"The Tint" is a podcast dedicated to lovers of natural aquariums. A place to discuss unusual aquarium concepts and ideas; a jumping-off point at the aquarium hobby's "bleeding edge." Join us for inspiration, ideas, and a sometimes provocative point of view!
In this installment, Scott Fellman and Johnny Ciotti discuss some of the finer points of the botnaical-style aquarium, it's nuances, differences, and the philosophy behind it. We talk about practicality, management, expectations, and authenticity. And we answer some of YOUR questions, too! Despite a few tech glitches, this episode has a little something for everyone who's into "The Tint!"
“Floating leaf litter banks?!?” Yup. Talk about an unusual habitat to replicate in your aquarium! This one’s right up our proverbial alley, so to speak. I’ll fill you in on the details of this cool natural feature, and drop a few ideas how to accomplish this in your own aquarium!
Botanical style aquariums are different. They don’t look their best right after they’re set up. In fact, they don’t look good in a week- or even 6 weeks. Nope, they take months to reach their aesthetic and functional “prime.” A different sort of dynamic- an amazing one- dictates by the steady hand of Nature.
Ideas are what drive the aquarium hobby. Ideas excite, educate, and inspire other hobbyists. However, when you don’t try to execute on them, they’re not all that useful, right? Time to execute on that idea that’s been percolating in your brain!
There is something wonderful about the first dishes we kept as children. For many of us, they launched a lifelong love affair with the hobby. They bring a sense of nostalgia, fun, and comfort. They draw a direct line to our childhood- and to generations of hobbyists who came before us. This episode is an homage to a few of my “comfort fishes!”
In this super special expanded edition of “The Tint”, we welcome back our fave aquascaper, George Farmer! We talk about his upcoming book, the state of the hobby, answer some listeners’ questions, and was philosophical! An episode packed with something for everyone!
There is something irresistible about the idea of evolving old techniques! Remember when culturing “infusoria” was all the rage in fry rearing? How about an evolved version of the classical practice- with a “botanical” twist?
CONTROVERSY AHEAD! Yeah, the aquarium hobby is not the cheapest, fastest, easiest thing you can get into. Sure, there ARE some good ways to save money or do stuff easier. Yet, they carry a trade off... one which we might not like. Because the hobby is pricy.
Every once in a while I get lucky- and this podcast was one of those. Not only did I get to spend some time with the "Aquarium Guys", whose fabulous podcast is a lot of fun- they actually produced it for me- which means the production quality is light years beyond anything that I could have done! Filled with fun conversation and humor- as well as some great ideas- you're gonna LOVE this one!
An aquarium is not just a glass box filled with water, wood, sand and fishes. It’s a microcosm. A vibrant, dynamic, interconnected system, influenced by the materials and life forms-seen and unseen-within it- and the external influences which surround it.
Today, my co-host Johnny Ciotti and I welcome the one and only Jen Williams- Aquatic plant lover, award-winning aquascaper, Uber-hobbyists and lecturer, "Aqua Girl", and all-around cool person! We talk planted aquariums, contests, aquascaping, answer a few listener's questions, and just have the usual ongoing irreverent commentary! A straight-up "fire" episode we're pretty certain you'll love!
I had to address an oft-asked business question I receive: how to deal with competitors. I have a simple answer- Be a bricoleur- a person who makes use of what they’ve got to innovate, improve, and create. Yeah, that’s YOU! If you’re in the aquarium biz, thinking of getting into it, or just curious about the “inner game”- you’ll like today’s episode!
We have to revisit the idea of how seasonal changes impact the way botanical materials find their way into aquatic environments... And how the aquatic habitats themselves form as a result of the seasonal changes. Something to consider when creating your next natural botanical-style aquarium!
Perhaps the most elegant and compelling aspect of Nature is how aquatic environments are profoundly influenced by their surrounding terrestrial habitats. What can we learn by studying this that can help us create amazing functionally-aesthetic aquariums?
Some of the most compelling natural aquatic habitats occur when a tree or its branches or roots fall into the water. To see how they impact the aquatic environment and it’s inhabitants offers compelling and inspiring lessons on Nature. Lessons that we can use to transform our aquariums into functional-aesthetic masterpieces!
You think that you’re not a “pioneer” of sorts when you set up a botanical-style aquarium? You think it’s all predictable and fully in our control? Don’t want to cede some of the work to Nature and accept her aesthetic input? Thinking about starting one of these tanks with that mindset will trip you up. Don’t even THINK about setting one up.. really!
We all have a responsibility in this hobby. A responsibility to educate ourselves, to ask questions.. to share experiences. It’s how we grow. How we create process, and manage and understand expectations.
Scott And Johnny Ciotti dive deep into some of our fave topics, and then answer some listener’s questions in a podcast that’s full of fire! AND- a first look at “Shade”- Tannin’s upcoming new product!!
Don’t get stuck if you’re trying to replicate a certain environmental niche in your aquarium and you just can’t find that exact plant, wood, leaf, etc... study your habitat well, think about how it formed... and look for “analogs!”
There is something very compelling about taking a small tank that’s working well and “scaling it up” to something bigger. In this quick one, I share one of my fave tanks and the idea I have of replicating it on a larger scale!
