It is fascinating to watch the evolution of natural-style aquariums in the hobby. For decades, hobbyists have been talking about Nature and mimicking various components of it in our tanks. And for many years, I think we have been collectively a bit timid to get (literally) "down and dirty" with our aquariums.
This is changing, and will continue to do so.
Tiem to remove some mental "blocks" we have carried around for the better part of a century in the aquarium hobby.
Leaves scattered on the substrate of an aquarium is not exactly a super high concept in Aquascaping...Or, is it?
I think it actually is. Sometimes, the seemingly most simple moves are the most complex, dynamic ones. With leaves, it's a bit different than other aquascaping practices, such as using specific rocks, wood, or aquatic plants. It's different because leaves are far, far more "ephemeral" than just about anything else we use.
There is now "new growth of leaves" on the bottom of an aquarium. Only the dynamics of decomposition, biofilm growth, and the influence on the aesthetics and chemistry of the water.
This is another one of those foundational aspects of the natural style of aquarium that we espouse. The understanding that processes like decomposition and physical transformation of the materials that we utilize our tanks are normal, expected, and beautiful things requires us to make mental shifts.
We need to get over the "block" which has espoused a sanitized version of Nature. I hit on this theme again and again and again, because I feel like globally, our community is like 75% "there"- almost entirely "bought in" to the idea of really naturally-appearing and functioning aquarium systems. Understanding that stuff like the aforementioned decomposition of materials, and the appearance of biofilms- comprise both a natural and functional part of the microcosms we create in our tanks.
Employing natural materials which tend to recruit these life forms during their time in our tanks is actually one of the joys of our hobby pursuits, IMHO.
I'd like to see more and more use of less common materials, like soils and various bark types, to simulate more unusual aquatic environmental niches in a more realistic pattern. I think that, in the very near future, we'll see more realistic simulations of vernal killifish pools, muddles, rice paddies, and other fascinating, yet underrepresented habitats!
I think that getting over the 'block" and thinking outside the box in aquarium habitat design and execution will be a leading force in propelling the hobby forward in coming years.
We can't wait to see what you come up with!
Stay creative. Stay observant. Stay restless. Stay diligent...
And Stay Wet.