May 03, 2016


Botanical preparation revisited..again.

Isn't it kind of funny I come back to some of the same themes in this blog?

Well, it is to me...And it's kind of important. I'm happy to do it. The two most frequent questions we get about our aquatic botanicals are "Do I have to boil and soak them?" and "Why can't I add them to my tank all at once?"

Well, first off, you HAVE to boil or soak your botanicals before use. Simple as that. Why? There are several reasons, really. First, because they are terrestrial materials that your adding to your closed system aquarium, for one thing, and although they come from sources we know to be reliable and free from pesticides and agricultural chemicals, they are still "dirty" from collection, handling, storage, and packaging. 

In addition, most botanicals require boiling or submersion to soften their tissues to help them absorb water so they can sink in your aquarium. Some are very "cooperative", sinking straight to the bottom with a mere few minutes of boiling. Others are much more "stubborn", and will take a longer time for the water to be absorbed.

This is as much a function of their "structure" as it is of their weight. Some of the lightest botanicals actually sink rapidly after boiling, while others, such as "Jungle Pods" shown above, can take over an hour of boiling to get them to "stay down!"

The "post boil soak" in room temperature water that we talk about so often here is recommended because once you boil these materials, they begin to leach out some of the materials bound up in their tissues (such as sugars, lignin, tannins, other organics, etc.), all of which come in a larger "dose" upon first contact with water. Much of this is released while boiling (have you looked at the color of the water in your pot after prepping your botanicals?), and more of it will continue to leach out in the first day or so after this process. So, being the conservative aquarists that we are, we highly recommend a day or two soaking in freshwater after boiling to "crack off" some of the initial release of these bound up organics before the botanicals are placed in your aquarium.

Of course, the inevitable followup question to the "soak" recommendation is, "Well, I want those tannins! Won't I lose a lot of them with the soak?" The answer is, no, you really won't. This is just the initial materials bound up in the first or surface layer of the botanicals, and once waterlogged, they will continue to slowly leach into the water column over weeks and months.

One exception to the boiling process is leaves. We recommend a 10 minute or so "steep" in boiling water, followed by a freshwater rinse, and ideally, an overnight soak before use.  The overnight soak is optional, but I would not forgo the "steep." Most of our experienced customers do it differently- they give the leaves a rinse in warm water and add them right into their tanks. Guava leaves, which tend to leach less tannins than Catappa leaves, are candidates for this "expedited" prep process.

Their thought is that leaves, being thin, relatively pliable botanicals, will loose enough tannins in those first hours to shorten their "usable life span" of tannin-releasing in your aquarium. I have not personally noticed this, but it's your call. I've never experienced a problem either way; I think my policy is to recommend the most conservative action to our customers, all thing being equal, which is why we recommend the soak. Again, it's your call here.

Many hobbyists want to know why we don't recommend adding all of your botanicals to your tank at one time. It's a fair question. In an established aquarium, adding a significant quantity of anything at one time can be potentially problematic, so we think it's just common sense to avoid doing this. These materials can influence water chemistry with their tannins- we know that. Rapid changes to established aquariums are a no-no in any hobbyist's book.

And, when you add a bunch of botanicals that have been "softened", there could be a significant release of bound-up organics, etc. in the first hours after they have been boiled. You don't want a large release of organics in your established, stable aquarium. The potential for pH drops, bacterial blooms, oxygen depletion, etc. is always there if you rush it. There is not special danger posed by botanicals that you wouldn't face by adding a large quantity of any other organic material to your tank all at once. This is just common sense. I cannot stress enough to not rush it. There's just no point.

In a future piece, we'll once again resist the "yucky biofilm phase", the "algal growth phase", and other "rights of passage" you endure when utilizing these materials in your aquariums. Like any other approach to aquarium keeping, the "New Botanical" approach has its guidelines, recommendations, tips, trick, and "best practices" to follow. As part of the ever-expanding community of "tinters", we always look forward to hearing about your experiences, and listening to your recommendations!

There is so much to learn and share about using botanicals in the aquarium, and we're happy you're a part of the process!

So stay smart. Stay aware. Stay observant.

And Stay Wet.

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics





May 01, 2016


Setting the stage...A "light" conversation.

We obsess about creating representations of blackwater environments a lot around here, huh?

Can't help it. We love 'em!

However, I was thinking about this the other day: We talk a lot about setting the stage below the waterline...what about the influence of the environment above? 


You know, light...

