I think we shall be lovers
Through all the seasons yet to come......
Until the end of time
.- From the poem, "For All Seasons" by Linda Ori
After yesterday's piece, we received a fair amount of interesting feedback and discussion from our community. A lot of you were curious about how we could more realistically and impactfully execute "seasons" in our botanical-style aquariums. It's amazing to see you having discourse about this concept which has not previously been discussed much in the hobby, to my knowledge.
As we gradually ease towards Autumn here in the Northern Hemisphere, it's easy to contemplate the subtle- and sometimes not-so-subtle- things that occur when the seasons change. And of course, I can't help but wonder how this affects our fishes, and how they might benefit from understanding these changes and applying our own version of them in our aquariums?
We all know a little about what happens during seasonal changes in Nature: The weather patterns shift. These are profound impacts on the wild habitats of our fishes. They have important effects on the way our fishes live out their lives. I think we kind of beat the shit out of this concept yesterday. However, I think we can still examine this on a more practical level...
I mean, it's obvious how the seasonal shift affects our personal hobby efforts, right?
With cooler weather prevailing in many parts of the world, and outdoor activities starting to become a bit less attractive in some areas, many hobbyists once again turn their focus on to their aquariums. Many are focused more on perhaps starting-or finishing-projects which previously were delayed in favor more appealing summer activities.
Aquarium clubs their have big annual shows. Attendance at their meetings goes up. As aquarium industry businesses, we notice an uptick in sales activities and customer interest. It is notable, predictable...logical consumer behavior.
Yes- it's "Aquarium Season" here in the Northern Hemisphere! Time to play with some new ideas- or to perfect some that we've already started working on. This is a very exciting time!
Now, all seasonal celebrations aside, what kinds of impacts do seasonal changes have on aquariums and the fishes which inhabit them, that we can capitalize on as hobbyists?
Well, for one thing, lighting differs. With high tech LED systems now readily available, and less expensive all the time, it's never been easier to manipulate the color temperature, angle, intensity, and duration of light in our aquariums. Each of these aspects has potential implication for the husbandry of our fishes. This is a vastly unexplored area in the freshwater aquarium world; ripe for exploration and potential breakthroughs!
Since many of the areas from which our fishes hail are near the Equator, there is very little temperature variation between the seasons. However, the rainy season in these areas does occur, and impacts the aquatic habitats significantly.
The wet season, as we discussed yesterday, is extremely important for our fishes which hail from these regions.
In the Amazon, for example, the wettest part of the wet season occurs between December and May. During the wet season, the Amazon rainforest receives as much as 6 to 12 feet of rain (1.98- 3.6m), which can cause rivers like the Amazon to rise as much as 40 feet (12m), flooding the surrounding forest areas! The fishes adapt by moving into these areas that were previously barren and dry, foraging among the now-submerged trees, grasses, and plants.
As a lover of this flooded forest habitat, I find it irresistible to study!
I believe that the process of creating a "dry" (terrestrial) 'scape, and then gradually flooding it with water, as we've shared with you a lot recently, is one of the key "unlocks" to learning more about these seasonal changes on the environment and our fishes.
Even starting with a shallow-water level and gradually increasing the depth and making some compositional changes to the physical environment, by adding more botanical materials, is a good simulation of these dynamics.
Look for our launch of the "Urban Igapo" products in the coming weeks, to make it easier than ever to experiment with this process, Tannin Aquatics style! (Okay, shameless business plug out of the way...)
Everything seems to adapt in the rain forest, including even the trees. Trees have adapted to this seasonal flooding by developing roots that grow above the ground. These roots are known as "buttress roots." They would be an interesting feature to replicate in the aquarium, right? We would simply start our tanks by choosing pieces of driftwood which resemble these features; or, we can utilize several pieces to recreate the look- and function of them!
What "function" can an "artificial" recreation of this physical feature perform? Well, for one thing, it can become a place to sequester/accumulate leaves and botanicals- much like happens in the wild habitats. My much-maligned (by ME, lol) Asian-themed blackwater aquarium at home embraces this idea and attempts to replicate the feature.
Yeah, I personally am so over this tank, lol-more on this soon- but it has served its purpose validating my thoughts on this idea!
