My Planted Aquarium

by Luis Navarro (February 2005)

STEP 1: The tank I have chosen is a 37 gallon cube by Oceanic. For the illumination I will use 3 X 65 watt 10,000 Kelvin (color temperature) bulbs with two Coralife fixtures. The CO2 is dosed by a JBJ regulator with a 5 lb canister bottle. For the filtration an Eheim 2215 classic filter.

STEP 2:The substrates used for this layout are Volcanit and Terralit as a base substrate both are made by the same company. The aquascaping materials are branchy driftwood and Texas fossil rocks. Itís always good to present the driftwood inside the empty tank to get an idea of the many ways the driftwood could look best.

STEP 3: Adding bacteria and activated carbon to the bottom of the tank will help the break in period to be much shorter; the use of mulm and peat moss can also help the speed things up. Then add the substrate- in this case teralit is inboth layers and Volcanit is only in the top layer. About 4 inches of substrate in the front and about 8 inches in the back is the recommended amount.

STEP 4: When I aquascape any planted aquarium I like to start by laying out the materials without any water present. This technique not only allows you to be more creative but to also visualize the plants in the perfect spot. The shape of the tank is a not perfect cube so the layout of choice is an X-shape. This will utilize most of the space without making the layout look to busy!

STEP 5: Add a little water to the tank after itís planned with great care (about one to two inches) in order cover the front substrate "loosening up" the substrate for a much easier planting. From this point on I sort all the plants to be used on this layout and I placed them in trays keeping them moist with a spray bottle filled with water. The Moss is placed on the branches and then tied down with dark green cotton thread to secure it. Anubias nana and NL Java fern are also cleaned and attached to a small rock with a cable tie or metal twist.

STEP 6: I place the Anubias in the desired spot and the narrow leaf java fern goes next. At this point, constantly look at the layout and in the event that you donít like what you see, you can always change them to a different spot, even if they are under water. Remember that they are attached to a rock so moving them is not hard at all.

STEP 7: Adding the rest of the plants is easier if you use long tweezers. Begin with the foreground and move back as you work remembering to start from front to back. This will allow you to use the best of the available space. The foreground plant is cobra grass liliaeopsis spp. The center plants are cryptocorine wendetii Tropica and Hygrophila Kompact.,. and Nuphar spp. The background is Eleocharis montevidensis.

STEP 8: The tank is finished! The last details are connecting all the equipment and making sure that everything works. I like to skim the surface for any debris. After the 3rd day, 2 water changes a week are done for a month and after the second week for this size tank I like to add about 30 Cardina japonica and about 10 O-cats (otocinclus affinis) as well. The removal of dead foliage and the cleaning of the inside glass panes is part of a regular maintenance routine. If algae appears, donít give up and remove as much as you possibly can by hand. Keep up the water changes and soon the algae will be gone. In about a month after setup the tank will be ready to host fish. Have fun aquascaping!

Editor's Note

Albany Aquarium thanks Luis Navarro for his contribution to our website. He is an award winning aquarist and has traveled the country in pursuit of our hobby. We met him when he was a guest lecturer at the San Francisco Aquarium Society. Read about his San Francisco trip report on his website www.mynatureaquariums.com as well as his many other aquascapes. We our proud to have Luis as a Friend of Albany Aquarium!

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