Yeah, how we choose to illuminate a blackwater themed tank can definitely impact its aesthetics, operation, and overall functionality.

In a typical rain forest, it's estimated that as little as 5% of the sunlight reaches the "floor", so it goes without saying that any stream or creek under the canopy of trees is not getting that much light!

So, it goes without saying that in an aquarium where you're trying to replicate one of those hidden "igarapes" (literally "Canoe Way" in the indigenous language of the region), without a diversity of light-demanding aquatic plants,  you really don't need to worry about providing a ton of bright light. 

Rather, it would make more sense to apply "spot" lighting or dimmed lighting from a format like LED, which gives you more control over color and intensity than most other lighting methods. Or, you can use "room ambient" lighting an call it a day!

There is so much to learn from managing a system set up to replicate one of these environments, and it is helpful to look to nature once again to help us make decisions. Without tons of excess light hitting your aquarium, the incidence of excessive algal growth is definitely limited, which is important when you take into account the decaying leaves and other botanical materials present in these environments.

Just another thing to think about when contemplating setting up an aquarium to replicate this unique environment!

Stay curious. Stay excited.

Stay Wet!

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics


April 30, 2016


The key to happiness? Or at least, success with aquariums!

You ever stop for a second to analyze what's happening in your tank when it's really cranking?

I mean, did you ever think about what got your tank to that point? I'll be you did. And it's usually a combination of things, like great water quality, good food, proper lighting, etc. But I think you'll find that the one, underlying factor that sets a tank that's thriving apart from a tank that's simply doing okay is...stability.

Yeah, stability.

I'm not talking about pH-not-varying-by-a-decimal-point-for-weeks stability, I'm talking about stability within a "comfort range" for your animals. I don't think it matters if you're talking about a reef, African Cichlid tank, Tetras, Discus, Bettas, Livebearers...whatever. Fishes categorically seem to do better when the environmental fluctuations fall within a very narrow range. 

A "narrow range" is, in my opinion, far more important than obsessing over a specific target number on a test kit. Far better to focus on the range, and keeping environmental parameters from deviating from it. For example, if your hardness stays within a 2-3 degree range over the month, and daytime pH can stay within a couple of points on a regular basis(not taking into account day/night swings), your temperature fluctuates not more than say, 2-3 degrees in a 24 hour period- that's pretty good stability, IMHO.

Keeping a tank in a stable range, as many of you experience, is certainly not that difficult. It simply requires discipline, and the adherence to regular maintenance practices. Making sure that your water quality is high, that it's prepared the same way all the time, and that you're following a set schedule for water changes are three of the best things you can do to assure a stable tank, in my experience.

It's as much about consistency-consistency in practices and procedures- as it is about hitting those numbers. If you ask a lot of successful aquarists how they accomplish this-or-that, they'll usually point towards a few things, like regular water changes, good food, and adhering to the same practices over and over again.

Consistency = Stability.

Sure, there might be times you deliberately manipulate the environment fairly rapidly, like a temperature change to stimulate spawning, etc., but for he most time, the successful aquarist plays a consistent game. Most fishes come from environments that vary only slightly during he course of a day, and many only seasonally, so stability is at the heart of  "best practice" for aquarists.

Little practices, like topping off evaporated water between water changes, with the same source water you use for those changes- can be a HUGE, yet amazingly simple way to keep your aquarium environment stable. Topping off evaporated water keeps the parameters more-or-less constant, with ionic and mineral concentrations staying relatively stable as a result. In saltwater and brackish aquariums, it helps the specific gravity from creeping up as water evaporates and salt concentrates- a huge factor for keeping animals from these environments healthy.

To make my own life easier, I recently invested in a small "automatic top off" system, which simply consists of a submersible DC pump placed in a reservoir of water. It's attached to an optical sensor placed in the aquarium or sump at a set level. When the water evaporates to the level of the sensor, it triggers the pump to top it off back to the level. With proper placement, you can keep the water level more-or-less constant, which helps greatly reduce the chances of environmental parameters from straying off course, all other husbandry practices being the same.

You don't even need something like that to do good job, of course...You simply need to discipline yourself to following a few procedures on  a regular basis, and not deviating from them.

As one of my local reef keeping friends used to say. "SPS" (stability promotes success"). I think he's right.

Don't go crazy obsessing about a specific number. Rather, obsess over doing the same thing the same way, over and over again. THAT is a crucial key to success.

Stay consistent. Stay curious. Stay engaged.

