Slipping through the cracks...and branches...and leaves...

Once of the things that I’ve sort of arrived at over the years in my aquarium “career”- probably from my reef keeping side, is the love for what I like to call “microhabitats” within a given system. In other words, places within the aquariums that are exploited by fishes for various reasons.

For example, we always knew that you need to provide fishes like Plecos, knifefishes, and even many dwarf cichlids with comfy places to retreat to.

However, in planning our systems, I'll bet we all sort of create that big "feature cave" or whatever...and the rest of the scape is sort of "incidental"- when the reality is that all of the areas within the tank are possible retreats, feeding areas, spawning sites, etc...just like in nature. In this pic by Mike Tuccinardi, taken in the Rio Negro region, there must be hundreds of little "niches" in this one small area! 

A real no brainer.

Taking advantage of a niches you can create in your system is super important. Not exactly novel, but often overlooked.

The concept really got me thinking…

You could take it a bit further...I mean, it’s beyond simply placing a fish into our community…It’s about viewing where your aquarium is at the time that you choose to add a fish to your selection.


What I mean is, even though our systems are artificial in nature, they are little closed microcosms, with distinct “microniches” within them-often evolving over time. For example, even a high-ligh/high flow river tank has SOME areas where the flow is lower, the light less intense…perhaps an area where (gasp) some detritus or food collects…sand gets blown into..whatever. And our leaf-litter, botanical-bottom tanks also create little areas for fishes to shelter, aggregate, and spawn in. And we can add fishes to take advantage of these figurative "cracks in the pavement."

Regardless of the "theme" of your aquarium, it's important to think about this. To let those little areas of botanical/leaf accumulation allow that driftwood branch to sort of fall into that corner behind the rock. These seemingly annoying things are actually perfectly reminiscent of what happens every day in nature, as materials are deposited, distributed, and "organized" by current and other natural occurrences. And the areas that are created by these random events within your tank? Well, these are areas that your fishes can take advantage of- just like they do in nature.

Random aggregations of materials, or shifts...or rock falls, for that matter- are amazing opportunities, if you think about it.

And, at almost any stage in an aquarium’s life, there are little niches and evolving environmental changes within the system that you can use to your advantage by “planting” aquascaping props (seed pods, wood, etc.) appropriate for the given niche. It even goes beyond planned aesthetics (ie; “That rock would look awesome there!”) and, much like happens in the natural environment- plants grow and fishes gather where conditions are appropriate. Reminds me of the little weeds that just seem to pop up out of the cracks in the sidewalk pavement…you can’t help but admire the craftiness and tenacity of life. 

Same thing in an aquarium!

Don’t just look for the prime viewing spot for your fish acquisition. Look for the “cracks in the pavement", too.

Your fishes will, guaranteed.

Today’s ridiculously simple, yet quite possibly overlooked idea.

Think about things from a different angle...

Stay curious. Stay creative. Stay excited.

And stay wet.

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics

Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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