As you probably know by now, I've never been one to hod back on expressing how I feel about aquarium hobby topics. Occasionally, I get these little realizations that I like to share with you. And the beautify of having ga blog of your own is that you have no "editor" to say, "Dude, this idea isn't fully thought out...!" or "Are you sure that's what you mean?"
Like, no filter. No safety net. Put the idea out and either people skewer you for it, or it touches them in some way.
Today, I'm discussing an idea that's been formulating in my mind for a while. I hope I'm articulating it in a way that get's you thinking...encourages instead of provokes; sounds positive instead of negative...but you never know. So here goes:
Lately, I've been receiving a lot of emails and DM's from hobbyists who are in the process of planning an aquarium around a very specific concept or theme, and the ideas I'm seeing and hearing about are truly inspiring.
Sure, hobbyists have been coming to me with ideas about cool displays for as long as Tannin Aquatics has been around. Yet, this is different. We've had several years of hobbyists trying out these "twigs and nuts", learning about how they impact aquariums, grasping the aesthetics, the processes, and making the mental shifts required for success...and now, they're out of the "Does this work?" or "Can I handle this look?" phase, and evolving towards a "How can I utilize natural materials to execute this next idea I have?" mindset.
This is huge. Different. A shift.
It's sort of an act of pursuing a botanical-style aquarium concept to its logical ends to see how to create something they've had in their heads for a while. There's that, "Ahah! I can use_________ to recreate that_________ I've been looking at!"
I love it.
Now, it's not like the idea of planning an aquarium is this new concept. However, the idea of looking at a habitat or type of aquarium approach and considering how to apply the abundance of interesting natural materials we have available to the project we're working on has, I think, evolved a bit in recent years. Stuff is more readily available; more understood. More practical.
And I think it's tapped into something cool out there in the fish world. And, at least in my mind- has exposed some things that really bring to the forefront the need to up our game just a bit.
For example, I see a lot of aquariums that hobbyists are putting out there on YouTube or wherever (which is awesome), purporting to represent a specific ecological niche or whatever, and yet offering seemingly authoritative information which- well- is wrong.
And most of it has to do with including features or materials which are simply incongruent with the habitat in question. Stuff that, while artistically awesome, is completely at odds with the reality of the habitat.
Why is this a "problem?" Well, I wouldn't call it a "problem"- but I will suggest that it is something that needs to be addressed. I worry that we are a bit too caught up in the superficial aspects of the hobby. Too caught up in putting out a "picture", and not enough about educating in the process... I mean, it's great that we are sharing, but it carries with it a certain responsibility.
Because we shouldn't- despite our best intentions- espouse facts about a habitat on the most superficial level, and then put forth a work that is simply not accurate on the most fundamental level.
Because there is enough inaccurate information out there. And we, as hobbyists, have a little responsibility to educate. Whether we like it or not. It's reality. Look, you don't have to be "Phd accurate", but the effort to explain interpretation and authenticity on every level should at least be addressed. "Interpretation" is one thing- yet presenting stuff with authority requires an extra step.
Of course, you could consider the fact that many of the exact materials specific to a certain habitat are simply not available to us as hobbyists, and that we need to utilize materials which represent those. So, if you want to judge every aquarium on the basis of being absolutely 100% faithful to the flora and fauna of a specific habitat or geographic region, a lot of these tanks will "fall short."
On the other hand, if you want to accept them as representations of certain habitats- most are spectacularly accurate and compelling in every way- inspiring, educating, and provoking discussion about the habitat they attempt to represent.
There is something extremely inspiring here. And romantic, in a way.
Yeah, romantic: "..characterized by, or suggestive of an idealized view of reality."
Naturally, I have to implore everyone to enjoy the hobby the way YOU want to.
However, I also humbly request that, if you're creating an aquarium that you assert is to be a "realistic representation of a blackwater stream" habitat in The Amazon, for example please do at least some "due diligence" research on the actual habitat, and make the effort to understand not only the superficial look- the "vibe"- but the function and the dynamics which affect the habitat.
I can hear the groans already: "So, Fellman, you're saying that unless someone becomes an expert on a habitat and does things that are perfectly representative of said habitat that it's a bad thing...?"
That's not what I'm getting at.
I'm merely suggesting that we try not to get too lost in the "romance" aspect of the habitat and the sexiness of the tank, without at least giving a bit of thought to the functional aspects which make the habitat so compelling and unique.
I mean, does the igapo habitat you're trying to recreate really have rocks in it? And why not? Doesn't that have something to do with the geology and conditions under which the habitat formed?
Yeah, it does. And there are reasons for it which are quite interesting, compelling, and important to share with others, who maybe haven't even heard of this habitat. Being just a bit accurate with a detail like this really makes it that much better; perhaps it will inspire others to find out more...
I'm saying to just dive a little deeper.
Not to go crazy and "split hairs" on everything...However, to at least understand and perhaps execute in a manner that more accurately reflects the environmental niche that you are recreating in your aquarium. Because it matters to the hobby. To the environment...
An admittedly "romantic" notion, indeed.
Stay romantic. Stay diligent. Stay accurate. Stay creative. Stay honest...
And Stay Wet.