It's certainly no stretch to call our use of botanicals as a form of "active substrate", much like the use of clays, mineral additives, soils, etc. in planted aquariums. Although our emphasis is on creating specific water conditions, fostering the growth of microorganisms and fungi, as well as creating unique aesthetics, versus the "more traditional" substrate materials fostering conditions specifically for plant growth.
And these substrates change over time, in both composition and appearance. What are the implications of this in a botanical-style aquarium?
With the publishing of photos and videos of leave-influenced 'scapes in the past few years, there has been much interest and more questions by hobbyists who have not really considered these items in an aquascape before. This is really cool, because new people with new ideas and approaches are experimenting. And we're looking at nature as never before.
We're celebrating the real diversity and appearance of natural habitats as they really are...
Some hobbyists have commented that, as their leaves and botanicals break down and the scape as initially presented changes significantly over time. They know it or not, they are grasping the Japanese philosophy of "Wabi-Sabi"...sort of. One must appreciate the beauty at various phases to really grasp the concept and appreciate it. To find little vignettes- little moments- of fleeting beauty that need not be permanent to enjoy.
Is the substrate that we create- and which evolves over time as botanicals break down an example of this philosophy?
Enjoy your aquarium at every phase. Don't like the way it's looking today? No worries, it'll be different tomorrow!
Stay patient. Stay observant. Stay intrigued. Stay curious...
And Stay Wet.