An Stay Wet.

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics

April 29, 2016


The art of "tweaking."

"I'm doing a little tweaking on this tank to get it right..."

Ever said that, or heard another aquarist say that? I'll bet you have.

And what, exactly does it mean to "tweak" your system?

Well, to many hobbyists, "tweaking" is a minor adjustment in something, like a noisy overflow, extending the photoperiod, moving that one rock or plant that doesn't look just right, or getting that pH or hardness just right.

"Tweaking" is a time-honored tradition in aquarium-keeping. A testimony to our observation, skill, and desire to make things just right. A tribute to the very best of what the art (and science) of "aquaristics" is all about: Evaluating where your aquarium is at against where you want it to be, and making the appropriate adjustments to get it there.

Very rarely, as hobbyists, do we find ourselves in "cruise control" mode, just letting the aquarium sort of "run" and not doing too much. Oh, sure, you will undoubtedly reach a point where the system is humming along, operating smoothly, and reaching a sort of "stability" with minimal intervention required on your part. 

Notice, of course, that I said "minimal" intervention, because we always find ourselves needing to do "something" to keep things running smoothly, right? Whether it's some minor equipment adjustment, or a modification to an environmental parameter, there is almost always something to do to keep things humming along, part from the usual "maintenance" duties like feeding, top-off, and water changes..

The funny thing about the whole "tweaking" thing: Most hobbyists don't really see this as "work" or "extra labor". or anything of the kind.

Rather, we see it as a fun, interesting, sometimes challenging- yet essential-part of the aquarium hobby. If we look at the tweaks as just another part of the journey, and treat them as opportunities to learn, engage, and enhance our skill set, "tweaks" are just "what we do" as a part of owning aquariums.

If we look at such "tweaks" as a challenging, even onerous task, then the enjoyment is substantially diminished, and our expectations are dampened.

So, next time you find you need to adjust that filter output, cut down the photoperiod, move that Amazon Sword, or hide that dangling electrical cord, look at it as just another fun part of what we do, rather than a burdensome challenge.

Perspective is important in aquarium keeping, isn't it.

Something to think about.

Stay engaged. Stay happy. 

Stay Wet.

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics

April 27, 2016


Wrong? Fix it. Or not. Easy.

What's wrong?

It's kind of hard when you can't really tell, isn't it?

I mean, there is something wrong- you know that. Something doesn't look right, smell right, sound right...feel right. You can't put a finger on it. All signs point to a brewing problem. There were- perhaps, unrelated things-that, when looked at individually, appeared to be unrelated; uncorrelated. 

But you took one glance at the system and you knew- knew that something was wrong. And the weird thing is, it could have been a long time coming, not some sudden, catastrophic event. Perhaps that little incident on Tuesday. You know, the one where you forgot to do that thing you usually do?

Or maybe, just maybe, it was that you failed to notice that trending decline in an important parameter. Maybe you've gotten, I dunno- complacent, perhaps? Casual? Or just too busy to notice? Maybe you just focused on the wrong things...Stuff that you needed to focus on fell by the wayside in order to monitor more obvious, easier-to-manage stuff. We've touched on this before. Maybe you even knew there was the potential for problems but decided not to deal with it at the time. Human nature, perhaps? something is now wrong, and you can't just talk to your fishes to find out what it is. You have to sift through the available evidence, analyze what you've seen, and figure out how any of this stuff-either individually or collectively- could have created a problem.

You need to ask questions...of yourself. Did you change something recently that you always do? You know, something that was working perfectly? Or did you simply decide that you didn't need to do it this time, because_____________?

Or perhaps, there was something you were or weren't doing from the get-go, but you flat out got away with it....and now it's catching up. Something is failing. Perhaps it's been eating at you inside for a long time; perhaps it's something you knew you needed to address, but, for whatever reason, you kept burying it, pushing it towards the back of the mental "aquarium to do" list. 

Guess what?

It's okay. It's all okay. It's okay because you know now, and admit that something is wrong. You can't really run from it or deny it. You have two simple choices: 

1) Fix it.

2) Let it go.

I'll wager that, if you're like most hobbyists, you'll opt for #1. However, if you opt for #2, that's okay too, in a way...Because at least you addressed the problem and decided not to do anything about it. At least you admitted, acknowledged there was a problem, and for whatever reason, chose not to act on it right now.

