The blackwater/botanical-style aquarium...a freshwater "reef" system? Sort of?

As someone who has kept many different types of aquariums over they years, I find myself making comparisons between systems, techniques, and function of various types of approaches. One of the most interesting analogies that I find myself making (at least in my head...) is the similarities between reef aquariums and these "BWBS" systems.

Now, on the surface, I can understand the assertions by many who think these tanks couldn't be more divergent from each other, beyond the obvious fresh/salt comparison.

However, I think when you look at them from both a functional and operational standpoint, it becomes remarkably clear that these two types of tanks have interesting similarities.

Now, this begs the question: "Why should we care, Scott?"

Well, I'm asking it for you! Here's the reason: Because the reef aquarium is probably one of the ultimate examples of a captive system that requires us- the hobbyists- to maintain the environment in a manner which supports "layers" of life forms, from bacteria to infaunal organisms, to fishes. And in doing so, we are supporting a "chain of life forms" with interdependencies and relationships. The techniques which we incorporate to accomplish this are transferable to both disciplines.

More than just for the purpose of providing "aquatic cross-training", this similarity is important because we are starting to see the blackwater, botanical-style aquarium as a microcosm.

Planted aquarium enthusiasts get this, to a certain extent...especially those who play with "dirted" substrates and such.

However, as botanical-style, blackwater aquarist fans, we're in a very unique position to really embrace and expand on this concept.

We as serious freshwater hobbyists need to look carefully at some of the ideas our reef keeping brothers and sisters are playing with, and embracing some of the ideas reefers incorporate into their systems about "holistic" microcosms. 

In our case, wood, leaves, water...and the life forms that reside in them all work together to create a functional, aesthetically unique in which our fishes may display extremely natural behaviors. One in which we might be able to unlock some secrets of their life functions, and gain a greater understanding of their precious and fascinating natural habitats.


A simple idea for a Sunday.

Stay intrigued. Stay enthusiastic. Stay open-minded.

And Stay Wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics 



Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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