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EVERYONE IS AN EXPERT?

After months of success and the startling sensation that this adventure might not end badly, my unsuspecting eyes began to see the signs of a problem unfolding. Her color has faded from a crisp, bright shade of gold to a bleached out nondescript ashy hue. The usual energetic and excited temperament she typically displayed has been reduced to barely moving from the same spot more than twice a day, and her entire posture has declined into that of an elderly woman with a humpback. Breathing seems to cause difficulty, and I have to turn my head to avoid seeing her cat-with-a-hairball like reaction of coughing something up when she eats her meals. The unsettling feeling that I’ve missed a step is creeping into my consciousness, and the sense of impending doom is causing me to forget everything I know, and instead, sit starting at her like a lost puppy. After researching, planning and attempting to make the best home possible for my hippocampus clan, something has escaped my attention and caused a very rapid decline in the health of my beloved seahorse. I know that the very worst thing i can do is panic…..but there it is, clouding my thought process and screaming “do something” inside my brain.

I pour through the books I have on hand, and my fingers strike the computer keyboard as if I’m trying to keep up with the Slipknot drummer’s beat, searching frantically for answers. Jumping from article to article, and website forum to facebook, the conflicting advice makes my head spin. If it weren’t for my love of seahorses, I would give up for sure. Realization that everyone giving advice online might not be credible diminishes my hope and emphasizes my belief that I will fail my seahorse. Fear that in the dawn of free information and “rights to all” anyone can call themselves an expert, makes me wonder which advice is even sincere. Recognizing that my books and even scientific articles become outdated, and that research and information available about seahorses is limited to begin with, only adds to the uneasy feeling that is clouding my judgement. Understanding the simplicity at which any person can falsely claim knowledge and experience about any subject, and how greatly this is affecting truth and perception within society today, fixes my resolve to share this experience. In this moment of panic, I vow to write an article about the unhealthy state of the internet today, in hopes that the criteria I now use to analyze information might help others avoid bad advice.

Almost four years later, I have finally returned to this subject. It’s an important one that keeps coming back to my attention frequently. Literally, I have come to accept that logging into any social media account will be met with arguments about the true color of a coral (or dress for that matter), the level of dishonesty that equates a lie, and multiple mini-experts battling out whatever issues surround the current debate. It is exhausting. No matter how one feel’s about the results of the 2016 Presidential Election, I think everyone was more emotionally exhausted by the spectacle than in any previous year. Ridiculous is the only word that comes to mind when reviewing the level of “fake news” thrown around about every candidate and/or party.

Even in the seahorse specific sites, it’s not uncommon to see terrible advice being given, expert advisors being argued with or discredited, and/or people unashamedly posting new seahorses in the same tank as their “old seahorses” who have…”disappeared”, with no embarrassment or explanation whatsoever. Worse yet is the literal “trolling” (posting the exact opposite of the truth hoping for a hysterical reaction within a community of people who care about the subject) in which the person posting either doesn’t realize how many people take them seriously and will make deadly mistakes based on their share (or joke) of information, or truly means to cause harm.

Sold as a dwarf

SOLD AS A DWARF

Discovering that seahorses are still being lost due to inadequate care stemming from a vendor incorrectly labeling the species being sold was my breaking point, which forced me to sit down and finally start writing this article. My goal is not to judge anyone’s choices, opinions or even mistakes, as I have no authority to make such judgments, and make many mistakes myself.   Frankly, the truth is that different things work for different people in different situations, so there can be many “right answers”, and even more that are wrong. More daunting still is that because every situation is different, what works for one person might not work for another.

This can become an even bigger dilemma when illness is the issue, and the person researching is in a panic, likely to jump into the first treatment plan recommended, without weighing the author’s credibility and information’s accuracy. Most people experience some form of distress when they do not know how to solve a problem. While I might go overboard, letting my emotions cause me to literally panic, I’m quite sure most people have a deep rooted desire to succeed. The fear of failure might not cause the same reaction in every person, but combined with the sensation of being helpless to solve the problem, is extremely frustrating, and can easily lead to taking bad advice which makes the situation worse. Especially when the problem is a suffering animal.  This is the exact moment when an expert’s advice could “save the day”, but alas, their books and articles have been buried beneath amazon ads, and their voices drowned out by the pretend experts who are merely more loud about their opinion.

Even more exasperating when referring to seahorses is the realization that obtaining help in solving an illness issue might become tricky due to lack of specific research, limited exotic vets and the lack of medication availability, in addition to incorrect or old advice being given and shared online. In my particular case, by the time my seahorse did experience a problem, I had already been extremely fortunate in gaining experienced mentors, who always guide me in the right direction concerning my reef and seahorse tanks. But, it makes me cringe to see daily posts occur in which a person who has not been so fortunate is being led in the wrong direction. Many times, I wish I could just politely say “please, if you want to help your seahorse, call a breeder or expert who will look at your actual situation and help you!  Or at least get a second opinion before listening to someone with only 2 months experience themselves”. Yet I say nothing, in fear that I’ll be looked down upon for insulting the masses.  This article is my very public statement that the seahorse in jeapordy is more important than my reputation, making up for my silence :).

Fortunately, many seahorse illnesses can be avoided by setting up properly. While there are many different ways to be successful with seahorses, there are basic guidelines that most experienced keepers and breeders agree upon regarding basic care, and specific recommendations that have worked on a consistent basis when dealing with an illness or injury. These become obvious when a person takes the time to look at various sources of information, compare credible breeders’ websites, and look for recurring current themes within all available information. The same names will amazingly tend to show up repeatedly, lending credit to the person’s authority on the subject. My appreciation to the experts who take the time to make websites, write articles and books and continually share their knowledge is greater than words can describe.

To become truthfully and truly informed, multiple sources of information must be reviewed. Once an adviser, information site, source or mentor can be defined as credible based on long term successes, and providing good information, they become a true asset for future learning. Knowing that there really are good sources of information on the internet, the issue faced by a person learning something new becomes avoiding the lazy route of following the first advice obtained, and instead taking the time to find a true source of knowledge (multiple good sources would be even better)!  New research and ideas are always good, because the many species within the Syngnathidae family have NOT been studied enough, and advancement can only be achieved through trial and failure.  Besides, experiments and DIY projects are a ton of fun and can actually make a positive impact on the hobby when a new way of doing something works, and provides an easier path to success for future hobbyists or keepers.

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CLICK INSIDE THE BOX

But someone new to seahorse keeping is not exactly the right person to conduct experiments, as they do not even understand the basics. Anyone researching ANYTHING these days should be aware of the misinformation online, rely on credible sources for advice, understand and compare their own tolerance and skill levels with that of the person advising, and never falsely believe that they’ve obtained some fictitious knowledge level in which they “know it all”. “Educating yourself does not mean that you were stupid in the first place; it means that you are intelligent enough to know there is plenty left to learn”. -Melanie Joy

 

I have no patience with those who do no research prior to purchasing seahorses, and then head to the biggest social media outlets with questions, because many mistakes can be avoided by just taking a little time to investigate before buying. However, it’s pretty unfair that someone could make an honest attempt to research and set up for seahorses correctly, only to fail because they obtained outdated or incorrect information.  Whether the falsities were intentional or purposeful is pointless, as the seahorses are still lost.  As more people decide to become seahorse keepers, many vendors will attempt to keep up with demand by providing them.  Unfortunately, they typically don’t learn for themselves how to care for the specialized fish, and therefore house them incorrectly, mistake wild caught for captive bred, give incorrect advise and set a new keeper up for failure.

