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Tannin Aquatics last won the day on May 27

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About Tannin Aquatics

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

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  1. Lately, we've been talking an awful lot about the environmental benefits of botanicals in our aquariums, and how they impart "functional aesthetics" to our systems. I think that's become not only more accepted in the hobby, it's backed up by a lot of scientific field studies. What is also studied by science, but a little more "esoteric" in the hobby (IMHO) is the use of botanicals as supplemental food for our fishes and shrimps. Now, it's known that most plant materials have nutritional value; or rather, they contain nutrients, vitamins, etc. which are known to be beneficial to aquatic organisms. Which ones are the best for use as "supplemental foods?" Or, are they all pretty good? Maybe? Well, here's the thing... The thing that makes me curious is that most leaves and botanicals contain vitamins, amino acids, micronutrients, and other bioavailable compounds. The real question I have is exactly how "available" they are to our fishes and shrimp from a nutritional standpoint. And how "nutrient dense" these leaves and botanicals are? Do our fishes and shrimp easily assimilate all they need in every bite, or do they have to eat tons of the stuff to derive any of these benefits? Big questions, right? I mean, we as hobbyists sort of figure that if these things are present in the botanicals, then our animals get a dose of them in every bite, right? And, it begs the question: Are they really directly consuming stuff like Casuarina cones, or feeding on something else on their surfaces (more on this later)? I think it's "yes" on both. And the nutrition that they derive from consuming them? Well, that's the part where I say, I don't know. I mean, it seems to make a lot of sense to me...However, is there some definitive scientific information out there to prove this hypothesis? A lot of the "botanicals for food thing" in the hobby (no, really- it's a "thing!") comes from the world of shrimp keepers. They've been touting this stuff in the hobby for a long time. A lot of it is based upon the presence of materials like leaves and such in the wild habitats where shrimp are found. I did some research online (that internet thing- I think it just might catch on...) and learned that in aquaculture of food shrimp, a tremendous variety of vegetables, fruits, etc. are utilized, and many offer good nutritional profiles for shrimp, in terms of protein, amino acids, etc. They're all pretty good. Our friend Rachel O'Leary did a great job touching on the benefits of botanicals for shrimp in her video last Fall. So, which one is the best? Is there one? Does it matter? In fact, other than sorting through mind-numbing numbers ( .08664, etc) on various amino acid concentrations in say, Mulberry leaves, versus say, Sugar Beets, or whatever, there are not huge differences making any one food superior to all others, at least from my very cursory, non-scientific hobby examination! Leaves like Guava, Mulberry, etc. ARE ravenously consumed by shrimp and some fishes. It's known by scientific analysis that they do contain compounds like Vitamins B1, B2, B6, and Vitamin C, as well as carbohydrates, fiber, amino acids, and elements such as Magnesium, Potassium, Zinc, Iron, and Calcium...all important for many organisms, including shrimp. Guava leaves are particularly good, according to some of the materials I read. Apparently, the bulk of the nutrients they contain are more "readily available" to animals than other leaves. Well, that's pretty important, isn't it? I think so! Now, it may be coincidental that these much-loved (by the shrimp, anyways) leaves happen to have such a good amount of nutritional availability, but it certainly doesn't hurt, right? Other leaves, such as Jackfruit, contain phytonutrients, such as lignans, isoflavones, and saponins that have health benefits that are wide ranging for humans. There is some conflicting data regarding Jackfruit's antifungal activity. However, the leaves are thought to exhibit a broad spectrum of antibacterial activity. In traditional medicine, these leaves are used to help heal wounds as well. Do these properties transfer over to our fishes and shrimp? We are not aware of any scientific studies that have been completed to correlate one way or another. That being said, they seem to flock to these leaves and graze on them and on the biofilms which accumulate on their surface tissues. Okay, shrimp lovers...these is where I see soem people getting mad at me...However, think about this objectively for a minute...and it's just my opinion, okay? The "shrimp side" of the hobby reminds me in some ways of the coral part of the reef keeping hobby where I spent considerable time (both personally and professionally) working and interacting with the community. There are some incredibly talented shrimp people out there; many doing amazing work and sharing their expertise and experience with the hobby, to everyone's benefit! Now, there are also a lot of people out there in that world -vendors, specifically- who make some (and