Back to the litter bed...And on to innovation!

We talk a lot about those flooded Igapo forests in South America. We share the awesome pics, and we talk about ways to replicate the look- and more recently- the function of these fascinating systems. And, although they are compelling and alluring to us, they are vital to nature.  It is known by science that the leaf litter and the community of aquatic animals that it hosts is, according to one study "... of great importance in assimilating energy from forest primary production into the blackwater aquatic system."  It also functions as a means to preserve the nutrients that would be lost to the forests which would inevitably occur if all the material which fell into the streams was washed downstream. The fishes, crustaceans, and insects that live in the leaf litter and feed on the fungi, detritus, and decomposing leaves themselves are very important.

In the aquarium, leaf litter certainly performs a similar role in helping to sequester these materials. However, in the closed confines of the aquarium, what are the impacts of deep leaf litter beds? Is there a practical limit? Do various botanical materials have different impact and function within the bed?

This is what I'm excited about! The idea of botanical aquarists experimenting with novel approaches to starting up systems. I'm very excited to see experimentation with alternative substrate materials, like soils, muds, and clays- things many of our planted aquarium brethren have been experimenting with for a while. The idea of starting up an igapo-themed aquarium by creating a vivarium setup to simulate a rain forest floor,  and literally flooding  it over a series of days or weeks is just irresistible to many! And I think this is where we will see some significant discoveries, in terms of the ecology of aquariums.

I would assume that there would be a "cycle", although, in a moist environment, would some of the same strains of denitrifying bacteria which occur in soils, survive the "inundation?" What would be the extent of the "cycle?" These questions clearly demonstrate my ignorance of the finer points of biology and soil ecology, but it is a legitimate one to ponder- and those with a scientific background could really help here! I would presume that there would be a definite period where the now-submerged substrate and associated materials (leaves, botanicals, etc.) would begin breaking down- leaching out some of the materials contained within their tissues (much as occurs during preparation). What kind of impact would this have on an aquatic environment? How long would it be before you could safely add fishes? Will the system, once "flooded", education like any other aquarium- or will the fact that it has a full compliment of "stuff" from day one impact the long-term function, stability, and ecological balance of the vivarium-turned-aquarium? 

Lot's of questions. More questions than answers, at this point. Yet, when taking a truly different approach to an aquarium- literally a cyclical, seasonal one, would there be any advantage- any benefit? Or would it simply be a goofy "experiment"- an oddity that is good for passing conversation at fish club meetings or on social media posts ("Flooded my forest last night, and THIS happened!") You know, stuff like that. It would take a truly patient, truly engaged hobbyist to take such an approach. I mean, the big takeaway from a hobby level might be as ridiculous as "When you flood the vivarium, the water is cloudy for 3 weeks.." Most of us don't have the means to analyze the biological processes on more than a superficial level...but does it really matter? We'd be doing something truly unique. At the very least, we'd be gaining a small appreciation for a natural phenomenon in nature which supports one of the most interesting ecologies on earth.

Like some many things we do- and can do- in the hobby- unusual approaches and experiments don't always yield immediate knowledge. But they DO give us one thing immediately- inspiration. Confidence. Satisfaction. Because, when you embrace on roads less travelled in this hobby, as we've discussed here numerous times- seemingly unwarranted hobby criticism, self-doubt, and the unknown are your only real companions.

We'd love to change that. We'd love to support hobbyists efforts to forge responsibly ahead, trying different stuff. Perhaps, even contrarian stuff. Yet, ideas that might have not only some merit, but the possibility for real hobby benefit. Not every idea will yield fruit. Not every idea even makes sense. Many will get you questioned by other hobbyists, who don't share your adventurous spirit and sense of purpose. Some get "beaten down"- which sucks. I don't think that our community will deny you the joy of trekking off into the unknown. I know that Tannin won't. We welcome responsible, innovative work. We support it!

And that's why it's time for us to embark on another aspect of our business..One that we  have allowed to "germinate" until the conditions were right.