I think it’s time to look at natural aquatic habitats and ask ourselves WHY various fishes live in them. It’s time to examine what dress them to a certain habitat at a certain time. It’s a key “unlock” that we can all learn from.. and it’s an interesting way to develop a stocking plan- or sequence- for your botanical- style aquarium!
On this special edition of “The Tint”, we’re joined by my good friend and fellow botanical- style aquarium geek, James Sheen! Just a fun, wide-ranging discussion on all sorts of botanical stuff! Join in the geekiness!
Have you ever thought about how water reaches your favorite aquatic ecosystem? Moreover, have you considered how the surrounding geography and geology impacts the composition of the water? What are the implications for studying and replicating some of these processes in the aquarium?
It’s about time to double back and focus more on brackish water botanical-style aquariums! We’ve been working hard with our “Estuary” collection over the past few years to really make unique brackish water systems more accessible to everyone! Let’s tease you a bit about this interesting ecological niche.:.
The bottom- not just sand, gravel or other traditional substrate materials.. it can be comprised of twigs, leaves, and botanicals. It can foster a huge dynamic aquatic ecology! Let’s talk about it for a bit....
Every botanical-style aquarium reaches a stage, early in its existence- where our initial work is done, and Nature takes over. Accepting and savoring this moment, and the transformations which begin to occur from this point- is foundational to our philosophy of the botanical-style aquarium.
With so many hobbyists getting into botanical-style aquariums, there’s a lot of talk- a lot of ideas floating around out there in the hobby. Not all of them are correct. Let’s look at a few and try to clear up a few things!
As aquarists, I think we have reached the time when it’s possible to replicate the changes of natural habitats over time in the confines of our aquariums. Replicating seasons and the varying conditions they bring is a fascinating challenge for the biotope aquarium enthusiast in all of us!
We tend to overlook substrates as areas of interest in our aquariums. A real shame, because in Nature, substrates are an amazing habitat for all sorts of creatures.. so much to learn and interpret here!
As we’ve been saying for years, there is a lot more to botanicals than just their pretty looks! Hers the most tentative and brief look at what these botanicals actual provide to the aquatic environment!
Seems like most of what we do in the aquarium hobby requires us to get out of our own way and accept challenges. When we look at some of the things that we need to do to be successful in the hobby- and accept them- it gets real good! We make mental shifts that push us forward.
The idea of food production taking place within our botanical-style aquariums is irresistible to me. Our dishes can readily assimilate materials like biofilms, fungi, and detritus into their diets- and it all starts with leaves and botanicals!
Today we’re joined by author, traveler, importer and all-around fish geek, Mike Tuccinardi! Mikes images, videos and writings are well known to readers of Amazonas magazine and “The Tint!” Today, he joins myself and Johnny Ciotti for almost 90 mins of pure fire on all sorts of fish-geek topics!!🔥
As we delve further into the idea of representing flooded forests and grasslands in our aquariums, we need not be discouraged because we can’t find the EXACT species found there. Yes, we can utilize analogs, terrestrial and aquatic- to fill the role in our aquatic displays! Let’s talk about a few possibilities!
As our practices of the botanical-style aquarium evolve, it’s important to take an approach that gives us more than just a superficial understanding of our game.. an approach that lets us appreciate the balances found in Nature- the subtle nuances and complexity processes...These are the keys to a more successful botanical-style aquarium...
There’s never been a better time to get a bit radical in our aquarium work. In this special episode, Tannin’s creative director, aquarist Johnny Ciotti joins me for a lively discussion on pushing the boundaries of our work!
The management of a botanical-style aquarium is not all that different than any other type of aquarium. Oh, sure, we embrace some different processes and aesthetics, but the management of the aquarium is the same as any other, on a fundamental level...right?
Let’s think about underwater “topography”, current, and structure in the context of aquarium work... today, the briefest of looks at two unique natural features which deserve more attention as aquarium subjects!
Let’s face it, deciding on aquarium related stuff isn’t as easy as you think it might be. Yet, you need not get all tossed up in agonizing hand wringing when doing it. Here is my personal guide to making good aquarium related decisions!! Hate me later...😝
The real “blurring of the lines” between Nature and aquariums occurs when we create aquariums which replicate the look AND function of that aquatic habitats that we’re obsessed with. And it all starts with thinking like Mother Nature- or a fish- when designing our aquariums!
Studying the influences found in Nature on aquatic habitats, then translating and replicating them to the aquarium is a key to breakthroughs. What are the influences, and how would we go about replicating them in our tanks?
The startup of an aquarium is an amazing, exciting time. The startup of a botanical style aquarium embraces some slightly different elements than a more traditional aquarium- yet sets the stage for an ecologically diverse microcosm.
How do we manage to keep high water quality in our botanical-rich aquariums, with all that organic material? How do you safely achieve- and manage a low pH system long term? These are just a few of the things that await us when we push the limits of our abilities!
We set the scene.. Nature fills in the details, evolves it, and determines its ultimate outcome. We as aquarists who play with the natural, botanical-style aquarium have our place... and we need to understand our role in the grand scheme here!
There is something amazing about the aquarium world that enables us as aquarists to learn something entirely new virtually every single day. If we take a humble, open-minded approach, the stuff we can learn- and the potential advances we can make- is unlimited!
