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Tannin Aquatics

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Tannin Aquatics last won the day on May 8

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About Tannin Aquatics

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    Los Angeles, CA USA
  • Inverts You Keep
    Paracaridina sp; Blue Bee, Crystal White Bee, Orange Sakura, CRS, Black KIng Kong Panda.

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  1. One of the things I find both interesting and frustrating as a reefer was all the gear that we tend to use to do stuff that you'd think could be accomplished naturally in an appropriately-designed system: You know, stuff like sulphur denigrators, algae light reactors, etc., etc. Now, I dig these gadgets, so don't get me wrong...and apparently, so does the reef keeping world, as there is no shortage of fancy gear released every month to accomplish many of the tasks that nature is supposed to! And I can't help but wonder, as we explore more naturally-functioning systems, if some of these ideas and pieces of equipment are adaptable to our purposes. Let's look at a few examples of items that might have "crossover" potential. (click to read more )
  2. As we get more and more into the botanical-style aquarium concept, it's interesting to study some of the niche environments that exist in nature, which are heavy influenced by terrestrial life. A prime example of this are the South American forests and swamp forests, which are seasonally inundated with freshwater. These forests are perhaps nature's finest example of the interaction between land and water, and how diverse and surprisiingly productive aquatic environments arise in these habitats. The two types of inundated forest areas are blackwater systems known as igapó, and the counterpart "whitewater" systems called várzea. The igapó is characterized by seasonal inundation caused by a large amount of rainfall, and thus, in some areas, trees can be submerged for up to 6 months of the year. We've touched on the idea of replicating this habitat in "The Tint" some time ago. These forests have sandy, rather acidic soils with a very low nutrient content. The rainwater combines with the humic substances and tannins contained in the soils and the forest floor materials that are found on them. The acidity from the water corresponds to the acidic soils of these forests. They are the more nutrient poor than a comparable várzea forest, carrying less inorganic elements, yet higher concentrations of dissolved organics, like humic and fulvic acids. (click to read more)
  3. Tannin Aquatics

    "Points of origin.."

    As we see more and more aquariums devoted to botanical-influenced, blackwater environments, we're getting more and more questions about what botanical would be appropriate for a given region that an aquarist is attempting to replicate. Now, we've sort of touched on this before, and it bears further discussion at this point, I think. First off, many of the botanicals we work with are found in multiple tropical regions of the earth, and as such, could be suitable to represent a variety of habitats from around the world. Others are tied more specifically to a given region, and would obviously be most appropriate in an aquarium representing that region. That being said, it's always sort of a delicate point, IMHO, trying to replicate a specific area with natural materials, because it really depends upon how "hardcore" you are-or the Judges- if it's a tank destined for a competition. I suppose if you're entering your aquarium in a biotope competition, and part of the judging criteria is based upon utilizing appropriate materials, you'd be hard-pressed to explain the presence of a botanical or leaf from Southeast Asia in your Amazonian Igarape biotope aquarium! Although I am curious if the judges are more concerned about general adherence to "theme" and/or the correct live aquatic plants, and if they will truly not be put off by a seed pod from a different continent? (click to read more)
  4. Ever get one of those ideas that, perhaps you mention in passing in discussion...or maybe in a blog, or whatever...and it just sort of sticks with you a bit? Well, I have just such a "thing" in my head, and I can't seem to let go of it! I mentioned in one of my most recent pieces the idea of a leaf litter-filled botanical tank as a sort of "botanical fry rearing tank" for some species, and I keep thinking about this. It reminds me of the "jungle style" aquariums I used to play with for killies when I was a kid..You know, overgrown planted tanks packed with Rotala, Water Sprite, Duckweed...whatever plants you wanted - and you'd toss in newly-hatched fry and just sort of let them be... (click to read more)
  5. Tannin Aquatics

    What? A bunch of detritus!