This is not true of all vendors, and a few simple questions can help determine whether the information they are providing is accurate.  But, with the rampant amount of incorrect information available vastly outweighing good advice, I really do fear for the seahorses, their keepers, and anyone in the aquatic hobby, (or even the world for that matter) that suffer losses due to following the advice of “pretend experts”.

My hope is that sharing my opinion about the WAYS to obtain and verify information might help someone, so I decided to approach the writing of this article as an experiment, viewing through the eyes of someone brand new to seahorse keeping trying to research proper care of these magnificent creatures. Also, as someone setting up a website with the intent of selling a product versus helping people. I began posting questions on facebook and multiple sites’ forums to see how the responses would differ, and using the internet to try to find accurate information about seahorse care. The results were interesting to say the least, and I found myself very torn on whether the ad nauseum of bad information flowing rampantly across the web is the fault of unethically posted lies, innocent sharing of information that is misinterpreted, or readers in general not doing research and expecting others to “fix things” for them.

First, let’s look at the avenues available to an average individual wanting to learn about seahorses, or research any subject for that matter. The basic sources in which information are obtained, that will be covered in the article include: The internet in general, personal experiences, social media, website forums, published books and scholarly articles or websites. Which of these are the best used in any situation is of course dependent on the goal of the communication.

THE INTERNET:

 

Ah, the good old internet. Sigh. Unfortunately, anyone with enough money and/or time can start a website, forum or other online personality that makes them appear to be an expert. As part of this experiment, I searched for the easiest way to set up a website. Literally, I was able to create free cites on 3 different domains within one day.

More options and removed 3rd party logos were offered for a fee, but either way, it was incredibly simple to become a “business”. Most websites are not intentionally trying to mislead, but in case my point is not clear yet: it is up to the reader to determine the credibility of the information shared. Within a society that has lost all concept of journalistic integrity, that allows even national news stations to publish lies, is plagued by too many followers and not enough leaders, and is much more worried about being “politically correct” than truthful, the task of determining fact from fiction falls to the individual. In addition to it not being difficult to give the “appearance of experience”, and even the experts bending the truth at times, a reader also needs to be aware of their “internet filter bubble”, which determines which information is fed to them. Further information about the Internet Filter Bubble can be found here and here, and ways to “burst the bubble” here. For the sake of time, I’ll assume everyone is familiar with the internet bubble, and just touch on the parts that I find relevant.

According to the Oxford Pocket English Dictionary (and google), An algorithm is “a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.” Every search engine has different sets of algorithms, which aim to optimize the experience of the person by deciding what information is most likely to be appreciated or wanted.  They accomplish this by constantly collecting a person’s information, the information they search for, which of their friends’ posts are viewed most, what those friends typically view, the topics within groups that the person belongs to, and sites liked or visited often (in addition to other criteria that they do not disclose). When the person uses the search engine to look up information, the search engine’s algorithms spring into action, scanning all the collected information,  ranking the results of the search based on what was viewed previously, and then decide in which order to provide results.  Many results are ranked low based on what the algorithm believes the person wants to see, and can make an entire search for information completely one sided, shaping how a person perceives the “truth”.  For instance, if the words “how to set up a seahorse tank” are entered into a search engine (yahoo!, google, bing, duckduckgo, and etc), the results may be different based on the algorithms of the search engine chosen, and what a person has searched for in the past (if the slideshow below doesn’t work, click the arrows to view the findings on different search engines)

I will go ahead and admit that I am quite thrilled that my videos seem to come up in a lot of searches, but that likely has something to do with my “filter bubble”. Deither way, I’m very disappointed at how far I had to scroll to find any site that ended in .edu. Honestly, this confused me because I search .edu sites often. Even more disappointing was seeking that most of the links lead to information that most seahorse keepers know is now false.
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Of course everyone should watch my videos!!! But while I do my best to check every fact and verify information with multiple people much more experienced than I am, I have no doubt that my advice will have changed slightly in 10 years. The reader must remember to be responsible and check the date that the article was published. Looking at the top hits on the usual search engines, aside from my videos, all other information is many years old. Even on search engines that boast never collecting data like duckduckgo, the results were similar, and articles outdated. I certainly hope that the experts continue to write updated information, but IT IS UP TO THE READER to decide if 10 year old material might be different today.

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE:

Knowledge gained through personal experiences have the most impact on how someone views a situation, filters information, and reacts to a new experience.  No matter what is learned from the other ways of obtaining information, personal experiences will always lead to what one truly believes.  When personal experiences t5each a person how to overcome a problem, it’s a wonderful thing.  However, sharing a belief based on one or two personal experiences, with no true research or long term success to back it up, can end up hurting other people.  Those “other” people follow in the unverified footsteps of the one-time-success post, even though their situation, experiences,and knowledge base are completely different than the person originally sharing.  Success, or even the illusion of success, is very attractive to someone who has yet to have any personal experiences with the issue themselves, making it much easier to jump on and try to duplicate the “success”.

When I posted a question on facebook “I see the same people post ‘new’ gorgeous seahorses on a regular basis.  I’m always impressed to see such beauties in the aquarium trade, but wondered if new tanks are being set up, or if old seahorses are being replaced?” The fusedjaw.com website owner, Tami Weiss, who has researched, kept and bred many species in the sygnathidae family (and happens to be a person friend), had this to say:

 

“This is not limited to seahorses, but the entire aquarium hobby.  The issue is one of how humans learn – we learn by doing, by experience.  In most cases, this is a perfectly fine and normal way to learn.  But in aquaria, when you have living animals that are esn a\sentially on life support, mistakes can be deadly for the animals in our care.  But once the mistake is made, most people will try again, believing they now know how to do better.  Until the next mistake happens.  How this plays out depends on the person’s learning style, tolerance to recognizing change, willingness to do supplemental research.  Some people make the same mistake several times before 50learning.  Others won’t tolerate failure and will drop out of the hobby.  It’s tough.  This is a very normal way of learning, and you don’t know what you know until you know it.  People are too often overconfident because of their lack of knowledge.  I think this is the biggest cause of the replacement problem, and I’m not sure what to do about it.  Education goes a long way, but it can only solve so much, because this is how we humans learn.  I mentioned I’ve thought about this, but I don’t have an answer.  I do think that online communities help.  But also, there has to be a balance between understanding that when someone loses their seahorse(s) and replaces them, they’re not being a bad person.  While also not encouraging wanton loss of life.  I don’t believe people are replacing their fish carelessly and heartlessly.  It can be very easy to see it that way, and make communities hostile to helping those who need it most.” (Weiss. Fusedjaw.com)

 

I agree with almost all of Tami’s powerful statement. An individual’s learning style can have a lot to do with how they obtain information, deal with a problem, whether that includes asking expert opinion on the problem, and whether they actually learn from it, or merely give up.

 

EXAMPLES OF HOW LEARNING STYLES AFFECT BEHAVIOR:

 

None of these learning styles are “wrong” or “right”, or even better than the other.  Without individuality, the beautiful artwork, scientific discoveries and technological advancements of the world would cease to exist because everyone would learn in the same way.  No one would excel in their own particular area of expertise (sorry folks, we are NOT all the same, and that is a GOOD thing!)  However, when the “experience learner” shares their latest endeavor, a newcomer that is a”listen learn style” has no warning that the method isn’t proven, and will follow without question before understanding the possible consequences.

