I can't help but laugh at my own title for this quick one today.
I laugh, because when I first started Tannin, I received a fair amount of raised eyebrows from my friends in the reef keeping community who found it hard to believe that I was giving up my "power spot" in the splashy coral propagation market to start a new venture that sold... "twigs and nuts" (sic).
Now at first, you'd be inclined to agree; the coral world is filled with colorful, high-priced frags and a willing market of people willing to gobble up as many as you can cut, grow, and...photoshop (okay, that's kind of mean, as all reputable coral propagators/vendors don't photoshop their pics, but hey...).
And the world I was entering?
Well, there was no "world"- I mean, not really. No one ever really decided to create an entire company around dark, "dirty" (not MY word!) blackwater aquariums- let alone, almost exclusively offering botanical materials to create and manage them. I kind of had to break out the machete and clear my way through the metaphoric virgin forest...There was no model here. Looking back, I can see how it was a bit funny to some... I mean, well- yeah.
That being said, I'm happy to see so many hobbyists playing with our "twigs and nuts."
Let's think for just a second, about the "twigs"- the stems and branches that we love so much in our aquascaping. Those of us who obsessively study images of the wild tropical habitats we love so much can't help but note that many of the bodies of water which we model our aquariums after are replete with tree branches and stems. Since many of these habitats are ephemeral in nature, they are only filled up with water part of the year. The remainder of the time, they're essentially dry forest floors.
And what accumulates on dry forest floors?
Branches, stems, and other materials from trees and shrubs. When the waters return, these formerly terrestrial materials become an integral part of the (now) aquatic environment. This is a really, really important thing to think of when we aquascape or contemplate who we will use botanical materials like the aforementioned stems and branches. They impact both function and aesthetics of an aquarium...Yes, what we call "functional aesthetics" rears its head again!
There is no real rhyme or reason as to what stuff orients itself the way it does. I mean, branches fall off the trees, a process initiated by either rain or wind, and just land "wherever." Which means that we as hobbyists would be perfectly okay just sort of tossing materials in and walking away! Now, I know this is actually aquascaping heresy- Not one serious 'scaper would ever do that...right?
I'm not so sure why they wouldn't.
I mean, what's wrong with sort of randomly scattering stems, twigs, and branches in your aquascape? It's a near-perfect replication of what happens in nature. Now, I realize that a glass or acrylic box of water is NOT nature, and there are things like "scale" and "ratio" and all of that "gobbldeygook" that hardcore 'scaping snobs will hit you over the head with...
But nature doesn't give a f*^%# about some competition aquascaper's "rules"- and nature is pretty damn inspiring, right? There is a beauty in the brutal reality of randomness. I mean, sure, the position of stones in an "Iwagumi" is beautiful...but it's hardly what I'd describe as "natural."
Which begs the question: Who really cares? Do what you like! Okay, I"m coming around full circle here. The point is that we probably ascribe a bit too much into trying to achieve some completely artistic, perfectly proportioned placement of materials like twigs and branches, and could do a lot worse than literally dropping materials into our tanks (taking into account their size of course).
Okay, I'm rambling on and on and probably digging a larger and deeper hole for myself with a lot of people...But hey- agitating is part of what we do here. We have to think beyond just the obvious, safe stuff now and then, right?
I think so.
Enjoy nature. Savor the utter randomness of "twigs and nuts"- see how your fishes respond. Enjoy the mystery of "exploring" your own tank...and contemplate the natural processes which nature uses to "place" them.
Stay open minded. Stay original. Stay contemplative. Stay unrestrained by convention. Stay curious...
And Stay Wet.