The finished product, or just the most recent steps on a long journey?

As I was staring at the latest re-do on one of my tanks the other day, I couldn't help but think to myself that this tank looks nothing like it will look after a period of time. In fact, it will bear little resemblance to its "early phase" self. I find this concept fascinating. 

One of the interesting things I've found over the years about botanical-style natural aquariums is that they evolve over time. Sure, you can set 'em up to look great from the start, and place everything meticulously- but the reality is, Nature will dictate not only where things end up- but in what condition. Currents and fishes can move stuff. Fungi and bacteria can break down the leaves and botanicals, etc.

Stuff changes.I personally feel that botanical-style aquariums always look better after a few week, or even months of operation. When they're new, and the leaves and botanicals are crisp, intact, and fresh-looking, it may have a nice "artistic" appearance- but not necessarily "natural" in the sense that it doesn't look established and alive.

 The real magic takes place weeks later.The whole environment of a more established botanical-style aquarium looks substantially different after a few weeks. The water darkens. Biofilms just looks more "earthy", mysterious, and alive.

It's "Wabi-Sabi" again.

Something that's been on my mind a lot lately.

In it's most simplistic and literal form,the Japanese philosophy of "Wabi Sabi" is an acceptance and contemplation of the imperfection, constant flux and impermanence of all things.

This is a very interesting philosophy, one which has been embraced in aquascaping circles by none other than the late, great, Takashi Amano, who proferred that a planted aquarium is in constant flux, and that one needs to contemplate, embrace, and enjoy the sweet sadness of the transience of life.

Many of Amano's greatest works embraced this philosophy, and evolved over time as various plants would alternately thrive, spread and decline, re-working and reconfiguring the aquascape with minimal human intervention. Each phase of the aquascape's existence brought new beauty and joy to those would observe them.

Yet, in today's contest-scape driven, break-down-the-tank-after-the-show world, this philosophy of appreciating change by nature over time seems to have been tossed aside as we move on to the next 'scape.

Sure, this may fit our lifestyle and interest, but it denies Nature her chance to shine, IMHO. There is something amazing about this process which we should enjoy at every stage.

Leaves and such are simply not permanent additions to our 'scapes, and if we wish to enjoy them in their more "intact" forms, we will need to replace them as they start to break down. 

This is not a bad thing.

It is simply how to use them to create a specific aesthetic in a permanent aquarium display. Much like flowers in a garden, leaves will have a period of time where they are in all their glory, followed by the gradual, inevitable encroachment of biological decay. At this phase, you may opt to leave them in the aquarium to enrich the environment further and offer a new aesthetic, or you can remove and replace them with fresh leaves and botanicals. This very much replicates the process which occur in nature, doesn't it?

It does.

And it simply requires that we act with patience, observe our tanks carefully, and not expend too much energy waiting for some elusive "finished product."

It's a journey. One that continues for as long as our tank does.

Enjoy it.

Stay patient. Stay observant. Stay engaged. Stay enthralled...

And Stay Wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics 

Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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