There's beauty in the details...

Do you need to use a filter in your aquairums?

Seriously? I mean, do you need to filter the water to crystal clarity each and every time you set up a tank? Or. do you trust your skills as a hobbyist? Can you trust that Nature will seek a balance of nutrient import and export if you stock and feed your tank correctly? 

The answers always lie in the details, huh?

I was chatting with a good fishy friend last weekend, and we were talking about our current tanks, our ideas, and our aspirations for new projects...the usual stuff you expect when fish geeks share a meeting of the minds

My friend brought up the subject of how we simply obsess over our aquariums...well, deeper than that, really. He pondered about how, as serious aquarists, we approach our aquariums by considering every little detail. Not necessarily obsessing to the point of self-limiting, mind you. Rather, just thinking through how everything that we do has a lot of potential benefits.

For example, when the subject of lighting came up, my friend, one of the best reef hobbyists I know, in addition to being an all-around "waterman" (a reefer/FW/brackish guy), pointed out that my LED lighting in my tank was set towards a far greater blue-white spectrum than made sense for a system intended to resemble a South American stream, and that the predominant colors of my fishes were reds and browns, which are accented far more by reds and greens in the lighting program.


Plus, he correctly pointed out that the blue tended to cancel out some of the vibrancy of tint in the water, much to my chagrin. So, with a few simple tweaks to the light program, we have a far more superb rendition of color than ever before. 


When you feed your fishes, you may love the convenience of frozen brine shrimp, blood worms, pellets, whatever, and tend to use that as your "exclusive" or primary food by a significant margin over other foods. I get that. Yet, it's not always the best idea if you're feeding foods that are richer, fattier, and more difficult for fishes to digest.

The idea of a well-rounded diet is really important, as fishes need a higher nutritional profile than we give them credit for to stay in top shape. And of course, different foods are better suited for different situations, such as when you're conditioning fishes for breeding, forcing growth, or helping your females recover after spawning. Each situation requires a different approach to feeding.

And more important in our context- we as botanical-style aquarium lovers need to get our heads around the fact that our systems can generate a significant amount of supplemental food.


Thinking about stocking your aquarium has never been one of those "Oh, I'll get to it later" sort of things for most serious hobbyists. Stocking is viewed as a make-or-break part of aquarium design and is rarely approached in a nonchalant manner. Nor should it be.

Taking into account the type of system you're trying to create, and the various strata and microhabitats that your target fishes inhabit within the system is vital to creating a successful, healthy, interesting system in the long term. A lot of "old timers" in the hobby will tell you that many great aquariums are indeed great because they take into account the environment within the aquarium for stocking, "optimizing", if you will, available niches within the system by selecting appropriate animals.


I mean, there are so damn many things in the hobby that you can approach in this manner...and really, this level of attention is not tedious, obligatory, or even remotely stressful. It's simply the way to create maximum enjoyment from your hobby.

I can't tell you how much I've learned about seemingly obscure and unimportant aspects of the hobby by just delving into greater detail when setting up my systems, or looking at things from a different perspective-only to realize that the benefits I've reaped from this process are far, far greater than I could have imagined.

This kind of thoughtfulness can pervade every aspect of our hobby.

So the next time you're looking at something seemingly as "pedestrian" as two or three different filter media, for example, take a moment to consider and reflect upon what each can bring to the table for your specific needs. Think beyond the marketing hyperbole; the hobby "hype", and consider how this stuff will work with   YOUR system.

You might just find yourself making some seemingly surprising decisions when you approach these types of things from the standpoint of "Why should I go with THIS particular one" as opposed to, "I need some carbon"- or whatever.

Details. Again.

They're not just mundane. They're not for getting "lost" in.

Rather, details can help you create something truly special, and can make the difference between a good aquarium and a really phenomenal one.

There's beauty in the details...

So, roll up those sleeves, pull up a chair, and ponder a bit. You might just stumble on something that changes your perspective.

Stay engaged in the process, engrossed in the fun, and attentive to the details.

Stay curious. Stay excited. Stay observant. Stay creative. Stay diligent...

And Stay Wet.



Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


2 Responses

Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman

August 18, 2020

HI Shan,

Biofilm in and of itself isn’t really harmful, so I wouldn’t be too concerned. That being said, you just need to continue your regular aquarium maintenance practices- water exchanges, siphoning out uneaten food, etc. Fishes encounter the stuff in nature, so it’s not “dangerous”. The key is not to wipe out large populations of the stuff at one time, as the bacteria which compose the biofilm should also be considered part of the “bio filter” for the aquarium, so be smart in how you handle it…Really, best thing is to wait it out!


Shannon Lindsey
Shannon Lindsey

August 14, 2020

Hi Scott I was just reading about the bio film that is made up of the things from nature and I tell ya very very interesting reading because I was just.about to do a water change but I just did one not some time ago I have a Oscar black with orange on his body hes about maybe 6years give or take a year ??anyways I have driftwood in both of my tanks I dont using the fake ass looking junk from fish stores ..i love the look and the different textures we get drom the woods so I have a medium size piece in bis tank I only have it and I have a piece its like a driftwood stick and I. Put the air tubes on it to hold down in the tank because when. He’s on a move he’ll move everything and even bite the stuff where its here and over there and he likes to play I didnt notce it \and the all of the sudden its on the filters and the back glass some ?and I even noticed a little on his body …and as he swims around it just leaves but is that good to be on .my fish ..i juat dont want it to hurt him or me not do enough .because it will go away …so I wanna wait but again idw my fish to get stressed from it …can I plz help and let me know your intake and thoughts …ty much …{§han}

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