Kamil Hazy, the originator and founder of Biotope Team Poland, a promoter of aquarium hobby as close to nature as possible, winner of top places in international biotope arrangement competitions, author of articles in the Akwarium Magazine, talks about biotope aquarium hobby.
How did you get infected with aquaristics and why are you fascinated by biotope?
My first contact with an aquarium was in my childhood, but it’s hard to say that I would swallow the bug right away. My cousin grew some fish in Polish waters, I don’t even remember which ones. Six years ago, the topic came back on its own. I probably had too much free time and started looking for a hobby for myself. I read a bit and bought a 25 liter tank. I did not avoid the beginner’s mistakes, but I overcame them quite quickly and a second 54-liter aquarium appeared. It was the first time that I decided to provide my fish with the best possible conditions. I started reading, searching for knowledge, and discovered with a slight horror that I only find hackneyed descriptions on my home websites and books that have nothing to do with what I wanted to achieve. Inborn ambition and self-denial in acquiring knowledge led me to a place of no return, that is to biotope fixation.
What is a biotope aquaristics?
Biotope aquaristics is based on the most accurate mapping of the natural habitat of the fish that we have in the aquarium and the appropriate selection of other species of animals and plants so that they come from exactly one habitat. In other words, we try to copy nature from a specific area of the Earth as faithfully as possible. The smaller the area, the more faithful the mapping and the better the biotope aquarium.
Does this affect the inhabitants of our aquarium?
Mapping the natural environment has a significant impact on the inhabitants of the aquarium. A very positive influence. Animals kept in conditions similar to those found in nature behave many times more naturally than in tanks arranged contrary to nature. In biotope and environmental aquariums, we can observe a whole range of interesting fish behavior, intra- and interspecies interactions, communication with each other, beautiful coloration. It is definitely a spectacular sight.
Is setting up a biotope aquarium more difficult than a social one?
Yes, but only because of the knowledge we need to acquire before the aquarium takes off. In other words – creating a social aquarium is easier, because popular websites will give us a relatively sufficient understanding of the needs of fish and plants. The selection of specific species is easier because we have virtually no area restrictions. In a biotope aquarium, we are limited to a specific area about which it is appropriate to gain as much knowledge as possible. This is often quite difficult, especially since there is no good database containing such knowledge on the domestic websites yet. Biotope Team Poland, of which I am a part, tries to bring this knowledge closer and helps in reaching the sources of information. Of course, this gaining knowledge allows us to get closer to our future pupils. Their breeding will be more valuable to us, and they will repay us with their behavior. The satisfaction is great, especially when we add an interesting description of the biotope that we reproduce next to our home tank. Guests will surely be interested in this.
People who have come across the term “biotope aquarium” so far most often imagine a very dirty tank with roots or stones.
Unfortunately, many myths have arisen about biotope aquariums. Myths created by aquarists themselves. In nature, there are places where it is dirty and dark, at the bottom there is a pile of wood and leaves, but this is not the rule, but rather the exception. Unfortunately, aquarists have elevated such exceptions, due to the simplicity of the arrangement and sometimes the desire to excel above the general. General reservoirs are in some circles less prestigious than nature, biotope or saltwater reservoirs. A biotope aquarium, on the other hand, can be quite different from the vision most people have.
So what can such a tank look like?
Such an aquarium can be full of plants, light and colors. Fortunately, the variety of aquatic life on Earth is still plentiful, and many of the beautiful landscapes are still naturally phenomenal. There is a lot to choose from. Florida is an example. There, under the water, we can admire places full of colorful plants that seem to exist only in aquariums, i.e. they can only be created by humans. Nature is surprising and beautiful, so it is worth getting inspired and not relying on poor patterns. Of course, for some species of fish, we have to create such conditions that the tank is dark, the remains of leaves, bark and plants lie at the bottom, and there are a lot of roots above, or that the climate is harsh and rocky. It all depends on what biotope we want to reproduce. It does not change the fact that such tanks can also be beautifully arranged. It is worth knowing that a large contribution to the reception of an aquarium is the way it is illuminated and the arrangement of light.
All right. We chose a specific point in the world, gained knowledge and arranged the aquarium. And what’s next? How to take care of it, if there is to be biotope?
If we have gone through the stage of setting up the tank and completed everything so that it is as close to nature as possible, in fact, the most difficult is behind us. Caring for a biotope tank is similar to a regular general aquarium. We must take care to maintain appropriate water parameters, change it when the accumulation of harmful substances is a threat to fish, etc. We must take care of plants in such a way as to ensure their development. However, we try to avoid giving carbon dioxide and fertilizers, because in a well-balanced tank, the substrate and animals provide plants with what they need to live. We do not have to and should not be afraid of algae, which play a positive role in nature and in aquariums. They are a source of food for animals and purify water. Of course, the aquarium is also supposed to be a decoration, so make sure that everything is in moderation. The easiest way to achieve this is by balancing the tank in terms of the number of fish, plants and water changes – however, this is the responsibility of each aquarist individually.
How do reservoirs that are supposed to reflect the so-called “black water” of tropical forests or the rocky zones of African lakes relate to biotopes? Do the fish feel good in them?
The tanks you are talking about are environmental and area aquariums. The former reflect some specific type of environment within which we can find different biotopes, but they are so close to each other that the fish will feel comfortable in them. The latter model an area and constitute a specific mix of habitats and biotopes. This obviously does not allow to satisfy all the inhabitants of such a reservoir. While an environmental reservoir can also be successfully biotope after exhausting the aforementioned criteria, the area reservoir is not so easy, due to the diversity of environments in a given area. Generally, a certain hierarchy of tanks can be established: biotope aquarium -> environmental aquarium -> area aquarium. Each higher-level aquarium is contained in the lower level, after fulfilling the criteria corresponding to it.
Where did the idea of establishing Biotope Team Poland come from?
The idea of establishing BTP appeared in my head about a year and a half ago. It was then that, after my high places in international biotope tank arrangement competitions, I noticed a certain revival in Poland and a greater interest in this type of aquarium hobby. A lot of people wrote to me at the time. These were both requests for advice and discussions on the biotope correctness of reservoirs. The idea matured and I started to publish my texts in the Akwarium Magazine. All the time I was watching our native biotope “scene” looking for the right people for the BTP project. After the Biotope Aquarium Design Contest 2017, a group of people who today constitute BTP emerged.
Who creates Biotope Team Poland? What are your goals?
The group, apart from me, includes:
- Bartłomiej Paśnik: he has a head full of ideas, and in aquariums there are biotopes from every corner of the world. Competition is his element.
- Paweł Vogelsinger: enthusiast of the native waters biotope and amateur filmmaker. He is the author of the increasingly popular channel “Nantai TV”. As the only one in Poland, he observes and films rare aquatic creatures, trying to break the stereotypes and prejudices connected with this subject.
- Magdalena Lewińska: in love with South America. A fan of “wolves” Erythrinus sp., Which was the first to breed in captivity. Her beloved fish are bites and armors, all kinds of predators and the so-called. “freaks”. Behaviorism, observations of interspecies and intraspecific behaviors and their correlations are her horse. Apart from fish, he also keeps large tarantula spiders in his house.
- Łukasz Barwicki: a lover of South American biotopes and fish of the Apistogramma genus. He conducts experiments in his aquariums that help us better understand the underwater world of fish and bring our aquariums as close as possible to the natural conditions of the species.
- Kamil Suchocki: a fan of Black Water-style biotopes and everything related to them. He loves native underwater flora and fauna. Its horses are fish from the tetras and carp family.
- Marcin Radziński: fascinated by cichlids, the observation of which while caring for their offspring is astonishing.
Our goal is, above all, to promote the correct biotope aquaristics in Poland and to represent Poland on the international arena, both in competitions and projects of other aquarists. You can read more on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BiotopeTeamPoland/
And what biotopes are closest to your heart?
I am most fascinated by biotopes, which cannot be found in most aquarists. Those that have not yet been “tainted” by years of duplicating errors and those that have something unique in their appearance. Therefore, I am far from planning a “typical” biotope with a black water environment
Ariantach or biotopes with imitated habitats from great African lakes (a typical rock reservoir). I like those biotopes where I meet underwater vegetation growing abundantly, but also non-specific for given types of environments, for example, stony black waters. Currently, the closest to me reservoirs from a “clear water” environment, but my next arrangement plans will go in a different direction.
So we are waiting impatiently for the results. Thank you for the conversation.