Do you dream of creating and preserving a stunning piece of Nature in a cozy corner of your home: something that lifts your spirit at the end of a hard day’s work, emanates a serene beauty that’s feast for the eyes and joy for the soul, something that helps you relax and feel reconnected to nature, something that adds a natural touch to your inanimate home decors. A Lush Aquascape: is the answer. While it sounds complicated, if put together and maintained with the help of the right set of tools, such an aquascape can be a true joy to behold and cherish. Also many aquarium enthusiasts, especially those who’ve space constraints at home, often wonder whether it would ever be a good idea to invest an entire corner, however small it is, for a hobby that seems so complex and time consuming. Here’re some tips to design a compact lush green freshwater aquascape from scratch and marvel at your own creation once you’re done.
Size and Shape
We made an underwater garden using a rimless 29 gallon cube (W=D=H=19.5″). Working with cubes can be very helpful
- if you plan on designing something that spans equal in both lateral as well as vertical directions, and,
- cubes give a greater number of gallons for a smaller footprint because of their height.
We used Amazonia from ADA. Amazonia susbstrate contains ammonia which leaches out when you first set up your tank. Hence, be careful not to release any fish until the tank is fully seasoned and the ammonia and nitrite levels have fallen to zero. Nitrate levels can be in the 5-10 ppm range. If you’ve an existing stable aquarium then you can squeeze out some dirty water from its filter and add it to your new tank to facilitate fast colonization of nitrifying bacteria.
In this setup, the substrate was laid directly on glass with slight slope rising towards the back. Two pieces of driftwood were used to accent the space. Plan was to grow Java Moss on the driftwood. While creating these aquascapes, focus should be on plants and their layout. Once the setup comes together, plan on adding some selective fish to enhance the overall visual appeal. Given the multi textured look in this tank, we decided to add a few Guppies and Bleeding Heart Tetras for added color and contrast.
- Heteranthera zosterifolia (right foreground)
- Cryptocoryne japonica (left foreground)
- Cryptocoryne lutea (center front)
- Cryptocoryne wendtii green (center midground)
- Cryptocoryne wendtii brown (center midground)
- Bacopa caroliniana (right midground)
- Rotala Wallichii (left midground)
- Hygrophila difformis (right background)
- Java moss (on driftwood branches)
- Mayaca fluviatilis (left and center background)
- Eheim ECCO (model 2234) canister filter
- 300W Hydor inline heater
- 60W T5 lights with electronic times
- Compressed carbon dioxide bottle with diffuser synced with lights
- Tank temperature maintained at 75ºF
Variety is the spice of life; hence, when you get bored with the same look, you don’t have to tear down the whole setup. All you need is a little creativity. You can retain some key elements of your old setup and simply replace some plants with some new ones. In the adjacent setup, we retained the driftwoods and allowed the Java Moss to grow and fill the space. Only foreground plants were replaced with Staurogyne repens to create a stunning lush look. To add contrast, we added some Neon Tetras and a couple of Trigonostigma Rasboras. The blue coloring of the Tetras complements the green and dark brown wood substrate well.
- Balance is key. Don’t overwhelm the setup with too many fish. Plant layout is critical in this style of aquascaping. Fish are used to accent the setup. The main idea here is to craft out a biotope where plant and fish can survive and flourish together without much intervention.
- Overfeeding fish or adding too many fish will increase bioload in the ecosystem. This will invite algae to grow. We used to feed the fish once a day and limit the food to an amount that can be consumed by the fish within a 1-2 minute(s).
- In addition to light and nitrates, plants need carbon dioxide source for a healthy growth. We injected compressed carbon dioxide from a bottle through a diffuser. You can use liquid carbon supplements, but carbon dioxide gives a better control when synced with lights.
- You need to supplement the setup with trace minerals and iron.