You here us ramble on and on about seed pods, "aquatic botanicals", "substrate enrichment", and "environmental enhancement.”
What ARE "aquatic botanicals" that you hear us talk about?
Well, they're natural products (generally leaves, bark, wood, and seed pods) that are used for both decorative and environmental enrichment purposes in our aquariums. "You sell twigs and nuts!" as one of my reef keeping friends profoundly declared! I suppose he wasn't too far off, although I think that was a bit over-generalized!
Many fishes (particularly South American fishes like Tetras, Cichlids and catfishes), as well as numerous African and Southeast Asian species (Gouramis, Bettas, etc.) benefit from the tannic acids and other substances released by these products into the water.
It has long been understood that there are actually some antifungal and possibly even antibacterial benefits to so-called "blackwater", resulting in healthier fishes and more viable spawns. Some animals, such as Plecos and even ornamental shrimp, service supplemental nutrition from grazing on these materials.
And of course, creating areas of "leaf litter" and microhabitats of seed pods, etc. create areas for these fishes to spawn, forage, and shelter- much like in nature. They flat-out look cool!
The bottom line for you as a hobbyist, is what varieties do you need?
Great question, actually.
Deciding which seed pods and other botanicals are appropriate for you aquarium is largely dependent upon what types of fishes and other animals you’re keeping, and what type of aquarium you’re trying to create. For our discussion, I’ve broken down the aquarium types into three categories:
*Biotopic Representations- You’re trying to replicate an Amazonian “blackwater” stream, a Southeast Asian swamp, or a temporary pool in Africa.
*Breeding Setups- You need to manipulate environmental parameters to encourage, enable, or support breeding behavior in your fishes. No emphasis on aesthetics- it’s focused on a purpose.
*Specialized Situations- In other words, you’re using aquatic botanicals as a means to support animals like ornamental shrimp, or to act as a substrate on which to attach aquatic plants/mosses.
We’ll examine the varieties of botanicals that you could use in these situations, and give some recommendations. Of course, this very brief article is not the comprehensive treatise on the subject; rather, it’s a brief rundown of some things you can do. tannin offers a variety of botanicals for many different situations, and we’ll constantly update our offerings to reflect the diverse interests of aquarium hobbyists.
Today, we’ll examine one of my favorite biotopes- the “Leaf Litter Zone”.
Leaf litter zones comprise one of the richest and most diverse biotopes in the tropical aquatic ecosystem, yet they are seldom replicated in the aquarium. I think this has been due, in large part- to the lack of continuous availability of products for the hobbyist to work with. My company,Tannin Aquatics, was founded to help make that scarcity a thing of the past!
The thought behind this biotope can best be summarized in this interesting except from an academic paper on Blackwater leaf-litter communities by biologist Peter Alan Henderson, that is useful for those of us attempting to replicate these communities in our aquaria:
"..life within the litter is not a crowded, chaotic scramble for space and food. Each species occupies a sub-region defined by physical variables such as flow and oxygen content, water depth, litter depth and particle size…
...this subtle subdivision of space is the key to understanding the maintenance of diversity. While subdivision of time is also evident with, for example, gymnotids hunting by night and cichlids hunting by day, this is only possible when each species has its space within which to hide.”
In other words, different species inhabit different sections of the leaf litter, and we should consider this when creating and stocking our biotope systems...Neat stuff!
How would you construct a leaf litter zone in your tank?
As hinted at in the excerpt above, you should use a variety of materials. For reference, I will recommend “aquatic botanicals” from our collection, as these will be ( I hope!) the most readily available materials for you to work with!
In the aquarium, consider both practicality AND aesthetics when replicating this biotope. Much like in nature, you also want a diverse mixture of botanicals, some which may decompose rather quickly (such as Catappa leaves and Guava Leaves), and others which have "duration" and last much, much longer (like Loquat leaves, ”Frita Pods", "Mariposa Pods", "Terra Sorrindo" Pods, "Encontro Pods", etc.).
You should also include some pods that last indefinitely, such as the "Tapete Pod", Coco Curls, and perhaps some "Lampada Pods" for good measure, to serve as permanent "anchor pieces" for your litter zone.
This is such an interesting biotope to recreate- and that's why we have the widest selection of aquatic botanicals in one place- to help you replicate and appreciate it's natural beauty and fascination!
Next time, we’ll take a look at how to use “aquatic botanicals” in breeding setups, to take advantage of their unique and beneficial properties!
Should you have any questions regarding these biotopes and recreating them in our aquaria, please feel free to contact me by email: firstname.lastname@example.org