August 12, 2015


How to recognize hobbyists who will bring you down...

An article in an online publication I read some time ago stirred up a small storm of controversy on the forums and social media. The author suggested that hobbyists should take with a grain of salt advice from those who apparently don’t have a tank, or even a body of work to fall back on, particularly those who have “guru-like” status on forums, etc. While fundamentally, his assertion is pretty sound- people who claim that their way is “the only way” need to have something more than words to back up their claim- I think that the thing that rubbed a number of readers of the piece wrong was the assertion that many people who offer advice and ideas don't seem to show pics of their successful tank in their articles. 

I think I kind of know what he was hinting at, perhaps in a bit more direct and less nuanced way. It looks like, in the firestorm of criticism surrounding the article, that readers might have slightly misinterpreted what he was getting at. I think his point was not that everyone who is proffering advice has to show an awesome tank, or spawning results to back it up. I think, or I’d like to think, that what he was getting at was that people with dogmatic “my way or the highway” attitudes that are condescending towards everyone doing thing a different way, need to offer some evidence supporting their claims. 

I have to admit that I disagree with any absolute statement that suggests you must have an epic  tank in order to offer an opinion or advice. I do agree, however, that anyone asserting that they are right and everyone else has it wrong should offer some tangible evidence to support their theory. A picture of a healthy successful aquarium is a start, but not necessarily the only evidence we should require.


I remember a piece I wrote, perhaps in a more gentle tone, called “The Danger of Regurgitation”, right here on “The Tint”, in which I basically offered a similar sort of warning, but was a little more specific, perhaps less sophisticated: Be wary of really arrogant people.  One only look back into recent reef keeping history (mid “First decade 2000s) to see a graphic example of what the author was probably alluding to- the Sanded vs. Barebottom “Wars”, where tremendous arrogance took over common sense, and a sort of gang mentality broke out via the internet between those who supported the idea of a sandbed, and those who were against it. Really ugly stuff, those “sandbed wars”- and we hopefully learned a thing or two from them.

The bottom line is that you need to take all advice-from anyone- with a grain of salt. No one knows everything about aquarium keeping. Woah! I said it. I’ll say it again: No one knows everything about aquarium keeping, regardless of pedigree, or even regardless of how nice their tank looks. 

Something to contemplate.  

During the course of your aquarium keeping “career”, you will meet lots of different people who are also into fish. Many will offer advice- some welcome, some unsolicited and not so welcome! I’ve noticed this since we've been in business, as well! People tend to come and “consult” with you, even if you’re not asking for it. It’s a good and bad aspect of aquarium keeping- fellow hobbyists are always willing to help. The problem is, some people are not all that helpful, and can even prove detrimental to your enjoyment of the hobby!



Not that this piece was meant as an addendum to the somewhat controversial piece touched on above, but it may offer some thoughts that perhaps express some parallel sentiments, albeit in a less dogmatic way. The bottom line: You have to be downright careful about who you let into your home or aquarium “envelope” to “check out” your tank and render advice. This is not rocket science, but in this internet-fueled, “everyone-knows-everything-because-of-Google” age, it’s pretty important to grasp.

I’ve actually classified the types of hobbyists who dispense advise and perhaps make you feel bad, who you’ll run into now and again. They are, of course, generalizations, but they seem to be somewhat accurate, based on my experience.

  1. The “Diverter”- “Diverters” are cool people who come into your home and check out your tank, and totally distract you from the direction you’re headed. These amazing people have a tendency to offer “corrections”- attempting to show you a “better way” to go- or something that you “need to do”- usually something that THEY strongly believe in…These people are well-intentioned, no doubt- but they really tend to steer you off course in a strange, vicarious fashion. “Diverters” tend to send you into direction that you never really intended- and not always for the better.  They may be amazing aquarists, but don’t let them and their clever ideas make you think for a moment that anything that you are doing is any less amazing. Be wary of these charmers!


2)  The “Deviant”- Fortunately, this is not a hobbyist that you will encounter often- but they are out there. “Deviants” seem to have all of the cool ideas and talk a big game- and they’re lucky enough to get away with some less-than-smart decisions in their fishkeeping, so they are always willing to send you down directions that are risky, and very contrarian. Although I’m a big fan of doing things your own way..I’m less interested in doing things that someone else was lucky to get away with.  If you find yourself continuously making bad moves every time a “Deviant” pays you a visit, best you steer clear of them!

