, taking vacations, etc., but enough about me, for now–how about you? Any reactions to what was shared here? Do you share any of the same hobbies? Anything you enjoy that I didn’t list here that you think I should look into?

Thanks for indulging this slightly off-topic post. I really am hoping to connect with you here–this isn’t a trick. Please leave a comment below. You have to log in to leave a comment. I’m not looking for any info. I don’t want any info. It’s just a security setting because of all the SPAM I get. This is a small site and I still spend hours combing through SPAM comments for unmentionable stuff. With that said, here’s how you leave a comment: Create a profile, log in, post your comment. It sits in moderation until I can review it and confirm you’re one of my friends here, not a SPAMbot. Then I will read it, approve it, and usually respond. The email you use to log in isn’t associated with the newsletter or email promotions or anything, just permission to post comments–and once you’re a known entity here–it’s much easier and faster to comment again.

So please, if this article interested you, please leave a comment. I’ll be back to you as soon as I can.


  1. I love your blog, and I share your love of food and fish-related hobbies. I live in California, so I would add riding my surf mat with a pair of fins (like bodysurfing) and mushroom picking for another food-related activity. I drink mead, but I haven’t made it. All of the connections between these hobbies make sense.

    1. Author

      Hi Ruta,

      Thanks for sharing–those are both cool. If I was closer to surf, I would totally ride a surf mat too, I’m sure of it. MUSHROOM PICKING sounds like an amazing hobby to add. Learning which ones are good to pick sounds like a lot of fun. Great to meet you and thanks so much for sharing!!

  2. Hi Albert,

    I very much enjoy your blog, I have learned a lot through reading about your research and trying to connect your comments with my own experiences.

    I am a 68 year old man living in Northern California. I retired from the University of California from an ag related job in 2015. I have had aquariums for years, discus, spawning Bolivian rams, angels, and other various fresh water endeavors. I have a 110 gallon fresh water tank currently.

    When I retired I received the gift of a $400 Amazon certificate from my staff and I went out and purchased what I needed to start a salt water tank. I now have a 100 gallon acrylic tank that is as successful as I would have hoped. I have a myriad of corals, snails and hermits, a red hawkfish, sailfin tang, 8 blue chromis, two cardinals, and a couple of Nemos. I totally enjoy both tanks. And changing things up. And shopping at LFSs. And showing my friends and wife. Great hobby, this tropical fish stuff.

    A second hobby I have is raising Phalaenopsis orchids. I water them with what I remove from my fresh water tank during water changes. Free fertilizer water! This aquarium water and the two south facing garden windows in my house seem to be a good combination. I have a collection of about 40 potted Phals. I have gathered these plants from many people I come across in this retired life who don’t know what to do with orchids they have been gifted with after the bloom is gone. I see these poor plants discarded in a corner and ask for them. Most folks gladly give them to me. “What, they will bloom again? I thought they were dead!”

    I have orchids from local restaurants, from my dentist office, from our local travel agent, from the front desk of the assisted living facility my elderly mother calls home, and some from TJs that I have purchased myself. It is great fun for me to take a potted Phal that has no flowers and to maintain it for a year until it blooms again and I am surprised by what I have.

    Anyway, you asked!

    (If there is a way to send you a couple of pictures of both by aquariums and orchids, I would do that.)

    Mike Cunningham
    Davis, California

    1. Author

      Hi Mike,

      Great to meet you, and thank you for sharing–I loved your story of all the orchid rescue–and once they bloom again it sounds like opening a present. I’ve seen the same thing happen at my office (back when people worked in offices in the late 20-teens). Orchids would show up as beautiful, flowering plants and then sit, until discarded, sadly.

      As you describe it, makes me think that orchids would do better as a ‘rental plant’.

      Sounds like a great tank, as well. Does the hawkfish leave your crabs and snails alone?

  3. Hi all,love your blog, I also love cooking and grow most of my own vegetables also enjoy my garden, love going for long walks with our 3 dogs and listening to music,

  4. Yes, I don’t see any aggression of the hawkfish toward the snails or crabs.

    “Funny” story. I had a hawkfish and was forced to get a new tank and abandon the old one. After a day and a half of moving things from one tank to the other, I could not find the hawkfish in the new tank. After literally a week, I happened to look in the filter system, which spans the back length of the tank, and there he was, swimming in the filter sock! He had apparently jumped over the overflow gate. I put him back in the main tank and he was fine, though a little hungry I suppose.

    I had already purchased another hawkfish because I enjoy their role in the tank, so now I had two. They got along famously together, which I guess is not the usual.

    Whelp, after a ten day vacation, I came home and could find only one hawkfish. Upon looking again in the filter system, there was the missing one. This time floating upside down. I was bummed. I’m not sure how to keep them from jumping again, I will just have to keep a close eye on things.

  5. I love cooking and baking and that was my career in the Air Force. I enjoy the Saltwater aquarium but have not had any luck with keeping corals which is okay but at least I have success with saltwater. I have not snorkeled but sure would love to try it and living in Florida the opportunity is endless. I love fishing and have enjoyed it for years. And of course the usual stuff is always fun as well and enjoyable. I really enjoy reading your blog and so glad that I found something that is beneficial and interesting for there are so many different opinions out there for saltwater tanks that you just do not know who to believe or trust and I know every tank is different. Please keep the blog coming. And thank you for sharing.

    1. Author

      Hi Brent,

      Thanks so much for sharing your hobbies as well–and thank you for your service! Yes, sounds like you’re in paradise down there, so you definitely should find some water and see what you can see. In terms of the corals, have you tried some of the easier soft corals, like green star polyps, cabbage leather or toadstool leather? They might be a good place to start/keep trying.

      Finally, thanks for the very kind words there. I do appreciate it.


  6. Hi Al! Nice Red grouper and blue claw crab pics!!! I am lucky enough to live on a saltwater canal in Florida and catch those crabs in pots in my back yard! I also love fishing (catch lots of tasty Grouper and Snapper to eat, and feed the baby fish in the canal the cleanings) I wish I had your other interests, but can’t seem to find the time! Am in the process of upgrading my BioCube to a 50 gallon Clear for Life unirarium. Wish me luck. Love your blog!!!

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