Builders of dreams...Packing correctly for the roads less travelled...

This blog sort of arose because someone asked me about how Tannin Aquatics came to be...I guess you'd say that the background idea presented here is an integral part of our "creation story"...deeply rooted in the very essence of being a hardcore, practicing aquarium hobbyist, absolutely tied to the creative process. 

FACT:  Yup. You may not know this: I'm the ultimate aquarium designer/builder. 


I Know it sounds a bit arrogant, but it's true.

I've tried crazy ideas no one has ever really executed: Simulated underground cave systems for Astyanax mexicanus, vivarium-style tanks with tiny puddles of water and  hollowed-out moist logs for keeping jumping Rivulus, deep Mangrove mud flats, temperate tide pools, Micronesian "rock islands', flooded South American grasslands, bubbling hot springs for the Devil's Hole Pupfish, etc.

Yeah, crazy-cool concept stuff.

Built 'em all.

Okay, well, sort of. Well, not really...I mean, I built 'em...I've solved every plumbing issue, schemed out filtration systems, sourced components, made modifications to tanks...all that stuff.

Well, sort of. I mean, I "built" them in my head!

I guess it was Walt Disney's guys back in the 1950's that developed the idea of "imaginareeing"- coming up with crazy theoretical ideas and seeing if they could turn them into reality. It certainly brought some cool concepts into the the world..or at least, into Disneyland!

And free thinking outside of conventional boundaries is pretty cool, IMHO. I look at what some of you have accomplished when freeing yourself from conventionality, and can't help but smile.

Yeah, I know that, by simply free-thinking, I've "designed" and "built" some insane stuff! 

And believe it or not, I did actually execute some of it over the years; sort of went through the design process and even some of the "proof-of-concept" in my mind, without spilling a drop of water, before heading down to the hardware store to buy all sorts of stuff. There is actually a certain "luxury" you can enjoy by doing this. It may not be initially as satisfying as just going for it, but for those of us who might be somewhat "DIY-challenegd", actually "building the tank" in our minds helps us see the unforeseen challenges that we might encounter once we forge ahead. Plus, it can help you fall asleep when you have a bout of insomnia, trust me!

I've had dozens of occasions when I thought of a complex, yet elegant way to execute something, only to find that there was a much easier way that was sort of "right in my face"- the downside to getting "hyper-innovative", I suppose! I literally would have "reinvented the wheel" (and not always in a good way, either!) instead of embracing the better, extant solution!

I suspect every hobbyist does this to some extent, right?

I know the truly great aquascapers do it a lot: select and build aquariums in their mind, consciously or subconsciously, before they begin the actual work.

(George Farmer...visionary AND executionist!)

I mean, you kind of have to, right? Although, are there any "seat of the pants" tank builders out their? I mean, you just get a tank at the LFS or where ever, look around for stuff to put in it, and start building?

If you do, that's a whole different set of talents, and demonstrates a resolve that's pretty crazy! Not to mention, you've got a sense of spontaneity that's quite inspiring! However, you are definitely square in the minority! You cool cats in same-day tank build That's not easy. Hat's off to you crazies!

One of the things I like best about what we did at Tannin is that we evolved out of me having to solve a "pain point" in my design process: For a long time, it was hard to source, aggregate, and work with a lot of natural materials for many of the "alternative" aquarium projects I wanted to do. I literally spent months trying to source these things. The company arose very organically out of my own desire to solve a problem that used to drive me crazy. I figured, if this stuff bothered me- it might just bother some other hobbyists who like to try out new ideas. And might inspire a few others to play with this stuff a bit.

And I think we were right!

It's fun to take the roads less travelled- even more fun when you have the right stuff in your suitcase!

That's really what we're about: Helping you "pack correctly" for the journey! And that's really fun to me, because it frees you up to do what you do best- execute on your cool ideas, and share them with our growing global "tint nation!" We started with blackwater, and as you can see, we're working with customers who play with vivariums, cichlid aquariums, fry rearing systems, and next month, brackish!

We're pretty excited about "estuary", because again, it arose out of a desire to solve some pain points for us, and gives us a chance to not only give some love to a sort of "neglected" segment of the aquarium hobby- the brackish water aquarium- it gives us the opportunity to properly equip brackish water enthusiasts with a different set of tools than they might have had previously- in one place...and therefore, the ability to apply some slightly different thinking and execution to the formerly "white and grey" popular concept of a brackish water aquarium habitat! 

And we'll keep bringing you new stuff each year...2018 has it's own "pivot" concept as well. "Alternative style" aquariums are hear to stay. Stay tuned! 

I suppose the best thing about  "building" these "thought aquariums" is that you can sort of imagine the process, and visualize not only the finished product, but the potential issues you'll have along the way- without leaks, rock cave-ins, and dead fishes. You can think through the exotic...and even the mundane- all without needing a single least until it comes time to execute. 

Sure, eventually it becomes time to pull the trigger, and when it does, you've at least had the chance to visualize some of the more obvious- and maybe a few less obvious- potential pitfalls of your design- perhaps encouraging "edits" before you even start the process! 

My biggest problem always has been the lack of time, aquarium space, and resources to pull off every crazy idea floating around in my mind. I suppose it definitely impacts many of you, too! That's why I've had these "build offs" in my head between competing concepts, in which the "winner" ends up being the one I built. Not the most satisfying thing- 'cause I want to build 'em all...but practicality reigns, right?

What ideas are floating around in that "dream fish room" in your head? And which ones will you bring to life soon?

Keep dreaming. Keep scheming. Keep "executing" on some of those crazy ideas...even if they're only "built" in the dark recesses of your imagination between 11:00PM and 6:00AM...At some point, you'll have the means and to make them reality. 

And we'll be here to help you pack your suitcase accordingly.

Pleasant journey.

Stay creative. Stay innovative. Stay passionate...

And Stay Wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics 






Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


2 Responses

Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman

April 25, 2017

Must. Have. Amazonian. Livebearer… :)


April 24, 2017

I’d have to say that I’m an “adapter”, or even an “evolver”… I start with an idea, build it, cycle it, get the flora and fauna… then something happens. Either I get an idea, or need an environmental shift to happen, or find out that my fish or shrimp is an oddball with wierd behavior needs, or hear about an advanced or fringe DIY technique… then I spend hours doing research, A/Bing ideas, before doing what I need to do. Then, a week later, I do it all again. God bless my wife for putting up with the constant stream of rocks, sand, gravel, leaves, twigs and branches, buckets, and other bizarre aquarium props through our small apartment.

I would say that right now I’m quite happy with how my southeast Asian-themed tank is developing (there is an imminent bladder snail outbreak at hand that needs to be dealt with – kuhli loaches, perhaps?) and I have moved all my apple snails to a new hardscaped tank that will likely also home some white cloud minnows (So much for consolidation! You were right!) but I always have future ideas on the brain. Perhaps an oddball brackish fish like a mudskipper or a frogfish, or maybe my LFS will get some new species of Amazonian livebearer straight from the guy who discovered it like last year… So many possibilities, so little space!

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