Substrate enhancement is a term that, well- I'd like to take credit for...not sure if I'm the first person to come up with it in the aquatic context or not, but it would be pretty cool if I was!
Anyhow, the idea of adding natural materials to the usual boring old sand or gravel is irresistible to me- and apparently to many of you, as well!. That's why we spend a lot of time researching, sourcing, testing, and marketing materials that will add both an aesthetic and functional component to you aquarium substrate. As we've pointed out before in The Tint, a substrate in nature is actually a pretty dynamic place, with an oft-changing mix of materials, ranging from seed pods, to branches, to leaves- as well as a compliment of fishes which forage, shelter, and spawn among this matrix of materials.
One of our favorite "substrate enhancement packs" is "Corrente de Fundo", a beautiful mix of botanicals that can really liven up an otherwise mundane substrate with texture, color, and interest!
When we selected the materials for use in our "Corrente De Fundo" substrate enhancement pack, we tried to incorporate items that we felt simulated the seeds, tree nuts and bark that accumulate in Amazonian rivers during the rainy season, such as our "Estalo Pods", "Pequeno Pods", and the heavyweight, yet small "Heart Pods."
The "Coco Curls" simulate bark and branch pieces that fall into these rising, rain-swollen waterways. They have a sort of "ragged" appearance that looks so natural, and they can disperse nicely along the substrate, creating many areas of interest, foraging areas for fishes, and attachment points for mosses and plants. And, as they decompose, they release a nice compliment of tannins into the water, giving your aquarium that "tint" that we love so much.
With all of the trees that grow alongside the Amazonian waterways, you're bound to see many fruits falling into the water, some of which are eaten by fishes like the gentle giant Pacu, and foraged on by other, smaller fishes, like catfishes, cichlids, and other Characins! We bring this component to the mix by including the much-loved "Capsula Pods", which really resemble fruits...and are much-enjoyed by the fishes as a supplemental food source.
Ideally, you'd use this enhancement pack in conjunction with some other botanicals, and scatter it on the surface, or mix some of the materials into the gravel or sand you're using. Our experience with this pack is that it can form the backbone of an enhanced substrate for up to a standard 20 gallon tank. Again, you'd be well-advised to incorporate some additional items into your substrate mix, like our coconut-based "Fundo Tropical", which really simulates the composition of many natural stream bottoms with its rich and varied texture, and perhaps a few leaves, such as our "Nano catappa leaves, or some Guava leaves for more texture!
When contemplating a natural-looking display, you should definitely consider utilizing some of these dynamic and interesting natural materials. They'll add a note of authenticity, color, and texture- as well as provide tremendous utility for your fishes and other aquatic inhabitants...And, perhaps most exciting of all, they'll provide you with an entirely new aquascaping aesthetic that will challenge your skills and cite your senses!
Stay tuned for more cool ideas for utilizing our aquatic botanicals in your natural aquarium displays...
And stay wet.