People often ask me how I fell into this path that led towards creating Tannin Aquatics, and every once in a while, I have to muse about it myself...
I realize that many of you are interested in some of the same stuff that I am- or at lest, curious about it...and you've found that Tannin is a sort of "home" for your interest. We've developed a little "tribe", if you will, of original thinkers, tinkerers, and innovators. Everyday aquarists with big ideas and a love for all things aquatic.
I love the idea of decaying leaves, botanicals, wood. I love the influence that these materials have over the aquatic environment. It's earthy, organic, and natual.
It does sound a bit strange, I admit, musing and waxing poetic about this stuff, but embracing it and studying the way many of the natural environments which some of our most popular tropical aquarium fishes hail from inspired me immensely to experiment. After a lifetime of fish keeping, I developed an interest in more accurately portraying these unique environments.
I began wondering why these types of tanks were seen as a novelty; why every "blackwater biotope" tank shown on the forums was greeted with both accolades for being different, and polite, but reserved discussion about the aesthetics being a bit "odd."
That became irresistible inspiration for me to experiment! And it wasn't just because I was drawn to the look, feel, function, diversity, and dynamic of the leaf litter, blackwater stream environment. It was because I knew, almost instinctively, that this seemingly random, messy, and sometimes "transitory" environmental niche has potential to change the way we keep and breed many fishes. This "New Botanical- style" aquarium is an aesthetic, a research project, and a mindset, all rolled into one.
And I love the fact that it is somewhat "contrarian" to the more conventional aquarium interpretation of a "natural" aquarium. I'm fascinated by the mental adjustments that we need to make to accept the aesthetic, and the processes of natural decay, and how these processes affect what's occurring in the aquarium.
I love the fact that it needs to be managed; it's not a static, "set-and-forget-", aquascaping-contest-type of aquarium. It's every bit as dynamic as a "traditional" high-tech, "ADA-style" planted aquarium. You need to monitor, observe, react, tweak, etc. Bioload, pH, and other environmental parameters dance together to make it work...just like any other aquarium.
If done in a haphazard, careless fashion, without an eye towards long-term functionality, an aquarium set up in the "New Botanical-style"gradually falls away into a sort of...mess.
However, I've learned what many of you have over your fish keeping careers: The occasional "mess" is- or often leads to -something beautiful, permanent, and utterly engrossing. So the term "mess", as we might commonly use it, should not be viewed as negative. It's more of a "transition", IMHO! "Mess" is actually a vehicle to propel us in different aquascaping directions.
And making those mental adjustments along the way is a healthy, normal part of the art of aquarium keeping. Since we've started Tannin, many hobbyists have shared their cool aquatic displays and aquascaping projects with us. We love that!
Some are traditional concepts with a few new twists (awesome planted tanks, or more natural-looking African Rift Lake biotopes), some are the embodiment of ideas we don't see enough of (like ripariums, vivariums, and paludariums). Still others are experimental, off-the-wall concepts that inspire, educate, and delight.
I love that the real possibility of making a "mess" exists at every turn when we as hobbyists try something new and different. As we've talked about previously, a "mess" in this sense, although occasionally tragic, usually just means that the original idea didn't work as conceptualized; that further enhancement, modification, and iteration is required. It got a bit "messy."
And that's okay. It's part of the game.
It's okay to make a little "mess" sometimes. It can lead to something beautiful.
Today's simple, but important-to-grasp idea.
Stay excited. Stay innovative. Stay open to the process.
And Stay Wet.