this is just my opinion...), well - "stretches"- about products and such, and what they can do and why they are supposedly great for shrimp. I see a lot of this in the "food" sector of that hobby specialty, where manufacturers of various foods extoll the virtues of different products and natural materials because they have certain nutritional attributes, such as vitamins and amino acids and such, valuable to human nutrition, which are also known to be beneficial to shrimp in some manner. And that's fine, but where it gets a bit anecdotal, or - let's call it like I see it- "sketchy"- is when read the descriptions about stuff like leaves and such on vendors' websites which cater to these animals making very broad and expansive claims about their benefits, based simply on the fact that shrimp seem to eat them, and that they contain substances and compounds known to be beneficial from a "generic" nutritional standpoint- you know, like in humans. All well-meaning, not intended to do harm to consumers...but perhaps occasionally, just a bit of a stretch. I just wonder if we stretch and assert too much sometimes? I'm not saying that it's "bad" to make inferences (we do it all the time with various topics- but we qualify them with stuff like, "it could be possible that.." or "I wonder if..."), but I can't stand when absolute assertions are made without any qualification that, just because this leaf has some compound which is part of a family of compounds that are thought to be useful to shrimp, or that shrimp devour them...that it's a "perfect" food for them. It's just a food- one of many possibilities out there. Of course, I hope I'm not out there adding to the confusion! We try to hold ourselves to higher standards on this topic; yet, like so many things we talk about in the world of botanicals, there are no absolutes here. What is fact is that some botanical/plant-derived materials, such as various seeds, root vegetables, etc., do have different levels of elements such as calcium and phosphorous, and widely varying crude protein. Stuff that's known to be beneficial to shrimp, of course. These things are known by science. Yet, I have no idea what some of the seed pods we offer as botanicals contain in terms of proteins or amino acids, and make no assertions about this aspect of them, above and beyond what I can find in scientific literature. However, I suppose that one can make some huge over-generalizations that one seedpod/fruit capsule is somewhat similar to others, in terms of their "profile" of basic amino acids, vitamins, trace elements, etc. (gulp). We can certainly assume that some of this stuff, known to have nutritional value, can make these materials potentially useful as a supplemental food source for fishes and shrimps. Yet, IMHO that's really the best that we can do until more specific, scientifically rigid studies are conducted. Now, we may not know which seed pods and such in and of themselves are more nutritious to fishes and shrimp than others, but we DO know from simple observation that some are better at "recruiting" materials on their surfaces which serve as food sources for aquatic organisms! Yeah, I'm talking about the biofilms and fungal growth, which make their appearance on our botanicals, leaves, and wood after a few weeks of submersion... As we've talked about repeatedly, biofilms are not only typically harmless in aquariums, they are utilized as a supplemental food source by a huge variety of fishes and shrimps in both Nature and the aquarium. They are a rich source of sugars and other nutrients, and could prove to be an interesting addition to a "nursery tank" for raising fry if kept in control. Like, add a bunch of leaves and botanicals, let them do their thing, and allow your fry to graze on them! Don't believe me? Ask almost any shrimp keeper-they'll "sing the praises" of biofilm for the "grazing" aspect! And of course, it's long been known from field studies that as leaves and other plant materials break down, they serve as "fuel" for the growth of biofilm, fungi and microorganisms...which, in turn, provide supplemental food for our fishes. I've seen a bunch of videos of shrimps and fishes in the wild "grazing" over fields of decomposing leaves and the biofilms they foster. Ahh, biofilms again. Refresher: Biofilms form when bacteria adhere to surfaces in some form of watery environment and begin to excrete a slimy, gluelike substance, consisting of sugars and other substances, that can stick to all kinds of materials, such as- well- in our case, botanicals. Biofilms on decomposing leaves are pretty much the foundation for the food webs in rivers and streams throughout the world. They are of fundamental importance to aquatic life. It starts with a few bacteria, taking advantage of the abundant and comfy surface area that leaves, seed pods, and even driftwood offer. The "early adapters" put out the "welcome mat" for other bacteria by providing more diverse adhesion sites, such as a matrix of sugars that holds the biofilm together. Since some bacteria species are incapable of attaching to a surface on their own, they often anchor themselves to the matrix or directly to their friends who arrived at the party first. Sorta sounds like Facebook, huh? (The above graphic from a