As you know, we try to keep a pretty active and lively discourse with you- our community, whenever possible, and that includes asking for your feedback and thoughts on stuff all the time.
One of our recent polls on our Instagram channel was, "What geographic region should we highlight in our next blackwater aquarium?"
The options (in no particular order) were Africa, India, South America, and Southeast Asia. We had hundreds of responses, and here were the results of the poll, in order:
Now, I thought this was quite interesting, really
I mean, we've talked about the blackwater habitats of South America since our inception; featured a lot of information not only about aquariums we created to replicate features of South American habitats, but many blog pieces and pics on the habitats themselves as well.
And of course, we've featured our Asian-themed blackwater tanks before as well (and just completed an extensive photo/video shoot on the Aisan tank as well. We have an Indian-themed tinted brackish tank which also got the Hollywood treatment by Johnny Ciotti last week (photos to follow soon).
I admit, we haven't really touched Africa yet, short of a rather poorly-thought-out exercise in using Mopani wood as the basis for a scape back in 2017... Oh, aren't those SOUTH AMERICAN characins in there?
Oh, yeah...they are... well...
So, I was a bit surprised. Well, sort of. I realize we have picked up many, many new followers and customers, who may not have seen all of our South American-themed work over the past several years. And our Southeast Asian tanks are relatively new and not all that well-discussed, so I suppose it makes sense there...The big surprise, however, was Africa and India- which were very close in the poll numbers, but nonetheless, third and fourth respectively.
Now, again, I suppose it makes sense- with all of the newer enthusiasts we've attracted...And the overwhelming popularity of the Amazon and the sort of general hobby mindset which apparently equates "South America= Blackwater", right? And believe me, I'm kind of excited to do some more South American-themed blackwater tanks! Although, curiously, I recently executed a very tightly-focused South American tank, my "Tucano Tangle", which attempts to replicate the (blackwater) habitat of the diminutive characin, Tucanoichthys tucano in a unique way.
I kind of figured that the above reasons are why there is a lot of hunger for South American-themed blackwater aquariums...Well, those and the fact that they are awesome- and are home to so many cool fishes which are much-loved in the hobby. And I think that, because so many "generic" South American blackwater tanks have been done before, we'll keep looking at more specified types of these habitats and attempting to replicate them and the fishes which inhabit them! Not the typical "biotope" themed tanks you see in contests ("Rio ____ in May, 3km southeast of Manaus..."); rather, more "habitat-niche-specific" ideas (like igarape habitats, shorelines, vernal pools, Morichals, root tangles, etc.).
These will hopefully not only highlight the many diverse microhabitats in the region- they'll help us understand what the fishes that we see in them are found in these specific environments...and how they function! Hopefully, a little different from the usual stuff we see in this context.
With Southeast Asia, my first foray was not really all that unusual, I suppose- I featured some dense wood, lots of leaves, and the usual Cryptocorynes, Loaches,Barbs, and Rasbora. It's not exactly what I'd call a "deep dive" like I mentioned for the South American themes we've executed and will execute in the future...I'm actually a bit embarassed about that, lol! But here's what's interesting: I came in with such a "South American bias" that I suppose it was inevitable that I'd have to "get my feet wet" with a most "generic" idea, lol.
Yeah, I promise that our next Southeast Asian executions will be based upon far more unique habitats, like Peat Bogs, mountain streams, shrimp-specific habitats, rice paddies, etc. Not only will these be fun to play with, they'll hopefully inspire others in our community and beyond get out of the "cliche zone" and study and attempt to replicate some really cool habitats in the aquarium!
We have played with some brackish Southeast Asian ideas, embracing the little Bumblebee Goby (Brachygobius doriae), and really enjoyed seeing them in a more natural setting. We look forward to other more "fish-specific" Southeast Asian habitat executions!
Of course, achieving a very exciting third place in our poll, Africa is a region which we probably all agree deserves much more attention, in terms of blackwater and other types of natural-style botanical-themed aquariums is concerned. And Africa, much like South America, has a tremendous diversity of these types of habitats to work with. Lots of river habitats, jungle streams, temporary pools, and (perhaps most exciting to many) plant-rich ponds and tributaries- all of which have blackwater "versions"- can make this an amazing canvass upon which to execute our craft.
There are unique cichlid-themed displays and killifish-centric habitats we'd love to play with. With many beautiful; leaf-infused habitats- home to much-loved species such as Pelvicichromis and others, it will be interesting to see the types of tanks and successes we'll see when we dive deeper!
And of course, the chance to do some really unusual work, especially with the under-appreciated (in the hobby mainstream, anyways) killifishes- is always pretty cool!
Anubius species. Rocks. Leaves. Regionally- appropriate botanicals. Dense wood. Sand...all cool elements that will be great to use with an African-themed tank!
And then, there's India.
Like, this is an amazing treasure trove of diverse habitats; home to numerous interesting fishes. Perhaps no other region, with the possible exception of Australia, receives such scant attention from the bulk of the aquarium hobby. And it's really quite a shame, because there are so many incredible fishes, plants, and habitats to study and replicate in our aquariums. Okay, even the domesticated forms are pretty cool, and would be appropriate for such habitats, right?
And it's not without at least a small tinge of irony that many of our botanicals that we offer are from our suppliers in various parts of India! So, it makes perfect sense that it would be cool to use them in a more appropriate natural context in an Indian-themed aquarium, right?
Now, we have done somde work with an Indian theme, as indicated above- with our brackish-water aquarium featuring a wild brackish population of the Indian "Orange Chromide" cichlid, Etroplus maculatus, and it's proven to be a truly enjoyable tank for this somewhat under-apopreiated, yet well known fish. To keep it in an appropriate aquarium habitat is pretty rewarding, I must say!
Often, I've found that trying new things our hobby is simply a matter of jumping in with our eyes wide open- and with the willingness to look at things a bit differently than we have in the past. Playing with aquariums which replicate both the form and the function of habitats in these under-appreciated regions is something we're looking forward to doing more of!
We promise to keep featuring different ideas, approaches, and executions of the wild aquatic habitats of the world. With a global supply of inspiration and ideas- and YOU- our engaged and excited community- it's very exciting to contemplate what we can all do- and where we'll be headed next!
It's a big world.
And there are a lot of possibilities when we attack the "global checklist" which awaits us.
Stay inspired. Stay excited. Stay creative. Stay curious. Stay ensued...
And Stay Wet.