Those times in the past when I may have unintentionally let some of those planted aquariums “fend for themselves” for periods of time have given way to more advanced, planned concepts.. and they’ve worked well! Is it perhaps time to consider a return to “The Jungle?”
We love serving our customers at Tannin Aquatics. Every once in a while, it’s good to have an honest discussion about how we roll and what to expect when working with us. It’s good for everyone! Here’s the brutal honesty behind “The Tint.”
We seem to develop a lot of “rules” around stuff in the hobby. I know that I have., it can be silly, too. Bending “rules” often results in hobby advancements. But it’s fun to think about how such “rules” get started in the hobby!
There is something fun about making “edits” to our botanical-style aquariums and evolving then into something far different than what they were before. Yet, creating a “functionally aesthetic” world for our fishes relies on a lot of factors- all of them present in Mature!
Blackwater aquariums and botanical-style aquariums are becoming more and more common everyday. And with this new excitement often comes the desire to transition a “traditional” tank into one of these systems. Here are some thoughts on how to do it!
The aquarium hobby- especially our sector- has benefited from the merger of tech and technique. Allowing tech to supersede technique doesn’t always work out right. This is why we never overlook Nature’s embrace!
Africa is amazing. The diversity of its existences remarkable. Killifishes, many of which come from Africa, are under appreciated in the hobby. Could replicating the compelling habitats themselves be the key to making killies more popular in the hobby?
The aquarium hobby loves to talk about “balanced” aquariums. And I can’t help but wonder if every aquarium is, to some extent, “balanced.” Today’s podcast is a tale of mental shifts- of acceptance, transience, and growth. Having faith in Nature by attempting to understand and appreciate Nature- regardless of appearances...
Yes, there is more to a layer of sand, leaves, and bits of botanicals in the aquarium than just a pretty “look.” There is a function and an elegant biodiversity aspect that we are only beginning to appreciate!
The hobby is truly a journey. And the best journeys start with not only knowledge of-and a desire to get to- the destination, but with an understanding of what it takes to get there. In the aquarium hobby, it seems that many have tried to run before they learned to walk. We can fix this- for the future of the hobby. Here’s how.
There is something utterly compelling about the little books and crannies in Nature where roots, branches, leaves, and sediments accumulate. Fishes are drawn to them- as are fish geeks! So, why not replicate them in functional detail in the aquarium?
Much like our obsession with botanical-style blackwater aquariums, the charms of brackish water ecosystems are irresistible to us! Studying the form and function of these habitats unlocks a ton of secrets- and parallels some of our freshwater work! Time to look at brackish- from the bottom up!!
Let’s keep at our 2020 theme of cutting through the clutter of misinformation that’s out there in botanical-style aquariums! In today’s podcast, we look at some of the most common “myths” out there about these types of aquariums and look at the facts! Great for sharing with friends eager to jump in to this cool hobby speacialty!
Of all of the fishes that we play with in the hobby, perhaps none has been as widely misunderstood as the molly- or the group of fishes that we collectively refer to as “mollies!” Are they BRACKISH fishes? Well, yes- and no. Let’s unravel, at least a tiny bit- the “molly mystique” and try to get to the truth!
We need to stop being so hardcore in our “interpretations of Nature” and appreciate the effort-and passion- that helps create them. Time to call out the BS of dogmatic thinking and get back to having FUN!
The aquarium hobby is as much a journey as it is anything else. And journeys involve experiencing the known and the unknown. As experienced hobbyists we know a lot. Sometimes perhaps too much. The beginner, on the other hand, doesn’t. He or she enjoys things differently. Could we benefit from a “mental rewind?”
Don’t you love opinions? Especially about hobby stuff? I do. I mean, if it helps spur discussion, expansion, and elevation of what we do, I love it! In our little sector, this process makes so much sense...
Yeah, it’s perfectly possible to keep an aquarium going for an indefinite period of time, in multiple “iterations.” In fact, you’ve likely done it before. Yet, with the mindset you now have, and in the context of botanical-style aquariums, it’s a whole new game...
There is a real magic to botanical style aquariums as they mature. They’re really best as a long-term proposition. I think we’ve probably not done enough as self appointed “thought leaders” in this space to share this. It stops now. Let’s talk more about botanical-style tanks in the long run!
There is something oddly compelling about densely-packed, highly complex aquatic habitats. Yet, our aquarium aesthetic “sensibilities” eschew them in favor of more “minimalist” aquariums which are perhaps less “authentically functional.” Here’s the case for more complexity!
It seems that many of us in the hobby are sort of hung up on this idea of creating and sharing the “perfect” tank... achieving the “ultimate.” Goals ARE great, but the pressure that we put on ourselves to achieve them can be bad.. here are some tips for this of you who are stuck somewhere out there on the road to “perfection..”
There is a lot to consider when playing with botanicals in our aquariums- like, what happens to them as they break down. A whole community of organisms- from bacteria to fungi- play a hugely important role in the aquatic ecosystem, in both Nature and aquarium. Let’s think about this for a bit- and further “blur the lines” between Nature and our aquariums in the process!
Adding tea and blackwater extracts are often seen as “hacks” or “workarounds” to achieve “blackwater” results. Yet, they overlook the fundamental idea of embracing a “process” or “methodology” of aquarium keeping... here are my “ultimate thoughts” on this stuff...