    "detritus is dead particulate organic matter. It typically includes the bodies or fragments of dead organisms, as well as fecal material. Detritus is typically colonized by communities of microorganisms which act to decompose or remineralize the material." (Source: The Aquarium Wiki) It's one of our most commonly used aquarium terms...and one which, well, quite frankly, sends shivers down the spine of many aquarium hobbyists. And judging from that definition, it sounds like something you absolutely want to avoid having in your system at all costs. I mean, "dead organisms" and "fecal material" is not everyone's idea of a good time, ya know? Yet, when you really think about it, "detritus" is an important part of the aquatic ecosystem, providing "fuel" for microorganisms and fungi at the base of the food chain in tropical streams. In fact, in natural blackwater systems, the food inputs into the water are channeled by decomposers, like fungi, which act upon leaves and other organic materials in the water to break it down. And the leaf litter "community" of fishes, insects, fungi, and microorganisms is really important to these systems, as it assimilates terrestrial material into the blackwater aquatic system, and acts to reduce the loss of nutrients to the forest which would inevitably occur if all the material which fell into the streams was washed downstream. (click to read more)
  6. Okay, you've seen the pics of all the cool tanks. You've heard the buzz all over social media. Seems like more and more people are talking about blackwater aquariums, botanicals, and real "natural-style" aquariums... And you want in on the action. Hey, who could blame you? This stuff is kind of cool! However, how do you start? How do you choose which botanicals to play with? That's a question that is kind of difficult for me to even answer...What I'd usually tell you when asked is, "It depends." (extremely helpful, I know...) We can hit on this topic in future installments. Today, let's touch on the use of leaves in the aquarium; typically, leaves are the "jumping off point" for a lot of hobbyists as they start their botanical-style/blackwater aquarium experience, and it makes sense to touch on them first! (click to read more)
  7. We had a really interesting discussion on Facebook the other evening that's sort of ongoing. I love this sort of stuff- the best part about the community we've fostered here at Tannin! One of our community members brought up the idea of utilizing more natural substrate materials, like clays and such, as opposed to more traditional gravels and sands. A discussion has ensued about which types would be interesting to use with botanicals to create rich and productive aquatic environments. It got me thinking, not only about the types of substrates that make sense to experiment with, but thinking about the interactions between land and water that occur all over the world- stuff we don't think all that much about as hobbyists; stuff that has profound influence on our fishes, however! (click to read more)
  8. I remember back in Tannin's "pre-startup" days, when I'd listen to all sorts of podcasts and watch videos of entrepreneurial "experts" talking about any number of subjects, as I'd attempt to glean any kernel of knowledge from the seemingly inexhaustible supply of vapid, regurgitated information out there. I recall one particular "expert" espousing the benefits of "niche markets" in a most cheesy way, with the comical affirmation that, "The riches are in the niches!" (obviously, the "riches" he referred to don't apply to aquarium vendors, lol) This of course made me laugh, because- well- I'm building a business around "twigs and nuts" and dark brown water- can't get much more niche-y than that! I filed the ridiculous jingle in my head, only to have it pop up recently in a totally different context: The idea of creating "niche micro-habitats" within our aquariums. As someone who's kept so-called "community tanks" forever, I can certainly appreciate the challenge and the allure of keeping multiple fish species together in one aquarium. And I know most of you can, too. It's interesting to me that in the last decade or so, the hobby concept of a "community aquarium" has sort of evolved from "A collection of different kinds of cool fishes I like from all over the world, living in one tank"- you know, a "buffet" of fishy favorites, to more of a curated collection of fishes that might be found in the same general habitat and location...or even in the exact location...or more specific than that! (click to read more)
  9. You've heard the time-worn sports cliches and how they apply to other areas of life: "The best offense is a good defense." "Offense scores points. Defense wins games." Well, which one is it? Both. Applied in the proper measure. At least, that's my take on it. We need to play "defense" in our fish-keeping as much as we play offense. "Defense", in our world, is the day-to-day things that we need to do to keep our tanks running well: Feeding fishes, observing, adjusting parameters to make sure that the system is running optimally, or reacting to a disease or other health issue of the fishes and plants, or repairing equipment, etc. "Defense", in this context, is what almost every aquarist on the planet practices on a daily basis. Would we be better served buy investing more energy in offense? You know, "attacking" problems proactively from the outset? Before they become problems? I think so. (click to read more)
  10. Tannin Aquatics

    Nature by numbers....

    Okay, I admit that I'm a huge fan of NOT chasing numbers and following absolute "recipes" to achieve success with aquariums. I mean, I know dozens of reef hobbyists who have literally driven themselves crazy trying to make sure that their calcium level is exactly ______ ppm, and their phosphate is ______ppm, or whatever. And yeah, I know a considerable number of freshwater guys who carry the same mindset. Like, matching the "numbers" from either some successful aquarium they admire or some article by some expert somewhere is the "Holy Grail" of success. And of course, objectively, we know it isn't. Numbers are important, however. I'll give you that. And numbers don't lie or play favorites. They just exist. I'll have to admit, however, that despite my fear of "target fixation" when it comes to chasing environmental parameters (I've always said to find a range that you're comfortable with and don't let your parameters deviate from the range..), I do find some of the numbers from natural blackwater streams and other habitats fascinating, oddly compelling, and educating. I realize, from the outset, that a tank is not a river, blah, blah, blah. However, there is much we can learn from understanding the environmental parameters of some of the will habitats we find so compelling. (click to read more)
  11. Okay, at the bit of sounding just a bit negative today, I'm pondering on a few things that have been on my mind lately when talking to a few people about creating and maintaining botanical-style aquariums. I'm thinking that I felt like writing this blog today because, as more an more hobbyists get into the game, they're attempting to start brand-new to the aquarium world, in less-conventional areas of the hobby, like the blackwater tanks, Rift Lake cichlids, or complex planted tanks, without any type of fundamental foundation. Or at the very least, starting down these specialized roads with very limited general experience, and some bad assumptions. There are a lot of articles, blogs, and tips on "how to succeed at this-or-that" aspect of the hobby, which is awesome. But those of us who have been in the hobby and industry for a while have seen a lot of, for want of a better term- the "dark side" of the aquarium hobby. We've seen all kinds of hobbyists, businesses, and ideas come and go. And after a while, you get a distinct feeling that you know what works and what doesn't. You can see when "the train is headed for the washed-out bridge", or "the ship is steering into the rocks", if you will. And if you're in a position to intervene...you should if you can. Today, in the hope that we can all learn about what does NOT work, I give you 5 ways to fail with aquariums. (This is really geared towards YOU- the more advanced aquarist, or the LFS person- in the interest of creating a discussion track for you to run with when dealing with someone who is completely new to aquariums, or maybe slightly experienced and perhaps...a bit misled.) It's kind of our job, as advanced hobbyists, industry types, and good stewards of the aquarium-keeping world to look at the absurdity of some of this stuff, so that we can prevent others from making these horrible mistakes! Here are my top 5. No doubt you have more, but it's a start! (click to read more)
  12. Tannin Aquatics

