Because you asked...No, seriously!

As those of you who follow our community are aware (probably, painfully so- by now!), I recently installed a blackwater, botanical-style aquarium in a very visible, highly-trafficked area of my home for the first time in years, and it gives me a chance to observe my aquarium at different hours of the day or night, unlike at the office, where I'm looking at it the same times every day.

It's been a fun journey so far!

And of course, because YOU asked me to, I've made it a real point to document the process and journey that this tank takes. I receive a surprisingly large amount of questions on this tank, so why not keep going and bore you a bit more with it, right?

As you recall, it started most humbly...even comically, with a stack of wood we affectionately referred to as the "campfire!"

 The overall "theme" of the tank is based on the seasonally-inundated Brazilian forest floors, known as iagpo- a personal fave environmental niche of mine. The habitats lend themselves so well to replication, because there are so many interesting elements that can combine to form a captivating, fascinating, and aesthetically alluring display aquarium.

Although it may seem to the uninitiated that replicating an igapo habitat in the aquarium is literally a matter of just tossing some stuff into the tank and you're done- there are many, many more elements to it, as those of you who play with this sort of stuff know. And that is the essence of what makes such aquariums so appealing to me!

Well, you asked...

One of the first questions I receive about my tank (besides the one from the uninitiated that usually goes something like, "Why the %@#$* is your tank so dark and dirty looking?") is, "What kind of wood did you use?"

(I prefer the first question, because it gives me a chance to go on and on about blackwater, but...)

And of course, I tell them it's mangrove root.

This is really the first time I've used it in a "pure freshwater" aquarium, and I must say, it's everything I wanted it to be! As those of you who have purchased some from us via "Estuary" can attest, it's surprisingly dense, has an awesome color when submerged, sinks within a matter of days (with a few rocks to anchor it down), and recruits nice amounts of biofilm!

And it looks uncannily like some of the submerged branches and trunks I've seen in many natural tropical underwater settings. I selected it for this very reason. It just has a special "something" to it that reeks of "natural!"

And the fact that it tends to recruit biofilm in a surprisingly aesthetically "pleasing way" (Seriously, Fellman- "PLEASING F -----G BIOFILM?" Just how far off the edge have you gone?) All the way, apparently. No, really- it doesn't get this really "snotty-looking" film coat; rather, it's more of a "low patina", which looks just like what you see in some of those Amazonian underwater pics and videos I geek out over. Yep.

And of course, being botanical-style blackwater aquarium geeks, you're always asking me what combination of leaves and such I add to my tank. Well, this one is a nice mix of some of my fave botanicals, and it almost perfectly achieved the "look" I wanted right from day one (or maybe, day 3- can't remember which...)

I wanted a very specific tonal/textural mix for this tank, and didn't want to have too many different dissimilar items. My thinking was that 1) I liked a look of more "homogenous" stuff, and  2) I wanted to mimic an area of an igapo where very specific materials would accumulate- as if from a very localized source, as opposed to a more "conventional" stream where stuff would come from farther away and accumulate, and 3) I just didn't want too use too many different things (Oh, I mentioned that already, huh?)

The botanical I selected were:

*Indian Jackfruit Leaves

*Yellow Mangrove Leaves

*Indian Catappa Bark

*FIshtail Palm Stems

*Terra Sorrindo

And once again, I think my choices were on point, if I say so myself! I've achieved the look I want and am getting just the right amount of decomposition, biofilm, and a very nice brownish tint! 

For substrate, I used CaribSea's "Sunset Gold" sand, which is a bit different than the whitish sand I've used in past BSBW tanks (oh- new acronym for "Botanical Style Blackwater!"). Although perhaps less biotopically accurate (fine white sand is what you're likely to encounter in these types of niches), it has an aesthetic that really works for me! Besides, this tank is anything but an "accurate" biotope tank. Rather, "biotope-inspired" is a better descriptor, I think!

I used (as is my personal practice) 100% RO/DI water, straight-up, with no re-mineralization or other "supplementation" to the water. TDS Was zero out of the unit, but of course, as expected, it rose (to it's current level of 68ppm) once aded to the tank and subjected to my melange of botanicals, wood, and sand. Ph is steady at 6.4 Temperature is 76.5-77.5 degrees F (24.72-25.27C). 

Believe it or not, I do ru na little activated carbon in their passively, as is my practice in newer botanical tanks, to simply "suck up" any extra organics that might be present as a result of the influx of botanicals and the initial cloudiness from the admittedly half-assed job of rinsing my sand that I always do! It has had little effect on removing the tint from the materials present i the water, as you can see from the pics of this tank! 

My initial stocking list was a veritable "who's who" of my favorite species, from a variety of South American locales (yeah, again, not biotopically accurate in any way, shape or form!):

Diptail Pencifish- Nanostomus eques (wild Orinoco)

Ruby Tetra -Axelrodia riesei (wild Columbia)

Checkerboard Cichlid-Dicrossus maculatus (wild Orinoco)

Pygmy Cory -Corydoras pygmaeus (wild Columbia)

All of these fishes will be "regulars", available from Tannin Live! when we launch next month. They are some of my favorite all-time fishes, and are really appropriate for the types of aquariums which we play with! Now, I don't want to be too self-serving, but I must admit that the quality of these specimens was exceptional. Mike Tuccinardi, who will curate our fishes for Tannin Live!, does amazing job in handling, acclimating, prepping, and shipping these fishes, and they adapted very quickly to their  new home, feeding and displaying natural colors, behaviors, and overall good health from day one! I'm confident that you'll be very pleased with the quality and selection of the fishes you will be able to order from us!

Most pleasing to me how well this aquarium has fit into the aesthetic of our new home. With my wife being extremely excited about having a BSBW aquarium in this weird little nook in the family room of our house, it was important to me to create something that complimented our aesthetic nicely- and I think we accomplished that with this tank!

Most important, it's nice to have an aquaria that can provide relaxation, entertainment- and to educate non-aquarium-hobby visitors on the fascinating blackwater habitats. A well-executed aquarium is one of the best "ambassadors" of the tropical fish hobby, and one of the best ways to raise awareness of the fragility and beauty of the precious wild aquatic niches of the world.

We'll continue to update you on the progress of this and the other aquarium we'll be setting up in my home. Hope that you've enjoyed this brief and admittedly superficial introduction to where we're at with this tank thus far. I hope it answered a few of the questions I've been receiving! And even more important- I hope it may inspire one or two of you to try a similar setup in your own home, perhaps utilizing some of the same selections of botanicals and such that I have.

A number of you asked about me making such a section available as one of our variety packs, and I will certainly consider it if there is enough interest! Perhaps we will eventually do combo fish/botanical packs in the near future. Would that be something you'd be interested in seeing?

Let us know!

In the mean time...

Stay curious. Stay inspired. Stay creative. Stay enthusiastic...

And Stay Wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics





Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


2 Responses

Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman

November 28, 2017

LOL SDBW could stick!

The corys seem to forage all over the wood and among the botanicals- surprisingly active i new open water column, too! Proving to be really amazing fish!



November 28, 2017

“Low patina” – had to get my dictionary out to look that up!! Lol. So I have always kept (admittedly unsuccessfully!) pygmy cory in tanks with sand and lots of plants (usually anubias, java fern, crypts and moss). So how do they behave in your SDBW tank (new acronym Super Dooper Blackwater) – do they still swim about at all levels? Do they forage amongst thd botanicals or stick to the sand?

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