Here's our offer:

I like to put my money where my mouth is, literally. I also like hobbyists who are doers and not "talkers." I want Tannin to "sponsor" your botanical/blackwater-related aquarium experiment. 

We're looking for ONE (1) hobbyist with an idea that we can help out with.

We will provide your choice of botanical materials from our collection (within reason), and $50USD cash to execute your plan. 

Here's how it would work:

First, If you're thinking of some unusual idea involving botanicals and blackwater aquariums, let us know about it.

Now, I'm not talking about something like, "Yeah- I want to do an entire mountain made up of 'Jungle Pods' and plant Anubias on them!" or "I want to do an Iwagumi scape using Monkey pots and Savu Pods in place of Oyaishi, Fukuishi, Soeishi, and Suteishi stones..." No, No , No, No NOOOO! I'm talking something real. Something with an a approach that can unlock some ideas about the "functionality of the process" of our approach. An idea that can lead to breakthroughs or evolutions of the state of the art in the botanical/blackwater aquarium movement.

So, you need to actually give us a proposal. Now, not a long-winded scientific thing...But a summary of sorts, describing what you want to do, and how you'll accomplish it. And a definite time frame. Endless experiments with no tangible progress or process are not what this is about.

And you have to actually DO something. If you're looking for us to hook you up just so you can "Set up a new tank and see what effect a blackwater aquarium has on my fish club's perception of me asa hobbyist", you'll be shot down, lol. We will ferret out bullshit really quickly. And although I adore kids, we're not really looking to sponsor little Jennifer's 5th grade science experiment, either...That may be next, but not this time. This is about being a fish geek with an idea. And getting a "grant" to breed _______ is not what this is about, either. Nor giving a tank to someone who really wants one...Your local club should have a program like that!  We love making people happy, but this is not intended to be a charity thing...again, that may happen down the line, but not right now. You get the idea by now what we're looking for, right?

Just be honest and real.

We'd like a summary of what you did and the results you've unlocked, within a reasonable length of time, so that our community can see what you're up to! We don't want to just hook you up with pods and some cash and have you vanish into the mist. 

So, if you're up for it, and really have an idea you'd like to execute on because you think it will lead to some interesting advances for the community, let's hear it! 

We'll have a cutoff of May 15th, 2017 as the deadline for proposals. Send them to us at:

The title of your email should be "Tint Grant" so we can locate it quickly!

We will probably do an initial "narrowing of the field", and perhaps ultimately put up the finalists for a vote by YOU- "Tint Nation" to see who wins the "grant."

We'd love to do this quarterly...or maybe more or less frequently- depending upon interest and involvement. It's not intended to p]be a contest, gimmick, or "one off" thing. It's something we want to continue in perpetuity. It's the first of what we call "Tannin Special Projects", aka "The Tint Works"- a way to support things that will advance our hobby and support the people within it. We want to make a small difference, not just sell you things- and doing stuff like this is a start. 

In the future, we'd love to do other, more "advanced" things, like supporting expeditions to the wild habitats we love so much, and sponsoring experiments by university students- and yes, actually hooking up some needy kids with an aquarium. This stuff is important to us. It's part of our core values...and likely part of many of yours, as well. We'll try to do what we can with the resources that we have. Small at first, but hopefully much larger in the future. If you have ideas to make this bigger, better, and more helpful, as always, we're open to your input.

We want to continue to foster a vibrant community of aquarists, interested in advancing this hobby we love so much. It's a small thing- a little thing, but the idea of a "Tint Grant" is something we've thought about for a long time, but we needed to have more visibility and credibility before executing on it. And now, with a global community and significant hobby visibility- it's time. 

50 bucks. A package of botanicals.

Not a lot, in the grand scheme of the world. But a start. Something. An it sends a message, as well.

What is the message? 

We care about you. We care about the hobby. And we want to support you.

Stay bold. Stay enthusiastic. Stay unusual.

And Stay Wet

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics




Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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