As aquatic hobbyists, we do have an eye for details, don't we?
Once of the things that I’ve sort of arrived at over the years in my aquarium “career”- probably from my reef keeping side, is a love of creating “microhabitats” within a given system for a variety of fishes. In other words, creating little features and areas within the aquarium which provide some of those specialized niches that they need for their well-being. This seems at first to be a “no brainer”, but in real world practice, it’s not as easy as you think, right?
For example, we always knew that you need to provide places to retreat to for fishes like Plecos, knifefishes, and even many dwarf cichlids. However, when we start talking about features like leaf litter/botanical beds, we're introducing another dimension- a physical locale in which fishes can both forage and reside, and we've taken what was normally just sort of "there"- a substrate sand or gravel, and suddenly turned it into a valuable and dynamic niche for both these fishes and others which we might not have considered keeping at first!
With very simple modifications to our existing aquariums (like adding a few well-thought-out places for our fishes to retreat into, or "microhabitats" like botanical or leaf litter beds), we can create and make available an entirely new area of the tank for our fishes to utilize as they would in nature.
A real no brainer.
Fishes taking advantage of a niches you can create in your system is super important. Not exactly novel, but often overlooked. The kinds of "niches" you offer can have profound positive impact on the lives of your fishes.
Simple tweaks. Significant results.
The concept really got me thinking about how we stock our tanks…
I mean, it’s beyond simply placing a fish into our community…It’s about viewing where your aquarium is at the time that you choose to add a fish to your selection and stocking accordingly.
What I mean is, even though our systems are artificial in nature, they are little closed microcosms, with distinct “microniches” within them-often evolving over time. For example, even a high-ligh/high flow river tank has SOME areas where the flow is lower, the light less intense…perhaps an area where (gasp) some detritus or food collects…sand gets blown into..whatever. Regardless, these are areas that you can take advantage of by utilizing them for fishes or plants that would do well under the conditions provided.
In other words, at almost any stage in an aquarium’s life, there are little niches and evolving environmental changes within the system that you can use to your advantage by “planting” aquascaping props (seed pods, leaves, wood, etc.) appropriate for the given niche. It even goes beyond planned aesthetics (ie; “That rock would look awesome there!”) and, much like happens in the natural environment- plants grow and fishes gather where conditions are appropriate.
Reminds me of the little weeds that just seem to pop up out of the cracks in the sidewalk pavement…you can’t help but admire the craftiness and tenacity of life. If you do, you'll find many times that, not only has the weed utilized this little niche- so has a small "ecosystem" of other plants and insects. It's quite amazing, actually.
Same thing in natural aquatic habitats…or aquariums.
Don’t just look for the prime viewing spot for your fish acquisition. Look for the “cracks in the pavement", too.
Your fishes certainly will.
Today’s ridiculously simple, yet quite possibly overlooked idea.
Keep looking at those "cracks in the pavement", okay?
Stay innovative. Stay observant. Stay engaged.
And stay wet.