Trying to help those that need and want assistance is much more important than pointing out someone who replaces seahorses often.  However, the “new seahorse” posts always depict beautiful, colorful seahorses, who look perfect, happy and healthy.  In an effort not to offend, no one ever asks what happened to the old seahorses.  Many times, most people reading already know, because the author previously asked for help with a problem their old seahorses experienced, and posted questions or documented their experience of trying to treat them.  In these cases, I’m so grateful that online communities are so immediately responsive, but often wonder whether the seahorse would have been lost if the person had gotten help from a professional, versus conflicting advice online.  Another possibility is that the person with new seahorses was too embarrassed to ask for help when things went badly with the old and/or got bad advice about what the problem actually was (like the person who was led to believe his erectus – pictured in paragraph 4- was really a dwarf, who died because of life expectancy.  That seahorse would likely be alive today if the owner had not been told a 12 gallon tank would be fine for his “dwarf”).  A third possibility is the person is an experience learner, having no desire to request help fixing the issue and/or is fine with continuing to replace the losses.

To be clear, even if the person posting new seahorses feels differently than I do, and is okay with just replacing seahorses versus finding and fixing the problem, that’s none of my business.  I still want to see their seahorses and hear about their experiences.  Again, my goal is not to judge anyone.  However, almost every time, I will see people comment on these new seahorse posts, asking the author about his or her methods, advice, where the seahorse were obtained and the author’s set up.  My concern is not for the author in this case, but rather for a new seahorse keeper being misled by a pretty picture.  If the author thinks they’ve figured the problem out, or doesn’t want to find solutions, that’s their prerogative.  I merely wish there were some way to avoid the same issues being repeated by someone else who envied the “new seahorses” in the post and followed the direction of the author, hoping to keep their seahorses just as happy and healthy long term.  With no indication that this was the author’s third set of “new” in less than a year, the illusion behind the picture can mislead others into making the same mistakes and experiencing the same losses.  In my opinion, the difficulty level of seahorses is being greatly affected by failures never reported and therefore repeated by more than just the original person.

The same is true of the hobbyists who are willing to continue crashing their reef tanks, killing all the coral and fish due to improper care, and just refilling with colonies that look fabulous in pictures.  This is completely different than a hobbyist’s learning curve, accident, or even mistake.  I’m completely guilty of making mistakes that ended in loss of sea life.  But, I typically admit those mistakes, won’t stop investigating and researching until I find the root issue, get expert advice on how to fix those issues and then share my mistakes hoping to prevent others making them.  In my opinion, it becomes “wrong” when a person continues to knowingly kill these living things, yet still arrogantly gives advice to others, or argues with those who truly are trying to help people with proven methods.  While I might not have any right or power to stop the person from continuing, I’m desperately trying to reach the readers and hope that better evaluation of information will prevent future tanks from suffering because of the choices and freedoms of one hobbyist.

BACK TO THE INTERNET:

If authors considered the vast experience levels and learning styles of the audience that see the information they post, and everyone were more honest in general, online information would be more complete a picture. A perfect example would be someone sharing their “beautiful new seahorse tank that they set up in one day”, without explaining the nitrogen cycle and/or the cycled media they prepared long before tank set up.  The losses experienced by someone who attempted to duplicate the tank without cycling would of course not be the author’s fault.  However, if the author merely considered that someone without basic setup knowledge might view the information, and chose to leave off the “in one day” or mentioned the cycled media, it may have led the reader to learn more before jumping in.  The future of the hobby is greatly dependent on the success or failure of the next generation.  Those exact people who do not know the basics, will hop on facebook before joining a reefclub, and will give up if they can’t cycle in a day “like the guy online said”.  So, why not be conscious of the audience, and either explain or be clear that a newcomer isn’t the audience for the one day cycle post?

The hobbyists and vendors using photo editors, special lighting and blue light with filters to make their simple green coral look like a rainbow mixture of bold colors, merely to sell frags at a higher price, just add to the distrust of information online.  When the buyer complains and shows the green coral they received, which looks NOTHING like the sale picture, the wars begin about whether or not the vendor was “wrong”.  Come on!  If the seller KNOWS that there is no way the buyer can recreate the conditions under which the picture was taken in real life, or that the coral will not look like the picture 90% of the time (and doesn’t at least explain this to a buyer who might be misled), it was wrong!  Tweaking the lighting or saturation of someone’s own picture just to make it more enjoyable to view is one thing, but when did we as people start allowing any type of company to lie about what their product really looks like or it’s primary function?  If a person bought a brand new car online, but it was delivered covered in rust, looking more brown than the shiny bright red color in the picture, I cannot imagine the dealership would get away with saying “oh, yeah…it’s only bright red if you always stay in the shade, but looks rusty in sunlight.  Sorry you didn’t know, but all sales are final!”  Certainly any buyer should read the fine print, ask questions, and research a company and item before buying (if for no other reason, to provide proper care if the item is a living thing), but in some of these situations, the bad advice or green coral is being purposefully portrayed incorrectly.

The vendor selling wild caught erectus as captive bred dwarfs is the ultimate example of misinformation leading to loss.  Whether the vendor was misled themselves or not, they ARE responsible (IMO) for the resulting losses, because they either should have known better, or did know better and should be shut down for fraudulent sales. A business has no business selling live animals that they cannot even correctly label, and most definitely cannot be counted upon to provide accurate advice regarding the animal’s care.   I’ll be digging deeper into this issue in my next article “Unethical business or irresponsible buyers?”, but the bottom line here is that the guilty party does not matter much to the animal sold improperly and now receiving inadequate care!  In my idea of a perfect online experience, all peoples’ posts and pretty pictures could be shared in one place, labeled clearly with some “at your own risk” heading, offering an option to venture into a second “place” that held articles and advice posts.  While anyone could share ideas and comment in the open area, the advice and article sections would only be answered by those with years of experience in the subject.  (oh wait….that’s a forum isn’t it :))!   Companies and sale posts would be held accountable for misleading and misrepresenting themselves or their products.  Unfortunately, any type of control is viewed as a violation of freedoms, so readers must arm themselves with knowledge, question everything before believing, and never accept anything as truth until it is proven.

My wish is not to silence anyone, as I’ve seen many situations in which an idea of a person new to the hobby has changed everything, including the ways of the veterans.  However, more times than not, the fact that everyone can post or comment advice equally leads to confusion, and the mixed methods or ideas lead the person asking for help to fail. The importance of equality based on humanity has been confused with equality based on expertise.  While all people have rights and should be treated equally as humans, I do not want a dentist to perform my heart surgery, just as I do not want a dog breeder to assist me in the breeding of my seahorses.  Our entitled society has forgotten that if individuals are not allowed to be recognized for excelling in their field, we will lose excellence.  Alas, because the trend has moved away from sites with sectioned information, in which everyone had a voice, but labeled profiles actually meant something and experts were recognized, to a free for all where anyone can pretend to be an expert, someone looking for true advice must take the responsibility of making sure the information is accurate.

This topic actually spurred an argument between my significant other and I, regarding whether it should be the ethical duty of an author to only submit truthful information or the reader’s responsibility not to accept advice until verifying the source.  This is one of those tough questions, that have multiple correct answers.  Of course everyone has the right to say, post and share anything they wish.  As an advocate of free speech, I never want to see anyone silenced, and always appreciate the opinion of others.  However, I research to no end before taking advice from anyone besides a mentor, and also do everything in my power to be aware of my audience when communicating, typically over-explaining things so that there is no doubt about my intent or message.  Not everyone feels this “duty” to speak truth, or at least their perception of truth.  And many, including my better half, believe it is the sole responsibility of a reader to separate satire and fiction from facts and advice.  The bottom line is this:  no matter my opinion or desire to see ethical reporting of information, “fake news” is everywhere, from mainstream media to alternative/social media and beyond. fake bestAccording to the Society of Professional Journalists, ethical journalism strives to ensure the free exchange of information that is accurate, fair and thorough, by promoting the following principles:

(1) seek the truth and report it,

(2) minimize harm,

(3) act independently,

(4) and be accountable and transparent.

