Radical moves?

As you probably are painfully aware of by now, I've always been a huge proponent of patience, discipline, and not "messing with your tank." 

Yeah, the last one is something I wrote about quite recently...You know, my admonition to NOT incessantly re-arrange, change up, and break down your aquarium on a regular basis. I think it's because I have always favored allowing aquariums to sort of "evolve" on their own, with "guidance" from the hobbyist in the form of regular maintenance, minor adjustments, and occasional "tweaks" over big moves which, although might "solve" a problem initially, are more stressful to your animals and their environment.

That being said, IS there anything inherently wrong with changing things up, breaking a tank down to try something new, or "re-setting" if something isn't working for you?

I don't think so. 

I mean, look at competition 'scapers...these guys (and girls) set up a tank, manage it and allow it to reach a peak appearance, and then break the damn thing down when the entry period for their show is over. That would literally kill me to do that...but I understand. The good part of this is that they tend to view each tank as a sort of "progression", and they're happily on to the next one as soon as the glass dries in their former masterpiece.

So, we could take a cue from some of these talented people and make "pivots" out of a sudden breakdown of a display. Why would you do this to an otherwise thriving tank? Well, I can think of several reasons, some of which you might not agree with. For example, let's say you have a tank that, for whatever reason, you simply don't enjoy. You thought it would turn out a certain way, but you never quite pulled it off. And, despite repeated attempts to modify it, it still didn't catch your fancy. So, why stay in a miserable situation? Life's too short. Give yourself permission to break it down and start over if you want.

Another situation where you might do a breakdown/reset is if you simply HAVE to have that certain fish that is not compatible with your current aquarium. And let's say you don't have the space/time/money for another tank. Look, this is the only way you're going to experience that dream fish, right? So you find good homes for your current residents, break down the tank and re-configure for your new love.

And there is that most simple reason: You're just ready to try something new. Again, maybe your space/time/financial resources make it impossible to get another aquarium. While one could make all sorts of moral arguments about disruption and stuff- in the end, you have to live with- and enjoy- your hobby. As long as you're finding homes for your fishes and not euthanizing or destroying them simply because you're "bored" with them, or some other horrible "justification" for a heinous act like that, I can see how this makes sense.

With our botanical-style, blackwater systems, time and patience are the things that sort of go with the territory, and this style of aquarium simply can't reach it's peak functionality and appearance without the passage of time. Sure, you can make cool temporary displays with botanicals, but to create a true closed ecosystem, you just need to let things "evolve", and go through the biofilms, decomposition, and water tinting.

These "rights of passage" are things we've touched on many times before, and they not only are part of the 'experience", but they function as an interesting sort of "bonding experience" between you and your aquarium.

Make subtle moves when you can, tweaks and changes as needed, and radical moves when absolutely necessary.


Simple thoughts, yet I think they are profound ones for creating enjoyable, sustainable hobby experiences.

Stay thoughtful. Stay patient. Stay kind. Stay creative...

And Stay Wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics 

Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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