Nature calls the shots.

It's been 6 months since we set up our latest blackwater aquarium, and it's kind of fun to look back on the way this system has evolved. Like any tank, because of the changes we've made and the ones nature created, this one has changed significantly in its first 6 months of existence. 

Part of the reason why we celebrate the “evolution” of blackwater, botanical-style aquariums here at Tannin Aquatics is because the very act of working with one of these tanks IS an evolution.

A process.

A celebration of sensory delights.

As we've discussed before, an aquarium has a “cadence” of its own, which we can set up- but we must let nature dictate the timing and sequencing. It starts with an empty tank. Then, the lush fragrance exuded by crisp botanicals during preparation. The excitement of the initial “placement" of the botanicals within the tank. The gradual “tinting” of the aquarium water. The softening of the botanicals. The gradual development of biofilms and algae “patinas.” Perhaps, even a bit of cloudiness from time to time because of microbial growth.

Ultimately, there's the decomposition.

All part of a process which can’t be “hacked” or rushed. We can change some of the physical aspects of our tanks (equipment, hardscape, etc.), but Mother Nature is in control.

She "calls the shots" here.

And I think that's perhaps the most important lesson that we can learn from our aquariums. As aquarists, we can do a lot- we can change the equipment, correct initial mistakes or shortcomings the system might have had from the beginning.

We set the stage, so to speak.

However, in the's Nature which does most of the real "heavy lifting" here. Nature rewards us for our good decisions, scolds us for our bad ones, and provides "cues" on what future decisions we need to make. And nature does it all indifferently...without judgement. It reacts positively or negatively to our attempts to control it. 

Which is why the reality of a blackwater/botanical-style (BWBS) aquarium is that it's perhaps one of the best ways to bring nature into our home. To blur the lines between nature and aquarium. Sure, planted aquariums give us a similar challenge...but the BWBS aquarium challenges us in different ways. It tasks us to accept Nature in all of its beauty. And yeah, it makes us accept that there IS beauty in things like decomposition, biofilm, and algal growth. Things which we as aquarists might have been "indoctrinated" to loathe over the years..

Yet, when viewed as a "whole", the macro view of BWBS aquarium is that it challenges us to look at the big picture- to not get too caught up in any one aspect of managing our aquarium...and to appreciate all of the process by which nature does its work. And to make a "mental shift" to understand that everything we see in the aquarium is exactly what Nature intends. A definite homage to Amano's idea of wabi-wabi, which treasures some of the transience and "process" which occurs in nature, without our intervention.

One need only study the wild aquatic systems of the world to realize that it's not all "crystal clear and sterile" out there- and that our aquariums in all of their tinted, murky glory will reflect this. Nature "calls the shots" here.

And that it's totally okay.

We dream in water. 

Stay inspired. Stay open-minded. Stay bold...

And Stay Wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics






Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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