We've seen a lot of awesome new tanks going up lately, featuring botanical/blackwater themes, and there are a lot of new ideas.
Of particular interest to me are the tanks in which hobbyists are playing with leaves. It seems like we see more and more interest in creating aquariums with leaves of various sorts, and that's just fine with us!
Regardless of if the main botanical "feature" is leaves or other materials, it's neat for me to see how hobbyists are incorporating these materials. A good number of you ask what are some materials that you could integrate into your litter bed that have "leaf-like" properties or aesthetics. At the risk of being a bit of an "info-mmercial" today, we break with our typical more "idea-oriented" blogs and touch on this emerging area of interest for a bit. Hope you enjoy the "detour!"
Fortunately, we offer a few that should fit the need nicely. To begin with, there is the palm-derived "Mariposa Pod", which is lightweight, has a nice reddish-brown color, and an interesting texture. Since it's not a leaf, it holds up far better underwater, and in our experience, may last for many months as it breaks down. This puts it into a nice position to be an "anchor botanical" in a leaf litter bed in which more transient leaves break down and are replaced regularly.
Because of it's seemingly smooth," non-porous" interior surface, it tends to accrue less biofilms and algae than other botanicals with a different interior surface texture. And, it does seem to continue to impart some tint into the water for extended periods of time after submersion! Shrimp and other herbivorous fishes seem to love to pick at its surfaces, looking for any algae that is actually visible, and I've seen Plecos "rasp" at the botanicals themselves a bit, too.
We just completed testing on, and are about to roll out a smaller-sized version of a similar palm product, which we think will really help create interesting litter-like effects, particularly in nano-sized tanks, in which "scale" is important. It's characteristics appear to be the same as the "Mariposa", so the possibilities are quite exciting!
One of our more popular botanicals is the cool, "potato-chip"-like "Terra Sorrindo", which has a very attractive appearance, and displays a durability that is impressive! I've had these last 4-6 months before they ultimately break down, and during that time, they hold their overall shape nicely. The exterior is decidedly "woodY" in appearance, with a contrasting lighter interior. They tend to soften from the "inside" surface first. Unlike the "Mariposas', these guys do tend to recruit biofilms from time to time, which seem to pass quickly.
These are really great long-term "accessories" for a leaf-litter bed, and we include them with a number of our "sampler" packs because of their unique aesthetics and durability.
The next "player" in this interesting "leaf-litter supporting cast" is "Carambola Lixo", named for its interesting "Starfruit-like" appearance. The neatest thing about these botanicals is that they are quite lightweight, so you'd think that they'd simply float for ever. Surprisingly, they saturate quickly and sink like a rock!
And they hold their unique shape after preparation, in contrast to some botanicals which fold or close up after boiling or steeping. They impart very slight amounts of tannins, and have proven quite popular with our customers who keep various species of shrimp. Their small size, unique appearance, and surprising durability after long-term submersion have made them very popular!
The final "leaf-like" botanical in this crew is a real "heavyweight", also derived from a palm. The "Encontro Pod" is unique in that it's just plain durable and "thick" in structure, with a orangish-brown color that really contrasts nicely with leaves and other materials that comprise the litter bed. It will last a very long time submerged; our record is well over a year before we've seen one finally break down significantly! It will impart some tannins to the water during it's submersion, and you should definitely boil it to get it to sink and soften a bit.
Well, that concludes our brief look at some of the "leaf supplements" you can incorporate into a unique leaf-litter zone display in your botanical-influenced aquarium. As you probably imagine, we're always sourcing, testing, and working with new and exciting botanicals materials for you to use in your next tank! Keep following us for the latest additions to our collection!
Stay creative. Stay curious. Stay excited.
And Stay Wet!