The blank canvas is ready for work to begin. The size of the tank is 10x2x2 foot. The lighting is 4 x 150W Metal Halide with 4 T5 fluorescents as auxiliary lighting, housed in 2 Arcadia units and mounted on acrylic pillars which are fixed to the strapping of the tank.
9 x 5 Litre bags of Tropica substrate are added. This is an excellent substrate and is well suited when it is to be covered by natural fine gravels. The Tropica substrate must have at least 3cm of gravel to seal it in and stop it leaching into the water column.
The substrate is easily spread across the base of the aquarium using a paint brush which can be a very useful tool. For a smaller tank a sand flattener is useful for this purpose.
A 2cm layer of Aqua Clay Pebbles mixed with ADA Power Sand has been added. Jim can be seen spreading this out evenly over the Tropica substrate.
ADA recommend that the Power Sand be laid in first on the base of the aquarium, however we decided to experiment with the order of things because the substrate was not ADA.
Here the red Aqua Clay and Power Sand can be seen more clearly. Sprinkled liberally amongst this are several ADA additives including; Tourmaline BC, Clear Super, Bacter 100, Bacter Balls, Multi Bottom Long, and Iron Bottom Long. The latter two are recommended by ADA for later in the tanks life, but once again we decided to experiment.
The whole mix is now covered with approximately 3cm of fine gravel. ADA Sarawak Sand is added for decorative purposes at the far end of the tank in a V-shape layout which will not be planted into. A feature of this tank will be 60 Corydoras Sterbai and they will no doubt enjoy the open sandbank effect and the fine granules of the Sarawak Sand.
The tank is being hardscaped with fossilised wood. Here Jim can be seen laying in the first supporting stones.
Some extra decorative stones have been added to the first grouping and supporting stones for the next group now go into place.
The second major grouping is now in place and the third is taking shape in the foreground of the photograph.
The major groupings are now complete and are being made to look an integral part of the environment by bedding them in with gravel poured around their bases which will then be smoothed into place.
The stone hardscape is now complete after adding a small leading stone, the composition is based loosely upon a U-shape which is suited to a longer tank, although some of the U-shape compositional rules have been purposely broken. The tank is designed to be viewed from all sides and the stone is placed to create a spine down the centre of the tank. The tank was designed for Altum Angel fish and in the wild rocks of this kind give a good spawning surface for this species. The V-shape sand area in the front of the tank, as well as the whole directional theme, was designed to reflect the V-shape of the Angel fish themselves.
Here the plants are being prepared. The mineral wool is removed and plants are separated into individual plantlets.
Graded gravels in 3 sizes have been added as a cosmetic layer to create a natural riverbed effect. The larger gravels are placed centrally whiles the medium pieces are mid-ground and the finer gravels fading to sand are on the periphery. In nature smaller granules are moved by water motion more easily than larger pieces and so a natural grading takes place.
Echinodorus quadricostatus is planted into the gravel using tweezers.
Final planting of the aquascape bed with Echinodorus tenellus on the left hand side with a small stand of Cryptocoryne wendtii ‘Tropica’, some Cryptocoryne parva blending into Echinodorus quadricostatus and finally some taller Valliseneria spiralis ‘Tiger’ at the far end of the scape. When the Vallis is fully grown it will be moved by a powerhead which will create a flow in the same direction that the hardscape is pointing, adding to the directional theme of the tank.
Some Redmoor root wood has been added to replicate tree roots growing into the water from the surface/riverbank. This completes the hardscape.
The wood has had various species of Microsorum, Anubias, and mosses tied to it with ADA moss cotton. These plants will eventually grip the wood with their root system and become an integral part of the hardscape. Plants used are: Anubias barteri var. nana, Anubias barteri ‘coffeefolia’, Microsorum pteropus ‘narrow’, and Bolbitis heudeloti.
All plants used were Tropica individual potted specimens, the quality of which is second to none.
The tank is now planted and stocked. Growth as seen above is 3 weeks after planting and everything is progressing well.