So, it always seems to come down to leaves in the waterways, doesn't it?
And of course, the leaves come from trees, and fall into the water. Yet, it's not quite that simple, actually. There are processes and cycles involved with leaf drop that we can replicate in the aquarium to some extent.
For example, recent studies have shown that rainforest trees and plants actually "flush" (grow new leaves) shortly before the arrival of the dry season. It's postulated that there is something in their "genetic programming" that allows them to prepare for the onset of the relatively "light-rich" dry season, to get them ready for enhanced photosynthetic activity. Even the onset of the dry season could be replicated in an interesting manner in our aquariums...
You'd "pulse" the addition of leaves during this period, which would, of course, mimic this natural process effectively!
And with regard to that "wet season", how do we sort of mimic the environmental effects of the seasonal inundation in aquariums that are already "wet?" In other words, in an existing "filled" aquarium?
Well, short of running them half-full most of the year, and then increasing the water level to full during the "rainy season" (ohh...that's a cool idea!), perhaps we could mimic the "dilution" in the water which occurs when massive amounts of rain fall. In other words, lots and lots of consecutive water changes! Like, maybe a few times week in greater percentages.
And we could supplement this with greater flow, from the filter outputs or the addition of powerbeads, etc.
"Fellman, you're insane! The benefits that you'd get from all this extra work aren't worth it."
Do you know that for sure? (the "benefits" part, of course. You already figure the "insanity" thing is a definite possibility, lol). There is a reason why fishes react to seasonal changes the way they do.
I think it's a worthwhile experiment. 🤓
Of course, other things you could do to mimic this seasonal inundation are to add more and more leaves and botanicals during this time, mimicking the affects of continuous leaf drop and the accumulation of botanical materials caused by currents.
And perhaps even "refreshing" the substrate with additional material (like soils, clays...you know, that planted aquarium stuff) to sort of simulate the release of new organics and other compounds caused when previously dry forest floors are inundated with water. I find this idea sort of intriguing!
Oh, and you can add a lot more food.
Like, feed a lot of live food like Daphnia, copepods, worms, fruit flies, etc. Stuff that would likely be more readily available to fishes in an inundated environment. Perhaps even changing the diet seasonally to reflect this abundance would be interesting. Now, I'm not suggesting to starve your fishes the rest of the year, but I am curious if there would be any significant effects that we'd notice in captivity by varying the diet and quantity fed to our fishes based on seasonal availability of different food sources...
Creating aquariums which replicate more specific conditions within the context of seasonal changes, including the availability of food sources within the aquarium, is a fascinating process with broad-reaching implications.
I mean, fishes have evolved over the eons to feed in this manner...Could it be a key to better breeding, perhaps activating some "locked-up" genetic programming in even our captive-bred cichlids, characins, and catfishes? I know that I talk about this a lot- because I think there is something there. Could the application of the impacts caused by these seasonal cycles be an "unlock" that puts those difficult-to-spawn fishes "in the mood?"
Who knows? However, doesn't it make sense to investigate?
I think so!
There are many, many different seasonal change "cues" and occurrences which we as hobbyists can study and experiment with to see what- if any- impact they might have on the fishes we keep.
The adaptations, behavior changes, and spawning activities which occur in our fishes are certainly be tied into these seasonal changes, and perhaps the key to more predictable/successful spawning of challenging or previously "un-spawnable" fishes could be replicating them, to some extent, in our aquariums.
Something to think about.
Something to play with as the days grow colder, the nights grow longer, and the opportunity to spend more time in our fish rooms beckons.
What secrets will YOU unlock?
What geeky experiments will you try? What lessons will we learn? What fishes will we spawn? How much money will we spend on fish stuff in the process? 😆
Wait. Don't answer that...
Please do consider this process of studying and replicating- to the extent that you can- the wonderful and fascinating seasonal cycles of Nature, and their impact on the fishes we are so obsessed with.
As much as you'd like me to, I'm not going to stop talking about this idea, lol. Besides, someone has to do it, right? Might as well be our community!
So get to it!
Stay crazy. Stay creative. Stay motivated. Stay innovative. Stay adventurous. Stay experimental. Stay inspired...
And Stay Wet.