Of guilt, creativity, and "geographic transgressions..."

When we plan our aquariums, I know that most of us are super disciplined, highly detail-oriented, and attack the "fish list" with diligence and a high degree of "mission focus." Like, every fish added to the tank has to be from the general region that all of the others are from...or that the tank' "scape is supposed to represent.

I have always been focused like that- almost to the point of having tanks run near empty for months at a time when I couldn't source the specific fishes I wanted...(Yes, Poecilocharax weitzmani IS the ONLY Darter Characin I shall have! ") I can be THAT focused!

Of course, there is always that part of falls headlong into that "shiny object syndrome"- you know something cool catches my eye along the way, and there I am, off on a tangent...compelte with justification ("Well, you know, just because I SAID it's going to be an Asian blackwater stream with Rasbora espied doesn't mean that I can't have a few of those Copella arnoldi in their. I mean, "SPLASHING-FREAKING TETRA- HELLO!" 

(Image by Zikamoi, used under CC-BY S.A. 3.0)

Yeah, sad stuff like that.

Of course, that's how the classic "community tank" is created, right? The best combination of cool fishes, regardless of origin, which catch our fancy? As long as they are physically compatible, does it really matter? I mean, what's wrong with that, right? I mean, does every salad we make have ingredients from the same farm? Weak or not, it is that kind of "argument" that would make ME feel better, lol. Right? 

But I'd have such guilt.

And I would often further justify these tangents into a "broader" array of fishes with thoughts like, "Well, that little tetra looks an awful lot like some of those random Rasbora you see in Asian streams...I mean..."

Yes, I would justify these decisions to myself just like that. 

Or I'd tell myself that, unless every fish, regardless of the fact that it's from the same region, is wild caught, then one could make an argument that this is "off plan" somehow! I mean, a South American Tetra bred on an Asian fish farm...hmm...

Yeah, like that is a good argument/"guilt diminisher."  Absurd. LOL

And the sad truth is that, unless you're one of those people who is obsessed with absolute authenticity, or is entering into one of those carefully-scrutinized biotope aquascaping contests, it really doesn't matter all that much, right? I mean, the fishes will probably not interact all that much differently than they would if they were some other random species from their habitat...right? Um, yeah.


Sure, if you're like me, you'll carry with you that personal "mark of shame" and yeah- some feelings of guilt- for as long as you own the tank, or perhaps until your overwhelming guilt at having made this geographic transgression takes you down and forces you to remove the "offending"  fishes into a tank of their own (hopefully with more "geo-appropriate" tankmates themselves, of course).

It's kind of ridiculous...or is it? 

I mean, sure, fishes evolved over eons to take on specific characteristics that were likely adaptations to specific environmental conditions they'd encounter. Although I've often wondered wether or not a blackwater stream with a pH of 4.8 in Borneo is THAT much different, at least generally speaking, than an Amazonian Igarape with the same pH.

I mean, sure there are probably some subtle flora/fauna/geology differences which impact the chemical composition on a level we as hobbyists are not able to distinguish, but are they THAT much different?  I wonder...Not that you ever would (for obvious reasons), but if you transplanted, say, a Rasbora from a stream in Southeast Asia to a jungle stream in the rainforests of Brazil, or a Nanostomus to a Sarawak jungle stream- could the fish adapt?

I mean, they may have slightly different food sources or ways of finding them, but could the fish adapt? Is this any different than the "coping" that wild-caught fishes have to do when captured and places in aquariums? Strange food, different environmental parameters from their wild homes, and unknown, unnatural companions?

Is there a sort of "stress" that would arise under all of these conditions? Could these "subtle" stresses be the reason why so many fishes are elusive for long periods of time when it comes to spawning them? Could it be why we are seeing more and more success with blackwater fishes being kept in more realistic habitats and environmental conditions? Could the humic substances and tannins be "something in the water" which bridges at least part of that gap between wild habitat and aquarium?

Lots of questions. Lots of theories. Lots of speculations.

Isn't this FUN? 

I think so. And I think...THINK- that looking at things from this perspective might finally ease my guilty conscience when I make the unthinkable transgression of keeping a captive-bred variant of a Danio in the same tank as a Hyphessobrycon...

Yeah, okay, Scott.

Until next time. Don't feel guilty. 

Stay bold. Stay happy. Stay curious. Stay diligent.

And Stay Wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics 





Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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