I was chatting with a fellow hobbyist the other day, and he was talking a lot about wanting to maintain a "natural" aquarium. Of course, the term "natural" in our hobby can mean a lot of things, and it immediately piques my interest. He then proceeded to describe the many products and pieces of equipment that he was going to employ to accomplish this, along with a rigid set of practices, procedures, layout rules, etc., and my initial, instantaneous thought was, How sad!"
Yeah, weird, huh? I mean, it seemed like he had to go through so much; follow so many "rules" just to to create a "natural" type of setup- it seemed oddly juxtaposed with the title "natural."
Of course, he started talking about the stuff we offer, and about how it was cool and all, but that we shouldn't delude ourselves into believing that our offering were useful for "natural" aquariums.
Like, huh? "Natural" What?
He proceded to tell me that including things like leaves, seed pods, etc. in a "natural" setup was "out of context" and somehow "forced"...which I thought was funny, in light of him lecturing me about the need to rigidly adhere to specific rules of layout, plant aggregations, wood orientation, etc.
Out of context with...what? Hello, brainwashing.
And worse yet, he had an "elitist" attitude that was off putting, to say the least. I mean, surprisingly nasty. As if to imply that everyone else was doing it wrong- somehow deluding ourselves into believing that we were creating ideal conditions for the aquatic life forms we keep by using other than a specific Asian "doctrine" as practiced by a small, yet vocal group of aquarists.
Yikes. I've seen this attitude before. I think it was in the reef aquarium world.
Over the past decade or so, the aquarium world has embraced more natural-looking setups, which is awesome. The materials, technology, and experiences we've accumulated are impressive. We've learned so much. Yet, we seem to fall back on that most human of foibles: Attitude and arrogance. I think that we might be over-reaching when we employ the word "natural" to describe these specific types of setups. I mean, EVERY aquarium has elements that can be construed as "natural", right? I mean, every aquatic system needs to embrace the nitrogen cycle, right?
Unless someone created and threw a patent on bacteria, water, rocks, plants, etc., then all aquariums have essentially the same "essence", right? It's more about how harmoniously we combine them before we assign the moniker of "natural" to them, IMHO. Aesthetics, more so than the physical characteristics, right? Dunno. I'd like to think that the original proponents of these types of aquariums didn't have such a militant view on layout, etc., and merely were trying to impose some replicable aesthetic and husbandry "order" onto the randomness of nature, in order for us to tame it for use in aquariums, not trying to create some inflexible "doctrine."
I can't help but think that somehow, this all became somewhat "perverted" in our desire to be part of something bigger?
I mean, aquatic plants have been doing their thing for millions of years without our help. Only during the last century, since we threw 'em into a glass box called an "aquarium" has the need to come up with all of the additives, gadgetry, etc. come into play. To our benefit, in many cases, of course. However, the part that gets me- assigning a rigid definition of what it is- seems so out of context with the idea of natural harmony, IMHO.
Brilliant hobbyists are in the planted aquarium game now, to everyone's benefit. Today's planted tank are so much nicer looking than the ones I knew as a kid growing up in the hobby...And I think the better descriptor for these types of planted systems might be "nature-inspired", as that's what they are; That's what ALL aquariums are.
To imply that one is any more "natural" than the other because it uses $400 worth of clay substrate versus "natural" gravel versus "sand", fancy CO2 injection, etc., and then harboring an elitist attitude and enforcing a dogmatic set of rules about what is and is not "acceptable" for a "natural" aquarium seems...well, unnatural to me.
Back to me...lol 'Cause it's my blog.
At Tannin, we're not fostering rocket science here...Yup, we're just talking about providing materials made by nature to help create a certain aesthetic, which not everyone likes. I think it's a little bit of an aesthetic shift from what one typically thinks of when they talk about a "natural" aquarium these days. However, I stop way short of implying that, in order to have a truly "natural" aquarium (almost oxymoronic, now that I think about it...) a hobbyist must use seeds, pods, branches, etc.. That's absurd.
We hope that you use these materials to create displays that satisfy your craving to achieve a certain kinds of look, feel, and overall aesthetic. Please don't think for a minute that what we're espousing here is the "ultimate" way to set up an aquarium...the most "natural" way...it's just- another way. Maybe it's for you? Perhaps not. Not everyone likes the look of decomposing leaves, dark water, wood, etc.
However, if you do like the idea, we couldn't think of a more "natural" place to start...
Sorry, couldn't resist.
Only one rule here: Have fun and enjoy...and be humble. (okay, that's three, lol)
Lose the attitude. Gain the joy.
Stay humble. Stay true to YOUR dreams.
And stay wet.