The preamble of the society includes “an ethical journalist acts with integrity” and “public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy” (SBJ. 9/14 revision).  Considering that even the professional journalists and news providers can no longer be trusted to provide truthful unbiased information and live up to their own code of ethics, I realize that my wish to see regular people consider ethics and truth before advising others on the internet is not likely to be granted.  While researching ideas to deal with this problem, I came across many interesting ways in which specific organizations try to limit the spread of false information, but most included restrictions that many would consider censorship.  So, for once, I’m admitting my partner is correct.  It truly is the responsibility of a reader to research, verify and basically believe nothing at first glance/without proof.

FACEBOOK:

facebook fake2Internet “responsibility” goes both ways.  Now that I’ve made anyone who’s ever posted without considering the audience feel badly, it’s time to explain my absolute frustration seeing the average post for help on facebook these days.  They are the exact opposite of the “opinion or advice” type of post, but I believe the reason why things go so badly remains the same:  the author doesn’t consider the audience, and the reader has no idea what experience or risk tolerance level the author is coming from.  Limited character messages have replaced actual communication, and blissful confusion is the norm.  As the person in need, versus the person advising, I’ll never understand not being extremely clear.  I’m the first to admit that I’ve been guilty of assuming that the world revolves around me, and that everyone reading my post should know my circumstances, so again….this is not about judgement.  I only hope to create awareness and convince people to think about what they hope to gain from a communication in the future, using the tips provided at the end of this article to get accurate and current information!

Here are a few posts I pulled from facebook (including one of my older posts.  Click to enlarge.)
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These show exactly what should NOT be done in a facebook post asking for help.  Unless the group is a tight-knit, friend based collection of people who really like each other, posts like these will either get inaccurate responses or none at all.  So, what should a “help post” look like?  Some people will act irritated if a post is extremely long and descriptive (says the queen of long posts).  However, the more information you include, the less chance you have of getting an incorrect answer or wasting time on multiple questions.  If the answer is not a simple one, it may still prompt questions, but to be frank, facebook isn’t really the place to post for true advice.  If facebook advice is being used as a comparison to other research, at least provide enough information about the problem to eliminate the immediate questions.  Including the tank specs, tank mates, whether any changes or additions to the tank have occurred recently, the parameters, and etc can save so much time and possible heart ache!  I made the following example up, but I think it’s a good one!

fb good

If I personally saw this post, my first question would be whether the male and female had been dancing around each other a lot lately.  Many of my females act in this exact fashion when they are preparing eggs for an exchange, and then go back to normal behavior after the exchange.  As I stated, this is a made up example.  However, I’ve seen posts that were worded more like this end very badly:

fb bad

The “newly declared” experts, who have experienced one sick seahorse in their 2 months of keeping a specific species immediately start listing every medication that should be thrown at the seahorse, followed by the “arguers” commenting their belief that the problem is the opposite whatever the newly declared described, and finished up by the actual experts finally seeing the post (they were busy taking care of actual seahorses all day) and say…”wait…… before you throw medications in, can you describe the tank set up, how long you’ve had the seahorse, and if any changes occurred before she started hiding?” More than once, a person has lost their seahorse, coral, or whatever, because they gave limited information when asking for help and got answers that were based on everything EXCEPT their situation.  Remember, a person’s belief system is based on personal experiences!  So, responses to a post are usually based on the respondents’ experiences, not the actual problem in the post.  I do not believe the “newly declared” mean harm, as they are merely rehashing the problem they experienced when their seahorse hid in the corner, without actually considering that with such vague information provided, there is almost no way to know if the situations are even similar.  Providing information upfront and being clear about the actual question will always result in more helpful answers.

One interesting thing that I realized while collecting information for this article is that all of the people I personally ask for advice, learn from, and trust seem to all be in the same places on the internet.  For example on facebook, there are a few different “seahorse groups” based on location, established friendships, and preferred methods and ideals.  The groups have many advantages over typical facebook:

  1. The administrators who created the group provide information about the goal of the group and rules that members must agree to follow. A newcomer can decide right away if they are looking for a different type of group based on the group’s description, and those looking for a “seahorse group” will find it based on the title.
  2. The groups are subject specific.  Some groups are quite strict about posts only being about the subject of the group.  Others will have certain days that advertisers can post products, or people can post something that doesn’t fit within the normal theme.  Whether the admin are strict or passive about the rules completely depends on the actual people in charge.  But, the posts and information in a group are much more likely to cater to the subject, and provide the information that a person might seek about the subject.
  3. The admin agree to monitor the posts and try to keep everyone following the same rules.  So those who want to come together and share information about the subject can do so without spam, arguments and drama.  Administrators are actual people, not robots, so they aren’t able to catch every single infraction.  However, the group settings makes it very simple to report a post to admin, which will alert them to take action.  Messenger allows quick and easy communication with admin also.
  4. Every one of the long-term key players and breeders on the “seahorse scene” can be found in most of the groups (well….minus one or two that are filled with really bad advice).  If a newcomer compared the names that are called upon or mentioned in most of the seahorse groups repeatedly, and searched the old posts in the group to see who gave credible advice multiple times, it becomes much easier to discern who’s advice should be sought.

When I was asked to help my breeder friend get set up on facebook, I explained the groups based on why I would go to each of them:

  • “Seahorses & Pipefish” is a group that contains the more experienced, scientific members of the syngnathidae community. Whenever I have a question that requires a deeper level answer, or need filamentous identification of a microscopic slide,  I find myself heading to this group.  Some of the posts and conversations in this group make my head spin, as the language of biologists and true researchers sounds a tad like greek to me.  But the many members actually working in the field or behind a microscope are a true asset to the more experienced breeders and keepers, when they run into an issue they have not yet experienced.
  • “Seahorses – Help and Information” is a nice group with the bulk of members based in the United Kingdom. British seahorse people are some of the nicest I’ve ever had the pleasure of calling “friends”, and I love seeing the way they help and guide each other, versus competing and being monetarily driven. It is fascinating to see how differently they view seahorses, and sometimes depressing that the entire world doesn’t have the same respect and admiration for these unique fish.
  • “Seahorse Keeping Made Fun” is my all-time favorite group (likely because I play an administrative role, running the group with 2 fellow seahorse breeder/keeper/lovers). The advice in this group is a mix of US advancements and UK kindness, making it a home to brand new keepers and experienced breeders alike.  I truly do feel we provide a great mix of advice and fun, without allowing drama to ruin the experience.  But, I might be a tad biased :).

While an individual might prefer one type of group to the next, most of the veterans and breeders can be found in all of them.  When a new seahorse keeper takes the time to watch the interactions of the people within these groups, they can pretty easily get an idea of which advisers remain consistent in their advice, are tagged to answer questions and can be recognized from other forms of media (such as they’ve written a book, can be found on older forums, and/or can be found elsewhere providing information). Taking the time to research information and advisers will always lead to a more successful experience.

(Links to each group provided below)

group pic

Another observations I made while watching the interactions online were the effects of the people who posts vague questions, without really wanting answers.  For example, the person who posts a question and then shares it to multiple groups.  While this action in itself indicates research, and can be a good thing, it sometimes becomes obvious that the person is not really looking for information. Instead, he or she merely wants to find someone who will tell them what they want to hear.  If a person WANTS to keep clownfish with their seahorses in a 1 gallon tank (oh god, please don’t do this!!!!) then he or she will merely jump from one group to the next, until they find someone who will tell them that they were able to accomplish this successfully . Not only is this a waste of everyone else’s time that truly want to help, but anyone who happens to be on the side reading the question might be mislead by the answers.  While both parties have every right to act in these fashions, after seeing so many of these group jumpers refuse to listen to good advice, and just keep asking until they get the answer they want, many of the true advisers become frustrated and stop trying to help people.  When/if the experts stop advising, those that appreciate their help and those truly looking for accurate information pay the price.

