Are you one of those aquarists who's always scheming about his/her next aquarium? You know, the one in which you're gonna try____________?
Yeah, of course you are!
All part of being a fish geek, huh?
Since first experimenting heavily with blackwater/botanical-style tanks a few years ago, I've put together a number of systems that I've really enjoyed; each one was a sort of test bed for a different idea or aesthetic within the "realm" of this tinted world we play in. One of the ideas that has been on my "to do list" for a long time, but I never actually built is probably one of the easiest ones to do: An "All leaf litter tank!"
Yeah, nothing but leaf litter. No rocks, no wood, a little substrate; but just leaves. Lots of 'em. Maybe, maybe a few plants. Maybe.
Like in nature, right?
Now, as you know, I play with leaf-litter in tank regularly, and our office aquarium is sort of a "flagship" for a leaf-litter botanical style system...but it has substrate, rocks, wood, and even some plants. it's one of my favorite all-time tanks, but it's still not a "nothing-but-leaves" tank.
I'm actually not sure why I haven't gotten around to a "leaves only" tank just yet. Of course, time is always the big factor, but I think with this one, I'm trying to zero in on the right tank itself.
Yeah, I'm looking for a shallow, wide aquarium...Like pretty shallow in relationship to it's length. Most likely, that means a custom tank...or a stock tank like this "Mr. Aqua" I saw at Nebraska Aquatic Supply a few months back.. Long and shallow...a bit more narrow, though, than I envision..but workable.
I have a nice shallow ADA tank that I've use in the past for other projects with is close to the footprint I'm envisioning, but its a relatively small tank ( Ithink like 7 US gallons)...I'd like to go a bit bigger...maybe 20 or so US gallons.
I think shallow and wide sets a cool perspective, and emphasizes the leaves; really brings them into focus and features them.
I have a few friends that are really getting into this "total leaf" type of aesthetic. My friend Luke Landsburgh has a really cool tank up and coming..He's as crazy about leaves and dark water as I am!
My man, MIke Bognich really loves leaf littler like I do..We've schemed relentlessly on deep leaf litter and such...only he went for it! He's developing a lot of technique and expertise managing these types of systems...a very cool "trailblazing" body of work!
What ARE some of the challenges associated with an "all leaf" tank? Well, really, I think the biggest challenges are in our heads...Telling ourselves "No rocks! No wood!" Keeping on the aesthetic path that few have ever treaded upon before. Almost a "no-scape" as we say in the reef world...no vertical relief other than the leaves and maybe a few plants.
From a standpoint of water chemistry, I think in the absence of buffer, provided by say, a substrate, you could see a lower "operating pH', and due diligence should be paid to the water chemistry trends over time. Also, I'd think that you need to conduct your typical weekly water changes, with good common sense on feeding your fishes.
As in nature, biofilms and leaf decomposition are a given in this type of system, and how we elect to manage it is part of the consideration. As the pic below by Mike Tuccinardi fro the Rio Negro shows, there is a tremendous accumulation of leaf material in these waters.
Filtration is another consideration. I'd definitely think that some mechanical filtration is in order, along with perhaps some chemical media, such as Poly Filter or Sea Chem "Renew", which won't remove the "tint" we love, but will attack some dissolved organics.
Water movement should not be too strong, or you'd have a constant, swirling mess of material in the water column...the kind of mess that will no doubt elicit "I told you so" comments from your already skeptical friends, right?
Oh, there's way more to consider...a lot more...Like, which leaves to use, for example.
We'll come back to this in Part 2, and maybe, just maybe, somewhere along the line, I'll get off my rear and start moving on this...
In the meantime...
Keep scheming. Keep thinking. Keep devising.
Stay creative. Stay fearless. Stay motivated.
And Stay Wet.