3)  The “Taunt”- This type of hobbyist never seems to let you live down your errors or mistakes: “Remember when you tried to keep all of those Rasbora in your Discus tank? How well did that go?” Don’t let these people pull you back to the mistakes you might have made. What are they doing that for? To help you better yourself, or to express their own insecurities? Everyone screws up in fishkeeping. If you’ve messed up, it simply means that you’ve learned how not to do something. Keep moving forward- you’re okay.


4) The “Hater”- we all know a few, unfortunately. They lurk on forums and discussion boards, ready to strike. They want to be respected and admired by the fishkeeping community for having a great tank, etc., but don’t seem to want to  do any of the work to get there. Rather, they simply want to put down the work being done by everyone else. These are decidedly negative folks, but they can sort of motivate you in a weird way. Just don’t be like them. Share ideas, successes, failures, and render help to others based upon your experience. Use these negative thinkers to be the “anti-Hater” in the aquarium world. We need more anti-Haters!

5) The “Instant Gratification Specialist”- Yup, the internet aquarium keeping community abounds with these people. They’re the ones who put up those crazy, mega-priced build threads” that leave everyone in awe, and some people even feeling bad that they are mere mortals. These people often have the stated goal of building a tank that gets named “Tank of the Century” or whatever, as if that offers some legitimacy and “cred” to their existence in the hobby.  I’m not hating on build threads that are started by genuinely excited reefers who want to learn and help others. This is a different breed of cat.  “IGS” types seem to have very little patience for anything but instant gratification. This will be evident in the speed in which the tank seems to come together, and the outlandish purchases that are posted regularly in their build threads. These people want to be liked. They are “fun” to be around in that respect, but are oddly sad in others. Many of them want be part of something bigger- they just don’t know what. The reality is that many of these people would be awesome friends, embraced by fellow hobbyists if they would just put their heads- and hearts- in the right place. 

6) The “Buzzkill”- Okay, everyone has seen this type of aquarist. These guys have a dark cloud following them, and seem to want to pull others into the cloud bank with them. A lot of them are extreme DIY-ers, who spend vast amounts of time and money trying to come up with fancy automated ways of doing the most basic of tasks.  When these things fail to do the job, they blame luck. Maybe they’re unlucky, but they are almost always possessed by a “why is this happening to ME” attitude.  Many of them feel that the basics of aquarium husbandry just don’t apply to them, because they know a better way to do it. “I don’t know what I’m having this algae issue. My automatic constant frozen food feeder and homemade fertilizer solution are working, but all of my parameters are off. The auto water conditioner/changer keeps sticking on me.  And the computer that controls my RO/DI membrane assessment keeps telling me the water quality is fine. I’m at wit’s end.”  It’s kind of hard to feel bad for these types, really. They seem to like to be in “Negative Land.” They must like the attention that the hobby community gives them. They may never change, because their arrogance won’t allow it. Pity, as they can offer a lot to the community with their skills.

Wow, what a negative way to start off the day! Well, it was on my mind, and you know I like to share whats on my mind (Hmm…I think there is a classification for people like me somewhere…)

Okay, well there you have my concise guide to the people you want to avoid in the fishkeeping community- online or elsewhere. Sure, these are generalizations, and there are others, no doubt. However, this will kind of give you a more detailed warning than perhaps preferred elsewhere…hopefully it can help you avoid wasting valuable life energy with people who really have nothing positive to offer, and help you enjoy your hobby even more.

As always, take any and all advise with a grain of salt. Have fun. Grow. Share.

And stay wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics


August 11, 2015


The ultimate "impulse buy?"

Serious fish geeks NEVER make impulse buys, right? 


Well, if you're like must of us, you certainly do...And releasing newly-acquired fishes into your established systems is just playing "Russian roulette" with your fish collection! So the safest way to protect all of your fishes is to set up a simple quarantine tank.

What better way to filter it than the humble Hydra Bio Sponge filter. This little gem, if left somewhere in your display tank, will "colonize" beneficial bacteria that consume nitrite, ammonia, and nitrate...providing you with an on demand "impulse-buy-proof" filter that you simply throw into your 10 gallon quarantine tank (which you just filled with water from your last water change), along with a heater, and you're good to go...

Such a small investment to assure the health and safety of your entire collection. And, at just $6.25, this little filter might be itself the best impulse buy you ever made! 

