The value of ideas.


Time for some new aquariums in my home....Always a cool thing, but it's also a sort of challenging thing, right?

And it always starts with...ideas.

I mean, I have a bunch of ideas that have been percolating in my head for...well- years! Like many of you, I keep a little notebook full of sketches, thoughts- little ideas for new tanks. I've been keeping it forever, and it's helped me realize some pretty amazing projects over the years! In fact, the idea for Tannin came from that little notebook!

All of these ideas...

And yet, I still have that same feeling of... Perhaps, restriction? Frustration? Not sure what it is- when you just have to have one tank to make it happen...Ridiculous that I should feel this way- I mean, I'm incredibly fortunate to be able to build a few tanks. Of course, in my head, the "disconnect" is that I have unlimited ideas...many of which, for a variety of reasons, never really get out of the "theoretical" phase!

I used to laugh at news reports when NASA would announce that it committed $4,000,000 to the study of building a starship, or some other thing for which the actual capability doesn't even exist yet- and likely won't for decades, if not longer. I mean, why? And yet, I kind of understand it now...It's like, I am appropriating all of this "mental capital" to study some of my concept tank ideas that perhaps I really don't have the means to pull off- just yet.

Well, that's kind of fun, actually! What hobbyist doesn't look at their tank and think (or even say!), "Next, I'm gonna build a tank that has___________."  

I think that's what keeps us moving forward, right? Big ideas...Ones that we do execute on, though.

So anyways, I've narrowed down my range to a few concepts- each one quite different from the other.

I go back and forth, getting mentally committed to one idea, and then seeing a really great piece of driftwood or something which takes me into a different place...Or I see a video or image of a wild habitat that gets me going, and then I get turned around into one of the many other ideas I've been playing with...

Wow. Crazy.

I get really distracted easily, when it comes to aquarium stuff!

The goal is not to get into a loop of "analysis paralysis" and never make a move simply because I'm "still planning..." Yeah. I've seen guys do that and the tank sits empty and collects dust cobwebs while they are "contemplating."


You see, like many of you, my imagination, appetite, and enthusiasm are often larger than my ability, time, or means to get the job done. I've concluded that to do all of my crazy concept tanks, I'd probably need like 17 aquariums of all shapes and sizes, many with technologies and components that would carry a breathtaking price tag- if they exist at all... 

And, this is AFTER I've eliminated some of the early front runners, like the intertidal  Pipefish Mangrove tank, the Amazonian waterfall tank, the monospecific Acropora microcaldos tank, the "Nothobranchius Temporal Pool" concept tank (ask me about the "mud hole" idea I've been playing with sometime), and others that are earmarked for some "indefinite future date...."

So, I kind of have this personal thought about "ideas."

They're worthless.


Okay, that sounded a bit harsh. Let me clarify a bt.

I mean, if you're not going to do anything with them, they're sort of just "nice things" to have- maybe inspiring-but you need to act on them or they are just...theoretical, right? 


I don't keep "theoretical" tanks. 

And, I realize that there are limitations that we all have- Space, time, money, etc.- and that these temper many of ideas from being executed. I suppose that is part of the reason why I've changed my thinking about so-called "nano"-sized tanks over the past few years. Because their smaller size and ease of use helps you rapidly iterate from idea to completed system quickly and easily! I've had a lot of fun with them lately.

One of the best things about my business is getting to help fuel the dreams of other hobbyists. It gives me great pleasure to see you guys enjoying the hobby, and motivates me to do more.

And of course, when it comes time to do my own tank, I have to weed through all of these crazy ideas- some of which challenge me in ways I hadn't even considered. Some are just fun to play with.

Others launch me and Tannin into entirely new directions- those are the best ideas!

Okay, so maybe not ALL ideas are worthless.

I'm curious about what your "next" tank is going to be, how you arrived at the concept, and if you actually have gotten out of the planning phase..

So many of us are pushing the boundaries in aquarium technique by utilizing elements of blackwater, botanical-style aquariums, and many more techniques to discover, develop, and refine. With so much interest in our "dark world", we're seeing an exciting influx of new people, new energy, and new ideas- all of which will enrich and enhance the art and science of aquarium keeping, for the benefit of everyone who participates in this awesome hobby!

I took the time to write down and share everything I learned with my fellow hobbyists. Shared everything that I've learned and thought about- still do- in this blog and elsewhere. I'd like to see more of you doing that, too!

I'm not that unique.

I am just an average guy with an above average interest in a rather arcane subject within the aquarium hobby, and I pushed to learn as much as I can about it. Lots of you do the same...have for decades.

And whenever I tried new ideas, I would encounter some pushback from those who felt that they couldn't be pulled off. So-called "constructive criticisms" delivered in a most unconstructive way.

Many of you were dabbling with unusual ideas of your own, and we've traded "war stories", shared ideas, discuss our successes- and failures. We collaborated.

It worked beautifully with the evolution of the botanical-style aquarium approach: We took an idea which was typically dismissed, or seen as some sort of "side show" and looked at it more seriously, more procedurally...With an emphasis on observing Nature and attempting to understand and replicate some of its aspects in our tanks.

And we are seeing the emergence of blackwater, botanical-style aquariums as a legitimate methodology to successfully keep and breed a wide variety of fishes. We learn new stuff every day- together. So, yeah, I suppose that's another example of the value of ideas!

This is the way you push out into the unknown and weather the unwarranted "criticisms" or plain old attacks. You DO your thing. You focus. You find others who have similar interests and share ideas. You collaborate. And most of all, you share. Without fear of judgement. And without expectation of anything, other than perhaps inspiring others to follow the path you've taken if they desire, and to expand on your idea and improve upon it.

It's hard to take criticism. I know. 

Especially when it's for something you hold near and dear, and work with daily. However, in the aquarium world, like in so many other places- it comes with the territory.

However, it's harder to allow one of your ideas to shrivel up and die without ever being executed because you were afraid of criticism.

For those of you taking on your new ideas, and pushing out into new territories- new frontiers:

Move forward. Bravely. 

Take comfort in the fact that you are trying. Take comfort in the fact that your work may inspire others...and in it's own little way, perhaps change the aquarium hobby.

You're not foolish.

And your ideas aren't, either.

As long as you execute on them.

Whatever idea you decide on for your next aquarium- just DO SOMETHING!  Dream about it. Create it. Study it.

Stay bold. Stay creative. Stay thoughtful. Stay diligent...

And Stay Wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics

Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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