SUBJECT SPECIFIC SITES WITH FORUMS:

Subject specific websites with forums typically have a hierarchy, labeled sections to find information about specific topics, the “discussion board” and actual articles written by experts, which are separate from the open sections.

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Instead of a free for all, where everyone’s comments are equal, a person can choose whether to ask the “public” via the discussion board, read an article specific to the information they seek that was written by someone with experience, or even contact a moderator or member privately.  Like a facebook group, the discussion boards are monitored by administrators (admin) and moderators, so that one negative person cannot ruin the experience for everyone else, and bad advice does not lead someone new to failure.  Admin can’t monitor 24 hours a day, but they can at least correct any issues once they have been alerted.  The forum is actually the section within the specialized site (sometimes called discussion board), in which people can choose a category and ask a question, or view questions others have asked previously.

The forum’s settings allow viewers to instantly see how long the person has been commenting or posting within the forum, and by clicking on the name, relevant information about the person is easily obtained. The labeled sections within the forum allow a user to ask questions and view previously asked questions about a specific area of discussion.  While any member of the site can comment in the forum section, a person has to sign up to become a member, making it easier for admin to control spam and trolls. This ensures that the information is much more likely to be accurate than the social media sites with no monitoring.  The article and other sections in the site will give even more clear information that is approved by the moderation team, and/or those considered “experts in their field”, and will not be clogged with differing options.  All information should be compared to other research, but an article that many veterans agree upon will likely be accurate.

 

Unfortunately, a specialized site can seem difficult to navigate initially, if someone is used to easy applications like facebook.  Restrictions are also put on the size of uploaded videos and pictures due to the administrative costs, and any person or group willing to pay for the hosting of the site can start up a specialized site with a forum.  Still, I think forums are probably the best place to ask a specific question, AFTER researching as much as possible on the side.    In my article-writing-quest as a “new keeper”, I searched multiple forums and sites, and was extremely excited to see some of the same names currently found in facebook groups, giving the same good advice 20 years ago on forums!

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However, while the reef site/forums are still widely and actively used by the reefing community, I was very disappointed to see that the seahorse website/forums are not very active, and have suffered greatly in comparison to the new online giants like facebook.

Seahorse.org inactive status.

When I looked last, the most recent post in the seahorse.org discussion forums were in October, 2017.  In the previous years, there were very few posts period, compared to 2007, when people were posting constantly. What happened to them? As a test, to see if there were still active members, I made a few posts. I was pleasantly surprised to find that each was responded to quickly.  Alas, the admin and I were the only 2 viewing the post. So the forum with the most experienced seahorse keepers, who used to be the end all to seahorse knowledge 10 years ago, now sits abandoned and empty.  The caring individuals who began these sites in hopes to help keepers at all levels are still available, but the majority of new keepers will turn to a faster response option like facebook.  Even the most reluctant veterans have caved into the pressures of our entitled, instant satisfaction seeking society and created facebook profiles to keep up with their audience and clients.  I recently had the pleasure of helping one such reluctant breeder get started on facebook.  After all the times he had helped me with my seahorses, I was thrilled to finally be able to assist him in some way, but the pleasure was clouded with disappointment at seeing him give into the pressures of social media.  When I originally asked him why he was not on facebook, he responded “it’s too crowded with opinion to effectively help anyone” . His words echoed in my ear when I witnessed a post in which he was trying to help someone with a sick seahorse, asking questions that would reveal the source of the problem, and finally asking the person to just call him, because so many other people kept commenting opinions and alternative advice.

While the older articles and posts on a forum might be a tad outdated, the information found within them far surpass the terrible advice I see constantly given on free-for-all type social media (except of course my groups :)).  In particular for seahorse keepers, the articles on seahorse.org and fusedjaw.com are extremely good, and any outdated information is typically labeled, with directions to updates.  Merely checking the date an article was written can help determine whether to take it at face value or not.

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Also an issue was the response time.  Most experts are still actually caring for animals or working in their field, versus waiting for someone to ask or answer a question on the internet.  Retired veterans who hang out just to help are beyond awesome for doing so, but even they have lives outside the internet.  So, the time between asking a question and getting an answer on a forum can sometimes be too long for an impatient, fearful person who just wants to help their seahorse.  Many times, this leads to taking the advise of anyone listening, versus getting advice from someone with experience and knowledge about the subject.

While the subject-specific sites with fantastic articles and discussion boards filled with experts sits silent, facebook is booming with participation.  Everyone sharing their opinions and experiences is obviously the point to social media, and I happen to love all of the outlets myself, but it can become very confusing to someone with a sick seahorse. In a more open atmosphere like facebook, there are no tiers, levels, or qualifying status symbols to tell everyone that the person giving advice is actually qualified to do so. Therefore, anyone can claim to be a seahorse expert, and either intentionally or not, give out bad information.

 

BOOKS:

More effort, time and money is involved in writing and publishing a book.  An author is compelled to provide accurate information in hopes of positive feedback, increasing future sales, and a having a good review written.  A good author will cite their references and/or refer to multiple personal experiences to verify their material. 5  There are many excellent books available these days that can help with almost any subject.  Personally, I own many seahorse guides and even more books regarding the saltwater aquarium, which I refer to frequently.  Books are fantastic for those basic guidelines that most veterans of the hobby agree upon.  Unfortunately, they can’t be edited once printed.  With the lightening speed at which science in general tends to change it’s mind, the material in a book can quickly become outdated.  As with online information, a good author’s advice will stand the test of time at least regarding the basics, and still be of value to a someone new to the subject.

When researching a new subject, a person lacks the advantage of recognizing names that have been repeatedly used in connection with success, so choosing an author can be a daunting task.   However, a quick search can show the other published work of the author and how long they have been in the field of which they speak.
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New methods and equipment are constantly being developed, but the tried and true advice of a veteran will at least be accurate, if a reader doesn’t attempt to mix methods.  I’d love to get into the issues that arise when new hobbyist try “mixing methods”, and how many people fail because they try to take what they want from situations, leaving important parts behind….but we’ll save that for another article.

SCHOLARLY SITES WITH JOURNALS

An online journal is basically a collection of articles, research projects and information about a specific subject, written and submitted by those working within the subject’s academic field.  To get an idea of the types of journals found online, this link has some very good charts.  Scholarly journals are excellent for keeping up to date on the latest research of a subject, and viewing what the experts in any field are working on.  However, they are more useful for verifying information or researching in depth topics versus finding answers to specific situational questions. So, while I could personally spend days writing about all of the things I’ve learned on research sites, I’ll merely describe them here, and explain what can be gained from them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s get the definitions out of the way:

A PUBLICATION is the release of information, in this case in written form online and/or in print.

A PERIODICAL for our purposes is a journal that is added to, edited or new issues are generated on a continual basis.

A PUBLISHER is defined by businessdictionary.com as “an individual or company whose primary role is to provide a connection between authors and the public.  They oversee the journal, controlling the advertising and deciding which articles are published.  Income they make from the journal is gained by either charging the author to submit the articles, charging the public to access the information, funding from universities, the government or donations, and/or charging advertisers to display ads on the journals.”

A JOURNAL is a collection of periodical publications.

