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Novice aquascaper - posting pictures of progress. Advice appreciated!

Discussion in 'General Aquascaping and Planted Tank Discussions' started by Sapdaddy, Nov 26, 2012.

  1. Sapdaddy

    Sapdaddy New Member

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    Hi all, I just signed up to the forum. I've had an aquarium for 5 years but only just started trying to 'pretty' it up - before I was all about breeding fish. Now I'm trying to make some truly beautiful living art - I've done all I can with the advice of my LFS owner but now I think I need some professional advice to finish things off.

    My tank details:
    4ft tank (about 45 gallons I think)
    ADA substrates
    EHEIM filter
    pH - about 6.5-6.8 (varies)
    Temperature - 23-24 degrees Celsius (75 Fahrenheit, I think).

    Aquascaping details:
    The plants at the back were added last week - as you might be able to see the UV light is making the plants grow out fuller. I have cropped almost all of them because they are growing rapidly - I planted the cropped stems to propogate them.
    The rock is new - about 2 days old. Moss was attached today while the rock was underwater via rubber bands - I'm rather certain no moss got away from me. If a bit ended up in my filter.. I'll know soon enough.
    Moss was also attached to the 'cave' - currently coated by a previous algae issue. Inside the cave is a blue LED light and 2 air stones (making it occasionally release a giant awesome bubble of air)
    Driftwood is new - purchased today. Bought smaller plants to make the price easier on me - hoping they will grow out.
    All short plants in the front are new - planted today. Once they are big enough to propogate, I plan on increasing their density in their areas.

    Community fish details:
    2 betta males (the remaining offspring from my first ever breed)
    2 bolivian butterflies (breeding pair, I have set up a small pebble bed on the left side of the tank for them to use as a breeding surface. I also tried to cover the 'bed' with plants to give them some protection/privacy)
    2 bala sharks
    6 dwarf catfish (cleaners)
    15 neon tetras
    6 harlequin rasboras

    If you have any ideas on what species of fish could perfectly compliment this community, do let me know! I think I could put in one more.

    This actually leaves a couple of small patches of substrate on either side of the rock - do you guys have any ideas for what I should do with it? Also, do you have any suggestions regarding my current set up? I think it looks nice and will look better as everything grows, but I still feel like it's missing quite a bit.

    If you guys need any more info please let me know - looking forward to hearing your comments!

    Also, sorry about the horrible picture quality: I don't think I have a camera that could handle a nice aquarium pic!
     

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  2. Sapdaddy

    Sapdaddy New Member

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    PB260011.JPG PB260012.JPG PB260013.JPG PB260014.JPG Update: Didn't occur to me to try taking the pictures at night...
     
  3. Sapdaddy

    Sapdaddy New Member

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    I realised that my setup was a little too symmetrical - at the same time I wanted to see if I could make a better home for my Harlequin Rasboras to breed. I decided to take my tall plants, crop them in half and 'bush' plant them in the corners - in the actual corner (I left a small space) will be a tall, broad leafed plant (purely for the Harlequins but hopefully my bush effect will make it appealing). I also pulled the rock to the left a tad to pull the focal point away from the middle. Finally, with this new lot of space, I am constructing a 'pebble path' that starts on the left side soil of the tank and continues around either side of the rock.

    I've seen some beautiful 'paths' out there, especially ones going around a rock or ornament. What I noticed though, was that most of them were a bright white in colour - you wouldnt even be able to tell it was substrate! I'm sure me using ADA sailed that ship, but is there anything i can do to make the substrate in my pebble path more appealing?

    Oh, all those crappy white rocks (which were unearthed by a large catfish I used to own - didn't know they like to dig) should eventually be covered by the growing grass and bushes in the front. Ill be cropping and replanting regularly to try and cover as much ground with greenery as I can.

    Finally - do you think I could use a moss carpet or two? Got a couple of blank spaces I'd like to fill PB270011.JPG PB270012.JPG PB270013.JPG PB270014.JPG PB270015.JPG
     
  4. Garuf

    Garuf Moderator Staff Member

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    Ooof, there's so much I don't really know where to start.

