It IS all about the fishes...

I don't know about you, but I've always been a bit of a "contrarian" on stocking a tank. What do I mean? Well, I am pretty patient about setting up and cycling my tanks, waiting for the environmental parameters to fall in line where I want them, and the tanks to aesthetically appear as I'd like them..before ever even thinking of adding the fishes. And sometimes, this can take months.

And it seems to me that, on occasion,  I have almost taken this viewpoint in recent years that my tanks are "Awesome until the fishes come and ruin everything.."

OMG, that's so weird, huh? Perhaps, even heretical!

I'm not sure where this comes from.

I'd like to think that my roughly 30 years of keeping reef aquariums- where the corals, live rock, and the system itself are as much a part of the hobby (if not more) than the fishes are- has put this weird sort of "operating system" in place in my mind. It's as if I feel that the environment is every bit as compelling- if not more so- than the fishes which reside in it.

And maybe that's it.

With interest in the botanical-style blackwater aquarium starting to rise in the hobby, I guess there is so much to experiment with, refine, and learn, that the "hardware" (i.e.; the tank and associated environment) is as compelling as the "software" (our livestock).

Of course, all it takes is a few minutes of staring at my tank full of carefully selected fishes, perfectly suited for their environment, and then I start down the road of "The fishes are the stars of the show for sure!" once again! And feeding and interacting with my fishes is one of the true joys of the hobby. Could I be one of those guys who's goal is to breed fishes, and will happily keep them in a bare tank with a spawning mop or whatever, and be satisfied?

Nah. Not me.

If you notice, I've written plenty of pieces documenting my research and experimentation with breeding fishes and rearing their fry in more natural the point of even suggesting simulating natural desiccation and re-filling of annual killifish aquariums to replicate the natural habitats! (of course, removing the fishes before "totality")


My whole agenda about creating "functional" blackwater/botanical-style aquascapes plays off of my "thesis" that fishes will present more natural behaviors, colors, and demonstrate overall health and consistent spawning occurrences when they are housed in aquariums which represent their natural habitats in multiple the point where I have this theory that even species which have been "adapted to" and bred commercially in hard, alkaline tap water conditions for a few decades could benefit from being "repatriated" to conditions which more closely resemble those that they evolved to live in for, oh- I dunno- eons!

So I'm totally obsessed with the fishes!

Yet, if I look at where I spend the largest part of my hobby time, it's in the creation of the ecosystem in which the fishes will reside. It's about researching, devising, and implementing the approach to create optimum conditions for them. It's about understanding the wild habitats from where they come, and figuring out ways to make their life in my systems great.

And then I tell myself, "What is the point of creating this amazing environment for fishes if you aren't gonna obsess over them...?"

I mean, could I actually have more in common with those contest aquascaper-types that I tease than I do with hardcore fish keepers? Have I really become desensitized to the joys of keeping the fishes themselves?

Of course not.

And that's when I realize that I'm NOT! And, it is ALL about the fishes, really. It never was about anything less than that. "Setting the stage" for fishes is so important, because to me, there is nothing better than seeing your precious animals living and thriving under optimum conditions. I realize that I may never be one of those master fish breeders or club BAP (Breeder's Award Program) people, because I kind of emphasize a different angle of fish keeping. 

And that's okay. 

The hobby needs all sorts of people with various interests. We all have different angles we play- different areas that we are strong in; interested in.

Everyone should find their area of interest and play in it.

However, you need to have skills in multiple areas of disciplines in the hobby, IMHO. And I think that you'll find, upon careful reflection, that you DO have multiple interests...

And if you analyze them carefully enough, you'll discover that, even though you are totally into programming your controller, playing with the fertilizers for your plants, or designing a multiple tank filter system...that it's all about the fishes.

And that's a pretty cool thing!

Stay engaged. Stay excited. Stay open-minded. Stay obsessed!

And Stay Wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics 




Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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