Further comparison between the different types of journals more in depth can be found HERE – csuchico.edu.

 

Articles written by those considered experts, or at least those who take the time to research their theory or subject extensively MUST be the perfect place to look for information right?  Well, not always.  While I truly spend days on these sites because I enjoy researching and learning so much, there are some of things I dislike about scholarly journals and the research sites:

  1. Unless the publisher of the journal allows open access, the only way to view the material is via an institution or government agency that has paid for a subscription to the journal, or pay-to-view yourself.  While I have learned more than I could possibly imagine by using the DOAJ, I probably would not pay for access to a traditional journal, unless I were in the field and trying to submit my own articles.
  2. Open access journals, which do not require a subscription to view, have unfortunately led to predatory journals (these take, accept and publish every article without a rigorous peer review, in an effort to make money versus share information.  They charge academics fees to submit their articles, without providing the services of a traditional journal.  These types of journals hurt both readers and researchers, and undermine trust in the peer-review system.  Readers are fooled into thinking the information is true, and researchers lose credentials and money).
  3. While the research provided by published articles in journals are an excellent source of material, they are not meant to answer questions.  A search for seahorses in most of the aquaculture or nature type journals will result in many fascinating articles theories and studies.  However, they don’t help the average keeper with specific issues.
  4. The information is not guaranteed.  Unfortunately just like a published book, even the information in scholarly journals can become outdated or incorrect after new information is learned and proven through studies.  In fact, it’s supposed to.  The articles start off as guesses, hypothesis’ or theories, and the first published information will show a finding.  The expectation is that other scholars will choose to expand upon, disprove, or in some way change what was found in the first article.  A better term would be “truth for today based on what we know”, because the information is ever-changing.
  5. Specific to seahorse care, many scholarly articles will contain information about wild seahorses in the ocean, which is completely different from a captive bred seahorse in an aquarium.  While the information provided about seahorse anatomy, studies about their feeding patterns and etc are invaluable to learning about the different species overall, it won’t provide any insight into the needs of a seahorse in captivity.  We can definitely learn more about their nutritional needs, and overall behaviors, but not how to stop an aptasia outbreak.
  6. The peer-review system can be flawed.  While a person must have credentials and some knowledge of a subject before being published by in an academic journal,  even a scholar can set out to prove something, instead of actually searching for the truth.  The scholar doing the peer-review will (in theory) see this and reject the article, or suggest revisions that will make the findings more sound.  However, the scholar doing the review gets no compensation and might be distracted by their own work.  The review will be last on their priority list, resulting in poor review or rejection without basis.
  7. The articles are written by scholars for scholars, so a typical person can have a difficult time reading and interpreting the data.  The journals were not intended for hobbyists, and should not be used for anything other than research and comparison to advice from other sources.

TIPS TO ANALYZE INFORMATION

Now that we have discussed the pros and cons of the different sources of information, reviewed some different ways to search for proven information, understand that every source of information is not always accurate, and that we readers are responsible for verifying advice before taking action, (because we alone will suffer the consequences of listening to pretend experts), let’s look at some tips and questions to ask, that will help in obtaining only the best information!

First things first, a person must determine their Risk Tolerance Level, as it should be the most important filter of information and advice.  Whether a person is deciding how best to keep a seahorse tank, or deciding which school to send their child to, they must weigh the benefits, risks, and their tolerance of the results before even seeking advice.  This ensures that the person they obtain advice from is on the same level, or at least understands and is considerate of their level.

 

My definition of RISK TOLERANCE LEVEL is :  the level of risk a person is willing to take based on their tolerance of the outcome.  An example:  I do not keep other fish in my seahorse tanks, and do not mix species until I am certain they are all healthy based on my own observations.  The research I did on a seahorse’s immune system and advice from mentors helped me understand the possible consequences of mixing seahorses with other fish (the risk level).  If another fish were to hurt my seahorses, eat all the food causing my seahorses to starve or bring a parasite or pathogen to the tank that led to my seahorses becoming sick, I would be devastated (my tolerance level).  Many people keep other fish with their seahorses and never have issues.  They might just be lucky, they might have properly quarantined, used the tank transfer method and/or treated the fish prior to adding, or they might have added a ticking time bomb (parasitical and bacterial issues can take time to be actually seen).  Sometimes I see mixed seahorse/fish tanks that are really pretty and wish that I could add some fish to my tank.  More times than not, the mixed tanks I see online report a problem within a year of set up (this is not conclusive, merely observation, but reinforces my beliefs).  Although the risk is not a guarantee that every person who mixes seahorses with other fish will have problems, I care more about having healthy seahorses live for years in my care, than having a pretty fish.  Therefore, I choose to “play it safe” and keep species only seahorse tanks which minimize the risk (there you have it!  Risk tolerance level).  My risk tolerance level is ZERO, because I will not take any extra risks that might hurt my specific seahorses, whom I adoringly think of as children and would never want to replace.  Other people might not have the same risk tolerance level, and the risk to seahorses themselves does not mean as much to them, as they can tolerate replacing them if necessary.  This does not make them bad people, and I do my best not to judge.  HOWEVER, just as everyone has the right to their own beliefs and risk tolerance level, and I cannot (unfortunately) scream at people who put their seahorses in bad situations, I also have the right to use my articles to warn anyone who is not aware of the consequences.  ( I hope this made you smile Dan….I finally get it :)).

MY PERSONAL ADVICE FOR OBTAINING GOOD INFORMATION:

GET
R
E
A
L

CLICK THE LETTERS TO SEE WHAT THEY STAND FOR!

RESEARCH

EVERYTHING before, during and after making a decision (especially regarding seahorses)!  Look for information in many different places, comparing the similarities and differences within books, articles, forums and advisers before taking a question to social media.  Researching a topic before asking questions also helps people determine what information they actually want to obtain, allowing them to structure questions and further research around goals, versus aimlessly following someone else's lead.

EXAMINE

After researching and collecting information, examine the data for accuracy.  Check the date any written work was published, verify the author as a person qualified to give advice on the subject, and examine your own experience and risk tolerance levels to decide if the information or advice fits in with your goals, and/or is applicably to your situation. 

ANALYZE

Once the sources have been evaluated, analyze the author's motive for providing the advice or information, whether the information is backed up with references or experiences, if the information is logically sound, and/or if the arguments are dependent on rhetoric.

LEARN

Once good information or sources have been established, learn from the information instead of being swayed by a social media comment or advice that has not been verified. There's not much point in getting good help and advice with no intent to follow the directions.  A good mentor can make every step of seahorse keeping (or any other action) much easier, as long as their advice is taken and acted upon.  Just like a house is only as stable as it's foundation, a person's experiences, knowledge and success are only as good as the basic guidelines and principals they are built upon.  Especially in seahorse keeping, learning the proper set up basics, verifying whose advice is worth taking, and actually following the advice given will have multiple effects on long term success (including the ability to expand outside the guidelines successfully after gaining confidence through experience).

 

THE BOTTOM LINE:  Quick questions to ask about online information and advice

  • Is the advise meant for you?
  • Is the point of the post even to advise?
  • Is the setting right for the discussion (don’t take seahorse advice from a dog group)
  • Is the person who is posting advice or information credible?
    • Do you see their name often when seahorses are discussed
    • Do other people listen to them or recommend their advice?
    • Do they have an ulterior motive behind their recommendations (are they trying to sell you something)?
    • Do they make sense or do they argue with people a lot?
    • Do people agree with them often?
    • Do they admit mistakes?
    • Are they considerate of others’ opinions, but remain firm in their advice?
  • Are your experience, skill and risk tolerance levels the same?
  • Do you have a set up similar to theirs?  (many times there is a piece of equipment or supplement dosed that the person forgets to mention)
  • What are the possible consequences if the advise is incorrect?  Are you willing to risk them?
  • What are the benefits if the advice is correct?  Are they worth the consequences?

