The pertinent questions for a biotoper to research

Ken Boorman about biotopes

BAP Expert Ken Boorman

Ken Boorman, Canada

The practice of creating aquatic biotopes to show your fish in an environment as natural as possible is one of the best ways to bring out the beauty and natural behaviour of the fishes in their natural setting. This also raises awareness as to how precious fishes and these habitats are, and the challenges that our natural water bodies face around the world.

A Biotope is an environment, formed by a complex of biotic and abiotic factors for a specific biocenosis, a community of living organisms, typical for a given region.

Biotope aquarium is the man-made ecosystem in a home or exhibition aquarium, created on the basis of knowledge, attained from the researching of a nature biotope. Elements of the environment and living organisms should be selected correctly and grouped from the point of view of design, viability and belonging to a biotope.

Reproducing a biotope (habitat) usually starts with some specialised literature and internet research.

Following are some pertinent questions for a biotoper to research:

  • Does the desired biotope fit within your available aquarium size?
  • Which animals live there, & don’t eat each other or permanently fight for territories?
  • Which plants grow there? Do they grow in groups or individually?
  • What kind of substrate can you determine to be likely found there? Dark, light, rocks, sand, gravel, etc.?
  • Are there stones, if yes, what kind of rock? How would they be positioned?
  • Is there wood in the biotope? If so, what kind of wood? Does it lie on the ground, such as driftwood or are there tree roots which intrude into the water? Do plants grow on the wood? If so, how do the plants grow on the wood? If parts of the biotope are not available (e.g. a specific type of wood), what looks similar?
  • What water values can be found there?
  • Are there leaves on the substrate, & if so, what kind of leaves? Can you get these leaves locally or can you also use Catappa leaves eg., as an alternative? Are there any special features in the biotope, e.g. empty snail shells for the shell dwellers of Lake Tanganyika?
  • Can you add light effects to imitate natural sunlight in the water?
  • How can you hide technical items (heating or cooling elements, filtration, etc.)  in the aquarium with the help of natural decor?
  • Do you want to include an area above water? Very attractive, but can be difficult to achieve realistically.