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The slow road to success with aquatic botanicals...

Tannin Aquatics

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As aquarium geeks, we are a patient lot in some respects, and perhaps, just a bit impatient in others. I'm realizing this a bit when it comes to preparation of our aquatic botanicals. A lot of aquarists are excited to use them, and I can't blame them! Unique, natural materials like the botanicals really add a special "something" to any aquascape, and we want to see them in our tanks asap!


The reality, however, is that any type of natural material that you put in the water will have some impact on the chemistry and visual clarity. This is why we admonish you to "go slow" when adding these botanicals to an established aquarium with a population of fishes and plants. You want to add your botanicals over the course of several days, or even weeks if you're the really patient type. 

Patience is super important when using these materials.

Adding them slowly will give you a chance to gauge the effects on your water, bot aesthetically and chemically. Remember, these materials will start to break down after boiling and soaking, some more quickly than others- and gradually leach some tannins and other humic substances into the water. Also, decomposing plant matter will create a "propagation substrate" for bacteria and other microbial life forms.


This is very beneficial for shrimp and other creatures that graze on the biofilms that occur on these materials. However, if you have a huge amount of decaying material all at once added to an established system, you could see a significant bloom, which could, among other things, result in a drop in oxygen levels as a result of this bloom- something that could jeopardize your shrimps. It's especially profound in a smaller system, or a long-established, very stable one that contains a significant number of animals already.


Obviously, I'm not forecasting "doom and gloom" here- just preaching a little patience.

We've tested these materials with all sorts of shrimps fishes in our own systems, under circumstances that you would never think of subjecting yours to (like dumping them right into established tanks without any prep at all). Fortunately, we have not lost any fishes or other animals as a result- but we still recommend that you be patience and highly cautious when you use these materials in your own systems!

Putting our botanicals through these paces was the responsible thing to do when offering materials like this which have never been sold in the hobby before, and it's an ongoing thing with us. Our concerns aren't just "making stuff sink", and how brown the water gets- we are also keenly aware of the possible chemical and biological impacts that botanicals can have on the inhabitants of our aquariums.


So, in summary- just continue to be patient when using our botanicals- or for that matter, any botanical materials, including wood and leaves- in your aquariums. I see all sorts of stuff being marketed as "shrimp feeds" and "natural materials" for shrimp- which is great...But we need to apply common sense.

Take the time to prepare the materials by steeping or boiling- and be sure to let them soak in a bucket of  fresh water with a bag of activated carbon for several days afterwards, to help remove some of the initial tannins and handle some of the early burst of decomposition. When you're satisfied stuff looks good- give 'em a final rinse, then place them in your tank.


Like some many things we do in fish keeping, using aquatic botanicals requires thought, patience, and the willingness to observe and evaluate what's happening in YOUR specific tank. The extra effort you take in this area will help assure you of a great experience using these wonderful natural materials in your aquatic displays!


So, stay patient!

And stay wet!

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics


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