 

Below is a list of more extensive questions a reader can ask themselves about information to ensure that they only get the best.

WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH:  These are actions to take before even beginning to research:

  • Write a list of goals you want to accomplish (this could be as simple as “I want to learn more about how a skimmer works”, or as complex as “I want to learn how to keep seahorses healthy.”)
  • Determine how high these goals ranks on your priority list
  • Make a list of questions you want the research to answer (read them and see if they would make sense to you if someone else were asking)
  • Set a time period for research (give yourself time to really compare ideas before buying seahorses or even a tank to hold them).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Ways to verify credibility

Books and articles:

  • Has the author written and published other articles or books?
  • Is the author recommended by others? Are their ratings or reviews good?
  • Was the information reviewed or edited by a well known, credible source?
  • Does the author include contact information and stand behind his or her work?

On the internet:

  • Do you find the author or advisor in multiple locations, where others are taking their advice?
  • How long has the author been keeping/breeding/researching seahorses? (literally ask)
  • Does the author have any ulterior motive for sharing the information?  Are they trying to sell something or will they benefit if you take their advice?  Most vendors are good, so do they help people even when a sale is not involved.  (These are the vendors that I trust and buy from).
  • Do the author’s comments make sense or are they merely trying to argue?

THE DATE:  Determine if the information is out-dated or still valuable

Books and articles:

  • How recently was the article or book written?
  • Have any revisions or more recent information been added?
  • Do other’s still recommend buying the book or article?

On the internet:

  • How long has the website been online?  If the site is new, is the owner of the site well known in the hobby?
  • Does the site update regularly with new information?
  • Do questions directed at the website receive a timely response?
  • If there are no dates, does the information resemble other more current articles and have the same basic ideas?

 

ACCURACY OF INFORMATION:  Compare the collected information and look for similarities

Books and articles:

  • Are the basic ideas and guidelines similar to other recent articles or books by other experts?
  • Are examples, pictures and descriptions given to back up the information provided?

On the Internet:

  • When someone online is giving seahorse advice, a few simple questions can help establish whether they are qualified to do so:
    • How long have you been in the hobby or keeping seahorses? (if less than 2 years, take advice at your own risk)
    • How many failures have you experienced? (if they claim “none”……run)
    • Have you personally experienced a situation similar to mine?
    • Have you tried different methods and found this one to be the best, or was this the first method you tried, and it happened to work?
  • Do not mistake sharing for advice.  If you see a pretty picture and ask about the set up, the answers are not necessarily advice.
  • Does the person or company get tagged often on questions or posts related to the subject?
  • When asking for advice, have you determined that your experience and risk tolerance level are similar to the other person, or that they at least understand what you want?
  • Does the adviser ever admit that they do not know the answer? (this is a good thing.  Know-it-alls…..typically don’t know much-at-all :))
  • Are you using internet advice ONLY as a comparison to information already obtained through researching other media sources?

 

FINAL QUESTIONS BEFORE MAKING DECISIONS:  Questions to determine your desire and willingness to move forward.

  • Have you compared all the information and advice to your skill and risk tolerance levels, and found advisers or information that fits with your experience level?
  • Do you feel comfortable that all your questions have been answered?

Actions to get started:

  • Make a list of items you will need to properly set up a seahorse tank
  • Determine your willingness and financial ability to set up properly
  • Continue asking questions until you fully understand the answers!

 

CONCLUSION

Social media outlets and the internet itself provide huge opportunities to obtain and share information, that just were not available to seahorse keepers 20 years ago.  Along with the advances in captive breeding, the rise of conservation efforts, and technology offering new tools to professionals researching these magical creatures,  the ability to share and learn from other hobbyists, breeders and experts quickly via the internet has greatly influenced and increased the probability of aquarists successfully keeping seahorses in home aquariums.  I am extremely grateful every time an issue is resolved quickly because I was able to reach out for help, research options via multiple sources, and find solutions without ever leaving my desk. Every time a new keeper overcomes fears, issues and illnesses, and the basic guidelines get them started on the right path because they received help quickly online, I do a happy dance of joy (I should probably have included a video).  My heart skips a beat every time I see someone use my videos or articles to explain or help another new keeper, and my faith in humanity rises as more and more take up the captive breeding and conservation causes that are striving to save the ocean’s seahorses.  Unfortunately, I’m also tagged constantly on posts in which the pretend experts lead someone to failure and another seahorse is lost unnecessarily.  Too many times, good information is confused or drowned out by the bad.

Even more unfortunately, this “instant click to information” also shortened the time available to information providers to research, verify and write articles.  Most articles have gotten shorter, more vague and less verified.  In addition, the increase in competition stemming from the ease at which anyone can provide information caused a huge decline in ethical and truthful reporting.  To be the “first” to report something now outweighs writing or presenting truthful information, and even the professional journalists can no longer be trusted without verification.  Unbiased, accurate reporting has taken a backseat to ratings, “likes” and followers.  The excellent sites and people who stand by their values, and won’t publish material until it has been deemed accurate have my utmost respect.  I firmly believe that as time goes on, more and more people will return to demanding quality over quantity, and the respectable will be the last standing.

As intelligent people, we must step out of our comfort zone (likely influenced by our internet bubble) and look beyond the surface of any presented information.  We must be open to other opinions and ideas instead of being trapped in our own perception of truth, but also understand how little value is placed on accuracy these days. It’s time to GET REAL! Researching, evaluating, analyzing and learning before making decisions will result in higher success rates and convince more to stop listening to everything the see and read online.  The pretend experts never last long, but even one person’s failure due to bad advice is one too many.  The more that people demand truth, the faster they fake news will fall.

If this article, or the tips for evaluating information has helped you find new ways to view information and advice to ensure accuracy, please comment your thoughts!  Share any tips you might have for evaluating information also, and even if you completely disagree with me, I want to hear what you think and why.

CITATIONS

[mla-start]CITATIONS

Qin, G., Wang, X., Tan, S. and Lin, Q. (2017), A bacterial infection by Vibrio harveyi causing heavy reduction of cultured lined seahorse Hippocampus erectus. J Fish Dis, 40: 601–605. doi:10.1111/jfd.12533.  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jfd.12533/abstract

Oliveira, T. P. R., Ladich, F., Abed-Navandi, D., Souto, A. S. and Rosa, I. L. (2014), Sounds produced by the longsnout seahorse: a study of their structure and functions. J Zool, 294: 114–121. doi:10.1111/jzo.12160.  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jzo.12160/abstract

Li, F., Wang, K., Luo, W., Huang, L. and Lin, Q. (2015), Comparison of the Intestinal Bacterial Flora in Healthy and Intestinal-diseased Seahorses Hippocampus trimaculatusHippocampus erectus, and Hippocampus spinosissimus. J World Aquacult Soc, 46: 263–272. doi:10.1111/jwas.12189.  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jwas.12189/abstract

T. H. Leung, Dilys & Chu, Simon. (2018). Measurement of Oxidative Stress: Mitochondrial Function Using the Seahorse System. Methods in Molecular Biology. 285-293. 10.1007/978-1-4939-7498-6_22.

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“LibGuides: Google Scholar: Understanding Scholar.” Understanding Scholar - Google Scholar - LibGuides at University of Pittsburgh, 2 Oct. 2017, pitt.libguides.com/googlescholar.

