Into darkness...and shining a light on it. (Building the body of knowledge about blackwater aquariums)

As we plunge ever deeper into the world of blackwater aquariums, it seems that there are a lot of different "projects" that we as amateur aquarists can work on that will help unlock some of the secrets and challenges of their care. Even though hobbyists have been playing with blackwater-type tanks for years, it's been only very recently that they are sort of stepping out of the shadows and emerging as an interesting alternative to a conventional "clear water" tank. We've learned a lot already- but there is so much more to learn!

The blackwater world presents a real "ground floor" opportunity for the intrepid hobbyist to get involved, experiment, and contribute to the body of knowledge accumulating on the aquarium replication of these unique habitats. Each new aquarium- each new application of botanicals- every spawning attempt, biotope replication...for that matter, every pH and alkalinity test that we do- helps contribute to the data we have on the husbandry of blackwater systems. You are truly on the cutting edge here, and everyone's contribution is important!

Here are just a few of the things that would be important for us to study and share our information about, in relation to blackwater aquariums:

*Long-term stability of pH and alkalinity, particularly with various types of substrate materials, and different chemical filtration media. What has proven to be the most effective means to keep a stable chemical environment in a blackwater system? What are the optimum pH and alkalinity ranges for safe, long-term maintenance of these systems?

*Are there some water change regimens and other husbandry techniques  that lend themselves better to the export of nutrients and overall parameter stability within a closed blackwater system? Are there "best practices" that we can reliably utilize to increase our chances for success?

*What botanical items seem to provide the most benefit to the inhabitants of a blackwater aquarium, both in terms of environmental stability and overall "comfort" for the fishes and invertebrates maintained?

*What plants seem to led themselves best to maintenance in a blackwater aquarium? Are the acidic, nutrient-based speciality substrates beneficial to keeping things chemically stable in a blackwater tank, or do they take pH even lower that we would like?

*Is it possible to maintain a blackwater, heavily botanical-influenced system (i.e.; leaf litter) for very long periods of time (i.e.; several years)? What are the long-term challenges, in terms of maintenance and care?

*When kept under blackwater conditions, are spawning success rates, and overall health, vitality, and appearance of the resulting offspring significantly better when breeding "domesticated" varieties of fishes whose ancestors came from blackwater environments in the wild?, yet are now kept and bred in "tapwater" conditions commercially?

*Are there optimum amounts and types of botanicals that can be utilized in a specific manner to achieve desired parameters reliably and safely? Is it possible to work out a "X" amount of botanicals within the system at a starting pH/Alkalinity of ____ to get where we want to go? Are better results attained when we use the botanicals as "media" within filters than when they are incorporated into the display itself?

*Are we experiencing better success rates with the maintenance and spawning of WILD fishes from blackwater environments when we keep them this way in captivity, versus more conventional "tapwater" parameters? Do the wild specimens acclimate any easier and more successfully to captivity when these conditions are applied?

*Do various physical augmentations to the aquarium environment, such as different flow rates, lighting schedules, and temperatures, create significantly better outcomes for the long-term care of certain species?

These are just a very few of the many, many different topics that would be interesting for us as hobbyists to investigate. There are literally hundreds more subjects to tackle, if we want to. Some of them we are actually tackling by the simple act of keeping a botnaical-influenced blackwater aquarium. Most of them require little more than simply taking note about the blackwater systems we're keeping, and perhaps noting any significant observations one way or another (Ex: "Gouramis tend to spawn an average of 2 months earlier than those kept in my tapwater parameters..." Or, "Tanks with significant biofilm growth on the botanicals in the first three months of operation tend to have more stable nitrate and phosphate parameters...").

There is something both exciting and satisfying about taking the approach that your hobby enjoyment and adventures can help add to the body of knowledge being accumulated about these cool aquariums. Through your effort, passion, animist important- sharing of experiences- other hobbyists entering this unique world will have a better understanding of what to plan for, what to expect, and how to manage blackwater aquariums.

That's how we share "The Tint."

Stay adventurous. Stay curious...

And Stay Wet.

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics

Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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