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A Ryoboku Aquascape PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kristoffer Willerslev Jørgensen   

In past articles you have followed the creation of my DIY ADA stand.  Now it’s time to get to the fun part. Let’s start aquascaping!  I will use this article to show you the startup of my 60cm tank.  I started planning for it in early spring 2008 and began to collect materials for the ADA stand and the equipment for the tank itself. 

A Ryoboku Aquascape: The Beginnings 

60cm Ryoboku step-by-step

My intention for this aquascape, was to create a simple design, that is easy to maintain with lots of open space. I didn’t want an Iwagumi style aquascape, since I enjoy using driftwood, ferns and moss in the aquascape.  From the start, I knew this 60 cm would be a driftwood based setup.

So, I looked around at various aquascaping styles which mainly focused on driftwood.  The complexity of a convex layout appealed to me the most and would fit my needs to arrange a driftwood layout heavy on moss utilization and with some rough stones to contrast with an open foreground. The open foreground was something I had wanted to do for a long time, and it seemed perfect to use it in contrast to a heavier and darker driftwood. Aquarium Equipment

I built my ADA stand to measure 70x60x30cm which would provide an ideal fit for my   60x30x36cm Optiwhite tank.    In a planted aquarium it’s a good idea to use more filtration power than what’s recommend on the box, so an Eheim 2222 filter fit the bill nicely.

For lighting, I used a SunSun 3 x 24W T5 pendant with Grolux, LifeGlo II, 10.000K).  I felt that this was the perfect light for a medium light setup and more than adequate for the plant species I intend to use.

I’m a strong believer that an aquarium is more than a fixture inside a home.  An aquarium, especially a planted one, offers the chance to bring a slice of nature into the confines of a home.  A rimless tank and its associate glassware helps provide a clean look to the home and aquarium.  For this reason, I decided to use the Flo brand of Glass intake/outetake pipes, a nanopollen glass diffuser, and  a Rhinox glass beetle counter.  A  Ferplast professional CO2 pressure reducer, automatic fertilizer system, and a glass CO2 Dropchecker would round out the technical equipment to begin my aquarium.

An old trick to get the bacterial colonies started in a new setup is to add a handful of old substrate and mulm from a running tank to your new substrate.  I applied this “live bacteria” to substrate and hardscape which consists of  ADA Power Sand Special, ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia II, ADA Bright Sand, Mini Landscape Rocks, Mangrove roots, and Lava rocks (Fuji stones).  Throughout the scape, I will use Rexolin micronutients powder to fertilize the aquatic plants.

A Ryoboku Aquascape: The BeginningsChoosing the Plants

The plant selection for this tank will be kept simple with mainly mosses: Taxiphyllum barbieri, Taxiphyllum sp. “Peacock”, Microsorum pteropus “Narrow”, Echinodorus tenellus, Didiplis diandra.

Let’s Get Started

There are many ways to setup a tank.  With these slow growing species, I am able to adjust my tank as I work on it.  I prefer this method since it gives me a lot of time to work on the hardscape, sit back and consider the placement again and again.

Practice the hardscape. Use cardboared to protect glass.Developing the Hardscape

You start by placing a piece of cardboard as a protective measure between the rock and the glass.  As you decide where to place your stones, the cardboard will protect the tank from scratches when you move them around.  Remember to take out the cardboard before you fill up the tank. As you are designing, remember to also leave space for the plants in the back.  Take a step back and don’t overuse the rocks.

When you have achieved the “right” visual placement of rocks, it’s time to cut a piece of cardboard, to use as a border between the sand and the substrate.  This will help keep the two separated. Based on the placement of the rocks, you can decide where the sand/substrate border should be.

Insert the Driftwood, Take a photograph before you empty it.Driftwood Placement

Next, you place the driftwood. This is the trickiest part and you may have to cut some parts of your driftwood so that they can fit the right place.  Again, remember to leave space for the plants.

Photograph Your Tank Before You Empty It

For both rocks and driftwood – it is important to have sufficient amounts, so that you have a lot to decide from.

