Variety: The stuff of...confusion?

Okay, I must admit...When I first started Tannin Aquatics, it was my intent to offer the widest possible variety of botanical materials for everyone to have the most varied "palette" to work with. I was (and still am) very enamored with the huge variety of natural materials available to us to use to influence aquatic environments.

I had been playing with seed pods, twigs, and leaves for decades, and I figured that it would make sense to offer the stuff I'd used for such a long time to all of our customers.

When we launched in 2015, we offered a lot of different stuff..

And it's just gotten more and more complex...And the interesting thing is that, when I first started, it was mostly about...paranoia...Seriously! I wanted to make sure (how foolish and petty of me..) that no one would come into the space and have "more stuff" than Tannin..

I mean, what  LAME rationale for a widely varied inventory, right? A sign of insecurity, more than anything, right? I mean, thinking that the key to thought leadership in my little hobby sector was having more seed pods than some other guy....STUPID!

It's still stupid.

It took me a few years to realize that it really went against my philosophy of offering the best items and inspiration- and developing products based on how we think we can move the hobby forward. 

The new businesses which come into our market space do this all the time- they feel compelled to offer everything under the sun. It's like chasing a unicorn, IMHO. I mean, if the pandemic taught me one thing, it's that managing a vast global supply chain is quite challenging...The more different items you offer, the more difficult it is to keep them in inventory consistently. You're bound to have some of your key suppliers unable to ship, or influenced by other factors, like weather, regulations, etc.

It's challenging! 

I know my international suppliers very well for years now, and it's challenging for ME. I can imagine how difficult it must be for newcomers!

So, yeah, it was actually a  weird "disconnect" between how I function as a hobbyist and what I really needed to do as a business. As we move forward, I'm going to let them enjoy the headaches of juggling all of that stuff. We'll be editing our offerings to more accurately reflect our beliefs, practices, techniques, and philosophies.  Tannin is moving in some really exciting, unique directions in 2021..

Stay tuned!

So, yeah, an enormous variety of stuff in one tank is simply of contrary to how I typically run my botanical-style aquariums...

If you study pics and videos of our tanks that we feature in our videos and social media posts, you'll notice that we almost always use just a few different types of botanicals per tank. Sometimes, just one or two. Why is this?

Several reasons, really.

The first reason is the most shallow, but it's true: It's about the visuals! There is something chaotic about seeing too many different types of materials in a confined space, at least to me. And quite honestly, you can achieve a pretty complex look with just a few different items.

I suppose it's a little funny, when we curate your "Enigma Pack", we try to offer more of a variety of stuff- partially, because it brings you more value, and also because it exposes you to a wider variety of materials. However, if you prefer a more limited selection of items in your pack, let us know!

Does that make sense? Need more convincing?

And then, there's our absolute favorite muse- Nature.

It looks like Nature often accumulates a seemingly large amount of mixed-up materials in relatively small spaces. However, if you examine some of these locales closely, you'll see that they are often comprised of large quantities of just a few different things: Mainly leaves, some seed pods, and a lot of twigs and other branch-like materials.

And it makes sense, right?

When streams flow through forests, or forest floors flood, the materials which fall are limited to the materials which are present in the terrestrial environment. Now, in the case of streams, rivers, and even inundated forest floors, you'll often see materials from other areas distributed by currents or torrents.

However, for the bulk of the habitats we observe for inspiration, the amount of materials visible is limited to those found in the immediate vicinity. And often, they come from just a few sources. So, if the goal is to accurately reflect a natural habitat, it might make more sense to really study it very closely. You'll be surprised  by what you see!

 Now, don't get me wrong. It would be easy for some to misconstrue that I think having a wide variety of materials in a botanical-style aquarium is a bad thing- setting you up for...what?  Failure? Disaster? 

Of course not.

See, it's really not a "bad thing. It's just an opinion. A preference.

Some people love the visuals of lots of different stuff. Some, like me, take delight in the endless variety which Nature offers. However, I just personally find that too much variety in one tank to be a bit overwhelming to my sense of aesthetics. 

Again, you'd be surprised just how much complexity you can achieve with just a few elements. The "Tucano Tangle" pictured above, arguably one of our most popular creations, relied on three selections: Melastoma root over a base of "Spider Wood", and a layer of Live Oak Leaf litter. Three things. 

Root tangles and fallen tree branches are among my most loved natural inspirations. The complexity created by a mere assemblage of branches, tree trunks, roots, and a little bit of leaves and sediments is incredible.

One of my favorite aquariums that I've ever done was inspired by this very habitat- complex, yet remarkably simple. Interpreting such a habitat is not only aesthetically enjoyable, it creates a functional environment for a huge variety of different fishes to feel right at home!


Nature works with whatever She is offered to create amazing underwater habitats, And we can, too.

Even if it's just using a few things.

And this "less is more" philosophy can be taken to it's ultimate in functional aesthetic simplicity...Consider my other fave personal tank- my Paracheridon simulans "no scape" leaf-litter-only setup from last year. Probably THE single most realistic, functional, and successful habitat simulation I've ever done, and it looked amazing (to me, anyways...)

And it consisted of NOTHING but leaves!


I could go on and on and on, musing about all sorts of lower-variety botanical-style tanks and sharing successful systems. And, I can show you some incredible, highly diverse botanical-style thanks that would blow your mind, too!  In the end, it's about personal preference, taste, and philosophy. And hell, if your concept calls for 23 different seed pods in one tank, so be it!

DO what moves YOU.


Variety in our world doesn't mean "confusion" or "chaos", really. Rather, it's a gift from Nature- a call to utilize many different materials to create beautiful, functional, highly unique aquarium displays. We may be doing some editing- and you might see US play with just a few different materials in our tanks,; however, if our reverence of Nature has taught us anything, it's that there is endless variety and limitless possibilities to use her offerings in any number of amazing ways.

Have at it!


Stay Creative. Stay unique. Stay resourceful. Stay observant. Stay excited...


And Stay Wet.

Scott Fellman
Tannin Aquatics 

Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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