Pushing out to Asia!

As the blackwater, botanical-style aquarium "movement" begins to gain some momentum and starts inspiring aquarists from all sorts of "disciplines", it's interesting to see that we've begun to see an interest in habitats from other parts of the world besides just South America. 

Now, don't get me wrong- I'm a huge fan of the South American blackwater habitats...What is there NOT to like about Rio Negro tributaries, igarapes, morichals, igapos, etc? I mean, these are some of the most compelling and interesting habitats in the world, with a rich variety of life, niches, and aesthetics that could keep you busy for a lifetime trying to duplicate.

Yet, it's been pointed out to me by more than one member of our community that we don't see quite as many Asian (and African- but that's another discussion for another blog!) blackwater biotope-inspired tanks out there. Now, we have featured some of these types of tanks over the past year or so, but you are correct, they have been a bit under-represented.

Notice my choice of the words "have been?"

I think that we are beginning to see a noticeable "uptick" in the number of tanks inspired by Asian habitats.

We've seen a big surge in the popularity of wild Betta species and lesser-known Gouramis. Having the experience in playing with Tetras and other South American blackwater fishes has given ideas and let's face it- a confidence boost- to many hobbyists who have been keeping the compelling Asian fishes for years, and were looking for something a bit different for them.

The fact is, the wild Asian habitats offer a lot of interesting fishes, and lots of opportunities to contribute to the existing body of knowledge in working with them.

And they offer some unique aesthetic looks. Remember the Asian peat swamps we talked about before?  These are fascinating and endangered habitats, with unique aesthetics- really darkly tinted water, heavily botanical-enriched substrates, and often....PLANTS! 

Yes, the Asian blackwater habitats often contain terrific plants, like various Cryptocoryne, Bucephelandra, etc. And many of these plants do very well in aquarium designed to meet their requirements. I think we will see a lot more interesting setups featuring plants and mixes of plants and other elements as more and more aquarists play in this area. And with more experimentation will come more understanding of the plants that come from other blackwater habitats around the world.

The reality is that Asian blackwater habitats are every bit as fascinating, challenging, and beautiful as their South American counterparts. With lots of smaller, interesting fishes inhabiting these regions and niches, you've got the makings of some very interesting aquarium displays! 

The variety of materials which come from Asia and can be incorporated into a blackwater, Asian-themed aquarium is significant! Add that to the fact that a number of our botanicals hail from Asia, and you have some interesting opportunities to recreate some compelling biotope-type aquariums. 

And the potential for creating amazing-looking displays is huge! The aesthetics are a bit different than the more commonly represented South American blackwater habitats.ANd you have different fishes with which to populate your display...and with the use of different fishes comes new chances to observe them in aquarium habitats that are reminiscent of the wild ones from which they come.

What interesting breakthroughs in maintaining and breeding some of the unique fishes from these compelling habitats will be made when more of us venture towards Asia? Will we see a surge in interest in brackish water, botanical-style aquariums, representing the fantastic habitats in these regions? I think we might!

What lessons will we learn about the delicate Blackwater habitats that we can apply to our aquarium work? What previously under-appreciated fishes will become new favorites? 

With all of the knowledge we're gaining on blackwater aquariums, it's been an exciting ride so far- and we're really eager to see what direction we head in as we turn towards Asia! The opportunities to work with different fishes and model more unique habitats are simply irresistible to the "Tinter!"

Can't wait to see what evolves from this interesting area!

Stay excited. Stay fascinated. Stay motivated. Stay creative.

And Stay Wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics 


Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


1 Response


December 15, 2017

YES! Thank you for bringing this up. I am attempting an Asian blackwater aquarium now. The one road block that I’m getting is inverts. Are there inverts such as shrimp and snails that come come these habitats and somehow the lacking carbonate hardness issue? Seems most of what I’ve been looking up keeps coming up with snails and shrimp and crabs that live in the clear water portions. Any ideas or directions welcome.

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