The art of "Active Monitoring..."

When we think about our botanical-style aquariums over the long term, they will evolve in many ways, much like a natural river or stream, without much intervention on our part.

As water flow decreases, plants might grow differently. As the substrate begins to take on a "life of its own",  with more life forms growing in its matrix, fishes will forage for supplemental food items in it. 

As wood begins to soften, releasing more tannins into the water, the water darkens. Leaves and botanicals start to decompose, enriching the environment with humic acids, tannins, and other organic materials, further spurring plant growth, etc. Algae, although often dreaded, grow based on the available nutrients, waxing and waning. Biofilms emerge, providing supplemental food for the aquarium's inhabitants.

And you'll be involved. You'll interact with your aquarium; play some role in it's evolution, progress, and growth. Hopefully, you'll strike a balance between too much and too little. Or better yet- an understanding as to why they appear, and what it really means to your tank. No two aquariums are alike, and this is a foundational piece of aquarium keeping.

All part of a little "dance", that, although important to monitor, is not necessarily something that we as hobbyists have to intervene in. We do quite a bit when we simply perform our regular water exchanges, filter media replacements/cleanings, and occasional plant trimmings.

In fact, I sometimes wonder if that is ALL we need to do?

So why not simply enjoy what's happening in your aquarium as it evolves?

I know that I perennially overthink stuff, instead of merely enjoying it. "Active monitoring" is a great way to run a tank, IMHO. You do the necessary functions to keep things stable and consistent, and little more.

Just observe; enjoy.

Watching a display aquarium evolve and sort of "find itself" naturally over time is proving to be one of the most enjoyable discoveries I've made in the hobby in decades. By simply following established maintenance routines, and monitoring what's occurring in the tank, as opposed to constantly trying to "pre-empt" problems, I've had more stability, more growth...more success than ever before.

Accepting that there is most definitely a "dance" in our aquariums, and becoming an "active monitor" instead of an "active intervener" has added a new and rewarding aspect to my love of the hobby.

I think that it not only makes you a more engaged hobbyist, it gives you a remarkable appreciation for the long term evolution of an aquarium; an appreciation for the pace by which nature operates, and the direction which your aquarium goes.


"Monitoring" versus "intervening"...An interesting, if not critical- choice on the path towards aquarium success.

Stay focused. Stay observant. Stay patient. Stay engaged...

And Stay Wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics 

Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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