The (sweet) smell of success in aquarium keeping?

Ever noticed that "scent" that a healthy aquarium or fish room has?

Yeah, the "scent."

A healthy aquarium, particularly one with wood, plants, aquatic botanicals, etc. has that earthy, alive scent that makes you realize that you're working with a living organism; a microcosm, rather, that has all sorts of biological activity occurring. This is true in both freshwater and marine aquariums. 

I remember many days walking into our facility at Unique Corals, and you'd smell this fresh, "ocean" scent. It was invigorating, actually. My reef aquariums have always had that same kind of scent when they were cranking...

Of course, as a seasoned aquarist, you recognize the "right" kind of smell for your aquarium, don't you?

When things are not going right, the water has that sort of...well, "stinky" smell, doesn't it? Upon further inspection, you'll discover 9 times out of 10 that something is amiss- maybe there is some plant decay, a clogged filter. In a marine tank, maybe it's the protein skimmer that's overflowing? Maybe a coral is dying. Perhaps the water level dropped dramatically in your sump, exposing corals and live rock? The dreaded "rapid tissue necrosis" (RTN)?

You just's an experience thing, I suppose.

I remember the unmistakable smell of what we'd call "coral death." It's a sickening, almost "glue like" smell that seems to accompany the die-off of stony corals like Acropora. You'd come into the facility and know something was not right...

On a much happier note, a lot of people tell me that, upon "brewing" their aquatic botanicals (actually, preparing them by boiling), that the room takes on that same earth, fresh "it just rained" smell. Kinda nice. Get's them excited, realizing that they are doing something very different for their fishes.


Natural materials just sort of bring that out.

Even fresh gravel, sand, and clean rocks have that smell that you just kind of "know" is all good. And, have you noticed that a brand new aquarium has a very distinctive smell when you first fill it up? 

I throw a couple of Catappa leaves in my 5-gallon RO/DI water storage containers, which not only "pre-tint" the water, but impart that "earthy" scent that we keep mentioning. I love it.

There is something great about allowing yourself the joy of taking in every sensory aspect of an aquarium...sights, sounds, and scents!

Enjoy each one or what it represents- an appreciation...rather, a celebration- of the joys and the experience of aquarium keeping. Perhaps you never really gave this more than a passing thought?

Worth pausing to think about.

A very brief, simple thought to kick off the week...

Take it all in, savor it.

And stay wet.

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatcs



Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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