I'm deep into the planning on the second of two new aquariums in my home. It's a great feeling, I'm now in that most exciting phase of the planning process (in my warped opinion, anyways): the "Which idea do I try?" phase! On the surface, this seems like a really great place to be- and it is-but it's actually a very crucial (and sometimes soul-searching) process that can make the difference between a memorable, unique display and "just another tank." And of course, this one is smack dab in my family room, where it's probably the most visible aquarium in my house.
No pressure here.
In 30-plus years in the hobby, I've tried a lot of stuff. And, let's face it- I've set the bar pretty high for myself! Big mouth that I am, I've spent that last ten years jet-setting around the country talking up unique reef system design and aquascaping at clubs, conferences, and in various aquatic media, goaded others into trying crazy stuff while owning Unique Corals, and now, at Tannin Aquatics, I'm singing the praises of "blackwater" aquariums with aquatic botanicals and hardscape materials... So-It's practically expected of me that I do something a bit...different. Man, it's time to put up or shut up! Who needs this pressure! This self-appointed "purveyor of inspiration" and ideas for the hobby should take some of his own advice. Maybe I'll just have FUN! I'll just do what pleases me. Yeah!
Rather than trying to create a system specifically designed to knock everyone's socks off with some brilliantly radical concepts, I'm thinking I might actually come up with a semi-conventional concept done REALLY well. You know- just great quality animals displayed in an attractive manner. On the other hand, I've kicked around a few slightly different ideas for this challenging little 20 gallon "high" tank (a tank that I accidentally ordered in the wrong dimensions-I avoid tall tanks like the plague):
I have coveted creating an open top mangrove biotope, or a simulated Palau "coral island" for the last decade. Hmm, this tank is too small. I could try to construct a moss-encrusted driftwood structure with just a few cool killies, like Aphyosemion or Epiplatys species. No, wait- maybe another Lake Tanganyika "shellie" tank, with lots of cool rock and shells and some little ____________. Hmm...but kinda tall. Nah. Or, perhaps THIS will be the display where I just build an aquascape consisting entirely of a pile of rubble with a smattering of driftwood? Hmm. No, wait– maybe I'll do a group of small rock structures, with strong current and some open sand in between for lots of really small gobies (marine). Hmm..but this time, I'll use that dark substrate I flirted with in my last system. That will make their colors pop!
Of course, I can always do a species aquarium, featuring a few of my beloved Ctenopoma or Badis species in a lush plant-only aquascape. Hmm..kinda small, though. And so "green." Is THIS the aquarium that I revisit the idea of simply showing in some brightly-colored Plates, a bunch of Water Sprite, a few choice rocks, and calling it a day?Or an entire "garden" of Cryptocoryne, and some beautiful Galaxy Rasbora? Hmmm. Wait a minute: perhaps I will create a biotope for Botia: Some low-lying rock structures and a LOT of open sand (of course- the DARK sand that I was talking about). Well, those weird dimensions again...
Ya know what? I could try a version of a paludarium, with rock projecting clean out of the water and some riparian plants. Love that idea. On the other hand, I love rare Bettas and Gouramis, and I could simulate a dark Southeast Asian drainage ditch choked with plants and wood. Wow... Well, I've had that bug up my ass about one day creating a biotope featuring Millstream Loaches in a group, but this tank won't work (damn that tall dimension...I should just trade this tank...) or perhaps a colony of fancy guppies, with a big, low-lying thicket of plants. How cool would it be to dedicate a large tank to the fish of my childhood? Like 20 of 'em!
But wouldn't a system dedicated entirely to the needs of say, Coolie Loaches be sooo radical? I mean, who's done that. Oops, there I go. Well, there is always the idea Iâ€™ve had of a tank devoted exclusively to Kribs; some mixed grain sand and lots of little rocks and crevices for them to hide and hunt in. Arghh, this tank is too tall...You know, I COULD try to simulate just the top of a reef, with a low lying matrix of rock covering the entire bottom, with no substrate and a Ecotech Marine Vortech MP 40 cranked up full blast on a collection of Acropora gemmifera or Acropora millepora. Hmmm. Well, dude, this is only 20 gallons. I saw a movie once about Fiji and its ridiculously lush growth of soft corals..That could work in 20 gallons...Or, maybe a system with only super-choice Pencilfish and a ton of Catappa leaves as the sole substrate? Well, I have always wanted to do a monospecific anemone biotope with just one huge anemone on a large rock structure, but maybe I'm better off doing a shallow-water Condylactis anemone and some Sexy Shrimp. But a Splash Tetra paludarium beckons...
Maybe I'll just throw in some small goldfish..the "anti-high-concept" tank.
No- maybe it's time for another tank. Or a few other tanks!
Maybe I just need to settle on a concept for this one first. Yeah.
Till next time...Keep those ideas flowing. Try a few of 'em...
and Stay wet.