    Perhaps the easiest to dismiss is the notion of breeding your rasbora's, they're a black water species and without making a particular effort to match their wild habitat then they're unlikely to breed and certainly won't do so in a tank with other tank mates that will pick them off, I've read in the past that water temps should be high, in the 29-30c range too, which is way above what neon tetras would be comfortable with, a fish which prefers is a bit cooler if anything.

    Next is the over stocking and poor fish selection, something that is sadly all too common unless the LFS that doled out advise is one linked to a reputable breeder but sadly these are getting ever rarer.
    Bala Sharks are extremely territorial fish and grow very large, much larger than most typical 120cm tanks volumes, and are best kept singly in a larger tank. Betta's to get the best out of them need temperatures much higher than neons are comfortable with, either one or the other would be the best advice here I feel, with my suggestion being to rehome the betta's as they would be uncomfortable with the amount of water movement found in your typical aquascaped tank.
    Assuming the cats are Ottocinclus these too would prefer the water on the cooler side again making these and the neons better tank mates than the bettas.

    Next, I see no mention of ferts or co2? These will be the underpinning to your success or failure, yes, adding a nutritious substrate like Aquasoil will help with plants but without co2 and ferts it's only going to go so far without the foundations.

    The other thing you mention is UV light, plants do not need special tubes and they definitely don't need UV tubes!
    What are you running in terms of lighting and filtration/water turnover?

    We don't run airstones, they drive of co2 that we strive extremely hard to get into the water and maintain at a steady level.

    I would suggest you stop buying things for the tank, be it plants or otherwise until you have a plan in place, a piecemeal approach to aquascaping only yeilds success in extremely rare circumstances, let us steer you right before you make any more changes.

    Also, stop disturbing the substrate for the time being, ada substrates leach ammonia and dust and detritus if they're disturbed and this will only make life harder at this point while also making things less comfortable for your fish.
     
  5. Garuf

    Garuf Moderator Staff Member

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    I'm sure there's more but for the time being I think this is enough while I re-read through your posts and decided what I've missed.
     
  6. Sapdaddy

    Sapdaddy New Member

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    Thanks for the quick reply mate :) Anyway with regards to my fish selection:

    As I mentioned before, when I started my aquarium hobby I was all about fish. The first thing I did was breed a male betta from a petbarn female (I know I know, stupid idea). Anyway, I only have 3 left from that spawn and sadly, only 2 homes available. I have to keep the 2 bettas in the main tank until I can find some more efficient smaller ones - until then, truth be told, I'm essentially waiting for them to pass.

    The bala sharks have no place in this tank, but again I was all about fish before. I didn't just have the balas, I had discus, clown loaches, catfish, maybe more. One day, though, an aquarium accident killed the majority of them (filter hose came unplugged, I didn't notice. Most of the fish died of suffocation - tetras and bettas remained as the tetras had found their way into some small water puddles. For some reason, the bala sharks also survived this accident.

    So this left me with a murky tank full of algae (because the catfish had eaten anything I tried to plant - didn't know how bad it was), a bunch of dead fish and the ones that remained were slowly dying. I came up with aquascaping as a solution:

    I thought plants would help with the algae problem and help to regulate chemicals/nutrients. I went out and bought a bunch - the tall ones you see in the back. After that, I noticed alot of fancy tanks on the internet and wanted to get into the aquascaping hobby. Long story short, that is why my fish choices appear to be so incompatible - the bettas and balas have no place in the tank but I don't have anywhere else for them to go.

    I got the harlequin rasboras from the LFS yesterday because I wanted some top-dwelling schooling fish. My LFS recommended me them - they're not trying to sell me whatever they can, though. Their recommendations were based on what I had and they have advised against the purchase of many other fish species. As per your advice, I am happy to keep them in a small school and not allow breeding.

    Perhaps I should return the bala sharks to the LFS? I was thinking of doing that for some time, but I've grown attached to them.

    Now the fertilisers and CO2 - I am embarrassed to say I have NONE. ADA substrates are being used in multiple layers, apparently they are supposed to supply all the nutrients required - but I'm starting to think this isn't enough.

    I need a CO2 source - recommendations are well accepted. I currently just have 2 air pumps oxygenating the water, I assumed they were delivering some CO2 as well... now it seems I was beyond wrong. The problem is, without these air pumps the bala sharks are likely to die.

