Botanicals in proper "context."

I'm really excited to see so many people experimenting with the idea of using botanical materials in their aquariums. It's been an interesting ride in Tannin's first year. The idea of using leaves and such in our tanks is definitely not new. We didn't invent it; nor, have we "perfected" it. However, I am rather proud of the fact that we are helping to popularize experimenting with it.

We understand that there are those of you who will purchase some of our botanicals, prepare them pr our instructions (or not, yikes...), toss them into your aquariums, and hate what happens next. You'll hate the look. You might hate the fact that there was no spontaneous miracle with your previously "unspawnable" Apistogramma species suddenly guarding a clutch of eggs two days later (yeah, I've had a couple of people complain about that! Really!). Some of you will be appalled at the fact that the water in your tank is turning a light brown...Some of you will not follow instructions, add everything at once, rapidly change the environment of a stable, long-established aquarium, and kill your fishes. Yeah, I expect that.

Some of you will want to see what all the "fuss" is about, and experiment with adding the botanicals to your tank, and you'll just be unimpressed, uninterested, and otherwise turned off by the results. Still others will be very excited about the idea, with plans to create a cool "Igarape" biotope, carefully select, prepare, and place your botanicals, only to be turned off as soon as the first evidence of biofilm or leaf decay shows itself. Out go the botanicals...back to the white sand, CO2, and plants.

It's okay. I get it.

As I've said to the point of probably turning some of you off- the concept of botanical-dominated aquarium requires you to make a mental shift to a different aesthetic. Some of you are not interested, not excited, or simply not capable of handling it. And that's okay. For the small percentage of you who make that mental "shift" and "get it", the rewards are huge. And the potential for cool results, unlimited!

I think that we've discussed a lot about the concept of using botanicals in your aquarium, but not much about context. Yeah, context.

You know, like using materials that would make sense in certain kinds of situations. For example, if you're trying to replicate an Amazonian stream or a Peruvian Morichal, there are different types of botanicals you'd want to employ, and different ways you'd employ them.

A classic "Igarape" is often replete with branches, seed pods, and a few leaves.

A small forest stream might have a very thick leaf litter bed, and the fish population there might be somewhat different. A morichal would have an accumulation of different materials in a different density than you might find in a flowing stream, river, or other tributary. The water might be clear instead of brown.


If you're intending to use botanicals to help create a specialized environment for a certain type of fish, then you need to consider context. You need to consider what would be found in the fish's natural environmental niche, and how the fishes would utilize the materials found there. For shelter? Food? Foraging? Or, are the materials simply "there", influencing the water chemistry parameters?

All of these can influence how you might want to incorporate the botanicals in your aquarium.


And acceptance. Acceptance of the many nuances of a botanical-influenced aquarium. 

I think that, if you can make those mental shifts, and appreciate what botanicals can do for an aquarium in proper context, the potential to create greatness is huge. I really do.

Make the mental adjustments. Think through the context. Make the mental shift.

Create greatness.

And stay wet.

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics


Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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