Yes, playing with leaves, seed pods and stuff seems like a very simple aesthetic play for aquariums. Yet, there’s a lot to this.. much can be gleaned from Nature about how these materials imp t the aquatic environment...
What could be more fundamental to our aquariums than wood? And isn’t it important to think about wood as not just an aesthetic component- but as a producer of vital compounds for the health of our fishes- and as an aggregator or supplemental foods, too. A lot to consider!
We receive a ton of those “What are the botanicals you’d use for a tank featuring_________?” So, what better way to kick off the end of the year than with a sharing of my notes on the Sparkling Gourami tank that I have yet to pull off in 2019... hope to do it in 2020... and I hope it gives YOU some inspiration, too!
As we learn more about botanicals in the aquarium, we have to be careful not to make assertions based on secondhand information. We contribute so much as aquarists to the growing body of work in our hobby specialization.
The aquarium hobby gives us much- and asks a lot from us, too. It’s not an instant gratification sort of thing.. it tends to favor patience, deliberate, slow moves.. a “long game”...that being said, there certainly IS some room for short term moves and impulse decisions. It’s all about balance- achieving that perfect blend of impulsiveness and patience.
We add leaves and botanicals to our aquariums, and almost immediately, they start to decompose. They not only impart their bound up chemical compounds into the water- impacting the water chemistry- they form the basis of a complex web of life...a foundational aspect of our botanical-style aquariums...
The aquarium hobby is filled with rules, guidelines, and best practices. All things which we need to consider where we’re trying to take a more “realistic” approach to replicating Nature in our tanks.. but we can’t confuse “requirements” with “problems.” We can do a lot- more than we might realize...
Okay, maybe it’s just ME...however, selecting fishes for my aquariums is more than just “a thing we do”- it’s a process.. a demanding, challenging one that draws on all of my experience- and some of my worst hobby instincts!
Everything we do in the hobby requires effort. Understanding. Perseverance. And a bit of humility. Progressing requires that we occasionally pass through a “gauntlet” of sorts- a mental barrier that , once we penetrate- makes us better aquarists for the journey.
It’s important form time to time, to look at the mental side of aquarium keeping. Our specialized, botanical-style tanks require us to make mental shifts, manage our expectations, and think through “advice” offered up by others...
With all of the incredible advances in our little hobby sector of late, some people are still not “getting” it.. not appreciating the beautiful simplicity and joy they can take when they relax and trust Nature do some of the work.. they- we- need to give ourselves permission to have fun!
When we are “done” with a tank; hungry, perhaps, to try something new, we’re really starting on a very familiar journey. The considerations about how to proceed during a “reset” are pretty fascinating... and help us review and refine some of the fundamental aspects of the botanical-style aquarium.
What makes our botanical-style aquariums so compelling; so alluring? What is it about them which calls to us? Today’s brief piece is a little (hopefully) thought-provoking look at the thinking behind our work, and the natural habitats which inspire us...
The idea of throwing botanical materials into our aquariums is beyond just an aesthetic experiment these days. Rather, it’s a means to explore the function of the natural habitat. A way to replicate and observe the processes which occur when these terrestrial components mix with water...
When you think about it, when we set up an aquarium, it sort of goes through all of these intersting processes and phases which are sort of analogous to those which happen in Nature, right? What can we learn from these processes and phases (hint: a LOT)..?
What makes a great aquascape? Cool materials? Talent? Effort? Well, sure- but that’s only part of it. Perhaps the most important part is something that we need to adopt in our minds.. a way of looking at stuff.. an attitude...a mental shift. A certain “something” that we can all adapt.
There is a perceptible shift in the “high concept” aquascaping world towards what they call “realism”- actually replicating natural aquatic features and habitats in the aquarium.. it’s close to what is needed to evolve aquarium keeping to the next level.. Close. However, there is still room to push the “functional” part of the equation...
There is something alluring about BIG ideas pulled off on a small scale. I really like just executing something very tightly and then- just possibly, “scaling up.” This little review of our “Tucano Tangle” biotope-inspired aquarium is just that.. an example of thinking big and executing small!
We’ve all got that ONE fish that obsesses us; haunts us- keeps us searching the Local fish stores, club auctions, etc. once in a while, we find it in the most unlikely of places; we score our dream fish.. and we know it’s all because we never gave up the hunt...
We've all taken a few hobby shortcuts. You know, done a few things that we knew better than to try...Tempting fate in the process. And sometimes, we get away with them. Other times, the consequences of these "cheats" are immediate and painful. We often learn the hard way...And its sometimes just as painful to wean ourselves off of 'cheating" as it is when we suffer the fate which meets us when we try to "get away with it."
With all of the unique aspects of botanical style aquariums- perhaps none are as fascinating as the mental shifts that we have to make in order to be successful with them...are you up to the challenge?
Yeah, another obsession of mine... I’ve poured through scientific literature, hoping to find a live earring fish which naturally comes from a blackwater habitat... and here are some of my top candidates!
Nature constantly consumes and replenishes. And, as aquarists- we can easily replicate such processes in our tanks... by embracing the concepts of change and consistency simultaneously... By mastering Natures “operating system.”
