As you might imagine, a lot of the inquiries we receive from potential customers and members of our community are questions about which botanical would be most appropriate for a specific situation. This is a lot of fun for us, of course, because we get to geek out right along with you!
All fun stuff aside, it's really cool to think about this stuff, and it brings up some re-occuring themes that we talk about here at Tannin.
First and foremost, while there are no specific botanicals which are THE perfect item for a particular fish, we are able to make some generalizations about some which can accomplish certain things. Like, if you're interested in providing a natural "spawning cave" for your Apistos, awesome choices are botanicals like Savu Pods, Jungle Pods, Palma Abrigo, or "Ra Cama" - all of which have been utilized by these fish for shelter, breeding, and foraging.
Now, rather than talking about which botanicals to use for which application (too many different options for different situations), let's just say broadly (at the risk of over-generalizing) that most any botanical can be used in our version of a blackwater, botanical-style aquarium. Now, sure- there are a lot of "sub-considerations"- like the size of the aquarium, the needs of the fishes (like, do they need them to shelter, forage upon, consume- or all of the above?), yet in general, we could utilize pretty much anything that is safe.
The absolute best way to determine which botanical would be suitable for your aquarium? I think it's to simply do some research on the fish and the habitats from which they come. You can google "Underwater Igarape" videos and photos, and come up with all sorts of inspiration for what to use. I personally love our friend Ivan Mikolji's videos and photos- but there are many others.
Sure, we may not always be able to offer the exact botanical materials that you see in the videos and pics you find, but most of the botanicals we offer are good representative of the materials you see in the wild aquatic habitats. I personally have spent many hours over the years studying photos and videos and getting a lot of inspiration for the types of things we elected to offer at Tannin.
I realize that some hobbyists ARE explicitly concerned with trying to obtain and utilize the EXACT materials found in specific geographic regions, etc.- and we try when possible to list the origin of our botanicals. And I totally get this desire- it's a very cool endeavor!
On the other hand, at the risk of being a bit presumptuous, I also am of the opinion that most hobbyists (and biotope aquarium contest judges, too!) would have a very difficult time determining a specific leaf as having come from an Amazonian forest tree versus say, an Indian Artocarpus leaf, after it's been submerged for some time, so I think we should accept the "representative" moniker for now...
Of course, we are constantly pursuing new materials, specifically those which come from some of the very habitats we love to replicate in our aquariums. However, I hope that I can encourage many of you to utilize materials which look similar to those you've seen in wild habitats. I suppose one could argue that there are very specific biochemical "signatures" that locale-specific botanicals could impart into their aquatic environments, yet that is really speculative, until we know what exactly to look for!
So...where does this leave those of us who wonder exactly what botanicals are best for a specific setup?
The short (and perhaps unsatisfying to some) answer is that "They all work", and it leaves us open to experiment and iterate and play with all of the wonderful array of natural botanical materials which we have at our fingertips.
When it feels right, you'll know it.
They're all the "right stuff" to some extent!
Stay bold. Stay curios. Stay experimental. Stay engaged...
And Stay Wet.