Do you have one of those "perfect ides" for a tank floating around in your head?
Seems like I'm always coming up with "perfect ideas" for crazy displays- you know, like biotopes, specialized systems for particular fishes...but I never seem to get to all of them. I don't think I'm at all unique in that regard. I think a lot of us have that perfect tank in our heads, and we're waiting for factors like time, money, or the right livestock to come our way in order to execute them.
As a young hobbyist, I never could afford anything, so I would fall asleep scheming up these dream tanks in my head...Some of these ideas were insane. Just impossible to execute, Others were very realistic, and as I grew older and had the capability, I was able to build them them.
And often, when I was finally able to build the damn thing, it would come to pass that I didn't enjoy having the tank as much as I enjoyed scheming it! Why is that?
Some dreams are just meant to be...dreamed, I suppose. Right?
And then there was blackwater.
For some reason, this type of tank really resonated in me. Since I was a kid. It was so...weird- I mean, a tank with water so dark that you couldn't always see the fishes clearly. It seemed so "anti-establishment" for this teenage fish geek...Maybe that was the start of my experimentation with these kinds of tanks. I began with peat moss in my killie tanks, then played around with sticks and leaves and before you know it, I had Neon Tetras spawning- stuff like that!
And then, the reef keeping bug hit in the mid eighties, and I was enamored. I mean, keeping LIVE CORALS! Whoa! Yeah, my first "minireef" was a hastily planned affair, based on George Schmitt's groundbreaking series in Freshwater and Marine Aquarium magazine, with tons of the macro algae Caulerpa, some mushroom anemones, and I think a Sinularia soft coral, with Pulsing Xenia. For a 30 gallon tank for a teenager, it was surprisingly badass!
And that started a decades long affair with reefs, which eventually led me to a writing/speaking career, hobby "fame", aquarium design gigs, and the opportunity to become a partner in the launch of Unique Corals.
Unique was an astonishing success in our industry, and I was quite proud to be associated with it. We set a high standard, created a terse manifesto for sustainability- and walked the walk.
I always stayed in touch with the FW world, although my time and focus were on reefs and corals..Yet, in the back of my mind...I kept thinking of those cool tanks I would scheme about as a teen. Those crazy freshwater concept ideas that I loved so much. The freshwater world, as seen from the "salty side"of the fence, although evolved highly since I played in it actively, needed some new ideas, in my opinion. Different stuff.
Those dreams again.
It was also the point where I realized that reefs, although amazing and fascinating, were somehow getting a bit-well-monotonous for me. I mean, they're awesome, but dealing with corals every day, and some of the disturbing (to me) "cultural shifts" in the reef keeping community brought me back to the realization that freshwater had so many more possibilities for me- many which I had never even considered before.
Yeah, the dreams were calling.
So I made the decision to act on those dreams. In a move that shocked a lot of people in the reef keeping world, I sold my interest in the thriving UC (which is still at the top of its game, btw) to "come home" to the beckoning freshwater world, filed with ideas and enthusiasm once again...And Tannin Aquatics was born. And you know, those dreams were happening again...I was scheming new aquariums and concepts all the time. It felt pretty cool.
One of my favorite things about the hobby is that we can dream up/scheme up all sorts of wacky ideas, think through them...and maybe, just maybe, build them. Some are totally outlandish and push the envelope of what is even technically possible...Others are a bit "out there", like the idea of a morphing rain forest with annual killifish in an aquarium that turns into a vivarium (yesterday's meanderings here...). Others are more "actionable", like simply deciding that THIS is the year you breed Tanganyikan shell dwellers, or enter into that show, etc.
And, with so many cool hobbyists doing so many cool things, it's amazing to see all of the action happening around me. I'm very privileged to hear about your dreams...Some of the types of tanks and ideas you guys and gals are coming up with are nothing short of amazing. I've gotten to supply botanicals for everything from Geophagus biotope aquariums, to permanent killifish displays, to Axolotls, and vivariums! Super crazy cool projects across the full spectrum of the freshwater aquarium hobby world. And it's just beginning.
So when those dreams come...my advice, cliche'd though it may be...is to listen to them; act on them. You never know where they might take you.
Today's very simple thought.
Stay imaginative. Stay engaged. Stay creative.
And Stay Wet.