Today We’ll go over how to layer the substrate and hardscape. Careful consideration should be given to substrate layout because that determines how your plants would grow and how much space should be left for the fish. For freshwater planted tanks, you will come across mesmerizing aquascapes where aquascapers pay close attention to the open space and select compatible fish species. Our setup being a celebration of Discus, open area is of topmost priority with contrasting backdrop of bogwood. In this setup you will see that most of the front and center field is left open.
Visualizing an established setup with fully mature plants is important as that would determine where you would want your plants and where you would want a clean sand bed. Discus are slow eaters. They like to pick food from bottom. So, we decided to keep a good amount of open space with sand bed in front to allow enough space for Discus to pick up food. We designed this space in resemblance to a river bank (stay tuned for the final look in upcoming articles).
Next was to lay the foundation, so the bottom of the tank was sprinkled with Bacter100 (from ADA). This would help to establish the first useful colony of bacteria.
We put power sand as the bottom layer where soil will go. This was our first experience with power sand. Just wanted to try it, but realized it’s too pricey. An alternative could be crushed gravel available at any landscaping store. We are planning to try that in our next mega project !
Power sand goes in bottom followed by Amazonia soil and seiryu rock on top. For riverbed, Colorado sand was put directly on glass bottom. You can see how the soil is laid in layers and how the top view appears after putting soil and sand.
Holes were drilled on bogwood at strategic points were we planned to stick in Anubias and Java Fern. After laying out, cardboard pieces were taken out carefully without too much mixing of sand and Amazonia. Then seiryu stones were added to the setup.
At this point we added stand for light along the back wall. The idea was to use point source of light at the center of setup, 1.5 ft above water level. For light source, we used Kessil A360 Tuna Sun with controller for programming the photoperiod. Since the design is cubical, a symmetrical point source would equally illuminate the tank and look neat. Shade would be provided by shadow of bogwood similar to what happens in Nature. The image below shows the L-shaped stand with pendant light source. To make the job easier, the layout work was carried out in front of our fireplace.
Later this setup, still without water, was pushed to the corner. Pushing this empty setup was a heaculean task as it was darn heavy (even without 200 gallon water !)…thankfully no hamstring or shoulder muscle sprain was incurred during this step.
Next, we will discuss plant selection and layout…stay tuned !