Some quick thoughts on a slow process...

As we constantly reiterate, a blackwater, botanical-style aquarium requires some understanding and patience, and the passage of time. It starts with our ideas, intent and execution, and then there is a "hand-off" to nature...

It's interesting to contemplate the way we set up our botanical-style aquariums, and how this will affect the process of the evolution of our displays.

You start with a "base" of more durable materials, which, in addition to driftwood (and perhaps rocks, if you're into them) form your hardscape. Then, you complete the scene with a selection of more "ephemeral" materials, such as softer botanicals and leaves.

And of course, as the aquarium breaks in, you will typically see the formation of biofilms, and the "softening" and eventual breakdown of these less durable botanical materials.  As we've touched on so often here, you can either leave these materials in the aquarium to completely break down, or replace them as you feel the need to do so. And of course, you'd leave the more "durable" components in the aquarium indefinitely. 

And that's really all you need to do to let your blackwater/brackish, botanical-style aquarium evolve naturally. Now, you certainly can keep the aesthetics (and likely the positive environmental effects imparted by the botanicals) consistent throughout the "working lifetime" of the aquarium.

You will probably get a feel for how quickly your aquarium "processes" leaves- as well as a definite opinion of what looks best for you, aesthetic-wise. I have come to embrace the more "ragged", softening and decomposing look (I guess you hardcore 'scapers would even call it a "wabi-sabi" look, huh?), and tend to leave my leaves in until they completely break down, and simply add a few leaves every couple of days to add new ones into the mix as older ones break down.

Now, of course, I like dark, soupy water and the "biofilm-on-stuff" kind of look!

No doubt, you'll find your "comfort zone" that forms some kind of balance between your love of the earthy blackwater aesthetic, and the technical aspects (ie; pH, TDS, etc.) of your water that might give you cues to remove or replace leaves and botanicals.


Really, managing your botanical-style system is an individual thing...Other than the typical admonitions to go slowly with additions of botanicals, and to test your water regularly, there are very few "rules" that we proffer in terms of utilizing these materials.

My strongest advice? 

Follow your instincts...I wouldn't necessarily create a detailed action plan; Rather, I'd  sort of see how it goes; particularly if it's your first botanical-style, blackwater/brackish aquarium. Just like your tank- your thoughts on this stuff will change, and your ideas will evolve over time.

And that's about all I have to say on that! 🤓

Quick. Simple. 

Stay engaged. Stay thoughtful. Stay focused. Stay creative. Stay unbounded...

And Stay Wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics 

Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


1 Response

Jeff johnson
Jeff johnson

July 12, 2018

Tossed in handfuls of leaves in tubs outside,breeding in some,growing small critters to feed fish in another.nothing but fun

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