    Avoiding shiny objects...

    It had to happen eventually: Someone asked me on a forum a few days back if I could provide some sort of "hack" to get their new botanical tank "looking like the one you shared on ________ more quickly." And if you read my stuff, you kind of know where I stand on "hacks", right? (Oh- and your tank should look like...your tank- no need to try to duplicate the exact work of someone else, right? Different rant for another time, lol) With all of the cool stuff going on in our little "tinted" corner of the aquatic world, and all of the cool blackwater/botanical tanks starting to show up in forums and social media worldwide, it's easy to lose sight of the "now" and go off looking for the "stairway to heaven" that's going to propel your tank to a "mature" state rapidly like the crazy cool ones you see being shared all over. We know that there are no shortcuts in this hobby, yet we find ourselves tempted at times. It's a classic crossroads we find ourselves in with the botanical/blackwater world- a lot of cool inspiration and a desire of many to share in the fun. And it's great that you are! But you need to enjoy each step of the journey and savor the unique experience of a blackwater tank without being distracted by a quick jaunt over to the perceived "finish line." Every phase is very fun, actually. And you're contributing to a state of the art and body of knowledge that's going to benefit hobbyists all over the world-even when your two-week-old botanical tank is growing craploads of biofilm and such. (click to read more)
  13. Tannin Aquatics

    Tempting fate in the aquarium hobby!

    They” say that there are no “sure things” in aquarium keeping, and on the surface, I’m inclined to agree. However, there are some things that you can do that will simply tempt the “Aquarium Gods’ to kick your a-- more than others, trust me. Things that seem normal, but when you go below the shiny surface, have "tempting fate" written all over 'em. Over my lifetime as a fish keeper, I've experienced some of them, as no doubt you have. Here are a few things, as experienced by myself and others, that you will no doubt find can lead to exceptionally bad outcomes if you’re not careful and try one of these risky maneuvers with your aquarium: (click to read more)
  14. Tannin Aquatics

    Botanical "breakdown?"

    If you follow our ramblings here in "the Tint" and in social media, you know that we seem to have endless discussions on the merits of leaving in or removing leaves, pods, and other botanical materials as they break down. All things being equal, my current state of thought is to "leave 'em in", and I am fascinated that many of you feel the same! Now, we've probably beaten this subject up quite a bit over the last year, but it's still our most "asked" topic. And there is still much to learn and discover about it. By looking once again at the wild habitats- truly "nature's aquarium"- you can gain a few insights, and perhaps apply some of the observations to our practices and ideas in the aquarium world. (click to read more)
  15. Tannin Aquatics

    The freshwater refugium...reimagined

    I received an email from a customer the other day that sort of triggered a recollection of a "thing" I was working through over the past few months.. He was talking about an interesting diversity of life forms he was seeing in his aquarium after a few months of operation with a variety of botanicals. This reminded me of some thoughts I had about both the potential biodiversity within the botanical aquarium itself, as well as the possibility of creating a "botanical refugium" of sorts to foster said biodiversity! Now, the idea of a "refugium" is not at all new to the reef aquarium world, although you see less of them these days than you did in the early 2000's..a shame, because their benefits are manifold. Yet the idea has been little discussed in the context of freshwater, other than a scant mention or two in Discus discussion groups that I've stumbled on. Essentially, a refugium is a dedicated space (typically a vessel separate from the aquarium), which performs multiple functions to support the display aquarium it's associated with. These include nutrient processing via plant or macro algae growth, or organisms such as worms, copepods, etc. which consume uneaten food and act upon organics (nutrient export). A refugium, as its name implies, provides a "safe haven" for life forms which would otherwise be consumed by the resident fishes in the display aquarium. And, these animals will often reproduce, and some of them are swept into the main aquarium, providing a natural food source. Typically, a reef refugium employs live rock and sand, as well as macro algae. Being essentially another aquarium, a refugium also adds to the stability of your display by adding overall capacity to the system, and can provide additional circulation and oxygenation. (click to read more)
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