As we discuss regularly here, using leaves and botanicals in your aquaecapes is hardly a new thing. Hobbyists have been playing with them for years.
Something feels a bit different about the concept right now. Something more adventurous, exciting. And attainable.
I think that what we're starting to see more and more of is an understanding of the dynamics of botanicals, particularly leaf litter, in aquariums. An appreciation for the multiple benefits they provide (water tint, biological diversity, supplemental food, substrate for microorganism growth, and of course, a unique, natural aesthetic.).
With more and more people playing with leaves and other botanicals, we're seeing a larger "body of work", and more important, a realization that certain things will occur when you utilize them in aquariums ( such water "tinting", formation of biofilms, decomposition, etc.), just as in nature.
The mental shift taking place is because we as hobbyists understand that these types of "New Botanical"-style aquariums embrace, the occurrence of these processes, and that they are perfectly natural, not dangerous, and indeed, to some extent, controllable and manageable in the aquarium. We're not seeing "fear and loathing" of these dynamics; rather, they are becoming an understood and accepted part of the aesthetic.
We're seeing more an more aquariums that truly look like niches in the natural environment, with materials and processes being highlighted within them that are far less "sterile-looking" than what has previously been offered to us as a "natural-style" aquarium.
We see more hobbyists observing the natural environment, through photographs, videos, and even dive trips, which is providing us with more inspiration than we've ever had before....And when combined with the availability of materials to mimic these niches, you're seeing all sorts of new creativity!
For perhaps the first time, utilizing "transient" botanical materials like leaves is being seen as a legitimate aquascaping component, not just an "accessory" to an "Amazonian-themed" tank.
In other words, we are seeing hobbyists designing tanks around the concept of mimicking a leaf litter biotope, as opposed to the leave litter playing a secondary aesthetic role. Other botanicals are providing additional practical and aesthetic 'support" for these creative applications.
It's gratifying to talk to hobbyists who have known about, or even used leaves in aquariums in years past, yet are now re-examining the potential to create new, more dynamic and focused systems around botanicals. Blackwater is not just being seen as a novelty by many hobbyists.
Rather, we're seeing discussions on blackwater systems as functional, manageable aquariums for a variety of applications. As more hobbyists start examining the husbandry and management of aquarium with soft, acidic water, we're seeing a greater understanding of how filtration, water parameter monitoring, and nutrient management may be applied to these environments.
Thought is being given to fish selection, with hobbyists developing these tanks around species which are known to inhabit the leaf litter, or utilize it for feeding and/or spawning.
We're also seeing plant enthusiasts taking another look at which species are found in these types of niches, and working with them in different ways than we've seen previously.
One of the things I'm loving the most about playing with leaves is that, for a very modest cost and small effort, you can switch up a fair amount of the aesthetics by simply replacing the decomposing leaves with new ones on a regular basis, arranged slightly differently.
Since no two leaves of any type are exactly the same, you create a unique new look each time you switch things up. Different colors, shapes, textures, etc. create a diverse and dynamic aquascape.
Of course, if you're like me, you will let some of the leaves decompose, and replace them not because you're upset about a "mess"...you replace them because you love the aesthetics of new leaves, and want to keep that tint going! And, as we've mentioned before, this effectively mimics what happens in nature: as leaves decompose, they are continuously being replaced by new ones that fall into the rivers and streams, or are pushed downstream by currents.
With a greater variety of leaves and other aquatic botanicals available to our customers, and more coming soon, you'll have some exciting aesthetic options that can really help you push your aquaecapes in exciting new aesthetic and functional directions.
Be a part of this dynamic process. Stay excited. Stay creative.
And Stay Wet.