Reflecting nature? The trend towards more natural approaches to breeding fishes.

As more and more people get into the idea of utilizing botanicals materials, like leaves, seed pods, etc. in their aquariums, we're seeing more and more creative applications. We're also seeing a lot of people go from tentatively adding a few things to their tanks, to starting them out with botanicals as a major "component" of the scape- part of the "theme" of the tank, itself, which is really cool.

I've noticed a definite trend, if you will, in some specialized areas of the hobby, such as the cichlid world, for example, which are really interesting. It seems that there has been a sort of mental shift from keeping cichlids in more-or-less "utilitarian", almost "sterile" setups for breeding, to aquariums that more accurately reflect the habitats from which these fishes hail from in the wild. I really like this, because we're paying greater attention to the "big picture" of their husbandry- not just feeding, water chemistry, and providing spawning locations. Instead, we're providing all of these things within the context of a more natural display...and hobbyists are getting great results...and they're enjoying their tanks even more!

I'm not saying that the bare breeding tank with a sponge filter and a flower pot is no longer the way to approach maintenance and breeding of fishes like cichlids. I am saying that I think there is a distinct advantage to the fish-and their owners- to keeping them in a setup that is more "permanent"- and more reflective of their natural environment from a physical/aesthetic standpoint.

This is not a new concept; however, I think the idea of setting up fishes permanently and caring for them and breeding them in the same tanks is a lot more popular than it used to be. My recent blog on "jungle" tanks seemed to really resonate with hobbyists, based on the tremendous discussion and sharing on social media that it generated! Now, I realize that not all fishes can be dealt with like this, for a variety of reasons. Discus, fancy guppies, etc. require more "controlled" conditions...However, do their setups have to be so starkly utilitarian all the time? 

I recall, many years ago, keeping killifish, such as Pseudoepiplatys and some Fundulopanchax, in permanent setups with lots of plants, Spanish Moss., and leaves (yeah, even back in my teens I was into 'em..). And you know what? I Would get some good spawns, and it seems like I always had some fry coming along at various stages. I am sure that some might have been consumed by the older fishes or parents along the way, but many made it through to adulthood.

I had stable breeding populations of a variety of Epiplatys species in these kinds of tanks for years. Sure, if you are raising fishes for competition, trade, etc., you'd want to remove the juveniles of controlled grow out, or perhaps search for an harvest eggs so that you could get a more even grow out of fry, but for the casual (or more than causal) hobbyist, these setups can work pretty nicely!

I've had discussions with several hobbyists who keep, or are considering keeping annual  kills, such as the South American Gnatholebias, or African Nothobranchius species- fishes which, for decades, were bred in fish bowls filled with peat moss, and then returned back to relatively bare holding aquariums for conditioning or grout. Don't get me wrong, there are advantages to that technique, and it's served hundreds of breeders well for decades.

However, it is really cool to see more and more hobbyists going the more "permanent" route, keeping fishes with the intent of breeding them in setups that perhaps provide the fishes the additional comfort of resembling their natural environments. And perhaps showing them off in such environments may spark additional interest from hobbyists who may not have given fishes such as killies, for example, more than a passing glance.

With all of the unique natural botanical materials available today fro ma variety of sources (include, of course, Tannin Aquatics!), I encourage my fellow hobbyists to consider setting up a few fishes with the intent of spawning them in permanent setups that replicate, to a greater extent than in previous years, the natural environments from where their fishes hail.

In addition for creating a more natural display, and a greater appreciation for how the fishes interacted or adapted to their natural environments over eons, attempting to set up such displays will give us a greater knowledge and appreciation for the precious natural habitats of the fishes we enjoy so much.

And understanding and appreciating these habitats will go along way towards our making greater efforts to share our knowledge of them with others- both in and outside of the hobby- to help perhaps do a better job at preserving and protecting them for future generations to enjoy.

Just a simple idea- a little mental shift- but one which has the potential to bear so much fruit in so many ways. Something to think about, at least. I'm glad many hobbyists have already begun to make this shift. The future is exciting!

Have a great weekend. Stay excited. Stay inquisitive. Stay progressive.

And Stay Wet.

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics


Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


Leave a comment