Today is a very simple topic.
I just wanted to touch on a theme that comes up quite a bit in my discussions with fellow hobbyists about employing botanicals in their aquariums: the need to follow certain "rules" in regards to employing them in your aquascapes and projects.
One of the best parts about working with the selection of botanicals that we've curated over the years is that there are so many possibilities to achieve all sorts of desired effects- aesthetic, biologically authentic, "structurally-functional", etc. There are numerous ways to combine different natural materials, any one of which would make your aquarium a reasonable facsimile of some ecological niche you'd find somewhere in nature!
Now, sure, it can be argued that you won't find such-and-such a seed pod in such-and-such a geographic locale, but to all but the most dedicated, hardcore biotope aquarium enthusiasts, nature provides us with a wide variety of materials to create pretty good representations of the types of stuff that accumulates on the bottoms of streams, rivers, ponds, flooded forests, etc. using just about anything that is safe for aquarium use.
And the simple fact is- there is no "right" or "wrong" way to combine any of them. When we developed our variety packs, it was done with the idea of helping our fellow hobbyists navigate what has turned into a rather bewildering number of choices, and giving you materials that we felt could "work together" to achieve a sort of look that might inspire you to create or enhance an aquarium for a specific type of fish, etc.
And the beautiful thing is that you can- and typically, do- use these variety packs as a sort of "springboard" to start projects of all kinds. And that is the beauty of this stuff- the opportunity to utilize these materials in your aquaecapes, breeding tanks, etc. is limitless. There is no real "recipe" for what to use, how many to use, or how to employ them.
You can use a "Savu Pod" in a tank for wild Bettas, Angelfishes, or Tetras, for that matter...perhaps the "utility" of such a botanical is different for a wild Betta or Apisto (which might use it as a "cave" for spawning) than it is to a Tetra, in which it's primary role is to provide a "physical" enhancement to the tank's aesthetics, or maybe influence the water chemistry a bit.
And the funny thing is- even after more than a decade in playing with this stuff, we're still coming up with new ideas- and you are inspiring us daily with your work. There are no "rules"- with the exception of understanding the need to properly prepare botanicals for use and to understand their impact on the chemical environment of your aquarium- that you MUST follow.
You don't want to utilize materials, like Alder Cones or Catappa leaves, which will have a significant impact on the pH of your tank's water in an aquarium dedicated to say, African rift lake cichlids or other fishes from hard, alkaline habitats, but you definitely want to utilize them in your tank that houses Rasbora, or other fishes that favor soft, alkaline habitats.
Now, don't get me wrong- I DO know of many aquarists who play with some of the "less environmentally impactful" botanical products, like "Jungle Pods", for example- in aquariums which house fishes from "non-tinted" more alkaline habitats. Larger water volumes, use of buffering substrates, and activated carbon go a long way towards neutralizing the affects of many botanicals on your pH. You'll still have to deal with the biological impact of botanicals as they break down in the aquarium, or the biofilm/microalgae that accrue on their surfaces, but that's the main challenge you'll face.
There are so many ways to experiment with botanicals in your aquarium- and as we've repeated regularly here- so many opportunities to explore new possible benefits, exciting outcomes, and other uses for them. We're literally just getting started; still feeling our way in the dark. The future is wide open.
So, don't think about "rules" or recommendations about how you have to utilize these materials, other than caveats about their impact on the environment of your aquarium. Don't become encumbered by the dogmatic views of others...The aesthetics, structure, and utility of botanical aquaecapes is a blank canvass, waiting for your stroke of artistry to make something special!
Today's very simple, very straightforward message...
Stay creative. Stay inspired. Stay unique. Stay engaged.
And Stay Wet.