Ever get some idea or vision of a way to set up an aquarium in your head, and you just can't rid yourself of it? I get these kinds of "itches" all the time.
Lately, I have a new sort of obsession in my head about branchy, tangled wood habitats. I'm fascinated by root tangles, projecting vegetation, palm fronds, and tangles of small branches underwater. I love the idea of creating a complex "matrix" which our fishes can forage among, seek shelter, and breed in.
I've been down this road before, and I liked it.
And, I sort of executed this on my latest tank, with a mix of wood sizes, but I'm thinking that I'd want to do something with much smaller "diameter" branches exclusively to pull off this vision.
These types of environments are extremely common in nature, especially in flooded forests and other habitats which are dry part of the year.
I Ive seen numerous hobbyists create some truly fascinating aquariums by utilizing tangles of fine branches and roots. Not only is it an aesthetically fascinating habitat, it's truly a functional one, at that!
Our brackish-water botanical-style tank has a lot of mangrove branches/roots which extend downwards into the substrate, creating a complex look which I've really enjoyed!
There is a lot of interesting stuff you can do, aqutascaping-wise, by utilizing a complex of Fien branches. Fishes like Angels, Discus, Uarus, and others which come from environments which favor their "vertically compressed" morphology will fin a natural home in a tank set up in such a manner.
There is a lot of inspiration you can find in nature for such habitats, such as forest streams with overhanging vegetation that extends into the water.
And of course, the aforementioned mangroves are the "text book" example of this type of habitat. They even occur in freshwater environments as shown here- and the fallen leaves which accumulate among them create an irresistible scene that I'd love to re-create in the aquarium!
Now, such root/branch tangles DO take up some physical space in the confines of the aquarium, and you need to take this into account when stocking, equipping, and maintaining such systems. Access, water capacity, and filter intakes/outputs need to be considered when you move in a project like this...but that's half the fun, anyways- right?
I envision all sorts of habitat simulations that you could do by utilizing a matrix of small branches and roots in your aquarium. I'd encourage incorporating other materials, like palm fronds, to compliment the affect.
And of course, you could always incorporate a layer of leaf litter, which really seems to go perfectly with this type of niche. IN nature, we see leaves and other materials accumulate in these root tangles and aggregations of fallen branches, so recreating this in nature is kind of a "no brainer!"
I honestly have no idea why this kind of stuff seeps into my mind at times. It's not like this is some earth-shattering revelation or discovery, or even an aesthetic never before attempted. I've done it many times, and so have thousands of hobbyists...However, I think that when we consider creating such a tank with this feature in the context of our botanical world, it's a bit different.
I think that this is such a compelling idea for me at the moment that I'm even considering a little makeover on my home blackwater aquarium, to remove some of the larger wood pieces in favor of an exclusive matrix of finer branches as the main hardscape feature. It would be a relatively easy change, but I think the transformation in this instance could be noticeable and effective.
Perhaps it'll keep me creatively satisfied...for a while, anyways, until a sort the next tank...
Always scheme. Always contemplate the possibilities.
Stay creative. Stay restless. Stay bold. Stay excited...
And Stay Wet.