The world of blackwater, botanical-style aquariums is really expanding. I mean, it's been a "thing" in the aquarium hobby for many decades; it's just that it's been rapidly emerging from the shadows, so to speak, at an accelerating pace over the past few years.
A very exciting thing.
So many new converts to this hobby specialty. More sharing of ideas, techniques, and experiences. There must be 6-8 forums on Facebook alone covering blackwater. It shouldn't be that difficult to get some solid information on this stuff.
And still, I worry.
I worry, because I still see a lot of discussions and questions on how to do "hacks" or "shortcuts" to create a blackwater aquarium. I still see the emphasis placed on aesthetics over function and ecology. I see a lot of sharing of inspiring tanks- which is great- but little substantive information on how the tank was created, how it's managed, and what the water parameters are...Stuff which can truly help others decide if this speciality is for them.
As we've said repeatedly over the last 5 years or so, blackwater, botanical-style aquariums are more than just a "look." Theyre not an "aquascaping style." They're about an aquarium environment which provides optimum conditions for fishes which are accustomed to blackwater environments. They incorporate "functional aesthetics" over mere aesthetics.
Now, I'm not the undisputed authority on this stuff. News flash.
However, I'm not just a "bystander", either.
And, since a lot of questions and observations and ideas about this stuff seem to come my way- and Tannin's way- over time, I figure that I have at least something interesting to say now and then about blackwater, botanical-style aquarium keeping. Maybe I've become a sort of "clearing house" for this stuff.
Regardless, I think it's my obligation-as it is all of ours- to speak out and let our opinions be known when we see something that we can be helpful with. And right now, I think it's time once again for me to speak up about a little concern that I have about our little sector of the hobby.
I think we are seeing ga lot of people leaping into this stuff, enticed by the look, without a basic understanding of the chemistry, ecology, and function of the wild habitats that these aquariums purport to mimic. I see questions so basic that it makes me wonder if someone simply saw a pic of a cool blackwater tank on The 'Gram, filled an aquarium, brewed up some Roobois tea, threw in some Cardinals, and figured that they had a "blackwater aquarium."
Okay, I know, I sound bitter (like the tea, perhaps?).
However, this is a potential problem in the making. I've seen this before. Just like we saw in the reef aquarium world years ago, you can't simply jump in, enticed by a "look", without doing the most fundamental research on this stuff and expect everything to be smooth sailing. The results are almost always underwhelming at best- and disastrous at worst.
As we know by now, success with blackwater, botanical-style aquariums isn't a sure thing. You can do most everything "correctly" and still make a seemingly "innocent" mistake and kill your whole aquarium. That's why we need to go deeper and share the good, the bad, and the ugly of this stuff, as we've done here for years. We need to share our failures as much as we do our successes. We need to share our out-of-control biofilm blooms as much as we do our crystal-clear, sexy blackwater tanks.
We have to really understand the "why" of the unusual aesthetics of blackwater, botanical-style aquariums, and what the benefits are.
We need to go deeper. Share more. Discuss more "nuts and bolts" stuff.
This is how we all learn.
We need to stop regurgitating stuff- regardless of source (yeah, even if it's us) without "vetting" the information ourselves. It's better to say, "I don't know" than "I've heard that..." We need to do more of the decidedly non-sexy research and getting a grasp of the fundamentals of the hobby, particularly as it pertains to our specialty.
We need to stop looking for shortcuts and cheap ways to do everything in this hobby. I'm not saying just spend tons of money and do everything the hard way. I AM saying that we occasionally have to do things in a more roundabout, more costly way, simply because these are sometimes the best ways to do it. We need to always place the welfare of our animals ahead of our desire to get what we want as quickly and inexpensively as possible.
We must always, ALWAYS preach patience. We need to continue to demonstrate and discuss that these types of aquariums are the result of embracing patience, process, diligence, and self-education.
Yeah these are really important things that we need to work on.
We're seeing some amazing blackwater, botanical-style aquariums. Some really cool ideas being acted upon by all sorts of hobbyists. Some spectacular successes with spawning fishes that were previously considered "difficult." We're seeing a sort of "enlightenment" in this speciality.
Things are progressing nicely.
And still, I worry.
I mean, someone has to, right?
Might as well be me.
Yeah. I think we can do even better. Let's do that.
And then I can stop worrying. I mean, I really shouldn't, right?
Stay diligent. Stay educated. Stay informed. Stay observant. Stay diligent. Stay patient...
And Stay Wet.