If you chose number 1, your mission, although perhaps aggravating, is pretty straightforward: Find out what's wrong and make it better.. By deciding to fix the problem, you're being courageous, facing the concerns, fears, issues without ducking from them. That's a huge positive in my book. 

It hurts to admit that we've done something wrong sometimes. It's hard when you were warned about the consequences by others, or knew about them yourself, and chose to ignore them. It sucks. But guess what? When you attack a problem head on to fix it, once and for all- it's not a problem anymore. You just need to set your fears, worries, and yeah- ego- aside for a bit, and, as the old Nike slogan goes, "Just DO it."

It works great in life- and by extension, it works amazingly in aquarium practice.

In my mind, many of the toughest obstacles we face in aquarium keeping are the ones in our own heads. With those obstacles removed, we're unstoppable.


Stay bold. Stay honest with yourself.

And stay wet.

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics

April 26, 2016


Think about it. But not too much.

I think there is something about tropical fish and aquariums in general that invites over-thinking" stuff.

Yeah, we've kinda made an art form of it.

Cases in point:

Algae problem? 

We analyze every possible cause, sometimes embracing on multiple courses of action, and then ultimately realize that it boils down to the fact that we had excessive nutrients in the water, something that could have been addressed first, and with appropriate actions taken, would have solved the problem much faster!

Sometimes, we attack the problem, but spend valuable time on the wrong part of it.

Disease outbreak? 

I get a lot of emails from aquarists trying to figure out how the new fish caused their disease outbreak ("It appeared healthy, and my LFS quarantines all new fishes"), when the reality is that it DID, and that it would be far better focusing on the solution- that being, removing the fishes to a treatment aquarium, etc.- and for the future, instituting a rigid quarantine protocol for future additions. 

We know how to solve most of the problems that we encounter in the hobby. We're actually pretty darned good at aquarium keeping. A century or so of "modern" aquarium keeping experience has definitely paid off.

Yet, we sometimes make things more complicated than we need to, adding layers of complexity to problems that, although important or critical, can be more than adequately addressed by simply DOING something we already know how to do.

Water quality is important in closed systems. Water exchanges are simple, economical, and probably one of the very best thing we can do as aquarists to keep captive aquatic animals healthy for long periods of time.

Many aquarists just despise them, and will go to great (and often expensive) lengths to avoid doing them, or to make them less onerous.

Yet, an entire cottage industry of gadgets, procedures, etc. exists around the premise of "Eliminates water changes!" or "Reduces water changes!"

I mean, how many hobbyists do you know who developed "automatic water change" systems for their aquariums, with a lot of experimentation, complexity, labor, expense- and sometimes, consequences? In fact, I've seen at least two hobbyists who had to submit homeowner's insurance claims for damage caused by an "automatic water change system!"

Why not just perform a water change? A siphon hose and a bucket can do wonders.

Even scientists do this.

I saw an article not too long ago about how scientists were working on this "novel way to help restore coral reefs that were threatened by global warming, etc.", and how they went to all of this effort to collect plantar larvae, let them settle in the lab, then attach the young coral  to rock on a reef. Collecting coral larvae is difficult, time consuming, and resource-draining.

I couldn't help but think that we, as hobbyists, have been fragmenting and propagating corals for some 3 decades now, both at a personal and commercial level. I was like, "Guys, if you need coral to restore a coral reef, just visit a local reef club meeting! They'll hook you up. Why are you making it so complicated?"

Now, granted, there's more to it than that, and I cannot downplay the achievements of the scientists involved...collecting and studying larvae and all...but man, if you want to restore a reef...quickly, why not just make some frags?

And the best part of the article was that there was an admission by a scientist working on the project who said something to the effect that, "As scientists, we're great at studying corals, but not great at growing them." So what did they do? They turned to aquarists! Of course, aquarists at scientific institutions, which, as any reefer will tell you, generally have reef aquariums in their facilities that are, ahem, "less impressive" than an average home aquarium! (Granted, there are many awesome reef tanks at public aquariums, but generally, to a hobbyist, most are underwhelming, despite the obvious availability of manpower and resources available for the institutions to create and  maintain them.)

Just call a reef club, tell 'em what you need, and be done with it already. You don't think hobbyists would crawl all over each other to be involved in a project like that?

Ouch, harsh. But yeah, an example of how we tend to overthink aquarium-related stuff, even at "higher levels."

Think of the time, money, aggravation, and energy that we can save if we just focus on the problem, and don't over think it.

Don't overthink stuff.

And stay wet.

