It is a never-ending learning experience: You cannot help but learn all sorts of interesting bits of knowledge about where fish came from, how they breed, what they like to eat, what is required to grow corals/plants, and of course, a primer in water chemistry. Depending on your interest, you can delve as deep as you want and still never master everything there is to know. (Usually, the more you learn the more you realize there is still so much more to learn!)
It is a grounded hobby: Along with the learning comes a respect for the science involved in maintaining a mini-habitat for our fish. While some fish tales persist, this is a hobby that pretty much ignores the “mumbo-jumbo” of gimmicks and wonder potions. (With the possible quest for the best algae stopper.)
The hobby adapts and always has cutting edge technology: While the tried and true will still work, there are always advancements for those who wish to try out the latest and the greatest. Some seem to get too tied up in the technology (boys with toys), but the advancements soon become the norm and the hobby is better for it. The introduction of wet/dry filters spurred the development of lighting systems to keep our corals alive, expanding the study and use of supplements and new feeding techniques. Development of refugium filters allowed for production of natural microplankton to feed filter feeding invertebrates. The end result is a better environment for our fish.
Hobbyists love to share their knowledge (without an attitude): Well before the Internet became the source of all knowledge, aquarium keepers have always been more than happy to help out someone who is more of a novice than they are. Tropical fish clubs are not as many as they used to be, but are always a great place to get and share information. This does lead to one of the “problems” of the hobby, especially for the novice: if you ask 5 people how to do something, you will most likely get 7 different methods, all which can work! While there are a few aquarium “geeks,” most can explain things in simple enough language for a new hobbyist to follow.
This is a “come one, come all” hobby: While historically this has been a male dominated hobby, with the moving of the aquarium to the family room and better furniture-grade stands and success with coral reefs, the number of female hobbyists has been rapidly rising. The hobby spans the spectrum of socio-economical levels and tanks from Nano to Massive allow hobbyist to have a state of the art aquarium within their budget. While the difference in scale and cost may be significant, the knowledge required and dedication to maintenance makes an equal of all hobbyists.
It is possible to give back: Sooner or later, you are going to spawn some type of fish and have extra babies to sell/trade to other hobbyists. Many will become specialists of certain types of fish/corals and supplement their hobby with the sale of the fruits of their labor. The mini-reef and Cichlid groups, in particular, are as popular as they are thanks to the availability of stocks produced in home aquariums. Hobbyists keep many of the more exotic fish such that even researchers can gain knowledge from hobbyist about the behavior or breeding of certain rare species not easily studied in the wild.
It teaches valuable life lessons: If you have ever set up a reef aquarium or aquascaped a large planted aquarium, you have an appreciation to the complexity of nature and how easily it can be disrupted, how even small variables can have a large effect. The parallels with how we treat our planet cannot help but be noticed. Aquariums also provide a less painful way to demonstrate “survival of the fittest” to the more squeamish, sensitive types.
This hobby offers lifetime membership: On the whole, age has little to do with aquarium keeping. It is easier to move around buckets of water when younger, but there are work-a-rounds for this. This is a hobby that can be enjoyed at any age and is rewarding at any age. With all the options, you cannot outgrow the hobby.