Now here’s a trick: take a photograph of your hardscape arrangement before you take them out.  Remember to take the rocks and driftwood up and place then on a table as they were placed in the tank.  Be structured. Empty the tank.

Tape the CardboardTape Cardboard to the Side, add Micronutrients

Now place the cardboard in the tank, and attach it with some tape on the sides of the tank.  This will help keep the cardboard in a curved shape, while you set the stage for the substrate.

Sprinkle Micronutrients

Sprinkle micronutrients on the bottom along with some used substrate and mulm from another tank.  This will give your substrate a lot of bacteria, so it will evolve faster, and provide enough nutrients for the plants to use.

Add Aqua Soil and Sand

On top of that, add a layer of Power Sand special and a thick layer of Aqua Soil.  Finally add the bright sand in the front and use a substrate flattener to level out the Aqua Soil and the sand so that they give a nice slope and a little convex shape.

Remove Cardboard Separator

Remove the cardboard and carefully level out the difference between the sand and the Aqua Soil.

Add Rocks

Insert Rocks

Now we place the rocks back in the tank.  Press them down a little so the rocks look like they stick out of the sand.

Wrap Moss on Driftwood

Cover the driftwood with Taxiphyllum barbieri, and wrap some cotton string around the fronds very tightly.  The tied down moss will be held directly in place  by the string as it grows out from the wood.  Over time, the string will be hidden by the new moss fronds or dissolve into the water. Remember to leave areas on the driftwood without moss because  you want the viewer to see some of the wood too.  Use the tiny cracks on your driftwood and stick bits of moss in those holes. The moss will grow out and creep along the driftwood very slowly and naturally.  The effect is very nice, but it does require a lot of time for the moss to develop completely over the wood.

Wrap Moss around RocksAdd Driftwood covered moss

I used Taxiphyllum sp. “Peacock” wrapped around small lava rocks (Fuji rocks), placed it in the holes and on the sides of the driftwood. This moss is more branchy than other Taxiphyllum sp. and grows moderately fast. As the scape develops, I hope a contrast will develop between the moss on the rocks and the moss on the driftwood.  I trim and shape the mosses so that this contrast will develop. 

When the moss grows too large, you can simply take out the stones, remove the moss and reattach it again.  I have not seen this moss attach itself to the surface on these rocks as T. barbieri does, but maybe it just needs another trimming technique.

Attach Ferns to Driftwood

Fill slightly and then plant moreAttach the ferns to the driftwood – you can use the cotton strings used for the moss, or a plastic wrapped wire (like ADA Wood Tight).  I use the ferns as primary focal points, so when they grow bigger, they should be trimmed to fit perfectly into these spots.  For now, I just attach them where I find it easy for them to grow.

Fill slightly and then plant

Fill the tank a little so that the substrate gets wet, but not under water.  Now, it’s time to plant the E. tenellus along the sides, and the Didiplis in the middle.

Fill the tank Slowly

The E. tenellus and Didiplis will support the convex design and give color to the layout.  They will be easy to trim into rounded shapes.  After many trimmings, the Didiplis will hopefully make a nice reddish bush, in contrast to the light green ferns.

Finally, I fill the tank carefully with water and connect the filter and CO2.

Now we waitAllow the scape to fill in and grow

For the next three weeks, I will do 50% water changes every other day to remove the ammonia from the substrate. I will also begin dosing both macro and micro fertilizer after water change.  I will monitor CO2 with the CO2 drop checker, and add 2mL Easy Carbo (Excel) every day, to keep algae from appearing (I hope).

As the Didiplis reaches the surface, I will trim them down to half length.  I will also trim the moss by hand.  Remember to remove all loose moss from the aquarium after a trim or it will get into your equipment, plants and other parts of your aquarium. When I think of this tank’s future development, one of the goals with this tank is to make sure each plant complements each other as the overall aquascape develops. I will carefully observe the slow growth of the ferns, and the faster growth of the stems of Didiplis and trim each as need.  The moss will spread evenly and at a moderate speed.  In the end, these three plants will form a cohesive and balanced aquascape.

 

 
 
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