Spouse Doesn't Get It?

Spouse Doesn’t Get it?

I’m sure most of us in this addicting hobby have been there. Hiding the receipt from your most recent trip to the fish store, getting home early so your spouse doesn’t catch you acclimating something new into the tank. The old stand-by “No honey, that’s always been in the tank” only works a couple times before they catch on. There are a lucky few whose spouse is interested in the hobby and it’s something they can do together, but for the rest of us it’s feigned interest, complete disinterest, all the way to actual dislike of our hobby. So, what’s the secret? How do all these people manage to build large tanks, upgrade tanks every year or two, collect expensive fish and spend so much time online talking to other people who do the same? How do they do that without having to sleep on the couch next to the tank every night? Let’s look at some ways to be a reefer while your spouse just isn’t into it.
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Let me first say that I’ve been there and I’m still working on it. My husband was never interested in this hobby more than to look at the weird inverts and say “neat”. He was fine with me doing it because it made me happy, but after going with me to the LFS just one time he declared that he would never go back again. He claims we were there for over an hour, and that may be true. Fast forward 8 years and he’s saying “This is our tank honey, I get to choose some of the fish too”. WHAT? He still won’t go to the LFS with me, but that’s ok because this is still mostly my hobby and my thing. I did some of the things I’ll talk about and they worked well. These won’t all be for everybody, but something in here might help you turn your spouse’s opinion around…. At least a little.

Complete disinterest

Find something in the hobby that your spouse is truly interested in. Whether it’s the interesting shrimp or crabs, anemones, clownfish, corals, any one thing. If there is something in the tank that they love or are attached to, then they are more likely to care about the fate of the tank itself. My husband really likes weird inverts like arrow and porcelain crabs. I don’t have any of these yet, but I’ve told him that he can pick any inverts he wants as long as it won’t kill the fish or corals. That perked him right up and he gladly looked at pictures of appropriate selections with me. I know a man whose wife chose the maroon clowns that are in his tank. They terrorize every new fish that enters and some of the older residents, but he keeps them because she loves them. He says as long as her fish are in there, she doesn’t care what he does with it.
Photo by: FaliciaLynn
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Your spouse may never develop a real interest in your hobby, and even after your attempts to find something for them to be interested in. The hope is they see how happy it makes you and don’t try to block you from it. Most people who are completely disinterested won’t bother you about how much money or time you spend on it. You can always find somebody to talk to about your hobby with at your LFS or here on Reef2Reef.

Budget Concerns

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Money can be a huge part of this hobby. It takes a lot of it to keep a reef tank, most times more than our spouses know. Even when money is tight, we still find a way to spend money on our tanks even if it’s just medication for a sick fish or salt for a water change. Try sitting down with your spouse and going through your budget for the month. Allocate however much you can both agree on each month for the tank. Be sure that your spouse has the same amount of money allocated for their interests as well. For a time, I was only allowed $50 a month for my tank and will soon go back to that now that my current build is just about done. It’s easier than you think to do that and it keeps you from adding things to the tank too fast (which we all know can turn out badly).

You can try getting a part time job to pay for your tank. I did that as well. I started working part time for a realtor and all that money went straight into the new build. That was work I could do from home and money that wasn’t needed in the budget. That part time job could even be at a favored LFS. Most stores give their employees a discount for working there and mostly need help during the evenings and weekends when they are the busiest. We have a guy who only works on the weekends and then only for about 6 hours each day. He doesn’t do it for the paycheck, but for the discount which is pretty awesome.

Time Spent

If your loved one complains that you spend too much time working on, talking about, shopping for the tanks then maybe you could find a way to include them in your hobby. He/she might want to take an interest in your reef but doesn’t know where to start, or they just don’t know enough about it to have a conversation with you. You might bring them to your tank and teach them a little about the fun parts of the tank. What makes it an ecosystem in a box is amazing even to those who aren’t addicted to it. If you have anthias, it’s always an interesting discussion when you start talking about how they change sex, and how they determine who the male will be and how the male keeps his status by dominating the females. Your wife might appreciate that more if you tell her that the most dominant female is the one that turns male. She might appreciate the clownfish pairing habits more than the anthias, now that I think about it.
Photo by: Revhtree
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One thing that worked for me was getting my husband to help me build the new fish room. Being and electrician he found it interesting to design and run the electrical for the tank. He put a lot of effort and time into helping me with the construction of the wall the tank was to go in, painting, sealing, sound proofing, building and designing the water change station. He was invested in it at the end of the project. Now he’s interested in how it turns out and what goes in it.

If you have children, you can use your tank to teach them about the ocean. Getting your kids interested in your hobby can often lead to bonding time while you teach them something new about biology, chemistry, even plumbing and electrical depending on age. Identifying species and their interactions with others can be a fun game at the LFS. My four-year-old son can identify many species and is always excited to help feed the fish.
Photo by: Tumundografico
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It’s about finding some common ground and including your loved one in the selection of fish or corals for the tank. Closing the laptop, or putting down the tablet for a while to just sit and talk even if it isn’t about the tank. My husband and I are still working on this part. It’s a problem that a lot of couples have these days. In the end your family and relationships are more important than your fish tank, so we make the changes needed to keep everybody happy. Hiding receipts and being sneaky about adding livestock or equipment only works for so long. At some point in your hobby, you’ll have to face the music and come to some understanding with the person you love. Don’t let it come to an intervention for your reefing addiction.

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About author
Meredith Presley started keeping marine aquariums in 2007. She’s done everything wrong that can be done in the hobby (mostly but not all in that first year) and that has afforded her to learn a lot of hard lessons. Recently she’s been focused on marine disease diagnosis and treatment and hopes to focus on breeding soon as well. She also keeps a blog with basic info on saltwater keeping and her experiences with her own tank and livestock.

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