"Pivoting" with the leaves...

When you set up a new aquarium, do you do it with a lot of expectations that it will turn out a specific way, or is it more like, "I have this idea, I'm going to do this and add that and we'll see how it turns out?"

Have you ever noticed just how truly difficult it really is to execute an aquascape exactly how you've envisioned it? Maybe it's me, but it seems like I can cook up some great ideas in my head, but the execution always seems to be a bit different than the perfect plan I had.

The reason I bring this up is because, in my daily scheming of new tanks and using botanicals and other natural materials, I often have this preconceived notion of just how my creation will look when it's done. The difficulty comes when I actually try to put the darned thing together as I envisioned it in my head. There's always that ONE rock or piece of wood, or seed pod, or whatever- which won't cooperate. One that won't slide into the place that you selected for it. This compromises the initial design.

And of course, you have some options at that point, right? You can simply search for another ______________ that will fit, or you can "edit" your design and work with what you've got. You know, a "pivot." 

More often than not, I find myself "pivoting", and my design evolves into something a bit different than I initially envisioned. And it's not always a bad thing. In fact, most of the time, it seem like the revised plan is better than what I had in my head! 

Which brings us to the idea of using my favorite aquascaping material of all- leaves- and the philosophy that goes with incorporating them into your aquascape. Yes, a philosophy.

I've noticed with botanicals- particularly the leaves that I'm so fond of- that you need to be flexible in your thinking and in how you embrace them in your design. They are among the most simple elements we can use to create an aquascape. However, they can also frustrate us if we don't train ourselves to be accept that they won't always do what we want. They will float, curl up, not stay in the orientation that we want them to, and just generally behave "the way they want." 

And then, once we get 'em placed, they will start to slowly deteriorate over a few weeks or months (depending upon the variety), which alters your aquascape almost the minute you complete it. Leaves are such a transient element to 'scape with, yet provide a surprisingly dynamic component to your design. Because of their transient nature, they will shift position, change color, and even "morph" their shape after submergence.

All of these characteristics mean that we need to take this into consideration when incorporating them, and that we need to accept that the beautiful yellow leaf you have in the front of your aquarium today will fade into a golden brown, twisted one in a month. With leaves, you can look at this as a "burden", a frustration. Or, you can look at this as a truly dynamic thing, and an opportunity to see and create an ever-changing environment with ease.

As in nature, you can let the leaves decompose completely, adding new ones as you see fit, or you can simply replace leaves the minute they don't meet your aesthetic standards, so you always have fresh-looking, pristine leaves in your aquascape.

And, being relatively inexpensive as compared to say, plans or driftwood, leaves are one of the more economical aquascaping "props" you can use, making these quick changes affordable!

With the wildly popular "Mixed Leaf Media", you can even use a matrix of leaves as the sole "substrate" in your aquarium. Endless possibilities here.

The transience of leaves and other botanicals is something that we need to embrace; use to our advantage, and enjoy for what it is: Natural materials, doing what they have done for eons.

Simple thought for a complex hobby.

Enjoy your weekend. Love your leaves. Stay flexible.

And Stay Wet.

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics



Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


Leave a comment