Just get'll thank yourself later!

August 11, 2015


How dark do you want your water?

Funny question? Not really!

We've had a lot of hobbyists ask us what the top "tinting" botanicals would be to really give their water the "Rio Negro" treatment. 

The answer is that just about every botanical we offer will impart some tint to the water. However, the quickest, strongest ones would have to be the good ol' Catappa leaves, followed by Alder Cones, Catappa Bark, and then moving on into some of the pods like "Frita Pods", "Tapete Pods", "Helix Pods", Coco "Curls" and then, surprisingly- Cholla, which gives a pleasing yellowish-amber tint over time if you don't boil it first!

How much to use is going to be based on personal judgement and taste. Most of our habitat enrichment /substrate enhancement packages will be more than adequate for 10-30 gallon tanks. However, there are a lot of factors, such as your local water chemistry, water volume, and how you're using the materials, which can affect the degree of "tint" imparted to the water. 

The reefer in me has been doing some interesting experiments with hardware and botanicals (uh- ohh!) lately! As mentioned previously, soon we'll be discussing some new ways to give your tank "the tint" without necessarily having the materials in the tank itself. 

For full preparation notes on every botanical we offer, check our "Aquatic BotanicalPreparation" page!

Keep it dark...


And stay wet!


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics

August 10, 2015


"Habitat Enrichment"- What's that mean?

Every aquatic botanical we offer provides some advantage for your aquarium. We call it "habitat enrichment."

In other words, every leaf, every pod...every piece of wood- provides not only aesthetic benefits, but imparts tannins and other substances to the water that influence the aquarium environment in some way, much as occurs in nature.




We know from personal experience- and the experience of many other tropical fish enthusiasts- that using these natural materials in their aquariums has led to more colorful fishes, enhanced breeding behavior, greater egg viability, and overall health and vigor...and of course, they help create a cool-looking display, too!

"Habitat enrichment." More than just words. In our opinion, it's a critical component (along with diet and other factors) of a successful aquarium.

Enrich your aquarium habitat with Tannin's carefully curated selection of premium aquatic botanicals.



August 09, 2015


Tough pods for tough fishes...we've got 'em.

A lot of you keep fishes that are, well- shall we say- more "highly strung"- and would probably do a little bit of damage to some soft substrate materials. 


(Geophagus brasiliensis by Cristoph fr.)

Which is why it's good to have some "harder" materials to use, such as the "Lampada Pod", with it's shell-like structure, the "Heart Pod", which is is built a lot like a pit of a fruit, and the "Helix Pod", with a tough exterior that only softens slightly after preparation. 


And of course, the ever-popular "Jungle Pod, "Savu Pod", and the "Tapete Pod" are all pretty darned tough, too, and can stand up to a lot of what some of the tough guys can dish out. So you can have your nasty cichlids- and a natural-looking bottom- and by extension- "The Tint", too!

Stay tough....and Stay Wet!


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics

August 08, 2015


Roll out the red carpet for the "Tapete Pod!"

We receive a lot of requests from hobbyists who want to assemble a diverse, functional "leaf litter" section in an aquarium, and want to know what we feel are great candidates to include. In addition to the leaves that we offer, we are always recommending the awesome "Tapete Pod"


The "Tapete Pod" is a nifty pod, which, when combined with leaves and some of our other "flat" pods, creates a very cool "stream bottom" look. It's large, very attractive, relatively easy to get to sink:) and quite durable (i.e.; it lasts a good long time)!


Shrimp and catfishes seem to love foraging among groupings of "Tapete Pods", you can anchor aquatic mosses to 'em, and we've seen at lease a couple of occasions where Apistos have taken up residence under a "matrix" of these pods! 

Just another cool product to help you create a more natural-looking aquarium for your fave fishes! We kinda think you'll love it!

Stay Wet!


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics

August 07, 2015


...And of course, the "jungle pod" gets it's day in the spotlight, too!

Never one to be outdone by the mere likes of a "Savu Pod", the "Jungle Pod" is representing nicely! One of our customers, Simon Duckworth, shared this cool shot of one of his Apistogramma cacatuoides living happily in its comfy "Jungle Pod" residence! 

This beautiful pod provides the perfect natural setting for fishes like Apistos...In addition to it being attractive, it's super durable. lasting a very long time before it even remotely shows signs of breaking down.