scholarly article illustrates just how these guys roll.) And we know from years of personal experience and observation in the aquarium that fishes and shrimp will consume them directly, removing them from virtually any surface they form on. And some materials are likely better than others at recruiting and accumulating biofilm growth. The "biofilm-friendly" botanical items seem to fall into several distinct categories: Botanicals with hard, relatively impermeable surfaces, softer, more ephemeral botanical materials which break down easily, and hard-skinned botanicals with soft interiors, and... Okay, wait- that kind of covers like, everything, lol. Yeah. What that tells ME, the over-caffeinated, perhaps somewhat under-educated armchair "scientist"-wannabe, is that most of the botanicals we offer here at Tannin- in addition to being potentially consumed directly by aquatic organisms- likely also have some capability of recruiting biofilms. And the idea of biofilms and such being an excellent supplemental food source for shrimp-and fishes- is not revolutionary...it's just something that we're finally getting around to agreeing about with our little friends! (And with the shrimp people, too) Nothing is wasted in Nature, right? To you, my fishy friends, I say, "Let them eat botanicals!" (well, at least as part of their diet, anyways!)- and the materials which accumulate on their surfaces, too! Let's try not to make too many assumptions, or buy too heavily into vendors' marketing hyperbole- at least, not without doing some of our own research and "field work." As hobbyists, let's continue to experiment, observe, learn from, and share our experiences and observations with others. We all win from that. In fact, that's likely the one absolute assertion I will make! Stay curious. Stay disciplined. Stay objective. Stay experimental... And Stay Wet. Scott Fellman Tannin Aquatics
  2. Thanks very much! It's a lot of fun to share out ideas and discuss them with the aquarium world. SO much to learn...it starts with sharing ideas and goes from there! -Scott
  3. Hey there. It's been a while. Like, too long! My name is Scott Fellman- owner of Tannin Aquatics. I'm sort of embarrassed. I mean, I started out like gangbusters here, posting blogs like every day. And then, like so many small biz owners, I got caught up in the everyday aspects of running and growing my business! Now, I started out here in 2015-16 with the best of intentions; I was going to never be "one of THOSE" sponsors, who simply has a forum as a placeholder. And after simply "renting my space" here for a couple of years, I realized that it wasn't all that cool to act that way, lol. I concentrated a lot on building out our website from a number of angles. Our blog, "The Tint", is going strong. We post a new blog every day. And since July, we do a daily podcast of the same name, which is available on both Spotify and Apple Podcasts. The Tint Podcast (Spotify) The Tint Podcast (Apple Podcasts) Now, I will be 100% honest with you. Although we have many shrimp hobbyists among our customers and community, we are not primarily a "shrimp-focused" company. rather, we are more of a specialized "aquatics" vendor, with specialization in the natural aquascaping materials sector; stuff which may be used by lots of different hobbyists for numerous applications. That being said, we have all sorts of materials which work really well for shrimp. In fact, we have developed a series of what we call "curated themes" on our website, which focus on different materials available for various aquatic uses. One of our most popular is a collection of materials which is curated (with many suggestions from YOU) specifically for shrimp! Since I've last posted, I must admit that Tannin Aquatics has truly grown rapidly- we've exploded in our presence and, I hop, our influence- on the hobby. It's been pretty exciting, and we're honored that so many of you have embraced us and supported us. Shrimp keepers like most of you have been big proponents of utilizing botanical materials in your aquariums. Blackwater, botanical-style aquariums and shrimp definitely seem to have a "nexus" of sorts, right? So, moving forward, I promise to be more visible here. we'll post links to our blogs, etc. I'll try to highlight more specific shrimp-focused materials and such. However, I do encourage to you to check out our blog on our site; the podcast, and to follow us on Facebook and Instagram. There is a lot going on! Have you felt a palpable change in our sector of the aquarium world? Have you even noticed, lol? I have! We're all sort of "travelers" along this path of discovery... The idea of blackwater aquariums, with their tinted color and mysterious aesthetic is hardly "new" to the hobby world. No one really "invented" this. No one was the person who said, "We should all through leaves and seed pods in our tanks..." It just sort of...evolved. Yep. However, it seems to me that in the past few years, we're starting to see the blackwater, botanical-style aquarium move from "freak side show" to a broader, more mainstream acceptance within the hobby- pulling in people from all sorts of disciplines. Something palpable. Something that calls us. I've been at this botanical-influenced aquarium thing for