Friday, July 4, 2014


I have long been a fan of the planted tank. Much to my wife’s chagrin, I have never allowed me and my fish to be banished to a basement or an aquatic man cave. I prefer my critters to be in the room I’m in, be it family room, study, kitchen, or bedroom. Now, the only way that can happen is if the tank fits in to the décor. We have found that anywhere you can put a vase of flowers you can put a small planted tank. 

60 gallon aquascape plan
The centerpiece of my fishy hobby is my 60 gallon angelfish tank in our family room. A while back a fixture failure resulted in the slow die off of all the existing plants. Two weeks ago I replaced the fixture with a full spectrum, high output fixture and ordered new plants. The tank presents a challenging task. It is an unusual configuration, 48” long, 24” tall, and only 12” wide, which gives you the viewing area of a much larger tank. However, the narrow base makes it difficult to aquascapes, both from a design perspective and a logistics point of view. With the rim of the tank 54” off the floor, it is difficult to reach the bottom, especially in a tank that is already occupied. 

planting platform in place
Here is how I approached it. I used Rice Paddy Herb (limnophila aromatic), Purple Cabomba (cabomba pulcherrima), Brazilian Pennywort (hydrocotyle leucocephala), Pygmy Chain Sword (echinorodus tenellus), Red Flame Sword (echinodorus red flame), and Crystalwort (riccia fluitans) on a substrate of Miracle Gro Organic Potting Soil covered with sand. I’ve used branches gathered from my yard for my hardscape. Originally, I had wanted to use Scarlet Temple aka Rosaefolia (alternanthera reineckii), to keep all the plants of South American origin, but I have never had any luck with it and the stems I purchased just melted when I put them in the tank, so I substituted the far prettier limnophila. 

After a fresh layer of sand, we wait.
The design calls for the plantings to slope right to left leaving the area under the power filter open. In order to avoid a long afternoon of me hovering precariously over the tank on a step ladder, I devised a planting platform of florists gauze stretched over a frame made from unpainted wire coat hangers (see, Joan Crawford, there is a use for wire coat hangers), placed the stems in the gauze and then dropped the whole thing into the tank. A sprinkle of substrate over the gauze provides a temporary disguise until the plants cover the area. The red sword was simply dropped into place, then the riccia, which was purchased in 3”X5” mats which I cut in quarters, was scattered over the rest of the space. Tomorrow I will give it a final layer of sand to give the tank a freshly groomed look and settle back and wait a couple of months for the landscape to mature. 

Next, I will tackle the aquascapes for the betta tanks.

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