Discovering, accepting...perfecting

Was in a bit of a reflective mood today...

It’s a real leap of faith for us fish geeks to try something new, isn’t it?

I mean, we’ve done things pretty successfully, with some gradual iterations along the way- for the better part of 100 or so years…until fairly recently.

Sure, there have been changes in basic technology- like frozen foods, freeze-dried foods, under gravel filters, internal water pumps, wet-dry filters…canister filters.We’ve gone through different types of stuff like aquarium substrates for planted tanks…and the application of liquid fertilizers and CO2- stuff that used to seem so exotic and unfamiliar is now "just the way it’s done", right?

It’s not always easy getting fish people to adapt new methods, equipment, or ideas…It’s almost like we have to see the "relevance" to what we do before we consider it…There has to be some element of familiarity, it seems.

The odd, but well-treaded analogy of the California Roll resonates well here. “Huh? What are you talking about, Fellman?” 

Stay with me, here…

Remember not too many years ago, the whole concept of sushi was- well- alien to many Americans of non-Japanese ancestry.  Back in the late 1970’s, or so the story goes, owners of Japanese restaurants were just nots sure how to get Americans into sushi..Eventually, someone made a roll, consisting of ingredients that were almost entirely recognizable to  the Western palette: Rice, cucumber, and crab. The little bit of nori that wrapped the whole thing up was a stretch- but the majority of the roll was produced with entirely familiar ingredients. It caught on- big time- and became the “gateway drug” for the sushi addiction here in the U.S. and throughout much of the West.  Now, it’s pretty much the most “basic” of the sushi rolls- but I’ll bet that in 1977, most Westerners would freak out about it if they were offered it at a restaurant!

And that’s how it is with our fish stuff, right?

We accepted the idea of the “Nature Aquarium” in America, with it’s rigid adherence to aquascaping layout “rules” and such; it was sort of a sea change…but it also was an evolution or change from what we had in the past…It incorporated familiar components (plants, rocks, wood, but assembled them in a different way. It was like that with the first freeze-dried foods…live stuff that was preserved in a different manner than previously done…and it made our lives better and easier, in terms of our fish keeping…And so it goes with electronic controllers, LED lights, etc., etc.- Familiar ideas expressed in new ways…

That’s what pushes the hobby forward. In our case, the idea of using “botanicals” in our aquariums is not groundbreaking…it’s just a bit different than what we’ve been doing in the past…a tiny, tiny incremental change in our practices. It's modeling after what really happens in nature, as opposed to some stylized representation of nature.

And we're talking about accepting and fostering many of the natural processes that occur in the habitats we model, beyond just the aesthetics.

Yet, it’s required us to make a lot of “mental leaps”, hasn’t it? I mean, the idea of throwing in leaves and botanicals which break down and tint the water wasn’t exactly the kind of thing a lot of hobbyists found appealing.

Giving up the idea of “pristine-looking” blue-white water for the soupy "brownness" of a blackwater aquarium did not immediately endear many, with the general hobby sensibilities about keeping aquariums scrupulously “clean” and devoid of stuff that would be considered “excess bioload” and what not.

Yet, now we’re starting to see not only the unique aesthetic advantages of blackwater, botanical-style aquariums- we’re seeing functional, tangible results, in terms of fish health, spawning, and husbandry technique. And the “side show” that was blackwater aquariums is now on its way to becoming a more widely enjoyed hobby specialty area.

Every new fish that’s bred, every new idea that’s executed and perfected. They all make things so familiar to us that much better… Familiar in some ways, yet so different in others. YOU'RE doing this- pushing the state of the art along. We all are.

We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Keep doing what you're doing. 

Stay excited. Stay passionate. Stay curious.

And stay wet.

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics

Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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