"The Pivot."

So I have this sort of confession to make.

When I first added plants to my office blackwater aquarium, it was really as sort of an experiment to see how they would fare in the dark brown botanical milieu I created. It was more of "let's see if this works for me." I was actually, in my head at least- violently opposed to the idea of incorporating plants at all into the 'scape. My thinking was that the green would somehow "violate" the "sanctity" of my little blackwater utopia hardscape, and take it in a direction towards a more traditional planted tank! 

Seriously. I was that worried!  

However, I took some comfort in knowing that the planet would have to "fend for themselves" in this tank; there would be no supplemental fertilization, special lighting, excessive pruning or other "management" common to planted aquariums. I was committed to letting the plants just "be"- the ultimate survival experiment. 

Probably an attitude that would horrify some aquatic plant lovers, but  I was very militant  and committed to a blackwater hardscape. I didn't want to "pivot!" No way. Anything else would derail me from my "objectives"- or so I reasoned...

Then, I was at a speaking event in the Spring with  Luis Navarro, one of the most highly-respected aquascapers in the world. And of course, we immediately clicked and geeked out, as fish guys do. His love for plants and aquascaping is infectious! How good is this guy? Well, when you look up "aquascaping"in Wikipedia, there is one of his 'scapes on the page.   (Oh, and so is a crazy-good 'scape by none other than the great George Farmer, who will be doing an upcoming video featuring Tannin stuff...fun! More on this soon) 

And of course, Luis just HAD to play with some Tannin stuff I brought along during his aquascaping demo (well, due largely to a bad break where the plants he was supposed to use didn't arrive..). And I saw what a serious planted guy does with botanicals, under pressure!

And of course, Luis showed me tons of pics of planted tanks and underwater pics from his forays into Mexico in search of plants, fish, and aquascaping ideas. These natural 'scapes were beautiful- exactly the kinds of things that interested me. 

And they had plants.

And of course, he said, "Let me send you some hardy plants." That meant trouble. And what did he recommend?  Polygonum sp. “Kawagoeanum” - that almost "bamboo-looking" plant that has beautiful pinkish leaves. The idea was to find a plant that would break the water surface, creating an interesting look in my open-top 50 gallon office tank.

When I planted the stems I received, it was with the idea of not doing any extensive "training" of the plant, largely to let it do its own thing. Since I wasn't going out f my way to give it any special conditions, I figured that there was a 50/50 chance the plants would survive, let alone grow.

Happily, I was wrong!

The plant did exceedingly well, and has done its "Polygonum Thing", throwing down tons of those fuzzy aerial roots that are the bane of many aquascaper's existence. In my blackwater world, they offered the perfect contrast to the browns and earth tones of the botanicals, and the fishes seem to love the added dimension they provide...Okay, that' in my mind, but the plants, particularly in their "wild" state, work very well...and they appear to be thriving! 

I'm totally into the idea of plants in a blackwater, botanical-dominated hardscape. Many of you have already done this with fantastic results. I was a bit late to the party, as they say! Yeah, a classic "pivot", as they say in business. Not a detour. And a pivot that I was happy to make!

Now, the point of this blog isn't to say "Look at my pretty plants!"  (well, perhaps just a little..) The point was that it's always good to let your plans be flexible. Staying on a disciplined path is often a good thing, but flexibility is a beautiful thing! I can honestly say that I couldn't imagine this tank without the plants in it.

What a "360", huh?

Today's very simple, slightly green takeaway.

Pivot as needed. Enjoy.

Stay open minded. Stay flexible, yet disciplined.

And of course...

Stay Wet.

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics


Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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