Is there a more “functionally aesthetic” botanical than the Cariniana pod? I don’t think so! Let’s just look at this one more closely, to give you some good info and clear up a few misunderstandings about this one!
Everyone ask me how to get a deep dark color in their water.. really! Like, what materials or tricks do I use. There are no secrets here- so I share with you my fave botanical choices to help achieve a nice color in your blackwater aquarium!
We’ve all experienced this.. ever had a fish which simply “vanished?” I mean, right there in your tank, happily eating and swimming around one day- gone the next? Why is this? What happens.. up for a good mystery???
When it comes to our botanical-style aquariums, there are so many factors which influence it. Perhaps the most important is stability. And this involves embracing many things, such as maintenance, feeding, and understanding the importance of natural processes-even though they might not fit our traditional vision of a “natural aquarium...” Still interested? We hope!
We have a lot of botanical materials to play with, to help create unique environmental conditions within our aquariums. And the ability to utilize this vast array of materials to benefit our fishes is a tantalizing glimpse into the future of aquariums!
It’s a long-standing controversy in the hobby- abetted lines up at the pet shop in little plastic cups. And of course, this gives the uninitiated the impression that these are maintenance free nails which are suitable for everyone.. is there a way to counter this myth? Sure!
We have been collecting fishes for the aquarium hobby form Amazonia for over century. However, did you know that there are significant populations of little SHRIMP there? Yeah, and they live I. LEAF LITTER! You know where I’m going with this...
Occasionally, those of you who are interested in starting your own aquarium-related businesses ask me to share various aspects of the business that might be challenging or scary. I’m happy to oblige...here’s some hard facts, encouragement, and motivation for you- the aspiring aquatic industry entrepreneur!
In an episode that is as much about philosophy as it is about execution, Johnny Ciotti, Tannin’s Creative Director, and world-class aquascaper, shares his thoughts. Filled with insights, stories, and humor, this episode has something for everyone!
When our fishes “spontaneously” spawn in a botanical style/blackwater aquarium, it’s easy to rush to the conclusion that it was “something” released by the botanicals. I mean, sure- it could have been.. could there be “something” In the water? Or perhaps...a,combination of factors?
When we relax a bit in our aquarium design and aquascaping- and allow Nature to do some of the work- we can create works which are as compelling, intriguing, and beautiful as any “high concept” ‘scape around.. We just need to get out of the way, right?
Nature is an imperfect place...And our interpretations of Nature involves making some mental shifts and adjusting our aesthetic expectations. It’s a quantum shift in our hobby...it compels is to find the beauty in things that we previously might have looked at as “dirty”, “unkempt” , or just plain “ugly.” It makes us review what we’ve previously thought about as “Authentic” in this regard...
Ever wonder why we don’t see rock in igapo habitats? Are any rocks found in blackwater habitats? Well, they are, but the rocks likely didn’t form there.. the story of their formation and how they arrived in these habitats is a fascinating tale of incongruous elements coming together... so, yeah- You CAN have rocks and leaves together and be faithful to Nature...in context.
All of the processes which occur in our aquariums are dictated by Nature- yet comprise a sort of “dance”- a combination of moves that require our monitoring, understanding, and on occasion- intervention. But, how much?
Like most of you, I’m set in my ways in some aspects of the hobby. I have a definite “comfort zone”, and when I’m forced to make quick changes.. well, it can be “challenging.” Yeah, we’re all like this....
What would happen if you let your natural, botanical-style aquarium “go” for a bit.? You know, skip a water exchange or two, etc... would it “crash”, or simply continue to operate? Well, a lot of what happens during such periods of time is predicated upon how you set up the aquarium in the first place...
The bodies of water collectively known as “streams” are probably one of the most fascinating, diverse, and ecologically complex habitats that we can replicate in our aquariums! Let’s think about them a bit differently!
We love utilizing natural materials in our aquariums. However, we try not to get too carried away at making sure that every item in our biotope-themed aquarium is the EXACT material found in the habitat we seek to represent. Rather, we rely on the power of “Generic Tropical!”
Arguably one of the aquarium hobby's most dynamic personalities, Rachel O'Leary has cemented her place as an icon. Whether it's traveling to a local club or conference, crushing it on her YouTube channel, or just hanging out in her amazing fish room, Rachel has been an inspiration to thousands of hobbyists worldwide. We were fortunate enough to grab her for about an hour and just talk "fish stuff." She shares her experiences, opinions, and philosophies in what's sure to be an enjoyable episode! The sound quality was a bit rough at times (internet connection 😂), but the message and lessons are loud and clear!
I’ll be first to admit it- our tanks look entirely different than many we’ve come to expect in the hobby. And it’s largely based on the very materials which we employ in our aquariums. Periodically, we need to remind the “mainstream” hobby that there IS a reason why... and that it’s pretty cool!
Preserving and building upon existing materials within our aquariums is a fundamental practice we can do to to more realistically emulate Nature. And what kinds of unique results can we expect by playing with this idea?
As we get ready to say our farewells to our venerable office botanical-style brackish water aquarium, it’s fun to reflect on some of the lessons learned, the dynamics of the system, and the potential for future breakthroughs using a more evolved approach.