    I wasn't aware I didn't need the UV light! It seems the LFS pulled a fast one on me there - I've had the light for quite some time to encourage plant growth. This UV lamp and some random LEDs are currently the only source of light to the tank. The UV light runs for 8 hours a day.

    I wish I knew what you meant by water turnover :(

    I am embarrassed to say that I made a few more changes to the tank this morning but I expect them to be the last - If I just grow out the plants I currently have now it should give me the cover I am looking for. I will definitely leave it alone for now.
     
  7. keithgh

    keithgh Moderator Staff Member

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    Sapdaddy

    Where do I start ????

    The first mistake you made was buying a tank with little or no research at all then.

    Believing 110% what the LFS told you sounds like a good sales person rather than looking after his customers.

    This is the first point you should start, it is totally independent of this Forum
    http://www.aqadvisor.com/

    There are several excellent Aquarium Forums in Aust and I strongly suggest you ask plenty of questions re keeping fish there.

    Aquascaping
    Again I strongly suggest you do a lot of researching as there are plenty of excellent Aquascapes on the Forum

    ADA is fantastic for plants but its the type of substrate you set it up right first go and long before you start adding any fish

    If and when you decide to rescape all the fish will have to be in another tank until it settles down again.

    Sorry if all this sounds rather harsh but I would say as I see it not say WOW it looks fantastic and I love all the fish.

    Keith:):)
     
  8. Sapdaddy

    Sapdaddy New Member

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    I wish I had gotten these replies before last night, I randomly woke up at 3am with an idea for the tank and re-scaped the entire thing while fish were inside. The good news is they are all ok and I probably won't have to do that again.

    I have removed the bala sharks and returned them to the LFS, I then bought some ADA fertiliser (seemed appropriate since I was using the substrate) and "Flourish" liquid CO2 additive (I'd have bought something better but I am currently quite broke).

    The air pumps have now been removed and fertiliser has been added. I will wait until the morning for CO2.

    The last thing I have to take care of really are the bettas - I may give them away to my neighbours, who knows. Either that or I'll find some cheap tank set ups and put 1 in each bedroom, seems clever :)

    Keith - Thanks for your advice :) I will certainly have a look at that forum. I would like to point out though that I did leave the ADA substrate to cycle in the tank for 3 weeks before adding fish - it's just that I added a stupid combination of fish that ended up digging up the substrate and destroying the plant life. Oh well, gotta learn somehow!

    I will upload more pictures tonight of today's rescape - things are already starting to look much nicer.
     
  9. Sapdaddy

    Sapdaddy New Member

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    Here are the updated pictures - I'll rehome the bettas soon enough (frankly the cage is an eyesore now). The tanks I ordered wont arrive until December so I guess the tank has time to grow and develop until then.

    I find the UV light is really helpful in plant development (as it should be) but if I left it off would they be fine? The backdrop I bought today is eliminating sunlight from behind. The plants seem to be positively responding to it as well, some of the leaves are widening out and are looking nicer. There is a tiny algae problem on the walls (I scraped most of it off) - its left over from the horrible state the tank was in before aquascaping. Most of the algae died off when the plants came in but I want to get rid of every trace of it. Any suggestions?

    ALERT: Just before posting, I went to turn off the lights - the bolivian butterflies are exhibiting spawning behaviour (dug 2 holes near the bushy area on the right) - right now they are still hovering above them. Any suggestions for if they do spawn? PB270004.JPG PB270006.JPG PB270011.JPG
     
  10. keithgh

    keithgh Moderator Staff Member

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    Sapdaddy
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    When I look at your tank I can see three distinct Aquascapes a green Aquascape each end rocky Aquascape in the centre of the tank.

    I think you are getting very confused between a Focal point and a Centre point.

    I have drawn a line through the centre of that large rock to give you an idea by Centre point.

    The other areas I have marked are those stones in rows it also helps to divide the tank up.
    [​IMG]
    These comments have nothing to do with your Aquascape at all I am referring to how you have set your tank up etc.
    A 4ft tank would be better if you had two heaters one each end to eliminate any low temperature areas, also its a back up when one heater breaks down.

    The inlet and outlet are far better at opposite ends for greater water movement.

    I think you should do a lot more research on setting up a tank as well, go and talk to that LFS I recommended to you.

    I would love to write "WOW what a fantastic improvement" but I think that is a way off yet.

