Style versus...?

So, I started a "remodel" on my home blackwater aquarium...Just because...

It's in it's infancy stages, with nothing close to complete yet. I'm getting more of the "negative space" I wanted, to feature fishes. So that's cool.  Need the botanicals and other touches, but I'm feeling it so far.

And this time, rather than go for a "Class 3 biotope" or whatever it's called these days, I wanted to do something that I felt was as much as an expression of design as it was of nature...

You know, a "style." 

Now, when I use the word "style", my head starts spinning with the whole "Nature Aquarium Style" stuff and it's rigid rules and (IMHO) questionable accompanying militant  "attitude" and such, so I admit, it strikes a nerve with me...I guess what I mean by "style" is something that embraces artistic form/interpretation as much as it embraces nature (Oh, shit, I think I just sort of defined the "Nature Aquarium" thing anyways,, damn it!). However, my interpretation of "style" in this context is that it's somewhat "liberating" as opposed to constraining. And of course, I work with different materials than that crowd does...

"Style" in this context is much more of a descriptor here than it is a roadmap.

Sort of the way every kid who ever starts up his 10-gallon aquarium does it: She selects the stuff she likes and includes in in her tank. It's not about somebody else' definitions, rule, or guidelines. Rather, it's about what feels good to her.

That's real style.

I know that I've always done my personal best work in the aquarium world-and  been the most happy- when I'm just doing stuff that pleases me, not working about "rules" (with the exceptions of those proffered by nature- you know, biological constraints, fish compatibility, etc.). Now, I realize that when we attempt to faithfully replicate a specific ecological niche, habitat, or locale, a certain sense of adherence to rules is required if complete authenticity is the goal.

That's the biotope which I love, respect, and probably will never be any good at! I mean, modeling an aquaria after a specific geographic locale at a certain time of the year with certain types of lighting, flow, water conditions, the exact botanical materials and water chemistry found there is an amazing goal and spectacular achievement...I love those type of tanks.

However, I don't think that I have the discipline for that, lol.

Lots of people have told me that I should enter my brackish water tank in the big Biotope Aquarium Design Contest...And I considered it...for about five minutes. It sounds like fun, until I realize that I'd be judged on all sorts of criteria that my tank was not really designed to adhere to. I mean, it was set up to be a representation of a mangrove root habitat, with mud and leaves and roots...and fishes I found amusing.

I could just see the comments trashing my use of domesticated Mollies and Bumblebee Gobies I the same tank...I mean, rather than taking it in the correct context, I see myself wanting to lash out, "Listen, mother f-----, this tank has real  damn mangrove roots and leaves, not some pieces f wood that LOOKS like a mangrove like every other entrant. REAL mangrove leaf litter...And I have a FUNCTIONAL mud substrate, and ...!!!!"

Oh, man.

It would not go over well. It would not endear me to anyone, I think. And it would definitely not be good for business! My ego is far, far to fragile, and my "aquarium hobby skin" far to thin to be in a contest. 🤣

Self-awareness, baby.

I think that in the case here, long-term viability and a sense that we are providing our fishes with a more realistic functional and physical representation of the habitats from which they come is the real goal. And if, along the way, we create something that also happens to look cool- has a certain style...Well, that's a win all around, right?

Hey, I think I just did a better job describing what I wanted to achieve. And perhaps the Tannin mission, really. We can and do support all types of hobbyists, from hardcore biotopers to breeders, to shrimp keepers, catfish lovers, and competition aquascapers- and everything in between. We hope to inspire all of you truly talented aquarists from around the world.

I like that.

Besides, I think most of you are more mentally stable than I am when it comes to your aquariums, so helping YOU guys rock the world with YOUR cool tanks is my personal mission! 

I REALLY like that.

And really, in the very end- after all of the research, habitat machinations, etc.- it's all about one thing:


I'm going to go have some today with my tank. You be sure to do the same.

Today's rant on style, substance...and self-awareness.

Until next time- Stay creative. Stay unbounded. Stay engaged. Stay excited...

And Stay Wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics 


Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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