about 18 years now in "personal practice"; however, at a little over four years old, we're just getting underway with inspiring and motivating hobbyists to "play with pods" via Tannin Aquatics. Although it seems a bit premature, and perhaps even self-serving to label the idea as a "movement" within the hobby, a number of fellow fish geeks have pointed out to me that they feel this is what's starting to happen; that this is what we have. I mean, you can sort of "feel" it. A lot of new energy, new ideas, and new exposure for this area previously labeled as a "novelty." A lot of cool people are doing some inspiring, amazing work with botanical-influenced aquariums. We're looking beyond the everyday... Okay, we will tentatively call it a "movement"- at least for the sake of discussion amongst ourselves, okay? Already, we've noticed some interesting "trends" emerging among the growing number of hobbyists who are working with these types of tanks. These represent not only interesting developments in style and aesthetic, they demonstrate the level of open-mindedness and experimentation that's becoming so wonderfully and increasingly common in the hobby today. First off, we're seeing hobbyists going beyond yesterday's "blackwater tanks look dirty" mindset, and embracing the aesthetic for what it is: A very natural-appearing "vibe" that replicates conditions found in certain natural environments around the world. And with this acceptance of the "look" and ephemeral nature of botanicals in aquairums, a definite "mental shift" has occurred. This to me is most significant and important. Many hobbyists who have previously bought into the prevailing "brown is dirty" mindset are giving blackwater, botanical-influenced tanks a try, rather than flat-out dismissing the idea and (in our opinion) antiquated notions pushed around on the web that these aquariums are difficult to manage, unstable, and otherwise simply "fringe" novelties, rather than a legitimate specialty within the hobby. We're also seeing a growing body of science-backed evidence that humic substances, a key component of "blackwater" have significant health benefits for fishes, and may be among the most important factors which contribute to their health in both the wild and in captivity. This revelation backs up what many aquarists who dabbled with catappa leaves and bark and other stuff in botanical-influenced aquariums, particularly Betta breeders in Southeast Asia, have asserted for years. In particular, it's thought that these compounds, derived from botanicals, have anti-fungal and anti-parastic properties, and offer protection against oxidative DNA damage and from physiological stressors. With these health benefits now more clearly understood, there are more reasons than ever to appreciate the role that an environment which accumulates these humic substances can play in overall fish health. Although the health benefits to fishes are fascinating and actually somewhat of a "game changer", like many hobbyists, my interests lie with the creation of aquarium that present a more natural-looking, functional aesthetic AS WELL as providing the physiological benefits as a sort of "collateral" bonus! And I think we're seeing a lot of hobbyists "getting their feet wet", trying a few leaves and/or botanicals almost tentatively in an aquascape, then "scaling up" to a full-blown, botanical-influenced "blackwater" aquarium. And with it, not only are we seeing an explosion of new ideas and enthusiasm, we're seeing hobbyists enjoying a sort of "freedom of expression" in their aquascaping that, in some quarters has been lacking for so long, as we rigidly adhered to some "imposed rules" from a variety of sources. These "rules" were, in my opinion, stifling experimentation and individuality, resulting in a dearth of aquascapes, particularly in the international competitions, which looked almost "uniform" in appearance, with a trend towards creating an "underwater diorama", as one friend put it, instead of a miniature "slice of the bottom" as many have desired. Look, I'm not implying that blackwater, botanical-influenced tanks are the "savior of the hobby", or even "the way forward." However, I am implying that seeing a diversity of hobbyists embrace what has been labeled by some as a radical departure from the "typical" style of aquarium (or previously little more than a "fringe sideshow") -and studying and utilizing the idea as a springboard for success with fishes- and as a form of creative expression- is creating a bit of "movement" in an area that was becoming increasingly one directional. It's nice to see new aquariums taking their cues from nature, instead of from the latest competition winner! We see tanks set up specifically to create blackwater conditions for breeding. These are typically more "utilitarian" than purposefully aesthetically conceived, yet have a charm of their own. For example, Betta and Apisto keepers, who are creating botanical-influenced tanks for the sole purpose of providing more appropriate conditions for their fishes to spawn and grow in. And, they do just happen to look pretty cool... We're seeing aquariums set up in a more "thematic" style- down with a high sense of design- a direct pedigree of the "Nature Style" aquarium, yet with a "blackwater/botanical twist." This has led to the creation of some amazing-looking aquariums that have turned a lot of heads in the planted tank/hardscape/"nature aquarium" community, in both "whitewater" and "blackwater" styles. Many hobbyists have taken us in exciting new directions, and countless others not even in the blackwater game yet will create works that will help further forge this style. By adding a new look to a much-loved aesthetic, we're seeing a whole new group of very talented hobbyists creating gorgeous, aspirational aquariums simply by incorporating botanicals into the mix- with blackwater or otherwise. What's really cool is that we are starting to see more and more planted blackwater/botanical-influenced tanks, an area that has previously been shunned by many, with the rationale that plants cannot work in such environments. Look for a lot more cool developments on this front! Perhaps even more exciting is that we're seeing more and more really cool "biotope-style" aquariums, with blackwater and botanicals as the pivotal components. Now, we've addressed before that there is a difference between the 100% true-to-every-stick-and-stone "biotope" aquarium, which seeks to replicate every detail of a specific locale, and a "biotope-type" aquarium, which simply presents an interpretation of a general environment. Both have their merits, supporters, and philosophies, and are both fascinating. However, what's really exciting to me as that we've already seen aquariums that have a distinctly natural "look" to them, with less "intentional design" and more embrace of the natural processes which happen when materials like leaves and botanicals begin to soften and break down. This "transitional" or "ephemeral"-style of escaping is the virtual embodiment of Amano's "wabi-sabi" aquatic aesthetic, and is winning over many new followers. What I hope we never see in this "movement" are "rules" and rigid, close-minded thinking. Sure, nature may restrict us to what we can and cannot utilize or work with in the botanical environment, and there are some "best practices" in terms of husbandry of botanical systems, but we don't need to impose a dogmatic set of artificial principles to define and control the self-expression of others. Nature calls all the shots here. She defines what works. She defines how stuff looks and functions. She'll correct you if you break one of her rules, and reward you when you embrace them. Listen to her. Follow her lead. Study her feedback. And enjoy. We simply need to enjoy what we're doing, share with others, and feel free to create as we desire. If we happeninspire and motivate others along the way, that's a beautiful thing. We can try all sorts of stuff; play with aesthetics. We can hope mimic aspects of nature from the outset, with amazing aquascapes and such. But it doesn't have to be strictly by design. Nature will do some of the heavy lifting for us, effortlessly creating via her processes aquatic microcosms as breathtaking as any "diorama" could ever hope to be. If we allow her to do her work. Okay, so I'm probably a bit more "attuned" to all of the goings on in our little niche than many others, simply because "my head is in it" all day. However, I'm definitely not jaded, nor am I asserting that we've "invented" some incredible thing here. What I am thinking is that the relentless exposure of some new and different-looking aquariums, thanks to many of you- is creating a new excitement, fostering a slightly different aquatic aesthetic- and promoting more interest in understanding some of the natural processes that influence both our fishes and the environments in which they live. We are privileged to have a front-row seat to this evolving hobby speciality (okay, you can call it a movement!), and most important, are honored to be a part of the growing global community of fascinating, creative, courageous, and engaged hobbyists who are forging a dynamic new path in this amazing hobby that we all love so much. And of course, shrimp enthusiasts are right in the thick of things...You always have been. We're looking forward to doing more with you and for you- and we're open to suggestions. We might even have a sale or two just for the Shrimp Spot community! It's nice to be back; although, we never really left... Thanks for embarking on the journey and supporting our first few years of growth. Forge ahead. Stay fascinated. Stay bold. Stay curious. Stay relentless... And Stay Wet. Scott Fellman Tannin Aquatics
  4. 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 )
  5. 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)
  6. 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)
  7. 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)
  8. "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)
  9. 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)
  10. 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)
  11. 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)
  12. 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)
  13. 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)
  14. 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)
  15. 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)
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