I think that there are so many different things that we can play with- and so many nuances that we can investigate and manipulate in our aquariums to influence fish health and spawning behavior. I think that this could even add a new nuance to a typical biotope aquarium.
In those biotope aquarium contests, we're used to seeing aquariums which represent very specific habitats, given super-specific descriptors, like the "Preto da Eva River in Brazil, 25km from the confluence in October", or whatever...I mean, cool- but I think it would be better that instead of just the appearance, our idea would be for it to replicate some of the environmental conditions, such as water level, turbidity, amounts of allochthonous material, etc.
Not just an aesthetic representation designed to mimic the look of the habitat- but a "functionally aesthetic" representation of a natural habitat, intended to operate like one..Full time.
Nuances. Micro-influences. Subtle steps. Important steps.
Well, we make those "mental shifts" and accept the dark water, the accumulation of leaves and botanicals, the apparent "randomness" of their presence. We study the natural habitats from which they come, not just for the way they look- but for WHY they look that way, and for how the impacts of the surrounding environments influence them in multiple ways.
It goes beyond just finding that perfect-looking branch or bunch of leaves to capture a "look." We've already got that down. We can go further...
There is a tremendous amount of academic material out there for those willing to "deep dive" into this. And a tremendous amount to unravel and apply to our aquarium practices! We're literally just scratching the surface. We're making the shifts to accept the true randomness of Nature as it is. We are establishing and nurturing the art of "functional aesthetics."
I suppose that there are occasional smirks and giggles from some corners of the hobby when they initially see our tanks, with some thinking, "Really? They toss in a few leaves and they think that the resulting sloppiness is "natural", or some evolved aquascaping technique or something?"
Funny thing is that, in reality, it IS a sort of evolution, isn't it?
I mean, sure, on the surface, this doesn't seem like much: "Toss botanical materials in aquariums. See what happens." It's not like no one ever did this before. And to make it seem more complicated than it is- to develop or quantify "technique" for it (a true act of human nature, I suppose) is probably a bit humorous.
On the other hand, most of us already know that it's not just to create a cool-looking tank. We don't embrace the aesthetic of dark water, a bottom covered in decomposing leaves, and the appearance of biofilms and algae on driftwood because it allows us to be more "relaxed" in the care of our tanks, or because we think we're so much smarter than the underwater-diorama-loving, hype-mongering competition aquascaping crowd.
Well, maybe we are? 😆
I mean, we are doing this for a reason: To create more authentic-looking, natural-functioning aquatic displays for our fishes. To understand and acknowledge that our fishes and their very existence is influenced by the habitats in which they have evolved.
Wild tropical aquatic habitats are influenced greatly by the surrounding geography and flora of their region, which in turn, have considerable influence upon the population of fishes which inhabit them, and their life cycle. The simple fact of the matter is, when we add botanical materials to an aquarium and accept what occurs as a result-regardless of wether our intent is just to create a different aesthetic, or perhaps something more- we are to a very real extent replicating the processes and influences that occur in wild aquatic habitats in nature.
The presence of botanical materials such as leaves in these aquatic habitats is fundamental.
Consider that the next time a fellow hobbyist asks you why you toss leaves, twigs, and seed pods into your aquarium.
Stay curious. Stay observant. Stay diligent. Stay bold...
And Stay Wet.