After several years of being pretty loud about all sorts of topics related to botanical-style aquariums, I still see a fair number of misconceptions and outdated misunderstandings- and even myths- about these systems tossed about in the hobby. Time to “keep it real” and clarify a few of the more common ones!
An aquascape requires a plan, the right pieces, and execution on the part of the aquarist. A botanical-style aquarium requires all of those things- and the passage of time, to fully set the stage and create something special..
We have a whole lot of opinions, discussions, and ideas in the idea of “Nature” in our aquariums. It’s an interesting- even decisive topic, that everyone seems to have a point of view on. Understanding the function of Nature is every bit as important as ascribing a “label” to our aquariums.
An increasingly accepted part of the aquarium hobby is the fact that botanical materials- and the biofilms which they recruit- are an excellent food source for many aquatic organisms. Now, which ones are best? Which are the most “usable” for our fishes and shrimp? And what benefits do they offer?
Experimenting with the composition and functional aesthetic aspects of substrates in our aquariums is a fascinating endeavor. We’re starting to see interesting, tangible results from the work being done in this area. What kinds of breakthroughs are possible with a different point of view on this stuff?
Our botanical-style aquariums are anything but “static.” They are constantly changing, evolving, and “operating”- much like the natural habitats they seek to replicate! Let’s look at this from a “functionally aesthetic” perspective!
We sure do a lot to get our fishes to spawn, don’t we? There are as many techniques to get fishes to spawn as there are fishes! However, they often resist our best efforts...Yet, sometimes, the conditions we provide in our botanical-style aquariums yield incredible “coincidental” spawnings.. well, ARE they coincidences?
The majority of the wild habitats we emulate in captivity are among the most stable on earth. Sure, seasonal variations, weather events- and more often, mankind’s intervention challenge stability. Fishes can only handle so much environmental fluctuation... here some thoughts on stability and the means to achieve it in Our aquariums.
The dynamic world of the botanical- style aquarium is amazing. It’s a world of contact change, growth, decomposition- and aesthetics unlike any other. What can we learn from the cycles of water clarity, decomposition, and, yeah- environmental stability- which impact these aquariums?
Kat is one of the hobby's real treasures! A one-woman force of Nature, she's an awesome aquarist, industry personality, and social media strategist all rolled into one! Her agency, Brand Kat, provides social media strategy for aquatic industry businesses. Kat has worked with some of the best known brands in the aquarium hobby, and is an expert at coordinating social media influencer programs. In todays podcast, Kat and I discuss the ins-and-outs of utilizing social media to build upon aquatic industry brands. If you own an aquarium industry company, or if you're interested in becoming an "influencer" for one, you'll enjoy this cool discussion!
Our work on aquariums is truly amazing. Yet, many of us are our own worst enemies- our biggest critics and detractors. You’re really great- if you allow yourself to listen to your inner voice; to let Nature guide your work. To let your aquascape breathe...
We might be blissfully unaware of a whole bunch of things about our aquariums because we’re just “too in the game” and don’t see what the casual observer might. Here’s a look at what some of those observations might mean- and why we should take heed of them!
If you’ve been in the hobby a while, you’ve seen all sorts of ideas come and go.. some start as “trends” and evolve into “best practices..” Some are simple evolutions of older practices... for example, how we feed our tropical fish fry.. we have some ideas...
It’s interesting to look at some of the aquascaping concepts that are becoming “trends” and to go beyond the “art” aspect.. to think about the function.. and how these types of concepts can be applied to represent natural habitats in the aquarium...
Got your attention, huh? The art and science of botanical style aquariums is evolving. We have some recommended practices, however...Preparation and careful addition of these materials to our aquariums is always the right thing to do...let’s focus on these important steps in the process...
Four years into this botanical world here at Tannin Aquatics, and we still have to prod our friends to play with these unique aquariums.. and that’s okay! Here are a few “talking points” you can share with your hesitant fellow aquarists to make them take the plunge to “the dark side!”
Is there anyone in the hobby who hasn’t heard of or seen the work of George Farmer? Known to tens of thousands of hobbyists worldwide, George has a passion for the hobby and a deep love of Nature. In this engaging episode, we cover a myriad of aquascaping subjects, from the utterly practical to the deeply philosophical. One of the true gentlemen of the aquascaping world- and perhaps the most inspiring- chats with us about all things 'scaping! George will inspire you and fascinate you for sure! We had an internet fail in the middle of the chat and had to sort of split it into two parts- and it sure turned out great, regardless! Be sure to listen to the whole thing- George drops an exclusive revelation about an upcoming project that should be fantastic!
If you’ve been in the hobby long enough- you’ve no doubt seen it: Self-appointed “gatekeepers” telling you that you CAN’T do something.. and they tell you this without any personal experience... they’re simply “regurgitating” something they’ve heard elsewhere; “towing the party line”- and hindering the progress of the hobby. We offer a frank discussion about this phenomenon and how to overcome it..
Seems like almost every fish we keep in the hobby is somehow labeled as “adaptable to keep in tap water conditions”- even though they have evolved over eons in very specific environments! Conditions that we often only try to replicate in our aquariums when we want to spawn them! What gives? Is there an advantage to giving them “throwback” conditions on a full-time basis?
