It’s fun to bring you new ideas- and rehash old ones- in this blog every day. Sometimes, we publish a piece that really resonates…Like yesterday’s piece, where we featured some of the amazing pics our friend Mike Tucc captured during a trip to the Rio Negro. I’ve noticed a trend with articles and pics about the wild biotopes where our fishes come from: They are very popular!
And this is very interesting to me, because in the current aquarium aquascaping game, the focus seems to be on so-called “Nature Style” aquariums, which, in my opinion, are more of a sort of abstracted, idealized interpretation of nature, featuring immaculate aquariums and beautiful, precise planting and rockwork. Yet, if you study the aquarium media, the interest in “biotope-type” aquariums seems to be increasing.
We receive so many PM's, emails, phone calls, and other inquiries from hobbyists when we run pieces featuring pics and discussions about natural environments as topics for modeling our aquaria that it's not even funny! In my own rebellious way, I can't help but think that part of this enthusiasm is that the hobby in general has a bit of a rebellious streak, too, and that maybe, just maybe- we're a bit well, "over" the idea of the "rule-centric", mono-stylistic, dogmatic thinking that has dominated the aquascaping world for the better part of a decade.
Maybe it's time to look at nature as an inspiration again- but to look at nature as it exists- not trying to sanitize it; clean it up to meet our expectations of what an aquarium is "supposed to look like." And by the same token, not going to the other extreme-trying to validate every twig, rock, and plant in a given habitat, as if we're being "scored" by some higher power- a universal "quality assurance team"- which must certify that each and every rock and branch is, indeed from the Rio Manacapuru or your work is just a "fake."
Rather, maybe it's time to take inspiration from reality. Maybe it's time for us to once and for all understand that things are not aesthetically "perfect" in nature, in the sense of being neat and orderly from a "design" aspect. Understanding that, yeah, in nature, you have rocks and materials scattered about on the bottom of streams. Accepting the appearance of biofilms, murky water, algae, decomposing botanical materials, and that these things occur in our aquariums, too, and can be managed to take advantage of their benefits. You know, as supplemental food sources, "nurseries" for fry, and as interesting little ways to impart beneficial humic substances and dissolved organics into the water.
Don't misunderstand me. I'm not attacking "the establishment" and saying that every perfectly manicured competition aquascape sucks. I'm not saying that if a tank doesn't have blackwater, biofilms, and brown leaves that it's "uninspired." I'm merely questioning the high level of esteem the aquascaping world seems to attach to conforming to a rigid style, replicating the work of others, and being rather close-minded to the work of hobbyists who try something different.
Some of the most amazing comments we received after the post yesterday were from hobbyists who at first thought that some of the wild Rio Negro pics were from someones' aquarium! And in a few instances, that some of the close ups of botanical-themed aquaria were virtually indistinguishable from wild scenes!
Blurring the lines between nature and the aquarium, at the very least, from an aesthetic sense- and in many aspects, from a "functional" sense, proves just how far today's hobbyists have come...how good you are at what you do. And how much more you can do when you turn to nature as an inspiration.
I'm not telling you to turn your back on the modern popular aquascaping scene; to develop a sense of superiority or snobbery, and that everyone is a sheep...
I'm simply passing along the gentle reminder from nature that we have this great source of inspiration that really works! Rejoice in the fact that nature offers an endless variety of beauty, abundance, and challenge- and that it's all there, free for us to interpret it as we like.
Some of us just happen to like things bit more "natural" than others...
Blur the lines.
Take pride in what you do. Don't let dogma and "what's cool" distract you from doing what you love. Embrace, enjoy, and accept the thoughts, attitudes, and works of others, while constantly questioning and striving.
Find what makes your heart sing, and do it. You'll never be "wrong."
Stay on course. Stay bold. Stay inspired. Stay humble. Stay fascinated.
And Stay Wet.