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics





April 25, 2016


The Tannin "British Invasion!"

As you might have heard on social media, we've completed our shipping trials to the UK, and we're confident enough to launch the availability of Tannin products to our fans in the United Kingdom on a retail-only basis! With so much talent, excitement and interest in our products in the UK, it was only natural that we make it our next destination! Many of you have been devoted followers and fans on social media, even before we could get our products to you!

Of course, our decision to make our products available to our UK friends was tempered by the realization that it's simply not cheap to get goods into the UK. First off, the shipping itself is rather pricy, with rates exceeding $50US for a box that weighs less than 2 lbs. 

Delivery time, from order shipping out of our facility to the time it's available in the UK, averages about 12-14 days, so, like many things in the hobby, patience is essential!

In order to make this viable for us and for you, we will subsidize some of the shipping cost on UK orders by charging a flat rate of $40US on all orders bound for the UK. 

Of course, the costs don't end there!

The UK Government will hold you responsible for paying any VAT, duty and fees due upon arrival of your package. Tannin Aquatics cannot compute or advise you on these charges, nor are we liable for these charges in any way, which are outside of our control.

You’ll be contacted by Royal Mail, Parcelforce, or the courier company, explaining how to pay any VAT, duty and fees for dealing with customs. They’ll normally hold your parcel for about 3 weeks; however, we cannot guarantee their actions in this regard. If you haven’t paid the fee after 3 weeks, it’ll be returned to us.

You’ll be charged at the VAT rate that applies to your goods. VAT is charged on the total value, including:

the price paid for the goods

postage, packaging and insurance

any duty you owe

You’ll be charged Customs Duty on gifts and other goods sent from outside the EU if they’re above a certain value, unless the duty comes to less than £7.

The value includes:

the price paid for the goods

postage, packaging and insurance

Typically, anything under £135 is not subject to customs duty charge. However, we are not responsible, for any charges in this policy made by the UK government, nor are we in a position to advise you on them, so please contact the appropriate UK government agency for further advice or questions.

And, as you probably surmised, our prices on our website are in US dollars. Your Paypal or credit card transactions will be converted and processed from pounds to dollars at checkout.

So, what does all of this stuff mean to you, our UK Tannin fans?

Well, it means that it will be kind of expensive to get Tannin products for a while, until we refine our logistics and procedures to create a more streamlined, efficient, and more cost-effective approach. And rest assured, we're working on it.

In the mean time, we'll be sure to help offset some of the "sticker shock" of shipping, taxes, and customs fees that you'll incur by throwing in extras in with your order! And as far as support- well, we'll strive to make it as seamless and accessible to you as it is to our North American customers!

Since you're typically 7 hours ahead of us in Los Angeles, California, we're able to interact with you during a good part of your afternoon and evening hours on both our live chat feature on the website, and via Facebook. And, of course, our email, Twitter, and Instagram are "always on" for communication as well. We're serious about customer service, and we're serious about helping you enjoy what we have to offer!

You might want to consider "pooling" your order with a few fish friends or club members, to help offset costs. Remember, the shipping charge is a "flat fee" charged once for orders of any size, so "scaling up" with some pals is not a bad idea, and you can split the shipping cost on the front end, and the customs charges and VAT on your end.

In the end, we're pretty excited to be able to get you "The Tint", and we know that the additional expense and logistics issues will be worth it in the end when you experience our products!

Let us know if you have any questions or thoughts on ordering from us. We're happy to help!

Stay excited. Stay engaged.

Stay Wet.

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics



April 25, 2016


Get up. Stand up!

Oh, it's "editorial time" again...You may or may not want to tune out now...

As an enthusiastic all-around aquarium hobbyist, I follow a lot of trends in both the freshwater and marine aquarium world (and, more recently, the vivarium, riparum, and shrimp-keeping worlds!). You might recall I used to be a co-owner of a major marine aquarium livestock vendor prior to selling my interest in the business, so I used to go to a lot of reef shows/conferences as part of my duties.

The reef hobby keeps growing and progressing at a remarkably rapid rate.

Although there have been a lot of husbandry and breeding breakthroughs in recent years, the real innovation in the reef keeping world seems to be in the equipment arena. Technological developments are happening at an accelerated pace, with all sorts of new gadgets from promising startup companies flying out into the marketplace weekly. Some of these promise to be truly innovative, others are iterations of existing products and technologies. Many are duplicative. However, the truly innovative and unique stuff really makes its mark!

