I've always had this thing about repetition and doing the same stuff over and over agin in my aquarium practice. It's one of the real "truisms", to me, about fish keeping: Once you've gotten in a groove, in terms of husbandry routines, it's great to just do the same thing over and over again.
Now, notice that I'm not talking about doing the same thing over and over when it cones to ideas...Nope. I'm of the opinion that you should do all sorts of crazy things when it comes to concepts and experiments.
However, when it comes to maintenance, I'm all about boring. With so many other variables in play with aquariums, it simply makes sense to keep some things as stable and predictable as possible. Like, if you change "x" liters of water ever Tuesday, or whatever, and your tank is cranking along nicely, I say keep doing it.
Nature has its own rhythms. And we'd do best to consider them, right?
Let's face it, most of the habitats from which our fishes hail are fairly stable, in terms of water chemistry. Or are they? Sure, lakes and major rivers and tributaries, and of course, the oceans, are among the most stable environments on earth (at least in the short to medium term). Most of these habitats have conditions that are more or less constant and vary little. I say "most", because as we've talked about many times before, seasonally-inundated forests and floodplains go through a lot of changes as aquatic habitats during the rainy season, as water levels peak and decline.
With a lot of botanical materials (terrestrial plants, branches, logs, leaves, etc.) in the water, one would anticipate some sort of chemical changes the longer the areas are submerged, and as these materials begin to decompose. And with a more-or-less constant influx of rain during the wet season, I would bet that there is some dilution or at least, redistribution, of organics within the ecosystem. In our aquariums, redistribution is limited by hardscape (wood and rocks) much as it is in nature. And, one could make the argument that our water changes do, indeed simulate to some extent the processes of rainfall and flooding to some extent!
And our continuous addition, removal, and replacement of botanicals is, as many of us surmised, a pretty good replication of what happens in these systems in nature, as well. Materials are continuously falling into the water and being redistributed, with ones that have been down longer decomposing and/or being acted upon by fishes and other aquatic life forms. Finding a "rhythm" that works for both us and our fishes is the key here. I mean, sure, if you want to really follow global weather patterns and do stepped-up water exchanges and botanical additions and removals to correspond with them, this would be a very cool experiment!
However, for most of us, simply establishing a routine of botanical additions and replenishment is a good idea.
And consistency. Working together in a most interesting way.
We've talked about it before, but it does bear some further review in this light: There are streams where botanical accumulation (particularly in banks of leaf litter) has been going on more or less the same way for many years, creating semi-permanent features in the aquatic environment. For example, "meanders" (bends) in various Amazonian streams have been studied for some time, and some leaf litter beds are known to have existed for decades in the same place. The implication for this is that such leaf litter beds become habitats for generations of fishes and their offspring, and like the tropical reefs in the ocean- are an oasis of life- containing both the fishes and their prey items.
Now, although these are semi-permanent features in the habitat, they can vary throughout they year, influenced, as we discussed previously, by seasonal inundation. And then there are those floating leaf litter banks! It's been postulated by researchers that the floating litter banks supply the benthic community (which includes, of course, the fishes) with food and shelter, especially during the dry season when other habitats are unavailable.
And interestingly, the structural changes resulting from the seasonal disintegration/decomposition of bottom litter banks and the formation of floating litter banks may also lead the fishes to move from the bottom to the surface- a sort of "migration" to offset the changes occurring in the environment at different times of the year.
Change and consistency, yet again.
Obviously, there are numerous examples of this "yin/yang" sort of thing, all of which have profound and interesting implications and possibilities for hobbyists eager to attempt to replicate the "functional aesthetics" of such systems. The more we look at nature, the more we find that trying to model our aquariums aesthetically and functionally after her processes is an amazing way to go. Perhaps the key to many previously overlooked benefits for our fishes is to simply try to emulate the processes which occur seasonally in nature..embracing change, and it's strange, yet inexorable relationship with consistency.
Our fishes have adapted to it. We should embrace it.
Something to think about, right?
Stay thoughtful. Stay curious. Stay consistent. Stay flexible...
And Stay Wet.