What is a Blackwater Aquarium?

What is a Blackwater Aquarium?

A common mistake many novice fishkeepers make is to assume that a 'blackwater' setup means a 'brackish' setup - brackish meaning a slightly saline mixture of water commonly found when a freshwater river meets the sea (click here for more info on brackish water).

While yes many brackish aquariums do give the appearance of a blackwater habitat, the phrase 'blackwater' simply refers to a type of freshwater aquarium that is characterized by its tinted, tea-colored water.

The 'blackwater' aquarium water color is achieved by adding natural tannin's, which are released from materials such as driftwood, dried leaves, bark and other botanicals. Adding a large piece of oakwood root or driftwood for example, will leach tannin's into the water turning it brown - essentially the same process you experience when making a cup of tea (just don't add milk!).

Tannins are perfectly harmless to fish and have many healing properties, although many fishkeepers would rather their water be crystal clear than carry a brown tint, for aesthetic purposes. Building a blackwater fish tank setup can be hugely regarding and relatively simple to achieve.

What fish would thrive in a blackwater setup?

A few examples of species best suited to a blackwater fish tank setup are as follows:

West African Cichlids - many species, including dwarf cichlids, come from rocky blackwater lakes in western Africa, so species like the West African Dwarf Cichlid are ideal for blackwater aquaria setups. Similarly the pencilfish and many species of tetra such as the Norman's Lampeye and one-lined tetra can be found in blackwater streams, rivers and ponds.

Other ideal species adapted to blackwater lakes and rivers include African barbs, such as the African Banded Barb; Synodontis Catfish - found often in the DR Congo - and the hugely popular Reedfish which is very often found in heavily planted blackwater habitats.

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Photo credit(s): Canva Pro Licence; Aleron Val - Young Pencilfish, Shutterstock; Erpetoichthys calabaricus (Reedfish), Shutterstock.

AquariumsBlackwaterBrackishCatfishCichlidsDriftwoodEelsFish tanksFreshwater fishLeavesPencilfishesTetraTropical fishWater quality

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