Pivoting as you go...

As you know, one of the things that we preach almost above everything else here in our tinted world is patience...The patience to wait for an aquarium to break in, evolve, and mature.

The patience to observe and study. The patience to allow an idea to come forth and mature.

Yet, in all of this invaluable patience, there is often a hidden element of spontaneity that encourages you to do things a bit differently- or to try something altogether different- than you had previously planned on. Or, perhaps to use the current situation as a chance to execute on an idea that has been floating in your head for some time?

This is top of mind for me today, as I started a small project with a nano tank earlier in the week, with the intention of creating more natural-looking, yet sort of aesthetically higher-end aquarium for killifish. Simple and not exactly earth-shattering, but something I've been playing with on my "to-do" list for a long time. 

The idea was to utilize a few peices of wood and an entire bottom covered with leaf litter and some small botanicals, to more-or-less replicate the. natural habitat of some bottom-spawning Aphyosemion species. Funny, but in our world, a tank configured like that is not exactly "unusual"- it's kind of "routine" in a funny way, right? However, applying it to a tank that would be species-centric would make it a bit different...and satisfying, regardless.


Now, I started with great intentions, using ga very nice ADA 60F- a very shallow, wide, rimless tank. Oh....rimless. Yeah, I know what your thinking. anyone whose ever kept killies knows that there is almost a guarantee that they will go carpet surfing at any time- for any reason- if the tank has an open top.  And, I sort of realized that part of the fun of keeping killies is the "controlled breeding" aspect- placing the fish in a container with peat moss (or a substitute like "Substrato Fino!) or spawning mops, and harvesting eggs, incubating them, collecting and rearing the fry. 

So I pivoted. 

Like every fish geek on Planet Earth, I have a head full of "Plan B's."

My "Plan B" this time was something I've been toying with forever...A monospecific (one type of fish) nano display dedicated to....the tiny and beautiful Paracheirodon simulans- AKA "The Green Neon Tetra!" It's a classic nano tank fish; one which you see in a lot of those artsy, so-called "Nature Aquarium" setups, filled with lots of plants and crystal clear water. Interestingly, you seldom see them kept in a blackwater aquarium which better represents the habitats from which they come.

This was my opportunity! 

And, with one of Mike Tuccinardi's igapo pics at my disposal, I knew what I wanted to do, functionally and aesthetically, with this tank.

Yes, the fishes n the pic are Cardinals, but the habitat is what I'm looking at here...and the contrast in colors! Boom! 💥 

This fish, which comes from the Upper Rio Negro area, is known to be an almost exclusive inhabitant of blackwater habitats...Perfect! And the fact that you almost never see them kept that way made them irresistible. And a large group in a relatively small tank set up to simulate their natural habitat...yeah...What a cool pivot!

And off I went...

Of course, the move from killifish, which can adapt to room temperatures, to these little characins, which tend to come from waters with temps of 24.6-35.2 °C/76.3-95.3 °F  (scientists have postulated that it may have evolved to require higher temps, btw) necessitated the use of...a heater.

I hate heaters. Let's face it. They're f- ing ugly. 

Yes, there are inline models, but in a tank this small with a little Ehiem 2211 canister, there wasn't even enough room to employ even the smallest inline heater. And of course, the reefer in me immediately tried to figure out a workaround- you know, employing a reptile heating mat (could crack the tank- scary!), or perhaps building a sump and employing an overflow and having the heater down there like any proper reef tank...and before you know it, my little chill project would turn into a $750USD highly-customized system! I mean, it's like an 8 gallon/32 liter tank! If it were 50 gallons, yeah- totally worth it...but for a simple nano- no way! 

Sooo...that meant only one thing: Find a nano-sized heater and figure out the best way possible to hide the goddam heater in the tank- something that I totally hate to do, or actually getting off of my lazy ass and seeing if I could make the inline work. These little challenges are all part of the "price" of pivots, right?

And, with a little creative tube cutting and jury-rigging, I got the thing to work. Not the most optimal placement, but it does the job! 

 And, just like life- once you have one issue solved, another comes along to challenge you....

I hate surface film. It's the reefer in me, accustomed to tanks with built-in overflows.  Of course, in these little nanos without such luxuries, if you're going to use those stupid "Lily PIpes" for returns and intakes, like I did, you'll have surface film if you don't agitate the surface...and you can't unless you run the water level really low, which results in noise and turbulence on the surface- great for a reef, not-so-godo for an iagpo with leaves on the bottom! 

So, I added the damn extractor; I'll ultimately have to re-work some wood to block it from view, but it's not that bad for now...

Now, we're well on the way...temperature managed, most aesthetics handled...Seeded the tank with some Daphnia and sand and leaf litter from my home blackwater tank (like we used to do with reef tanks, remember?)...

Has a sort of "broken-in" look already, which I love! 

This tank is coming along nicely...next up are the fishes, of course...In the mean time, I'm enjoying just vibe surfing another tank in my office. A great contrast from the brackish tank right across from it!

It's going to be a lot of fun to evolve this little guy...and it all started with having to abort on one plan and pivot...all good! 

The moral of this rambling little narrative?

Don't be afraid to picot as you go..It just might take you somewhere unexpected and interesting...something on that "to do" list of yours that you didn't think that you'd be getting around to this soon! 

Stay flexible. Stay creative. Stay diligent. Stay persistent...

And Stay Wet!


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics 



Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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