It got me thinking about something, which you may or may not agree with: I think that the freshwater hobby has been, well, I won't mince words- "stagnant" to a certain extent. Slow to innovate or adapt to new equipment or ideas. Which seems crazy to me, because it's a much larger market than reef keeping, and filled with a disproportionately higher number of brilliant hobbyists "per hundred" than the reef world.

I remember when I started Tannin, my reef keeping friends and even industry people were supportive, yet almost sympathetic. They would say stuff like, "Why? What's going on there?" Or, "I had freshwater before. It was cool. But not much has changed." Or the worst line, from a manufacturer, "Freshwater people are cheap and hate change.."

Wow! Yuck! Awful. How did that perception arise?

Before you get all defensive, reflect for a second: LED lighting has only recently really started to be accepted and "trickle down" into mainstream FW practice. Most of the lights were originally developed for reef applications, and companies realized that they needed to make a "freshwater" version with lower Kelvin emitters to help capture a share of the FW market. And let's be honest with ourselves, we in the FW world were, well, a bit hesitant- slow, even, to take to some of these new technologies.

Again, I operate as a hobbyist in both worlds, and a businessman in the FW world, so you know where my "loyalties" are at the moment. However, I can't help but reflect on the FW world's relatively resistant attitude towards change. It's palpable. I witnessed this when we first launched Tannin. It's not like we're the first people ever to offer leaves and wood and such to hobbyists.

However, we were among the first to specialize in these products and to advance their application for a variety of uses, particularly aquascaping and creating biotope aquariums, as opposed to just offering Catappa leaves for breeding Bettas or what not. We wanted to provide information, and more important, inspiration for creating  different types of aquariums. We decided to research, test, aggregate, and offer a variety of natural materials for this application.

And we received a predictable, tepid response from the greater FW hobby at first: People who "got" it, who had been looking for a single source for this kind of stuff, who were looking for a home, jumped on right away and have become great brand advocates, fans, and customers. Others looked at us with a mixture of skepticism (never a bad thing) and literally, an attitude of "Well, (insert name of popular hobbyist or major vendor here) doesn't use or offer this stuff, so it might not be any good. I'll wait and see how it develops..."

And the "others" were a pretty good cross section of the freshwater world.

While resistance or reluctance to embrace new, unproven stuff is not so unusual in many consumer arenas, it is far more characteristic of the FW market than the reef keeping world, in my opinion and experience. Reefers, on the whole tend to like to jump on new things quickly; to be "early adopters" to new technology, ideas, etc. 

Don't believe me still? Next time you're at a major FW hobby show, look around at the vendors. Apart from a few small specialized guys like us, how many brand new, revealed-for-the-first-time-anywhere product debuts do you see? Most of the "new" stuff you see at these shows is a "freshwater" version of stuff that's been in the reef market for a while. 

As I editorialized recently, even the aquascaping world has been locked into a "cultural freeze" for a decade or more, seemingly "content", or perhaps "afraid" to break out of a rigid style of doing things just because it might "irritate" a few "influential" people at the top of a very exclusive pyramid. "Fall in line or your irrelevant and wrong" is the message that delivered.


Look, there is nothing at all wrong with skepticism, and holding back a bit until something is proven or better understood. However, extreme rigidity simply because something is a bit different than what you've previously experienced impedes progress. And the manufacturers and vendors get the message: Don't rock the boat.

And that sucks.

It sucks, because there is so much more crazy stuff going on in the FW world right now than the reef keeping world can even comprehend. Sure, they have new tech and over-hyped corals and stuff, but the FW world has new fish breeds, breakthrough husbandry developments, a huge and diverse fan base, and a legacy of steady, amazing progress over a century or more.

Yes, I'm bitching a bit. And yes, I am a bit of an outsider, looking at things with a different perspective. And yes, one could argue that my view on FW "culture" is a bit biased, because I want to see more rapid progress. But I do. I read somewhere that less and less kids are getting into the tropical fish hobby than ever before. That is really sobering. Why is this? Well, there are dozens of reasons, I'm sure, including the shorter attention span of "Post Millenials". However, I'd wager that one reason is because they have dozens of more attractive diversions, many technically derived. Also, it's probably because they simply don't see enough fish stuff; have no clue. They don't see anything progressive, even though it's there.