Burns, Judith.  "Fake news: Universities offer tips on how to spot it".  November 09, 2017.  BBC NEWS.  http://www.bbc.com/news/education-41902914

"Create a free website".  Wix.com, Inc 2016 - 2018.  https://www.wix.com/

 "Care sheet for captive bred seahorses".  Seahorse.org. Seahorse dot org limited.  http://www.seahorse.org/library/articles/SeahorseFactsAndInfo.pdf.   Accessed January 05, 2018

Shirley, Randall. "How do you learn". Worldwidelearn. August 05, 2010. https://www.worldwidelearn.com/education-articles/how-do-you-learn.htm.

“Free-For-All.” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper Limited, 4 May 2013. Web. <http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21577035-open-access-scientific-publishing-gaining-ground-free-all>

Davis, Wynne. "Fake or real?  How to self-check the news and get the facts."  All tech considered. December 05, 2016.  Tech, culture, and connection.  NPR Wifi public radio.  https://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/12/05/503581220/fake-or-real-how-to-self-check-the-news-and-get-the-facts.

Gentry, Keith.  "Advice you might be given by your local fish shop about seahorses".  Seahorse.org. Seahorse dot org limited. http://www.seahorse.org/library/articles/LFS_guide.shtml.  Accessed January 05, 2018

"Welcome to the seahorse.org article library".  Seahorse.org.  Seahorse dot org limited.  http://www.seahorse.org/library/articles/library/library.shtml.  Accessed January 01, 2018

"Don't panic - discussion boards". Seahorse.org. Seahorse dot org limited. http://forum.seahorse.org/. Accessed December 21, 2017

"Articles".  Fusedjaw.com.  WordPress.  http://fusedjaw.com/articles/.  Accessed December 27th, 2017

"Seahorse talk - forums".  Fusedjaw.com.  WordPress.  http://seahorsetalk.fusedjaw.com/.  Accessed January 4th, 2018.

Weiss, Tami.  Facebook comment quote. Seahorses & Pipefish group.   November 24, 2017.  https://www.facebook.com/groups/Seahorses.Pipefish/

Weiss, Tami.  "10 things you should know before keeping seahorses as pets".  April 13, 2009.  Fusedjaw.com.  WordPress.  https://fusedjaw.com/aquariumcare/10-things-you-should-know-about-keeping-seahorses-as-pets/

Weiss, Tami.  "A modern guide to buying seahorses".  April 14/2013.  Fusedjaw.com.  WordPress.  https://fusedjaw.com/aquariumcare/a-modern-guide-to-buying-seahorses/

Panocha, Beth.  "Aquarium Fish: Seahorse Care: A Basic Guide To Starting Your First Herd."  December 2014.  Advanced Aquarist.  Volume III.  Pomacanthus Publications, LLC. Plone & Python. http://www.advancedaquarist.com/2004/12/fish2

Kull, Dorcas.  "Setting up a seahorse tank".  March 26, 2013.  Youtube.com.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYj3-E4KFfw

Mohrman, Eric.  "How to set up your aquarium for seahorses".  Pets on mom.me.  2017 Whalerock digital media, llc.

Cunningham, John.  "The seahorse aquarium".  August 04, 2009.  Aquarists online.  Simply Saltwater.  http://www.aquaristsonline.com/blog/general/the-seahorse-aquarium/

"How to set up a seahorse aquarium."  Marine Depot. August 14, 2013.  https://blog.marinedepot.com/2014/08/seahorse-aquarium-how-to.html

“ResearchGate - Hire and Advertise to Scientists and Researchers.” ResearchGate Business Solutions, solutions.researchgate.net/.

“Share and Discover Research.” ResearchGate, www.researchgate.net/.

“Using Google Scholar with NCSU Libraries.” Google Scholar | NCSU Libraries, www.lib.ncsu.edu/articles/google-scholar/.

“Google Scholar.” Google Scholar | University Library, library.csustan.edu/google-scholar.

Doaj. “Directory of Open Access Journals.” Directory of Open Access Journals, doaj.org/.

"Types of Journals." Center for innovation and research in teaching.  Grand Canyon University. Proprofs.  https://cirt.gcu.edu/research/developmentresources/research_ready/publicationready/journaltypes

BOOKS:

Hornsby, Tom. “So You Want to Keep Seahorses Paperback – March 5, 2016.” So You Want to Keep Seahorses: Tom Hornsby: 9781530002818: Amazon.com: Books, www.amazon.com/So-you-want-keep-seahorses/dp/1530002818.

Sprung (Author),‎ Julian, Charles Delbeek.  “The Reef Aquarium: A Comprehensive Guide to the Identification and Care of Tropical Marine Invertebrates (Volume 1) Hardcover – July, 1994.” The Reef Aquarium: A Comprehensive Guide to the Identification and Care of Tropical Marine Invertebrates (Volume 1): Julian Sprung, Charles Delbeek: 9781883693121: Amazon.com: Books, www.amazon.com/Reef-Aquarium-Comprehensive-Identification-Invertebrates/dp/1883693128.

Media, Mountain. “Plankton Culture Manual.” BrineShrimpDirect, www.brineshrimpdirect.com/Plankton-Culture-Manual-p185.html.

Hoff, Frank. “Plankton Culture Manual - Sixth Edition Paperback – February 20, 2007.”Plankton Culture Manual - Sixth Edition: Frank H. Hoff, Terry W. Snell: 9780966296044: Amazon.com: Books, www.amazon.com/Plankton-Culture-Manual-Frank-Hoff/dp/0966296044.

Hornsby, Tom. “1: So You Want to Keep Dwarf Seahorses Paperback – April 3, 2016.” 1: So You Want to Keep Dwarf Seahorses: Tom Hornsby: 9781530426997: Amazon.com: Books, www.amazon.com/you-want-keep-dwarf-seahorses/dp/1530426995.

French, Mike. “Seahorses For Beginners Paperback – March 2, 2017.” Seahorses For Beginners: Mike French: 9781544028224: Amazon.com: Books, www.amazon.com/Seahorses-Beginners-Mike-French/dp/1544028229.

Moe, Martin. “Marine Aquarium Handbook: Beginner to Breeder Paperback – September 1, 2009.” Marine Aquarium Handbook: Beginner to Breeder: Martin A. Moe: 9780982026212: Amazon.com: Books, www.amazon.com/Marine-Aquarium-Handbook-Beginner-Breeder/dp/0982026218.

Wittenrich, Matthew L. The Complete Illustrated Breeder's Guide to Marine Aquarium Fishes: Mating, Spawning & Rearing Methods for Over 90 Species. TFH Publications, Inc, 2007.

BREEDER SITES:

Underwood, Dan.  "Introduction".  Seahorsesource.com.  Seahorse Source, LLC 2018.  http://seahorsesource.com/?page_id=821

Gabriel, Alyssa.  "Seahorse Basic care information."  Seahorsesavvy.com.  Seahorse Savvy 2018.  Shopify.  https://seahorsesavvy.com/pages/basic-care-information

FACEBOOK GROUPS:

Seahorses & pipefish: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Seahorses.Pipefish/
Seahorses: Help and advice: https://www.facebook.com/groups/seahorsehelp/
Seahorse keeping made fun: https://www.facebook.com/groups/seahorsekeepingmadefun/

FORUM QUOTATIONS:

Underwood, Dan.  DanU.  Seahorsesource.com.  Seahorse.org/forums.

Taylor, Cheryl.  Seahorse.org/forums.

Ford, Ray. Rayjay. Seahorse.org/forums.

[mla-end]

I went a tad overboard with the citations, because crediting authors and content providers is extremely important to me.  Journal articles from DOAJ -  Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license