Biotope movement in the aquarium hobby

By Natasha Khardina

In January 2020, the Biotope Aquarium Project (BAP) was launched worldwide and is now accessible to the users.

Understanding the human dimensions of the aquarium hobby is increasingly important. Aquarium keeping, often motivated through an aesthetic interest, brings with it a side effect: a personal response toward aquatic organisms, plus an enhanced sense of responsibility for all aquatic creatures living in an increasingly damaged aquatic world.

Our constantly progressing aquarium hobby aquarium hobby replicates the development of the worldwide society: globalization, social media influence, and the growth of ‘green’ movements. Doomsaying by international media regarding environmental issues further helps to increase a sense of responsibility in the populace, especially in the industrialized countries.

As such, modern aquarists increasingly try preserve and highlight aquatic habitats by offering their livestock a biotope-correct aquarium environment.

Biotope aquarium movement. ©BAP, photo N. Khardina

What is an aquatic biotope?

In a wilderness sense, when we refer to a biotope we are talking about a living space, where many different organisms like fishes, shrimps, snails, and plants comprise a biological community. They interact and depend on each other.

These complex and fascinating interactions can be observed in a biotope-correct aquarium.

How so? The biotope aquarium is the closest possible replication of the natural environment — an ecosystem in microcosm in the comfort of your home, and a perfect symbiosis between scientific research and aquaristic passion.

In our industrialised world, many aquatic species struggle to survive in the wild, but in a biotope aquarium there is still hope, even if their natural habitat is completely destroyed.

Biotope aquarium movement. ©BAP, photo N. Khardina

That’s why the Biotope Aquarium Project (BAP) was born. It’s a place where everyone can learn how to build a correct biotope aquarium, where fishes, shrimps, and snails show their natural behaviour and the most beautiful colours.

The general aquarist aiming to create an authentic biotope aquarium faces many obstacles, including:

Information gap. There is no ‘biotope science’ discipline, as most ichthyologists and biologists work on a specific topic, genera or fish family. Biotope study is complex, requiring adeptness across many genres — ichthyology, biology, limnology, ecology, botany, ecology, physics, chemistry, zoology, mineralogy, oceanography, soil science, geology, physical geography, and atmospheric science.

Accessibility. The information that can be partially found in some scientific papers, full of technical and scientific terminology, can be clunky and hard to translate for the average aquarist. Science journal calibre species checklists and biological surveys are not adapted for beginners and need a certain level of preparation. Also, many useful scientific publications are often inaccessible with (considerable) fees.

Technology. There is no cross-platform, interactive space that is totally dedicated to the study and sharing of the biotope and biotope communities.

Biotope experts. There is a limited number of scientists and explorers who carry out targeted aquatic biotope research, understanding the importance of the biological community for the optimal functioning of the aquarium related to its conservational aspects.

Biotope aquarium movement. ©BAP, photo N. Khardina

Enter the BAP

The Biotope Aquarium Project is the first international, innovative start-up created to build an interactive, multilingual and multimedia biotope aquarium platform that covers such topics as research expeditions, aquatic explorations, new discoveries, biology of aquatic life, biotope aquarium decoration, interviews with experts, and conservation — plus a section dedicated to children to stimulate their education and interaction with biodiversity.

The Biotope Aquarium Project is the first interactive space completely dedicated to the exploration of aquatic biotopes in nature that gives aquarium hobbyists, professionals and scientists the perfect tool to build their own biotope aquarium model — a prototype of a specific habitat that: simulates a certain natural environment documented with precise GPS data; replicates conditions of its aquatic habitat; provides a living space for the correct biological community; and applies the correct décor material for authentic reconstruction.

The BAP Platform was launched in January with over 200 locations, 45 biotope aquarium models, 1300 fishes and over 300 plants listed. The project is collaborating with independent biotope experts — representing the most important BAP asset — as well as the archives of Heiko Bleher’s exploratory career.

Scientists, explorers, professionals and experienced hobbyists all contribute to make the Biotope Aquarium Project real — these people care for nature and share their knowledge with the aquarium lovers. They travel around the globe to research and collect data on aquatic biotopes, to study and photograph their inhabitants and aquatic vegetation.