The world of tropical fishes is as broad and diverse as the environments from which they come- and few regions offer as much diversity in this respect as Asia. The sheer number of habitats and the fishes which live in them in Asia is staggering. And so many of them are blackwater or otherwise "botanically-influenced" habitats that the opportunities for us to experiment with them in our aquariums is almost limitless!
From a standpoint of fishes, Asian species have never been more available in the trade, nor the selection more diverse. With many being captive-bred, the opportunity for us to try species that were previously obscure or otherwise under-appreciated in the hobby is easier than ever before!
I credit some of this to the exploding popularity of planted aquariums, which has resulted in more interest in small, "plant-compatible" species. And with more interest in different fish and plant species comes more interest in replicating some of the wild habitats from which they come!
And, oh, yeah- planted blackwater aquariums are an exploding area of interest within our botanical-influenced world! There are numerous species which do very, very well under these types of conditions- so much to be done here! Yes, the Asian blackwater habitats often contain terrific plants, like various Cryptocoryne, Bucephelandra, etc. And many of these plants do better in aquarium designed to meet their requirements.
PREDICTION FOR 2019: I think we will see a lot more interesting setups featuring plants and mixes of plants and other elements as more and more aquarists play in this area. And with more experimentation will come more understanding of the plants that come from other blackwater habitats around the world.
We've seen a big surge in the popularity of wild Betta species and lesser-known Gouramis. Having the experience in playing with Tetras and other South American blackwater fishes has given ideas and let's face it- a confidence boost- to many hobbyists who have been keeping the compelling Asian fishes for years, and were looking for something a bit different for them.
The same mindset that we've been applying to South American fishes: The mindset that makes us say to ourselves, "What if I keep this fish in an environment similar to the one where they come from I the wild?" (okay, well- I say that to myself!)
This is interesting and exciting.
Some forgotten favorites, like Barbs, are starting to see an uptick in popularity again. And what better way for us to appreciate their fantastic colors and behaviors than to provide them aquarium conditions similar to what they evolved in?
I think we'll see some very interesting developments in breeding some of these fishes. Now, Im not saying that no one has ever bred Snakeskin Barbs or Tiger Barbs. What I am saying is that we generally have no problem keeping and breeding them under "typical" aquarium conditions- but that we'll potentially have far more interesting results with them when we maintain them under the conditions that we provide in blackwater, botanical-style aquariums.
Some of the Barbs that where perhaps less appreciated and (how do we say it nicely) "more subtly colored" when kept under harder, more alkaline conditions will show substantially more attractive coloration when they are exposed to the manifold benefits which a BSBW aquarium can provide!
And of course, the health, appearance, and breeding possibilities for the fishes we collectively refer to as Rasbora have long benefitted from the use of leaves and other botanical materials in their aquariums. Only now, we have a more "focused" ability and desire to provide them with natural conditions in our aquaria. And of course, the opportunity to replicate many of the unique environments from which these fishes come, along with...aquatic plants....um, yeah. Who wouldn't be excited about this stuff?
Ohh, and what about the implications for keeping some of the oldest of the "old school" fishes- and among the most under-appreciated- the Gouramis? Think of the incredible potential here...Many of these fishes come from habitats which are not only fascinating- they're vanishing. Endangered by environmental changes, man's encroachment into them, and other artificial pressures. Learning about these habitats, and attempting to replicate their form and function in the aquarium may prove to be critical to the long-term survival of many species in both the wild and the aquarium.
(The call of the Gouramis is real! Pic by Luke Bescoby)
PREDICTION FOR 2019:. This could be the dawn of a new era for the Gouramis! These "staples" of the aquarium trade will be seen in a new and better light...appreciated as much for their interesting habits and fantastic colors as they are for the way they can thrive under BWBS aquarium conditions.
And of course, the always-popular dwarf shrimp have long benefitted from botanical-style aquarium conditions. It's something that's been known for a long time, but being able to tie it together with what we do simply opens up more and more opportunities for success.
And then there are the Loaches.
Who hasn't kept an entertaining and attractive Loach or two over the years?
Yeah, such a diverse and fascinating group of fishes. Many, many species are already in the hobby. New species are being described (and re-described, in some cases) on a regular basis, and are popular fishes already, of course. However, with more of an emphasis on providing them with more naturalistic (both functionally AND aesthetically) conditions in the aquarium, you open up numerous possibilities for breakthroughs in their husbandry and breeding.
I know, it's a theme we are seeing again and again. However, it's quite an exciting one, filled with opportunities for almost any hobbyist who's willing to do a little research and devote some time and effort; to be a part of the building potential breakthroughs on yet another group of fishes which have "just sort of been there" in the hobby for decades.
PREDICTION FOR 2109: A growing interest in Loaches in botanical-style aquariums.
I can go on and on and on with "predictions"- many of which are just as likely to be "hopes" as to what I'd like to see, lol. The "transformation", if you will of the way we look at Asian-themed aquariums is already underway, but the interest and excitement in our community is growing daily. That being said, I can promise that we at Tannin Aquatics will do our part to pump out some inspiring and hopefully- motivating- Asian-aquarium-themed content which will encourage experimentation!
And we'll be releasing more and more interesting botanicals, hard goods, and other aquascaping materials in the coming weeks that will enable you to create some compelling and interesting aquatic displays! Stay tuned! Add these to the many Asian-origin botanical materials we already offer, and you'll have a real "arsenal" of natural materials to create a compelling Asian-themed aquascape/environment for your fishes!
Yes, it's literally a whole new world to explore! One filled with exciting possibilities for aesthetics, husbandry breakthroughs, and increased knowledge of the (often threatened) wild environments and fishes of Asia.
Who's in? Who's ALREADY in? 😆
Stay excited. Stay curious. Stay creative. Stay engaged...
And Stay Wet.