Wrapping our heads around the concept of "generic tropical..."

We have a ton of questions about botanicals for specific types of fishes. Questions such as which ones would be suitable for a certain variety or species of fish.

These are really good questions, because, quite frankly, there really has not been any sort of comprehensive "guide" as to what natural materials are appropriate for various species.

Of course, we have to consider what "appropriate" really means in this context, right?

Now, to start off, I'll tell you that most any of the natural materials we offer are okay for a variety of species of fishes. The qualifier is that most of the stuff we offer (botanicals and leaves, in particular) are geared towards fishes which come from aquatic habitats other than super-specialized environments like the African Rift Lakes, which are hard, alkaline lakes with more rock and sand than wood and leaves.

We have broken down our classifications of natural materials on our website into categories such as leaves, seed pods, stems and bark, and substrate additives. If you read our descriptions carefully, we try to provide not only the scientific name of the botanical in question, but the geographic origin if known. This is somewhat important for those of you who require the most geographic accuracy possible.

Most of our items, however, fall into that category we've often referred to (rather unprofessionally, I must confess) as "generic tropical"- stuff that represents the materials you might find in tropical aquatic ecosystems around the world.

In other words, the cool-looking Cariniana pod from the Cariniana legalis tree of South America would be perfectly at home in an Amazonian-themed aquarium. It would also be perfectly acceptable in a Southeast Asian or African-themed tank, as it resembles some of the botanical materials that are found in the aquatic habitats of these regions.

"Generic Tropical."

Yeah, this concept might make a few hardcore biotope enthusiasts cringe.

However, I've seen dozens of biotope aquariums in big competitions representing very specific Asian or South American habitats, with substrates covered in Beech or Oak leaf litter from Europe or North America, and no one- judges included- batted an eyelash, so...

I'm just sayin'.

IMHO, we shouldn't get too bent out of shape about this.

The reality is that most of the materials which accumulate on the substrate or elsewhere in the aquatic habitats we try to recreate either were there to begin with (as in the case of the flooded igapo forest floors of South America), or fell into the water from overhanging vegetation, or were swept up by flooding, wind, or other natural events.

There is not some set model for how these materials arrive into aquatic habitats. And, to be objective,  I have to proffer that many of the materials that we offer for this purpose are from trees and shrubs often not found directly in the path of water. Maybe they're from areas nearby.

Some are from mountainous regions or plains which don't have bodies of water in the vicinity that they're found. Again, they are selected for inclusion in our offerings because they have an appearance or characteristics which  represent those of materials that we've seen in various aquatic habitats.

"Generic tropical."

And of course, if you want to really "split hairs", you could say "generic aquatic", because several of the materials which we offer are from temperate regions of the world, too!

It all goes back to the level of authenticity that you are striving to achieve.

And some tropical-derived materials from one part of the world are perfectly suitable for- and I'd argue, indistinguishable from- from materials found in other regions of the world.

Yet they work perfectly in aquariums to represent them.  

Case in point?

The Melastoma root from Borneo that we are using to reprint the root tangles in which Tucanoichthys tucano from Brazil are found. Yeah, it's from a totally different part of the world, yet I challenge everyone but the most diligent botanist to distinguish the difference between this stuff and roots of any old plant found in the Tucano's natural range.

"Generic tropical."

Don't stress over it. Enjoy it. Incorporate the function and aesthetics from materials which represent those found in our favorite tropical aquatic habitats. Learn about the habitat, and how materials accumulate in the waters- and how they influence the fishes that live in them.

It's a fascinating pursuit in and of itself!

Stay creative. Stay curious. Stay observant. Stay unique. Stay informed. Stay thoughtful...

And Stay Wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics 

Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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