De tenebris, lucem ("from darkness, light")

Have you ever felt like some of the stuff you're doing is starting to pay off a bit?

I'm feeling that, and it's kind of cool that it's happening around the holidays. That "feeling" that tells you that you're doing exactly what you should be doing. Everyone needs to feel that at some point in their lives, I think.

When we launched Tannin Aquatics last year, it wasn't just about selling "twigs and nuts" as some of my friends half-jokingly asserted. We considered it an integral part of our mission not only to inspire and educate hobbyists who had never worked with botanicals/blackwater aquariums before to give them a try, but to "gather up the nomadic outliers" who were playing with these types of aquariums, but perhaps had no sense of community or connection to other hobbyists who shared this passion. It was a pretty tight little niche, and quite frankly, perhaps a bit crazy to base an entire business on, in the eyes of some of my industry friends. Believe it or not, I had complete confidence in it, simply because I loved it so much and had no absurd expectations of "changing the world" with it. I just flat-out enjoy it.

As we've discussed before, the idea of using botanical items to create blackwater-type aquariums is not "new", as hobbyists had played with them for many years. Tannin Aquatics certainly did not "invent" the concept. However, the idea of curating and collating the products, information, and offering inspiration from those who had been working with them previously, all in one place- was new. By creating a place to obtain all of this in one place, and to share and inspire others, you- our growing global community of "tinters"- have helped bring the idea of blackwater aquariums literally out from the shadows. With an ever-growing, impressive "body of work" being shared by hobbyists worldwide via social media, these aquariums are rapidly emerging from the "oddity/sideshow" area, and simply becoming an accepted way to manage a freshwater aquarium. With each new aquarium that is built and maintained based on this concept, the growing "state of the art" of blackwater/botanical-style aquariums is further refined.

While the aesthetic is not something everyone enjoys- dark water, decomposing leaves, biofilms; even algae- there is a certain "something" that seems to appeal to a much wider audience than even we anticipated. It seems to resonate. We're seeing hobbyists from all areas of specialization- ranging from Aquascaping, to Dwarf Cichlids, to Bettas, to Killies, and even to less expected areas like...reef hobbyists- expressing interest in, and creating their own blackwater aquariums. The "those tanks look lame and dirty" emails seem to be less frequent now, lol.

Many hobbyists have told us that there is something alluring about these aquariums and the accompanying aesthetic that they find compelling. The "earthy, organic and natural" vibe that we talk about so much here seems to be catchy. Unlike some of the more "sterile", rigidly-styled variations of "natural" aquariums that have been embraced by many for so long, this "style" of aquarium really seems to lend itself to a far more "realistic" presentation in the eyes of many, and provides the freedom of expression that only nature can provide. Seeing the wonderful pics of wild blackwater habitats being shared by our friends has created a powerful and compelling message for many that these aquariums are some of the more accurate depictions of natural aquatic habitats than many had previously realized. Unique. Vibrant. Brimming with life.

(pic by Mike Tuccinardi)

And, by learning more and more about the important roles that tannins and humic substances from botanicals play in fish health, the practical aspects of these types of aquariums are becoming more and more apparent- and accepted- by a wider range of hobbyists. What many breeders knew for so long- that blackwater conditions can lead to healthier fishes and more prolific, viable spawns- is being experienced and shared by other hobbyists, which will have great long-term implications for sustainability of the animals we cherish. Maintaining these types of conditions "full-time"- not just when we want to spawn our fishes, has been a real paradigm shift for many. We really are starting to blur the lines between nature and aquarium, which is really cool.

Perhaps the greatest "dividend" from this "renaissance" of blackwater/botanical-style aquariums is a renewed interest in, and greater understanding about the natural habitats from which many of our favorite fishes come from, and the need to protect and preserve them for future generations to enjoy.

(pic by David Sobry)

And what does the future hold for Tannin Aquatics? Well, quite frankly, we're just getting started. We have many projects that we want to tackle this year, including growing and refining our services and offerings, having a greater media presence, proving more practical information, further supporting fish clubs, conservation, and research, and expanding upon the promise of the "life" part of our slogan, just to name a few. It's a pretty ambitious agenda; however, thanks to your support- we feel that we're up for the task.

From us to you- may the Holiday Season bring you good times, peace, and happiness. And may the blessings of this season follow you throughout the coming year ahead. Thank you for making us a part of your hobby experience. Together, we've helped foster a growing movement that we hope will provide you with creativity, inspiration, and enjoyment for many years to come.

We look forward to continuing our mission of bringing the concept of blackwater aquariums "out of the darkness" and into the light it deserves.

Stay engaged. Stay inspired. Stay true to yourself.

And Stay Wet.

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics


Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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