Yes, I’m obsessed about aquarium substrates. Most of us aren’t. You pour in a bag of your favorite decorative sand and call it a day. However, what if you tried “enriching” the substrate with other materials- botanicals, sediments, etc.? What benefits are there to be had? Let’s talk about it!
Those of you who follow the aquascaping world are no doubt familiar with Cory Hopkins! His unique approaches and fresh ideas have been featured in contests, magazines, and demos worldwide. Cory share his interesting views on the world of aquascaping- as an art and as a competitive endeavor!
It’s easy to get carried away and add tons of botanicals and leaves to our aquariums! There’s so much natural material to choose from! Yet, there is a certain beauty- and, indeed- many benefits from exercising what we call “Selective Aesthetic Restraint..”
I developed a sort of paranoia about doing anything that would disrupt my carefully managed aquariums. It was a bit of an ice-reaction, I think.. because the reality is, as an 8 year-old eloquently stated, “...fishes don’t break so easily...”
“Detritus” and “mulm” send shivers down the spines of many aquarists.. they’re metaphors for “sloppy”, “dirty”, and “undisciplined”, right? Well, not really. In our view, it’s more like their metaphors for “food source”, “biological filtration”, and “part of a healthy aquarium...” yeah, let’s re-think this stuff!
While you can hurry Nature, you CAN manipulate things a bit. Of course, when you do, there are trade offs and compromises and different outcomes. As I’ve learned- particularly with natural, botanical-style tanks- there is no substitute for patience.
The largest wetland on earth, The Pantanal is awe inspiring and fascinating! Our guest, Tai Strietman, the man who provides all of those amazing underwater pics for us, shares his firsthand knowledge of the fishes and the habitat- and how we can recreate it in our aquarium!
Vast, diverse, and fascinating- The Pantanal is one of the most productive aquatic habitats on earth. Many of the fishes we love in our aquariums come from this amazing ecosystem, yet we hardly ever see aquariums based on it. We, as lovers of natural-“, botanical-style aquariums, are uniquely positioned to change that!
It starts with an innocent question: “What are the best fishes to eat algae in my aquarium?” And then it snowballs from there- culminating in an interesting ethical argument and questions about who’s really in charge of your tank!
In the botanical-style natural aquarium, faith and patience are some of the most important “components”- things you need to have an abundance of. What happens when a botanical- style aquarium evolves, and how do we react to the changes which inevitably will occur...?
Perhaps our most controversial and passionate podcast yet. An open plea to the accomplished aquascapes of the world to open your minds to a different way of doing things. It might catch your attention. It might piss you off.. or it might just motivate you to get out of your comfort zone and change the hobby in a most profound way. Just listen...
One of the most obvious, yes least-tackled aspects of Nature in our aquariums is...change. Specifically, seasonal changes, which impact wild aquatic habitats. What types of secrets, discoveries, and breakthroughs will come to the aquarium hobby if we approach this dynamic a bit differently?
We’ve all had that ONE “it” fish.. you know- the one that keeps us engaged, actively searching for; inspiring us to create an entire tank for. Here’s a story of my personal “It” fish- Chrenuchus spiritus.. the “Guardian of The Spring.”
I used to be one of those fish people who would simply freak out at every speck of algae; every leaf that was slightly askew...that sort of stuff! Then, I found myself attracted to the “earthy” vibe of natural, botanical-style aquariums, and those little things bothered me no more...
We realize that a lot of you might love some aspects of botanicals and blackwater aquariums, but you’re not ready to go “all in” on a full-on natural look. What to do? Here are a few simple ideas to fuse “high concept, artistic” aquariums with our laid-back, more literal interpretation of Nature.
We revive numerous questions about the best way to achieve a nice, deep tint in our aquariums- and how to maintain it for a long time. In today’s installment we look at the art- and not at all perfect science- of tinting your tank!
In this postmodern, internet-enables hobby world, it seems that the venerable local fish store is under attack from all sides. I say it’s time to rethink and celebrate this most amazing of hobby institutions!
Occasionally, we become a bit “detached” from the hobby- this thing we love so much. And it’s really a sad thing. Today, a personal journey of how I fell out of touch- and got back into the game stronger than ever. If you’re out there- drifting in the current- this podcast is for you!
Rain is the most transformative element in natural aquatic habitats.. and the effects of rain impact everything. We are at a point where the idea of creating a “365 Dynamic” with wet and dry periods in our aquariums is a logical extension of what we do. Interested? I hope so!
I must admit- one of the “foundational” things we don’t touch on enough in our botanical aquarium work is filtration! Yeah, it’s basic... but there are all sorts of unique applications and benefits for botanical systems that can be derived from utilizing various forms of filtration. Let’s take a look at this stuff.. from our unique perspective!
“There’s some stringy stuff growing on my leaves..” if we had dollar for every tine we heard that.. yeah. Well, guess what- you have BIOFILM! And you should be stoked! We’ll talk about the slimy, gooey, and entirely misunderstood biofilms in today’s podcast.. and you might just come to love ‘em after all!
Our world is one of constant change. And just occasionally, breakthroughs are achieved. Botanical style aquariums are a literal “proving ground” for all sorts of cutting edge hobby ideas. Especially when we move forward...boldly.
Like any other aquarium, a botanical-style aquarium requires us to observe, understand, and maintain what we’ve created. We are very much creating a little “microcosm”, and need to respect the checks and balances which Nature imposes upon it.
