Someone told me recently, "Man, what a great idea you came up with, using all of those seeds and leaves and stuff in aquariums! This is so cool!"
I was totally flattered...then I had to set him straight.
I immediately had to tell him that Tannin absolutely did NOT "invent" the concept of using botanical materials in aquariums. I explained to him that the idea of using leaves, seed pods, etc. is not "new"- it's been around for many years. We didn't "come up with" the idea. What Tannin has done, is to survey, curate, collate, and refine their collection, and use in aquariums. We've taken the concept that was already there to some extent, and elevated it with lots and lots of experimentation, technique, a passion for the aesthetic, ideas, a bit of romance, and a fascination with the utility of these materials-and created a more concise, cohesive, and "one-stop-shop" for your aquatic botanical needs.
In short, we innovated, based upon some ideas that were already there.
And in the process, we've developed an inclusive, unique brand, and most important- recruited a growing, global community of like-minded aquarists who have helped us to follow up on our core mission to become "...more than just a purveyor of aquatic goods. We’re a mood, an atmosphere, a space to be. A living breathing, creative canvas to express yourself."
And for that, we've been called "innovative" many, many times. We'll take that, with some qualifications.
What we were jokingly referring to as the "New Botanical" style has become just that- a style. A "movement" within the hobby, fostered by many passionate hobbyists who are interested in a new form of aquatic creativity. Many of you already dabbled in the idea, and were looking for a "home." YOU- the hobbyists of the world, are actively creating and forwarding the art, style, technique- and movement...every single day. All we did was share our passion and curate the concepts, romance the ideas.
You're running with it.
Tannin is a sort of example for aquarists in that you don't have to start with a completely "blank slate" to create meaningful change and to create innovative ideas within the aquarium hobby. There is no shortage of examples of this in our hobby "history"
I mean, it may come as a shock to some to realize that Takashi Amano did not "invent" aquascaping. What he did was identify a sense of style, technique, and aesthetic that he felt was lacking at the time, and used his unique artist background to develop a particular style of aquascaping, developing techniques and refining ideas which literally changed the face of the hobby. Amano didn't "invent" the idea of aquascaping. He elevated it, perfected it- through use of technique, passion, and creative thinking.
The greatest aquascaper of our time didn't "invent" aquascpaing. He innovated.
Other hobby innovations have been spurred by technological achievements, yet have been no less impactful. An example from recent history is the modern reef aquarium hobby. Hobbyists played around with corals and invertebrates for years, albeit with varying degrees of success. Much was unknown, access to animals was limited, and most important, the survivability of the animals was low. Keeping water quality high was challenging with the equipment and technique of the day.
Then along came a guy named George Smit, who found inspiration in the way wastewater is treated, and the way Japanese koi ponds were filtered for decades. He thought to himself, "What if we adapt that idea of creating an aquarium-sized unit that works by trickling water over a filter media which harbors a film of bacteria? They can consume the waste rapidly and help create very high quality water for corals..."
(Okay, maybe he didn't think it exactly like that)
However, he did "put 2 and 2 together", coupled it with the use of live rock (something that hobbyists had also dabbled with for years) and came up with the concept of the aquarium trickle filter and fostering bacteria within the rock to help serve as "biological filtration." Soon, high quality, lower-nutrient conditions were available to hobbyists worldwide. An entire industry and hobby movement sprung up around his "Minireef" idea. Further refinements occurred. Some 30 years on, large numbers of corals, fishes, and invertebrates are propagated in captivity on a regular basis. People who have never seen the ocean can have a tropical reef in their own living rooms.
Smit didn't "invent" the idea of trickle filters, nor the practice of keeping corals and fish in the aquarium. Rather, he saw a something that was working already, refined it, improved it- innovated- and in the process, inspired an entire generation by helping foster that first breakthrough.
Every day, thousands of hobbyists like you and I, around the world, are doing things that, perhaps unbeknownst to themselves, are helping innovate and shape the future of the hobby.
Fish breeders are forging new techniques, spawning and rearing species that were never before spawned. Aquariums are being built which will highlight a species of fish never before given a chance to shine, perhaps unlocking the door to more and more breakthroughs in husbandry and care. Aquatic plants are being grown in unique ways, and fishes extinct in the wild are being bred and distributed, perhaps giving their species a chance to survive into the future. New aesthetic concepts are emerging.
Innovation, and of itself, is a dynamic concept. It's hard to quantify. But it's there. And it often happens right before our very eyes, initiated and perfected by ourselves...We just don't always make that connection, because we focus on the finished idea, not all of the subtle little breakthroughs and iterations along the way that lead up to it. New innovations often build on existing ideas or concepts in practice. Sometimes from necessity- other times, out of a simple desire to improve. Sometimes out of frustration.
Often, out of sheer genius.
Innovation has been happening like this for millions of years. No sense in stopping now!
YOU are innovating. Every single day. Everything that you do contributes to the body of knowledge, the state of the art, and the refining of technique.
I salute each and every hobbyist- every single one of you. I celebrate our collective enthusiasm, passion, and desire to share. Your ideas, passion, and enthusiasm are an inspiration to all of today's fellow hobbyists, and to those as yet unborn.
Stay innovative. Stay creative. Stay passionate about what you do.
And Stay Wet.