A world in a box...and how we manage it.

It's amazing, the stuff that goes through our minds as we perform seemingly "mundane" tasks on our aquariums, isn't it?

Well, it is to me...I get weirdly philosophical at times...

As I was doing a more "deep cleaning" in my office aquarium, I was thinking about the disturbance I was causing and its impact on the microcosm that I created. During my "deep cleaning" in leaf litter tanks, which is usually done around the 6 month mark, I am siphoning out a lot of debris, which is mostly decomposing leaves and botanicals which have accumulated under the more recently added leaves.

The stuff you don't see. I am surprised at the amount of "mulch" that is manufactured deeper down in the leaf litter, and even more pleasantly surprised to find that there is no nasty hydrogen sulfide, uneaten food, or other organic debris trapped in this stuff. 

It's literally decomposing leaves that, if left alone would likely further decompose without me really noticing. It makes me wonder what impact such "deep cleanings" have on a microcosm such as an aquarium; in particular, the fishes. I mean, it's a pretty significant disruption to their world. Yet, despite their getting out of the way of the siphon and my clumsy movements, they seem to take it all in stride. In fact, on a number of occasions during the cleaning, some of my Sailfin Characins would gather around the siphon, snapping upshot they thought might be an errant worm or other food item dislodged by the hose. 

I think that such disruptive events, as traumatic as we might make them in our heads, are of typically little consequence for our fishes, which are probably accustomed instinctively to seasonal or periodic weather-related events, such as torrential rains, tidal action, wind, tree falls, etc. The "turnover" and removal of older leaves and the replacement with fresh new ones seems to mimic what really is a process that has been going on in nature for eons, right?

It made me think about our overall approach to how we create aquariums in the first place.

I think that we sometimes forget that we have the capacity to create a "world" for our fishes, not just a static diorama display, as in the case of many of the "competition" scapes we see on the web. Rather, most of us may not think about the fact that we are trying to create a "whole", encompassing multiple aspects of an environment, yet considered as one. 

In other words, an aquascape conceived and executed around the way fishes interact with it; how plants would grow in it.  Rather than considering each as a "component" of the aquascape, viewing each as an interconnected, integral part of a microcosm, confined within a box of glass or acrylic.

This is not novel, but I think we tend to forget about this, in my opinion.

For example, when I create a leaf litter zone aquarium, I'm not just coming up with a concept that's interesting to look at. I consider the behavioral patterns of the fishes that will live in it, how they interact, and what is useful to them about living in such an environment. And that includes what happens when we perform maintenance, and create a disruption in the carefully conceived environment that we have constructed- how it affects their behaviors.

Okay, I think I'm hyper analyzing a rather simple topic, but it is interesting to contemplate just how much impact and significance we have on the little world that we create within a glass or acrylic box, isn't it?

Think about THAT the next time you pick up the siphon hose!

Or, maybe just do the water change and go about your business...

Either way, remember to enjoy what you're doing, relish in the creativity, and take the responsibility seriously.

Stay engaged. Stay engrossed. Stay involved.

And Stay Wet.

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics


Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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