Killifishes are a large and diverse group of fishes. They’re super colorful, interesting, relatively easy to breed- and they come form all sorts of fascinating habitats ripe for replication in our aquariums! So what aren’t they more popular? I think I know why.. and how to fix this!
There is something special that occurs when you take a so-called “common” fish and provide it with conditions similar to those in which it’s evolved for eons.. in this episode, we discuss this simple concept, through some personal examples. Perhaps it’ll inspire you to see your “common” fishes in a whole new light!
Water levels in Nature ebb and flow. The angles of the sun change. Fishes face constant challenges, evolving over eons to meet them via evolution, adaptation, and behaviors. How can we apply these seasonal changes to our aquarium world?
The key to long-term success with natural, botanical-style aquariums is to go slowly, deploy patience, observation- and consistent maintenance practices... in this episode, we talk about the long-term husbandry of these unique aquariums.
I can’t help but wonder what it is that brings various fishes to a certain location of niche within an environment. In this episode, we contemplate stocking of our aquariums in a more natural sequence. Blurring the lines, for sure!
It’s time to push out our botanical aquarium “practice” and express Nature in a more “literal” way. That means not-so-spotless aquariums, turbid water; more decomposing materials. It’ll challenge our aesthetic sensibilities, our skills, and our patience. However, the potential benefits of this “blurring of the lines” between Nature and aquarium are manifold and exciting! Go next level!
Sure, it’s hardly a mystery that Nature offers tons of materials that we can play with in our aquariums. In this episode, we get into the basics of “doing it yourself”- and Scott delivers a bit of “tough love” on taking the responsibility to research...
I love looking at aquarium “movements” and techniques. I love seeing them rise to prominence and being embraced in our work. The so-called “Walstad Method” provides an amazing context for our botanical-style aquariums- and we need to study it more closely....
The philosophy of meeting Nature where it is, and appreciating the constant changes occurring in a natural aquarium is fundamental to what we do. No where in the aquarium world is this more evident than in the botanical-style natural method that we love...
The continuous replacement and supplementation of leaves and botanicals as they break down is a sort of process...it not only creates a continuously evolving aesthetic- it helps maintain biological diversity and stability in the aquarium...
It’s logical to imply that botanicals, wood, and other materials, which we utilize in our aquascapes not only have an aesthetic impact- but a consequential physical-chemical impact on the overall aquatic environmental, as well. Could the concept of “terroir”, which applies to wine or coffee, apply to botanicals?
For some reason, the “myth” exists that simply adding a bunch of catappa leaves or botanicals to your aquarium filled with hard, alkaline tap water will create instant, nature-like conditions. Hey, I hate to be the buzzkill, but...Let’s talk about how this process really works- and how you CAN get there...
If there’s one thing that lovers of the botanical-style aquarium can’t seem to agree upon, its whether or not to remove botanicals as they break down. Today, a little breakdown on stuff that breaks down- and the case for leaving it in your tank!
The term “Nature Aquarium” pervades well- everything in our hobby-or so it seems. It’s an homage to the great Takashi Amano, who coined the term years ago. Yet, I think we might have veered off a bit; pushed into “artistic interpretation”, and lost sight of the origins... are we, the lovers of the natural, botanical-style aquarium, an offshoot of this? Could we be “The Lost Tribe of Amano?”
As enthusiasts of natural, botanical-style aquariums, were very accustomed to the brown color of our water. And we have a different definition of “clarity” than a lot of the aquarium-keeping world...and there is some confusion about this stuff.. let’s clear it up!
Are you they type of aquarist who insists that EVERY fish, plant, rock, piece of wood, or leaf come from the same geographic location in Nature? Are you obsessed about imposing rules about what “belongs” and what doesn’t? Does it matter? My thoughts, of course. And a confession!
In our pursuit to create unique aquariums, I think we often overlook the amazing inspiration offered up by Nature herself. Today we discuss a few niches which we thing deserve more representation in aquariums...
Although there is a good amount of information on brackish water habitats, as a hobby, aquarists have distilled their aesthetics down to white sand, a few rocks, and maybe some Java Fern...and it’s pretty much been mired in that aesthetic HELL for decades. Time for a change, right?
Those of us who play with natural, botanical-style aquariums are sort of “outliers” in the aquarium hobby. There are certainly some limits to what we can do- but few limits to what we can attempt with research, discipline, diligence, patience...and work.
We in the aquarium hobby need to let go of our long-held beliefs about what is truly “beautiful.” We need to study and understand the elegant way Nature does stuff- and just why it is that natural aquatic habitats look the way they do. Let’s celebrate aquariums which depict Nature as it really is...
One of the “best practices” for using natural botanical materials in our aquariums is proper preparation. In today’s podcast, we review those basic prep steps and answer some common questions on this process.
Leaves, seed pods, and botanical materials are “ephemeral” in nature. When we place them in our aquariums, they begin to break down, recruit biofilms, fungi and other organisms. They ultimately become “detritus.” Is there a benefit to letting detritus accumulate?
As aquarium hobbyists, it’s been drummed into our collective psyche that regular, diligent maintenance is essential to creating a successful aquarium. What would happen- particularly in a natural, botanical-style aquarium if we let go?