The Complexity of "Deconstruction..."

As I was discussing yesterday, I've embarked on a pretty significant (for me) "mid course correction" of my home Asian-inspired blackwater aquarium. It's starts with "deconstruction" and turns into a more creative process.  If you recall, the biggest thing for me was to "de-emphasize" the aquatic plants and minimize the "massive" wood structure in order to feature the leaf litter bed, create more negative space and a sense of natural "disorder."

Now, on the surface, it seemed to be one of those projects that would be relatively simple: You pull out some wood, yank a few plants, smooth over the substrate, and bam! V 2.0!

And of course, mercifully- it's never that easy. Never that quick. And never that decisive, right?  It's downright complex sometimes, right? 

Nope. More of a "project", which I actually love. Man, if it were a 1-hour ordeal, I think that this hobby would be kind of dull after a while, right? After a lifetime in the hobby, I think I actually prefer the epic 7-hour tank "red-do" over some quick thing. I mean, where's the fun in that "quick and easy" shit? Besides, when you know that something is gonna take a while, you think twice before jumping into a major "do-over"- right? 

Well, maybe. 

I admit, I've done just as many 7-8 hour "makeovers" on my tanks over the years which started at 4:30PM in the afternoon on a Thursday as I have more planned affairs which started at 9:00AM on a Sunday! And I'm willing to wager that you have, too. It goes with the territory, right?


Getting back to my tank- it's actually good that this one started on that rather "impulsive" note yesterday late afternoon, because I knew I needed to let it "sit" for a bit after the initial "demolition." There is nothing in major tank renovation projects more luxurious than the two-to-three day process, IMHO! Over the years, I've developed a real sense of patience (or is it simply the result of not having huge blocks of time for this stuff, like I used to?) that let's me call it a day before the whole thing is done, and start fresh the next day.

You know how this goes. The critical, scary initial "yank the shit out" phase happens on day one. You've played down the marker- ripped off the Band-Aid (or whatever damn metaphor you want to apply) on that first day. No turning back...The tank will never look like it did before you started, for better or worse (almost always for the better, in my experience...). The "safety net" of "the stable, established tank" is gone. Off to the unknown!

"My God, what have I done...?"

You let all of the detritus and cloudiness that you stirred up settle and be pulled into the filter overnight. You wake up and look at what you've got...Day two is the "creative" day, when you start making the adjustments to the overall scape- move stuff into position, etc. And yeah, this can be a good- or bad day, depending upon your mind set. I mean, you're "fresh", have some dry towels, a drop cloth, a few buckets, unlike you did on the impulsive start day, when it was just full-speed ahead.

Today is a new day.

A thoughtful, deliberate day.

You're mentally ready. And yeah, this is almost always where I tend to over-think it. I mean, it's easy for me to edit my idea at this point. And why not, right?  Wait, did I really have an "idea"- or just an itch to scratch? Hmm. No point in thinking about that now. You've already given yourself permission to go. The "canvas" is blank, so to speak, so it's easy, right? And besides, isn't that one piece of wood really a bit better for the overall look if you move it a few inches to the left? Right? 

And of course, re-orienting or moving that one piece of wood or rock changes the whole thing yet again. I mean, wouldn't it look better? No? It doesn't? Arghh...Maybe I'll just put it back where it was, and...Oh, was THIS the way it was positioned before? Maybe? Hmm...looks different, though. Maybe it was a bit farther over...Didn't I take a pic with my iPhone? Arrghh, no. I guess not...

Three, four hours in now...

And you know, there is something oddly relaxing about this process, even with its challenges and inherent surprises, isn't there? I mean, wouldn't you rather be "up to your shoulders" in water, with algae-covered rocks, sand, and wet towels as aquatic "landmines" all over the floor, rather than sitting in the office doing whatever you normally do on a weekday? 

Yeah, the old bumper sticker slogan about "A bad day of ___________ is better than a good day at the office" or whatever comes to mind, right?

Okay, sure.


Wow, when did it get to be afternoon?

Almost done...

And that's the funniest part, really.

With me, it's not really that the project is "done", per se. I mean, an aquarium is an evolving, constantly-changing entity of sorts. It's not ever really "finished", is it? Nature simply takes over when we declare "done", and continues the process that we started.

So you keep going. Nowhere near finished just yet...

At the end of that second day, whatever time that may be- you sit back, stare at the tank to admire what you've achieved...and of course, are thinking to yourself, "Damn, I should have put that extra rock in there on the right. And why didn't I reposition that piece of wood she that knows is facing the front of the tank...?"

And that's why it's a three-day process, isn't it?

It's a pretty complex one, at that.

Don't put away the drop cloth just yet. And of course, you have more towels in the closet, somewhere. The process isn't over just yet.

Yeah, it's a process.

A form of "creative therapy." A challenge. It's easy to set up something from scratch- much more difficult to complete a "do-over" on an existing aquarium, isn't it?

But just as fun!

That's the complexity of "deconstruction."

Got to get back at it. I'm only on Day 2 here.

Stay engaged. Stay creative. Stay thoughtful. Stay diligent...

And Stay Wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics 




Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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