It's been an interesting journey in the first four years of our existence here at Tannin. With your support and enthusiasm, we've recruited a global community of natural-style botanical aquarium enthusiasts who are pushing the boundaries of the science and art of aquarium keeping.
We've started with some simple ideas, inspired by Nature, and have slowly refined our skills as a community, moving on towards more and more complex and boundary-pushing ideas. Once tentative about using seed pods, leaves, and twigs to influence the environmental parameters of our tanks, we're now using them to more realistically recreate natural habitats than ever before.
Confidence is high, boosted by experience and success- and replicable results.
It's like we're slowly but surely accumulating the experience and knowledge to put various pieces of this compelling puzzle together- and hopefully, having lot of fun and inspiring others as we do so!
Inspiration and fun are the keys. Education and experience are the lovely by-products of our efforts as a community.
As a group, we're elevating the use of natural materials- not just to create an aesthetic- but to foster natural behaviors in our fishes and function in our aquariums. These aspects have driven many of us to look at Nature as a source of true inspiration for many aspects of this work.
We're "editing" previously long-held assumptions and ways of doing things to evolve our practices to be much more like what Nature is, as opposed to simply replicating the look of last year's aquascaping contest winner.
And the results are both functional and attractive! And educational, as well!
And there are as many questions as answers. Among the most common? They're about plants.
Specifically, how to use them in our specialized aquariums.
We get a lot of questions about the types of plants that exist in the igapo (blackwater flooded forest) and varzea ("white-water" flooded forest) habitats that we obsess over so much- what species would work in our aquariums, etc. The interesting thing is that a high percentage of species which occur in this habitat are NOT true aquatics:
"Among the 388 herbaceous species identified in the floodplain areas of Rio Amazonas 330 species (85%) were classified as terrestrial plants, 34 (9%) aquatic plants and the 22 remaining (6%) as intermediary species." (Junk and Piedade, 1993a)
So, yeah, if you want to truly replicate the igapo, you're going to have to utilize some terrestrial plants- mainly grasses, which form dominant, monospecific stands, such as Echinochloa polystachya, Paspalum fasciculatum, and Paspalum repens.
Now, these are the exact species...one could find representative species from these genera available as seeds. And, you could plant them, and...well. It takes a LOT of patience and time...
Oh, and there are true aquatic plants which are found in some of these flooded igapo habitats. Species which we might have some hobby familiarity with. In fact, common species found at the igapós of rio Negro are: Oryza perennis, Nymphaea rudgeana, Polygonum sp., Utricularia foliosa, and- wait for it...our old friend, Cabomba aquatica!
Yeah, so there are true aquatic plants in some of these habitats, although the bulk of what we see in many of those breathtaking underwater shots are terrestrial grasses and shrubs which can withstand inundation. Think on that just a bit.
Much still to learn and practice and perfect as we solve this great "puzzle!"
I kind of like where we're going in our botanical aquarium habitat-replication journey, and where we've already been. So far, we've "proof- of-concepted" a 100% leaf-litter habitat with tremendous success. It works fantastically, is a completely different aesthetic than anything we've done before, and has enormous potential.
We've also played with the idea of replicating a tangle of roots, as one sees in the igapo and varies habitats. The web of life that exists in this habitat is awe-inspiring!
This has also proven to be an amazing "look" and has a functional aspect to it that we're still working with. My (now 6 month old) "Tucano Tangle" featuring roots and the enigmatic Tucanoichthys tucano is still teaching me new lessons on the "functional aesthetic" aspect of this habitat in the aquarium.
Next, it's on to incorporating all that we've played with...Leaves, wood, sediments, roots, and immersion-tolerant terrestrial plants.
Much to be learned. Much to be inspired by.
Keep looking to Nature for inspiration. I know that I am!
Stay unique. Stay challenged. Stay bold. Stay observant. Stay resourceful...
And Stay Wet.