It's a big world, and there are numerous places where amazing fishes come from...Like, Africa, for example!
Africa is a particularly fascinating place for the botanical-style aquarium enthusiast to study, because of the huge variety of aquatic ecosystems that we can replicate in our tanks!
Yup, the coolest thing about the African content is that it has a diversity of habitats and fishes that is equally as stunning as anything found anywhere else on the planet. Yet, for some reason, outside of the Rift Lake cichlids and a few popular favorites, the region seems stunningly under-represented, at least from a "Natural habitat replication" standpoint, IMHO.
Of course, the Rift Lakes are amazing; they're filled with incredible fishes and unique and compelling underwater features that aquarists have been specializing in replicating for decades.They do insanely cool work. I admit, my knowledge of African Rift Lake cichlids is slightly above zero, but I have nothing but respect for the hobbyists who work with them.
I think a large part of the success with these fishes- and their popularity in the hobby-is because the environments from which they come are as fascinating as the fishes themselves.
Over the decades, hobbyists have gotten really, really good at creating accurate, biotopically-correct aquarium representations of the environments in which Rift Lake Cichlids are found.
And of course, at least at the moment, our interest lies elsewhere in this continent: Soft, acidic water habitats powered by the soils, geology, vegetation, botanical materials, and weather. Oh, and the major waterways play a huge role, too!
in many tropical African regions, you have influence from the mighty Congo River, arguably the natural African "analog" to The Amazon. It flows almost 3000 miles, and is the world's deepest river. There are over 700 species of fishes recorded as having been from this river, making it remarkable for species richness!
And of course, the numerous tributaries which branch out from this river, including the Kasai, Lufimi, Ubangi, Tshuapa, and Lomami, and hundreds of tiny, lesser-known ones, contain more unique fishes, and encompass a variety of compelling habitats.
Many of the fishes we keep from this region are from an area known as the "Malebo Pool", with its sandy substrates, often choked with leaves and branches, and its interesting reed grass "islands." It's known for slower water flow than the rapids of the main river itself.
Africa contains perhaps some of the most compelling ecological niches on earth. The opportunity to replicate them in our aquariums, with unique displays not previously contemplated, is significant. In Part 2 of this "mini epic", we'll touch on some ideas that you can play with, which will unlock some amazing discoveries with some previously under-appreciated fishes.
Stay bold. Stay excited...Stay tuned!