Earlier this week, a member of our community on Facebook asked a great question. In an entirely non-confrontational way, he wanted to know what we felt makes Tannin's botanicals "superior" to those offered by other vendors, or collected by the hobbyist his/herself.
A really great question; one which got me thinking.
"Superior" is a strong word, one which you don't see me use often, if ever, when talking about Tannin's stuff. It's a claim I don't really make. A botanical is a botanical, regardless of where you get it, right? Well, perhaps. If you asked what do I feel differentiates our products from the others out there, I'd have a more nuanced, to-the-point answer for you. What truly differentiates Tannin's offerings from the "crowd" (if there is one in this sector, lol) is the sourcing, care of selection, and curation.
Sure, you can find catappa leaves all over E-bay and other places, and that's fine with me. You can collect some stuff we offer yourself if you're lucky enough to have a good source nearby. Look, I'm as excited about the idea of people exploring the idea of creating dynamic and exciting blackwater biotopes and environments as I am about offering the products to create them here. It's as much about concept as it is about product. I'm not trying to belittle or discourage anyone else who chooses to collect or even sell stuff like I do...I believe that we're building something more than just a place to buy stuff. We're a brand, a clearing house for ideas...a place to belong and share. A community. A vibe...a...movement?
There are a lot of things we offer that simply are not available in some parts of the country, or they are seasonal/hard to find, etc. We strive to earn your business and be a "one stop shop" for aquatic botanicals and the information on how to use them.
What also makes us "different" is that we've aggregated what we feel are some of the highest quality botanicals from sources which we have vetted, know to be conscientious, careful, and economical. We hand select every specimen to make sure our customers receive stuff we'd use in our own tanks. In fact, we use everything we sell. We don't find something that looks like it would be cool and just throw it in a bag. We make an effort to understand it. We care, we love, and we take pride in this stuff. It's our passion.
And not just that; we have extensive information about using them, preparing them, as well as ideas, experience, and honest information/thoughts about the good and bad of them (I honestly have not seen other vendors of Catappa and other natural products talk as extensively about biofilms and algae and decay and possible negatives of "overdoing" it with botanicals, for example). This is how you build long-term relationships in the hobby and business: Honest communication.
Our blog/site has what I feel is some of the best, most extensive information out there on this stuff. That's "value added", IMHO. We are fostering a community; a body of work with some of the world's most respected aquarium hobbyists, aquascapers, and industry people. Sharing ideas, enjoyment, and fun is what it's all about! One of my friends joked that we are a "content provider" who also happens to sell aquatic botanicals, and that's not really all that far from the truth.
Sure, someday in the near future, there will be another purveyor of this stuff, offering perhaps different stuff, or lower prices, or whatever. And that's okay with me. Because anyone can sell you stuff. Not everyone can create a mood, and atmosphere, a place to be. Not everyone can bring you the value of daily content, community, camaraderie, service. Every single day. And if they can- well, every one of us in the hobby can benefit.
Just "different." And that's pretty much good enough for us.
Stay unique. Stay creative. Stay engaged.
And Stay Wet.