Have you ever noticed that we love to get our aquariums "established" as quickly as possible? I mean, as a group, we aquarists seem to hate looking at a partially- completed or "emerging" aquascape....We want them "finished", right?
Well, not all of us.
Now, I say that broadly, because I think us "Tinters" are a bit different- we love that whole "evolving" thing! Something about an emerging, growing system intrigues us...
I have (for a variety of reasons) become one of those extremely patient, perhaps overly-enthusiastic lovers of the "process" of our aquariums "evolving" as they go through the various phases of their existence. Like, I'm the guy who's perfectly entertained watching leaves break down for a few weeks, or seeing snails move leaves about the tank!
As I've said a bunch of times before, I think that the very "premise" of the blackwater/brackish, botanical-style aquarium is that we should embrace the natural processes which occur in our aquariums, and understand what happens, why it happens, and what the benefits are as botanical materials break down in our aquariums. It is the real fundamental "mental shift" that we as botanical-style aquarium lovers have to make to really appreciate this type of approach.
It starts with the selection and preparation processes of the botanical materials we utilize in our aquaecapes. Utilizing materials of various shapes, colors, and sizes helps us create what I suppose is best called a "composition", much in the way aquatic plants are selected by planted tank enthusiasts.
And when the materials are placed in the aquarium, it's nice to let them "settle in" a bit and just sort of "appreciate" them as they begin to soften and break down. And watching the biological interactions which happen before your fishes are added is really interesting...
It's actually a very special time in an aquarium; a time in which you can really get to know the aquarium and the complex interactions which are taking place- and which will continue to evolve as your fishes are added and the aquarium continues to establish itself. The reefer in me understands this intimately.
Our simple recommendation is that we as lovers of the botanical-style aquarium should continue to elevate this practice of observation/appreciation, and really enjoy our aquariums at every phase of their existence.
The observations you make during the "establishment phase" of your blackwater/brackish, botanical-style aquarium might unlock some really interesting biological "secrets" about the way these rich and diverse aquatic systems evolve.
Observing, water testing, and taking a sort of "hands-off" approach (in terms of making changes of any sort) during this time will give us a really good set of "expectations" for how these types of aquariums "break in" and establish themselves, ultimately finding some sort of biological "equilibrium" and operating much like any other type of closed aquatic system will.
So, next time you find yourself "geeking out" in front of your week-old fishes aquarium in the dark, peering at what to others appears to be an empty, lifeless aquascape- stay sharp! You know that those little tiny creatures you see crawling on the susbtrate, and those bits and pieces of detritus coming off those decomposing palm fronds are an important, integral part of your overall aquatic microcosm.
You're not just geeking out.
You're observing the evolution...
Stay engaged. Stay enthralled. Stay observant. Stay patient....Stay geeky...
And Stay Wet.