Botanicals on the brain...ideas I just can't let go of...

Ever get one of those ideas that, perhaps you mention in passing in discussion...or maybe in a blog, or whatever...and it just sort of sticks with you a bit?

Well, I have just such a "thing" in my head, and I can't seem to let go of it! I mentioned in one of my most recent pieces the idea of a leaf litter-filled botanical tank as a sort of "botanical fry rearing tank" for some species, and I keep thinking about this.

It reminds me of the "jungle style" aquariums I used to play with for killies when I was a kid..You know, overgrown planted tanks packed with Rotala, Water Sprite, Duckweed...whatever plants you wanted - and you'd toss in newly-hatched fry and just sort of let them be...

I remember the beautiful Fp.gardneri  and Ep. dageti Monroviae that I'd get out of such tanks! And killer Platies and Mollies! I never forgot that feeling of just peering into the "jungle" and spotting juveniles with developing color and fins!

So, I keep thinking that a similar kind of thing could work for many fishes with a very diverse, leaf-litter-heavy botanical aquarium. I derive my inspiration for this from the extremely productive leaf litter zones of Amazonia and elsewhere, in which diverse and rich communities of fishes and their food sources thrive and create a fantastic habitat.

(pic by David Sobry)

You'd have (maybe) a fine sand bottom, maybe a few centimeters deep, and a lot of different leaves on top. I'd think Catappa, Guava, and a healthy dose of Magnolia and Loquat (for biofilm production).

Then, more diverse botanical items, like "Mariposa Pods" (A more durable, palm-derived product), "Terra Sorrindo" (also Palm-derived), Banana Stem Pieces, and various other "harder-shelled" pods which recruit biofilms readily. Maybe you'd "inoculate" the tank with some Daphnia, and let it sit for a bit before adding fish.

I can imagine that, once the pods and leaves start to break down a bit and recruit biocover, maybe some algae, and a bit of infusoria or other small microorganisms- you'd have an ideal, low-maintenance "starter tank" for a lot of different types of fishes, ranging from killies to Anabantids to Cichlids and Tetras...Just do water changes and perhaps minimal food inputs. A bunch of possibilities here. I had one friend who has used this concept to rear some Pleco fry from the early stages with much success!

Further, I could see such a setup being useful for acclimating newly-arrived wild fishes which come from blackwater environments...Like characins, Apistos, Angels, and Discus...Not only do the fishes benefit from the humic substances released by the botanicals and leaves- they have a ready source of "foraging" available to them.

The concept is not something that's totally "out there"- yet using heavily loaded botanical tanks for acclimating fishes might prove interesting! There are a lot of possibilities with this. As we start seeing the appearance of different types of more specialized feeders coming into the market (that's all I'm saying for now), these types of more natural acclimation systems-and displays- might prove extremely useful.

Or the idea of a freshwater refugium, stocked to the max with botanicals and leaves and such, lit on a "reverse daylight" schedule from your display, as a means to impart tint, create optimal conditions, and provide supplemental food or biodiversity to a display that, for whatever reason, you want to keep leaves and such out of... or keep animals like shrimp- which could become someone else meal- safe!

A concept that has been occasionally touched on with freshwater tanks, but scarcely anyone is really doing much- or at least, talking much- about...particularly with the application of botanical materials! Wide open for "R and D" for those of you who are interested!

And of course, I've talked a lot about a "tint reactor"- you know, using botanicals like cones and bits of leaves in a fluidized reactor (Hello, crossover reef-keeping geeks..this is right up your alley!), not just to impart tint and humility substances, but possibly to create a "biofilm reactor" where this stuff is actively grown so that the effluent contains some beneficial microbial life forms for a rearing aquarium...Just an idea, but could it be the "Brine Shrimp hatcher of The 21st Century?"

Who knows.

What I do know is that there can be more use for botanical-style aquariums than just creating aesthetically interesting displays. The functionality of them in a variety of other applications beckons us...It's just the beginning of this- and there is all sorts of potential for novel applications and, just maybe- breakthrough developments.

At the very least, this stuff is really fun, puts you square on the "bleeding edge" of aquarium technique, and it gives your friends who just don't get our obsession something to tease you about! How cool is that?

Stay bold. Stay geeked-out. Stay experimental.

And Stay Wet.

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics



Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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