We're doing a crappy job of "selling the sizzle", IMHO. And we're too damn locked into our specialties. I had a conversation with some hobbyists recently, asking whey there are no "general" tropical fish shows. The response was fascinating. And a little sad: "Because if you have a show with a cichlid guy or killifish hobbyist" as a speaker, the livebearer and catfish people won't be interested. And if you have a planted guy as a featured speaker, you'll lose a lot of Betta enthusiasts."


We're all...AQUARIUM HOBBYISTS! You mean, you can't learn one thing by attending a talk on Tetras that will help you with your African cichlid efforts? No crossover thinking there? Better to just not attend; wait for your specialty show and not "cross-pollenate" ideas with other branches of the hobby?


I don't want to see the tropical fish hobby go the way of stamp collecting or other hobbies that are slowly dying. We need more fresh blood, both old and young.

We do this be showcasing all that is cool about the hobby. We do this by letting manufacturers and vendors know that we want to see some new ideas hit the FW world first. It needs to be the "first stop" on the product release circuit. Because, as Frank Sinatra might say about New York, "If you can make it here, you'll make it anywhere..."

Where has innovation and progress been happening in the FW world? In the shrimp keeping world. And in the vivarium/herp world. You're seeing all sorts of new breeds, new specialized foods, equipment, etc. coming out of these specialties, which is awesome! It's happening at places like Aquarium Design Group, where the talented artist/hobbyists there, led by Jeff and Mike Senske, push the boundaries daily, not confining themselves to someone else' preset "rules" or other imposed limitations. Or George Farmer, who shares his passion over aquascaping with an enthusiastic and growing audience. You see it with dozens of cichlid breeders, Pleco breeders, and plant hobbyists.

It's out there. On the edges. And in quantity. It needs to be brought to the center stage.

We just need to let everyone know what we have, and what we want. We need to poke our head out from our super-specialities for a little bit, come together as the freshwater aquarium hobby,  and shout, "We're here! Give us some innovation!"

We need to encourage, embrace, support, and love all of the cool things that the aquarium hobby stands for, and is. We need to reach across the aisle and shake hands with that weird reefer or strange Betta breeder. We need to look at our common loves, find common ground, and help the hobby progress as a whole. 

So get to it. Keep those lines of communication open. Stay excited. Listen to a hobbyist who does something that you don't. Stay progressive. 

And stay wet.

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics



April 24, 2016


The value of questions....and information.

We receive a fair number of queries about our products, and that's pretty cool.

Hobbyists ask all sorts of questions. As a person who has been in the hobby and industry for many years, it is gratifying to see people ask questions. Questions are meaningful, often insightful, and provoke discussion. As a marketer, they're awesome- it means someone is intersted in your product or idea. As an educator, questions are proof that you have touched someone enough to have provoked more interest.

The old expression that "there is no such thing as a stupid question" is pretty much true. Although, on some days, I sort of apply a more philosophical bent to this axiom: While there might be no stupid questions, in my opinion, there are stupid contexts in which questions are asked. Yeah, like when someone buys a product, fails to follow the instructions and recommendations, and then asks why the product didn't perform as expected. I mean, the stupid part isn't that the product didn't perform as expected. It's that someone didn't feel it necessary to take the time to read any instructions, caveats, warnings, and other information available about the product before simply using it in the manner in which they wanted to, and then, when something went awry, they questioned things.

It's a form of arrogance, or at the very least, impatience, if you ask me. In a worst case, its a way of shirking of our individual responsibility on others. At best, it's laziness.

The time to question, show concern, be skeptical, and even a bit afraid, is before you employ something. The time to read about how to prepare, use, or apply a product is before you prepare use, or apply the product.Thats why websites in any industry should offer as much information as possible about the product, its preparation, and use, in a readily accessible format.

To not take the time to research information that is readily available is not only irresponsible, it's inexcusable, IMHO. If you haven't guessed by now, I feel very strong about this topic. 

It's why we've embraced the idea of providing as much honest information as possible on our website, blogs, and social media. Not just "look at the shiny new thingamajig" articles, posts, etc. It's why we don't shy away from presenting the good, the bad, and the ugly when using our aquatic botanicals in your aquarium. It's why we encourage you to take all advice offered by us or anyone- with a grain of salt, and give due consideration to the said advice before moving forward.

At Tannin, we realized that the use of many of our aquatic botanicals is something new for a lot of hobbyists, and that there would be a lot of questions, concerns, and perhaps some issues. It's why we've gone to great lengths to explain on each product page how to employ each product. We understood that there are "best practices" for preparing and using botanicals, which is why we advise how to prepare each one on its product page, as well as in a centralized "Aquatic Botanical Preparation" page, which you're referred to on every product package.

