The strange and geeky glossary of "tinter's terminology!"

You knew it had to happen eventually...Someone had to at least take a crack at defining some of the terminology we use to describe our geeky little area of the hobby...Since being the first involves sticking your head on the proverbial chopping block- I might as well volunteer to be the guy, right?

Well, why not?

Here is my first run at this...done for no apparent reason, mind you...feel free to update, annotate, and modify as needed. It's all in fun (and in no particular order, of course):

TANNIN: An astringent biomolecule that binds to proteins and other compounds. In our instance, it's plant-derived materials which impart color to the water. Yeah, that's as over-simplified and highly derivative as it gets...but you understand, right?

TINT: We have sort of commandeered this word to describe the color which tannins impart into "colorless" water. There are, of course, "degrees" of "tint", and this is an entirely subjective thing.

TINTER: Hey, that's you...we just sort of had to have a name for ourselves collectively, right? I mean, we tint water! Yup. Also, we call you "Tint Nation" from time to time...'Cause you are...

AQUATIC BOTANICALS: A catch all term that we use to describe botanical (ie; plant-derived) materials which we use in our aquariums to aquascape, influence the environment, and provide ecological diversity.

BLACKWATER: Water which has been influenced by the aforementioned tannins and other materials, which takes on a golden-brown or even dark brown appearance, depending upon multiple factors.

BOTANICAL-STYLE ("New Botanical" style): Our idea of utilizing seed pods, leaves, wood, etc. in our aquariums, and allowing it to break down naturally, influencing the water chemistry and biological diversity within the aquarium. 

BOIL: One of the preparation procedures that we use to render botanicals ready for aquatic use. Materials are boiled in a non-reactive pot for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour or more. The boiling process is used to soften the outer tissues of botanicals, releasing any surface dirt and encouraging the materials to saturate in order to sink.

POST-BOIL SOAK: An extra step in the preparation process; usually an hour to overnight soak in fresh, room-temperature water. It serves the dual purpose of letting these terrestrial materials full saturate, while helping release any initial remaining pollution, etc. bound up in the surface tissues.

POD: Tinter's vernacular for any botanical...usually not leaves; but sometimes used to describe them, too! "I added a bunch of new pods to my tank yesterday..."

EVOLVE/EVOLVING: Yeah, it's what a tank does; particularly, a blackwater, botanical-style tank!  The process of an aquarium breaking in, naturally decomposing botanical materials, and entering varying states of biological "richness." This also changes or materially affects the aesthetics of the tank over time. We love this process!

SUBSTRATE ENHANCEMENT: Our fancy word for adding botanical materials to the more traditional substrate materials, like sand, clays, or other materials. Our thinking is that by adding botanical materials to your substrate, you can achieve the dual goals of creating greater biodiversity (via the cultivation of fungi, bacteria, and micro crustaceans) and adding the visual tint and associated benefits of tannins into the water. Win-Win!

BOTANICAL BED: A place on the bottom of the aquarium in which various botanical materials (ie; leaves, seed pods, etc.) are allowed to accumulate and gradually break down, influencing the water chemistry and biological richness of the system. See also "leaf litter bed" (Oh, wait I haven't written that one yet...However, you get the pic, right?)


Okay,. so that's a quick dozen of the most common terms we "Tinters" tend to use when discussing our dark obsession. There are no doubt dozens more. In fact, you probably have much better, cleaner definitions for the ones covered here...Well, it's start, right?

Let's hear some of yours. It's not only a cool niche in the hobby- it's an evolving (yup) "culture" of like-minded fish geeks, filled with ideas and creativity!

Glad to have you along for the ride!

Stay enthusiastic. Stay creative. Stay bold. Stay excited...

And Stay Wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics 







Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


2 Responses

Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman

June 02, 2018

Oh, good one!

We DO need a food term for it, huh? Maybe this will be contest material?


Heather Laninga
Heather Laninga

June 01, 2018

Weak Tea – lightly tannin stained water

Please find a fabulous, sexy term for that rich, deep, oh so beautiful dark tint 🤓

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