It's fun to see more and more hobbyists finding great ways to use these cool aquatic botanicals! Don't be shy- if you have pics of 'em in use, we wanna see 'em! Thanks, Simon, for sharing this awesome pic!


Stay Wet!

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics

August 07, 2015


Wisdom from "the pod whisperers"- our community!

So, we've been up and running just a very short time, and in that time, feedback and community has been amazing! We've learned a lot from our our own experiments, as well as from customers, fans, and beta testers of our products.

Here are the "Top 6 Things We Learned About Aquatic Botanicals from End Users":

1) The "Savu Pod" has proven to be "Apisto-Friendly", with a number of users telling (and showing) us about specimens that took on a Savu as their "home turf."


2) You can run Alder Cones, Catappa Leaves, and "Frita Pods" in a small filter or reactor (ohh..I'm thinking about the uber-cool Innovative Marine"MiniMax" reactor for this purpose) to use as a sort of "tannin-reactor", keeping the material contained while water flows through it. You get "the tint" without having to keep the materials in your tank, if that's your thing. More on this soon!


3) The "Jungle Pod" is so versatile, that our customers are using them for things as diverse as "planters" for Crypts, Spawning substrates for Cichlids, and even a "feeding station" for Crystal shrimp, in one instance. 


4) "Capsula Pods" have a fleshy interior that will soften over time, providing a supplemental food source that shrimp go nuts over!


5) "Tapete Pods", "Encontro Pods", and "Helix Pods" are proving great supplements to a more "active" leaf litter bed, since they don't decompose like leaves do. They can for ma "permanent" component of your leaf litter "zone" in your biotope tank.


6) We're starting to see more and more Herp fans order our Aquatic botanicals to use in their terrariums and frog tanks. Many of them are perfect for this use! 

We'll have lots more cool stuff debuting soon; in the meantime, we greatly appreciate your support, friendship, and sharing! 

Stay Wet!


August 07, 2015


Savu Pods in "The Real World..."

So, who doesn't love a "Savu Pod", really?

I mean, they look great, sink relatively easily, are embraced by shrimp and fishes for hiding places....and they last for an indefinite period of time!

So, when our friend, William Garden, all-around Apisto freak, and owner of The Cichlid Garden,  shared this pic of an Apistogramma  bitaeniata chilling in a Savu Pod, I was stoked! As a fan of aquatic botanicals, I couldn't ask for a better demonstration of one of their primary uses! Natural, effective, and aesthetically cool. 

If you have any "real world" pics of our botanicals in your aquarium, we'd love to see 'em!

Stay Wet!


Scott Fellman

Tannin quatics



August 06, 2015


What are these "aquatic botanicals" of which you speak?

What ARE "aquatic botanicals" that you hear us talk about? 

Well, they're natural products (generally leaves, bark, wood, and seed pods) that are used for both decorative and environmental enrichment purposes in our aquariums. "You sell twigs and nuts!" as one of my reef keeping friends profoundly declared! I suppose he wasn't too far off, although I think that was a bit over-generalized, lol. 

Many fishes (particularly South American fishes like Tetras, Cichlids and catfishes), as well as numerous African and Southeast Asian species (Gouramis, Bettas, etc.) benefit from the tannic acids and other substances released by these products into the water.

It has long been understood that there are actually some antifungal and possibly even antibacterial benefits to so-called "blackwater", resulting in healthier fishes and more viable spawns. Some animals, such as Plecos and even ornamental shrimp, service supplemental nutrition from grazing on these materials.


And of course, creating areas of "leaf litter" and microhabitats of seed pods, etc. create areas for these fishes to spawn, forage, and shelter- much like in nature. They flat-out look cool! 

Tannin was launched because most of these items were extremely difficult to source for aquarium use, and I wanted to offer serious hobbyists, biotope lovers, and breeders the materials they need to practice their craft- all in one place. 

Every botanical on the site is something that I have personally tested, used, and worked with in my own tanks. Our site offers detailed preparation and use information for every botanical we offer:…/aquatic-botancial-preparation, and we love to see new ways that these products have been incorporated into their aquariums! 

Look for more and more cool botanicals to come your way in coming months! If you have any questions about the selection, preparation, or use of any of these items, just contact me!

Thanks for the amazing response to our site so far, and for making Tannin a part of your hobby world!