We realize that there are potential limitations and even negative outcomes if you don't  employ the products in a responsible manner, which is why we have a warning to prepare everything, go slowly, and evaluate the affect the botanicals have on your system as you go.

We proffer slow, gradual implementation of our botanicals. You'll see us time and again advise you to take the time to prepare, add, and evaluate the things that you add into your aquariums.

It's why we write very candidly-in both our Aquatic Botanical Preparation page and in this very blog- about things like the yucky biofilms that you'll encounter, and the potential for algal growth on your botanicals, and the fact that your water will get that brown tint, etc. It's why we talk about the potential for out of control pH plummets in an established aquarium with very soft water should you add a lot of product at once, and that adding our botanicals en masse to an established, stable aquarium is not advised. It's why we've published post with titles like "The dark side of blackwater tanks" ,"High Maintenance? High concept? Or just an acceptance of natural processes?",  "The therapeutic value of aquatic botanicals. Is there one?" , "When good botanicals go bad", etc., etc.

You need to know the information before you use our stuff. You need to know what to expect, what can go wrong, and what to do to make it work. It's the most responsible thing we can do as a vendor. Every vendor or manufacturer is doing consumers a disservice, IMHO, if they are not addressing these things to to their customers.

And, every customer is doing a disservice to themselves (and their animals) if they are not taking advantage of these resources when they are offered.

So, feel free to question, theorize, ponder, and then act. But do realize there is a lot of information out there for the taking, and that the time spent researching this stuff will make you a better prepared, more thoughtful, and more confident hobbyist.

Stay focused. Stay inquisitive. Stay skeptical.

And stay wet.

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics


April 23, 2016


Welcome to the edge...

The edge of something is kind of an uncomfortable place to be, isn't it?

"The edge of town" seems like a far-off place, without contact from the rest of society. The  "cutting edge" means you're doing something that's at the current state-of-the-art, right? The "leading edge" is out in front of most everyone else, with the "safety net" to fall into should you fail being located far, far below. That's where early adapters to new ideas operate. The term "bleeding edge" is even more scary, more adventurous, defining that area where you've truly left what is known and comfortable, pushing the outside of the envelope as far as it can go..typically, to borrow the old "Star Trek" line, "Where no one has gone before."

Where do you, as an aquarist operate? Ever thought about that?

It's not too difficult now days for the typical hobbyist to work in the "cutting edge" environment, embracing hobby practices that are considered the state-of-the-art, such as breeding marine fishes, utilizing "estimative index" for fertilizing aquatic plants, or using the latest electronic controller to manage your aquarium's environment.

Where things get really interesting, however, is at the "leading edge" of the hobby. Those areas where there is no clearly defined set of instructions or rules. An area where every decision you make is a bit of an unknown quantity, with consequences to your actions that are not yet fully understood. For example, people in the marine hobby who keep non-photosynthetic coral aquariums are working the "leading edge", because many of the husbandry procedures, equipment choices, and implementations are not fully worked-out yet. There is still room to experiment, push things, and grow a bit. As early adaptors to the "New Botanical" movement, as we call it, you're at the beginning of the "leading edge" of hobby practices. Much is already known, much is yet to be learned.

Then, there is that "bleeding edge", defined as a category of ideas so new that they could have a high risk of being unreliable and lead adopters to incur greater expense and risk in order to make use of them. This area is popular among innovators, inventors, and risk takers. The first guy that took a leap of faith and mimicked natural processes by storing his Nothobranchius rachovii eggs in damp peat moss for 6 months before hatching them was seriously bleeding edge back in the day.

(Image by Cisamarc -CC BY SA 4.0)

It's not always about developing new technologies, equipment, or husbandry techniques. Sometimes, it's about ideas...creativity. Style. The risks of pushing it in those arenas are still there; only the consequences are different. Criticism and condemnation, as opposed to outright disaster. Different. Yet the same.

Where are you as an aquarist? What journeys are you willing to take to advance the state of the art in aquarium keeping?  Are you adverse to risks?  Are you fascinated by this nebulous, grey area where the stakes are so high and the outcomes unknown? Or, do you prefer to wait until things settle down just a bit before jumping aboard.

Does it matter? Yes. And no.

It doesn't matter where you are in the hobby. It matters where you're going.

Stay bold. Stay curious. Stay alert.

Stay Wet.

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics