started to contemplate a beautiful planted show tank after reviewing the
stunning aquascapes at the last AGA (Aquatic Gardeners Association) convention.
After talking to some local plant buddies, I decided that instead of setting it
up at home, I would set it up at my workplace, All Oddball Aquatics. I did this
in order to spark interest and recruit new people into the "green side"!
Unlike the average freshwater aquarium, an aquascape is like a Bonsai and takes
much more time, planning, and research. The finished product is well worth
the efforts. In the next several paragraphs I will discuss how I made this
Pieces of hardscape ready for use.
then went on the hunt for good hardscape. This was the most difficult
part for me. Good rock and wood is hard to come by, so I went for a
hike by my favorite river and let nature take it from there. I found
some beautiful pieces of hardscape that I thought might work in my scheme
I first started by studying the many great aquascapes in the ADA (Aqua Design
Amano) Aqua Journals. I noticed the plants that were being used,
how they were arranged, how the hardscape (rock, wood, etc.) was implemented,
and what type of background if any was used. I made a list of the plants I
wanted to use and equipment I would need. Next, I drew a few sketches of how I
wanted it to appear. I decided to use both rock and wood because they have
their own unique characteristics. I also decided to have a pathway or tunnel in
the center. I feel if done properly, it will give the aquarium great depth.
ught them home
to be properly cleaned and saturated in water if necessary.
My next step was to
put Eco-Complete (an excellent, commerically-available substrate material) and
the hardscape into the tank, arrange it in different ways, and take pictures for
further review. After several different placements of the rock and wood, I
decided on the design that I am currently using.
The pure black of
the Eco-Complete did not work for me. However, I wanted to use it for my growing
medium because it has generated excellent results in the past. After some
arm twisting from my plant pals, I decided to trek back down to the river and
grab some of the sand that they were using. I would work the sand and the
Eco-Complete into the aquascape by making two acrylic dividers. These
would help display the natural look of the sand while also allowing for the
excellent advantages of the Eco-Complete.
Making the acrylic
dividers was simple. I first cut two 24”x 2” pieces of cardboard and
placed them into the empty tank. I bent and shortened them as needed, put
them into place, and took pictures from multiple angles. I then measured
the length of the cardboard and cut two pieces of acrylic to match those
lengths. The acrylic measured 1 inch in height. I then proceeded to
draw the inside dimensions of the 40 breeder on a flat surface. I now used the
pictures that I had taken to reform the cardboard in the confines of the 40
breeder sketching. I fired up a propane torch and bent the acrylic to
match the curves of the cardboard. I now had the walls which would help
keep the Eco-Complete from getting into the sand.
My next step was to
put the Eco-Complete back into the aquarium. As I poured it in, I kept the
Eco-Complete towards the back corners of the aquarium making sure to keep the
bottom smooth and free of gravel. I installed the dividers and gently
pushed the Eco-Complete against the walls. I now added the sand between
the two dividers. It looked good and worked flawlessly.
Adding Hardscape, being careful not to
disturb the Eco-Complete
The hardscape is complete, the tank is full and the lights are being
Now that the
substrate was in place it was time for the hardscape. I printed out the
pictures I took previously of the hardscape to use as a reference. I knew
that once I started putting the rock and wood into the tank that it would not
look the same. I just needed it to be similar. While adding the
hardscape, I was careful not to get the Eco-Complete into the sand. Once
finished, ¼ of the tank was filled with water.
The rocks are in,
the wood is in, and the substrate still looks good and intact. Now it is
time for the plants. Many authors have stated that one should add as many
plants as possible during the initial set up, so that algae cannot get a
foothold. I feel that adding only a few plants can also have its
advantages. First, I want the plants that I choose for the aquascape to
not have to compete with plants that will not be used in the final scheme.
Second, I would like the satisfaction of watching them all grow in. Third,
I feel that I am skillful enough that I can grow these plants without a big risk
of an algae bloom along with the aid of some excellent algae eaters. I
decided to add three shoots of Limnophila aromatica, about twenty small
dime size pieces of Elatine triandra, two large clumps of Narrow Leaf Java Fern
(Microsorum pteropus ‘Narrow’), six clumps of
Eleocharis parvula, one strand of Hygrophila balsamica, and nine
small clumps of Taiwan Moss (Taxiphyllum alternans). After the
plants were added, the tank was filled and the filter, lights and CO2
were turned on.
After four days
nutrients and a select few of the algae eating crew were added. I chose to
wait on the addition of any fish so that the Elatine triandra could get a grip
into the Eco-Complete without being disturbed. I added one species roughly
every four days. Currently, the algae eating crew consists of four Siamese
Algae Eaters (Crossocheilus siamensis), six Otocinclus affinis, one Zebra
cocama), ten Algae Shrimp (Caridina japonica), fifty plus Cherry
Shrimp (Neocaridina denticulata sinensis),
and twenty Neritina natalensis. For my show fish, I originally chose eight
Pseudomugil signifer “Ross River” which were taken out and replaced with
Danio choprae and for the bottom I chose seven
Aspidoras sp. "Black Phantom" (C 35). I chose these fish for their
rarity and beauty.
Since setup, I have
added Anubias barteri var. nana,
Blyxa japonica, Blyxa aubertii, Cryptocoryne affinis,
beckettii (syn. C. petchii), Lagarosiphon madagascariensis,
Ludwigia inclinata var. verticillata
‘Cuba’, Microsorum pteropus ‘Philippine’, and Nymphaea
micrantha. I have taken out Hygrophila balsamica, Lagarosiphon
‘Philippine’, and Taxiphyllum alternans ‘Taiwan Moss’. This
is still a project in the making, and I will probably add and remove some more
plants, since I easily get bored with many species. I must constantly
remind myself that this is a show tank, and to stop being a “plant collector”
and think more like an aquascaper.
To my surprise, I
encountered little difficulty during this process. I dealt with diatoms and
green spot algae for the first month, but with daily tank maintenance they soon
vanished. I also had problems with the Elatine growing over itself
so rapidly that the old growth was smothered and the rest of the plant would
float to the surface. This was solved with the aid of some fishing line
and plant weights.
This tank was
a lot of fun for me, and a great learning experience. The most
important part of the aquascape to me is the number of customers that
get to enjoy it and the people that I have inspired to dive into aquatic
plants. I love the green side of the hobby and am very happy to
watch it grow. My best advice to anyone who would like to set up
an aquascape is to do a lot of research and not jump into it. I
have seen too many people grow algae farms from lack of knowledge and
patience. So give it a try! The sheer beauty and utter calmness
that you will receive will be well worth the investment and hard work.
The final product! 10/19/05