Making the next "mental stretch"

Are you getting a bit more comfortable with the whole "botanical" thing? Starting to understand the dynamics of a botanical-influenced system, with its litany of decomposing leaves, occasional biofilms, algae, and brown water? 

Finding that you actually LIKE it?

Cool, sounds like you've made that "mental shift" I'm always blabbing on about here! You've probably also developed an appreciation for periodically "refreshing" your aquascape as you add new botanicals and leaves to replace those that have broken down. The understanding that a blackwater, "New Botanical-style" aquarium is a dynamic, ever-changing system is the next "mental stretch" we have to make as we get used to playing with these types of systems over the long haul.

Just as in nature, over time, leaves and botanical materials break down, switch location, and change in color, appearance, and texture. This is the inevitable course of biological materials under water.

I remember reading in a book or article years ago, a passage that said something to the effect that, " soon as we set our aquarium up, the careful environment we created begins to deteriorate.." I always thought it was such a negative viewpoint. And, in light of my experience with botanical-influenced aquarium, I'm inclined to say something like, "...from the minute we set up our aquariums, the careful environment that we have constructed begins to...evolve."

And we, as aquarists, have to learn to understand and appreciate this. We have to embrace the change, the evolution of our aquariums...we must understand that our carefully-created hardscape will not look at all like it did when we first set it up a few months back. It will evolve naturally and beautifully, if we allow it to do so.

And we can use this to our advantage, actually. What do I mean? Well, think about this. In nature, there are different densities of materials in the water at different times of the year (i.e.; the dry season or rainy season), and thus, the underwater landscape will look different seasonally.

So, we can actually create a seasonal look to our tank, refreshing the botanicals and leaves from time to time- adding more significant numbers of materials, as opposed to just "topping off" the ones that have broken down.

Or, we can change the composition of the scape, increasing the ratio of leaves to other botanicals, for example, which creates a new look- a new aesthetic balance. And evolving, dynamic, aquascape.

We could experiment with things like adding plants, which creates an entirely new aesthetic touch in our botanical hardscape.

In the aquarium, like in nature, the changes to the physical environment will influence the behavior of the inhabitants. Loss of hiding or foraging areas in one part of the aquarium will compel your fishes to fin other locales within the system to utilize. Again, just like in nature.

Obviosuly, an aquarium is not the natural environment. It is, however, a microcosm- a snapshot, facsimile, or replication of the natural environment, and is subject to the laws of nature. Sure, we can manipulate, enhance, and "assist" nature in our aquariums. And we can certainly, and most easily embrace it, marveling at the "edits" that nature does in our aquariums, as it his done for eons in the lakes, streams, and rivers of the world.

Embrace the change. Enjoy nature at work. Assist, enjoy, and work with nature in your aquarium, and you'll develop an even greater appreciation for the beauty of the natural world, and have a lot more fun doing so!

Stay engaged. Stay attuned. Stay observant. Stay creative.

And Stay Wet.

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquaitcs

P.S- Thanks to Luis Navarro,  James Sheen, Tai Streitman, and Andrew Kieffer for their awesome pics in this piece!


Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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