Inspiration from above the waterline...

I was lucky enough to be speaking at a great event yesterday in Omaha, Nebraska, at the Nebraska Aquatic Supply Anniversary weekend sale. Along with Luis Navarro of Aquarium Design Group, and Mark ("Mr. Saltwater Tank") Calhahan, I was able to check out this awesome store, one of the premier brick and mortar shops in the U.S. midwest. What's cool about NAS, is that, like many stores, they also carry a selection of reptiles and amphibians. 

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I don't currently have any ambitions about keeping these animals. However,  I think, like with so many other hobby areas, that we as fish geeks can learn a lot of things from them. Aquatic "cross training" is super cool and very useful. And I do find myself drawn to these unique habitats that talented hobbyists create.

Specifically, I’m fascinated by how they work their enclosures, with substrate and background materials that work well in damp, humid environments. With interesting use of soils, plants, leaf litter,  and cork bark, “amphib” hobbyists do some amazing work. I am blown away daily from the amazing work of Paulie Dema with his New York-based business, Vivariums in The Mist. I encourage you to check out his website and gallery. There is so much inspiration there, I think that we as fish geeks can really learn a few tricks!

Leaves, in a "semi-composted" state are valued by vivarium enthusiasts, because they are important in helping to "jump start" the microfauna and beneficial bacteria and fungi populations i the substrate  These are intended to create what vivarium people call a "biologically active" substrate that will help break down and process the resident animals’ waste products and sustain  a healthy, long-term viable environment. And of course, with all of those leaves and such in a partially-composed state, they'll provide valuable organic material and nutrients for plants, which are a key part of the display. And of course, the resident animals benefit too!


"Recipes" for biologically active vivarium substrates include stuff like coconut husks, leaves, wood chips, sand, and even terrestrial or aquatic plant soils. A varied mix that provides numerous benefits for the resident animals...Interested yet? Yeah, I am! How can we incorporate these ideas into our blackwater, botanical-style aquariums and paludariums?

The reason I think we need to pay attention to the work done by vivarium people is that they are embracing many of the concepts that we talk about: Use of botanical materials, dealing with nutrient utilization, durability, and wet/dry habitats. When you here me go on and on about the Igapo flooded forests, I can’t help but think that there is something that we can learn from seeing how these talented enthusiasts work their magic.

And who might just fall in love with herps and end up with yet another hobby! Stranger stuff has happened, right?

Stay enthusiastic. Stay excited. Stay inspired!


And Stay Wet. (or even just moist!)


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics


Something to think about!


Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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