Before I began in the pet industry, I went to school for music (my first pet store experience was a part time job while I was in college). Every now and then, I have an overwhelming desire to re-immerse myself in that part of my life and will stop listening to contemporary music and go back to the great classics. Not too long ago, I decided that I would go through and try to listen to the Beethoven Symphonies, many of which I have never sat down and listened all the way through.

While listening to the 9th Symphony, from which the incredibly famous "Ode to Joy" tune comes, I was amazed by two things: that I was shockingly unfamiliar with the vast majority of the symphony, and how incredibly challenging it was to listen objectively to the choral finale that features arguably one of the most famous melodies of all time. It was almost impossible to separate the experience of listening to the entire piece from all the times that I had heard the tune in the past. From cartoons to movies to church services to countless other times throughout my life, that melody has made an appearance, and the result was that the music had accumulated so much baggage that it was difficult to not subconsciously recall the many times I had heard it. I started to think of other examples where I find it difficult to shed the baggage that immense popularity has heaped onto certain pieces of music (while I think it is a great song, I have a hard time listening to Bohemian Rhapsody because of how almost cliché it has become). It also struck me that in my current field there are many examples of the same thing happening.

We all know certain fish that have been hugely popular in the hobby for so long that a certain mindset has developed surrounding them. They are the fish that many of us remember from our childhood (or at least our younger days). As a result, many of us tend to overlook them in favor of more recently introduced or "more exciting" species, regardless of the true charm and character of those fish. They are the fish that are so incredibly hardy that almost everybody has them in their first tank, giving them a stigma of being "beginner" fish. They are the fish that are sold in huge numbers across the country, yet are grossly underrated among "serious" hobbyists.

The humble goldfish (Carassius auratus) is one such example of this. Objectively, C. auratus should be a highly desirable fish. It is incredibly hardy (as demonstrable by the amount of abuse these fish have survived through the years), easy to care for, has nice and bright colorations, can be incredibly personable to their keepers, and grow to a relatively large, yet not unmanageable size. While the fancy varieties (such as the Ranchu Lionheads) have developed something of a cult following, they are by and large looked down upon by a huge segment of fish keepers. After all, how many millions (or perhaps even billions) of these fish have been given away at fairs and carnivals, bought to go into a child's fishbowl, or used as feeders for large cichlids and catfish? While there are certainly fans of goldfish of all types (including the basic Comet), most hobbyists look down upon them and have no desire to own "just a goldfish."

Similarly, the Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi) is another fish that is often undervalued, I think largely due to how long it has been a central part of the hobby. I remember the first aquarium my family owned, a relatively short-lived aquarium over twenty years ago containing Neon Tetras, Pink Kissing Gouramis, Angelfish, and a common Plecostomus (pretty much the standard aquarium in those days). Despite the beauty of the humble Neon Tetra (the bright blue and red are almost as brilliantly colored as freshwater fish get), their ubiquity still causes them to be overlooked in favor of something "more interesting."

Another fish that has a hard time shaking the mental baggage that has been heaped upon it is the Molly (Poecilia sp.). While originally hailing from brackish waters, the Molly is so incredibly hardy that it is capable of adapting to almost any water condition from complete freshwater to fully saltwater. This makes it particularly well suited to the average home tank using dechlorinated tap water that may be highly variable from one town (or even one home) to the next. They are also very easy to breed, often resulting in a large number of unplanned (and sometimes undesired) babies. For many new aquarists, mollies are the first fish they are able to achieve a high degree of success in keeping. This has given them an almost unfair stigma as a "beginner" fish, unworthy of being kept by serious hobbyists.

I am certainly not going to sit here and tell everybody that they need to get rid of their tanks of unusual South American Cichlids or breeding colonies of Discus or oddball freshwater gobies. These fish have their own charm and their own sets of challenges and rewards when keeping. What I would suggest, though, is that we all try to make the effort to look past our preconceptions and prejudices towards these fish and see what they bring to the aquarium hobby. These are not fish that have stuck around despite their shortcomings, they are truly great species that played such an important part in aquarium keeping that they have been thoroughly and completely ingrained in the very fabric of the hobby.