With an ever-growing selection of botanicals available to "Tint Nation" nowadays, it can be almost overwhelming to decide which ones are the best for your aquarium. And of course, ultimately personal taste and the requirements of the fishes or aquatic animals will help make the decision easier. That being said, there are always a few specimens that are just awesome ones, which somehow "fall between the cracks" for whatever reason, and deserve a bit more attention.
And of course, when embarking on a piece that is a review of some of these, it's inescapable that some will see this as a sort of "infommercial" for our botanicals...whcih, I suppose, it is. However, I really hope it simply serves to open your eyes to some interesting botanicals that you may not have elected before for inclusion in one of your aquatic displays!
I have to say that one of my more recent botanical obsessions (of which I have MANY!) is the use of catappa bark in my tanks. Now, when we think about catappa bark, I think that a lot of us "Tinters" think about tin terms of being a "vehicle" for adding tannins and humic substances to the water. Something you throw into the canister filter or a media bag and don't look at...Not so much as an aesthetic point of interest in and of itself, which is a sort of shame- because it's really great looking!
In fact, I'm so obsessed by the stuff, that we've sourced three different geographically unique version of the stuff! One is from India, which is hand-rolled not little tubes or half tubes. The other, from Selatan, Ponitanac in Indonesia, has a thick, "chunky" look to it. The third form we offer, from Sandakan, Saba, Borneo, is highly variable in both texture and size, and has a distinct color and morphology, ranging from think little rolled pieces to flat strips.
All of these are great as botanical materials which add to the look and feel of the aquarium environment. They provide an interesting complement to many varieties of driftwood (particularly the Malaysian and Mangrove types, IMHO), and provide grazing surfaces for shrimp and fishes. Coming from the Catappa tree, they are filled with the same humic substances and tannins as you'd fin in the leaves. Now, far be it from me to suggest that each variety has different types of amounts of these compounds contained in the tissues, but I can't help but wonder if they are somehow unique. Only lab testing will really tell!
Regardless, they are all pretty long lasting, tend not to "break up" too much, and are a fabulous alternative to catappa leaves for imparting a nice tint into the water. So yeah, they're useful, "cleaner" alternatives for those who love the tint but are not fans of leaves breaking down in their aquariums!
Another one of our "forgotten faves" is the "Rio Passaro" - a botanical which is unique in its appearance, yet one that we don't see used quite as often as we think it should be! Rio Passaro Pods" are a"featherweight" botanical, derived from Nypa palm. They are essentially like leaves in terms of their their "heft", appearance, and use. However, unlike most leaves, they tend to last longer, and will break down more slowly than leaves in most systems.
They're really great for evoking that "jungle like" appearance, and are awesome when used with botanicals like our Pygmy Date Palm fronds or "Rio Fruta"...and in a brackish water system, they will add a very authentic touch! The Nypa palm from which they are derived is often found growing partially immersed in brackish water habitats, right along side mangroves!
Another botanical which, although newer, deserves some recognition is the "Kachnar Tree Pod"- a twisty, leathery-looking botanical with interesting aesthetics and respectable "tint-production" capabilities!
As you might guess, this dried seed pod comes from a tree from tropical Asia (India, to be specific) known as the "Kachnar Tree", Bauhinia variegata. The pod has a beautiful color, is rather woody in texture, and lasts a respectable length of time when submerged! And it will impart an nice, reddish-brown tint to the water over time. It may "unravel" a bit after preparation, but is pliable enough that you can "reshape" it back to it's original form if you want. It's a perfect "prop" for a Southeast Asian-themed aquarium!
One of my all-time faves- and one which goes back to the very beginnings of Tannin Aquatics, is the "Encontro Pod." This is a super-cool, uniquely-colorful, and highly durable botanical with interesting aesthetics and surprising utility!
Coming from South America, these are a great "prop" for the Amazonian-themed aquarium. They are remarkably durable, lasting many months under water. I love the way they gradually soften after submersion, and provide a terrific alternative for leaves...I mean they have a leaf-like shape, and can be incorporated into a leaf-litter bed in your aquarium almost effortlessly!
Preparation for these little pods is much like many of our other pods, which means that we're talking about boiling them for at least half an hour to get them waterlogged enough to sink. It could take longer, depending on the particular pod! As with our other pods, the prep time is totally worth it for the aesthetic reward that these bring to your biotope!
For a botanical which is definitely useful, and certainly not under appreciated, the "Teardrop Pod" is one that still needs to be given some "props" as a perfect "grazing botanical" for shrimp! Yeah, it's perhaps one of the most "edible" of our botanicals, and the feedback from our customers who keep shrimp has been nothing but positive!
Hailing from India, the "Teardrop" pod is a great botanical not only for its unique aesthetics, but for it's all-around usefulness as a- wait for it- biofilm "recruiter!" Yeah, the Yellowish interio of this botanical tends to soften over time, and recruit a tremendous amount of biofilms; that is, if it's not consumed by your shrimp first!
Oaky, I know- I could go on and on, espousing the virtues of pretty much each and every botanical we offer- essentially re-writing our catalog...So I won't! Suffice ti to say, there is a lot of cool stuff you can do with pretty much any of these items...and many that I didn't mention here. Think about the ideas of supplementing leaf litter with longer-lasting seed pods, and utilizing some for the recruitment of biofilms and as food, and others for tinting the water...just look at things a bit differently and you may discover an "old favorite" that's been forgotten, under-utilized- just waiting to "star" in your display!
Stay creative. Stay curious. Stay excited. Stay innovative...
And Stay Wet.