U-Turns, detours, and changes in direction...

If you've been in the aquarium hobby for any appreciable length of time, you likely try all sorts of things; Some are as simple as trying a different type of fish, a planted aquarium, or a new technique. This is what keeps our hobby so amazing; so vital and engrossing. There are endless possibilities. Even after decades, I'm constantly finding new avenues to explore.

Of course, "detours" can also be edits and changes we make to our existing ideas. For example, I'll often start out with an idea or a "theme" for one of my tanks, only to get it up and running and ultimately reach a point where I am compelled to make changes.


Then again, what's wrong with epiphanies, edits on the fly, and wholesale changes to our best-laid plans? 


Nothing at all. In fact, they can often lead to our best work. It's great to take the those little "side trips" in the hobby!

I know that I've done this before.

"Iterating" stuff to the point of obliterating my original concept. Changing things to such a great extent as to be completely different from what I originally intended to do. I remember in my early reef keeping days, this would happen a lot. It still happens today.

Move that one piece of wood, or switch out that one coral colony for the purpose of "creating flow" or "making room for growth", or whatever- only to realize that a seemingly well-intentioned, simple change did not stand alone. Rather, it required me to move two other pieces of wood; re-position one other coral colony...all of which resulted in completely different look and feel than I originally envisioned!


I think such "detours" are often beautiful- often leading to new ideas, new discoveries, new aesthetics, and inspiration for others. Things happening in unexpected ways are what can propel the hobby forward.

Everything doesn't have to follow a plan.

A detour can be amazing.

However, if your looking for a specific result and go too far in a different direction, it's often a recipe for frustration for those of us not prepared of it. Sure, many of us can simply "go with the flow" and accept the changes we made as part of the process, but the aquarist with a very pure vision and course will work through such self-created deviations until he or she gets to the destination. Many find this completely frustrating. Others find this a compelling part of the creative process.

Open your mind.

All of it is part of the journey.

Detours and "edits" or whatever you want to label them help us perfect our craft, hone our skills, challenge our minds...and, if we're really lucky-they help create outcomes we never even imagined.

And the process usually starts with one rock. One piece of wood...One thought.

Occasionally, I'll have what seems like a great idea for a tank in my head. Except, when I start executing on it, I'll find out that it's not really what I wanted to do. Maybe my heart wasn't it it? Not sure. It just doesn't feel right- and I can't enjoy it. Strange, right? However, I'm sure some of you can relate?

Recently, I had an idea for a tank- a tangle of lots of wood, with terrestrial plants poking through above the waterline. It was based on some images I'd seen of wild habitats, and it seemed like a good idea. I had an aquarium with the right footprint to work with, and I started to play with it.

And it was kind of interesting. Except for the fact that I never quite got it the way I liked below the waterline. It just didn't feel right.

I just felt like I could do better with it somehow. Of course, I ended up being my own worst enemy on this one. I questioned my own idea, got contaminated by seeing similar concepts, executed differently and perhaps far better than mine, in terms of the plant life, and I just sort of lost interest in it.

I mean, it wasn't "bad"- it just wasn't right somehow. Not right for me, anyways.

It was like my heart just told me that perhaps it wasn't what I really wanted to do. Like, it felt forced- overly influenced by what I was seeing online and elsewhere...and just felt bad. "Unauthentic." Not me. Like, I was feeling navigating into an area that I really wasn't into. Perhaps for the wrong reasons. It was weird. And it wasn't like I was impatient with it...I just didn't like what I was doing with it. 

Ever feel that?

And I was feeling the call of my beloved mangroves. 

I knew from experience that these guys would really grow well and look great in a shallow, wide aquarium. I'd had my current batch of seedlings in various small containers for anywhere from 2 to 5 years, and they really needed to be given a more permanent home. 

And I'd been playing with my NatureBase substrates, with the upcoming release of my brackish substrate called "Mangal", and it seemed as good a time as any to  put it through its paces in this tank! And besides, it was time for another proper brackish tank! One that could tide me over for a few years until it was time for a bigger one!

So, down came the "weird" concept and up came a more comfortable, yet more "honest" (for me) idea.

Now, it's always good to try new things. Sometimes it's even better to push yourself to get out of your comfort zone a bit. Other times, it's just best to do what you love.

Because you love it.


Detours can take you into some new and very exciting areas!

A detour can be amazing.

Open your mind. 

Elevate your experience by doing what moves you.

Keep trying new stuff. Get out of your comfort zone. Push out the boundaries...look at your work from a different perspective. Draw as much inspiration from the work of  Nature as is possible. If this kind of stuff calls to you..compells you..moves you in some way- please enjoy this...and share it with the world.

Stay unique. Stay bold. Stay curious. Stay inspired. Stay educated. Stay creative...

And Stay Wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquati


Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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