    Keith:):)
     
  11. Sapdaddy

    Sapdaddy New Member

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    Thanks alot mate, this is exactly why I joined the forum. I foolishly filled in the substrate between the pebbles to make a couple of paths with gravel - I can't do much to change the aquascaping now it seems, but I might be able to do something about my focal point confusion. I'll fix that after I address the key issues you mentioned.

    Another large heater would be costly, I'm afraid I might need a couple weeks before I can afford it. With regards to the inlet, it was incredibly difficult to get the water to flow properly through the pump as well as it is going now but if I can move it I definitely will, I'll go have a look now to see what I can do.

    Thanks again

    Nick
     
  12. Sapdaddy

    Sapdaddy New Member

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    Alright, managed to make some changes - Firstly, I managed to move the outlet of the filter (just barely had enough hosing). I can't get another water heater yet but I put an thermometer on both corners of the tank - they both read a solid 24 degrees Celsius. Now that I have different fish, I will look up their optimum temperatures and adjust accordingly. The point is, there is no current problem with unevenly distributed heat.

    Here are the up to date pictures:

    My aquascaping is at a novice level I'm sure but I don't have much of an artistic mind - could I get some suggestions? I should also mention that alot of the plants and moss are freshly planted, I expect the aquascape to be very green when everything grows up. PB280002.JPG PB280003.JPG PB280004.JPG PB280005.JPG
     
  13. keithgh

    keithgh Moderator Staff Member

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    Sapdaddy
    Every one was a novice at one stage and it can take many years and even several tanks to finally create a fantastic Aquascape, now in saying all that there are some exceptional people who have a natural eye for it.

    Its some thing that has to be learnt and practiced a lot.

    When you go to that LFS in Sydney have a good look at his display tanks and ask about his special days on Aquascaping as he has them occasionally.

    You seem to be making the same mistakes, sorry to say.
    Inlet hide it in the back RH corner
    Outlet on the end wall of the tank this will give you a far greater water flow for all your plants and fish.
    Depending on your filter just get longer hoses its as simple as that.
    Heater its up to you 99.9% will say you require two heaters.
    Fish keeping is far from a cheap hobby its costs a lot of money to set up and run (be warned)
    C/L Centre line that is the first thing I see a big rock and two smaller ones and one looks very artificial.
    Then there is a rockery garden something you will see in some ones garden
    Heater hide it with plants one each end.
    The long line is what you would normally follow with you eyes.

    The best advice I can give you is leave this tank alone and spend a lot of time doing research work on Aquascapes the WWW is full of it.

    Learn how to develop a tank study the 1/3rds rule (its one method) learn that first.

    The different flow shapes that can be done.

    This is not going to happen over night

    Make up something like this and practice with rocks, DW etc

    Then ask for opinions on what you have done
    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]
     
  14. Sapdaddy

    Sapdaddy New Member

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    Thanks for the advice mate, but since the last picture I made a couple of changes:

    I found a cheap tank to get the bettas a new home, that eyesore cage is now gone.

    I removed the 'cave' next to that big rock - I thought it looked very artificial as well. I filled in the area with white gravel again.

    I must admit that the pebble arrangement was inspired by my garden at home (my mother was a huge gardening freak) - it's a sentimental thing and I'd like to keep it if I can.

    The plants need to get taller and I will continue to propogate them - hopefully I'll be able to hide the filter and heater in due time. I also replaced the moss carpet to-be with carpeting plants.

    I'll upload one last picture tonight to show how I'm leaving the scape to allow it to grow - I'll then update with pictures weekly and make changes as per suggestion.

    I'll go have a look at that inlet now and see if the hosing will let me hide it behind the plants at the back.

    I'm also going on a bushwalk soon to see if I can find some reliable driftwood (can't afford to buy any more hardscape, that rock was very costly as it was!)

    I'm aware this isn't a cheap hobby - what I lack in available funds I make up for in persistence. I am happy to spend small amounts of money every week to make this tank nicer!

    Thanks again Keith! I really appreciate all your replies.

    Nick
     
  15. Sapdaddy

    Sapdaddy New Member

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    Here is the final picture - without a significant amount of cash, I can't make many more changes apart from moving things around. Do let me know what the expensive options are too, I'm happy to start saving.

    Now I'm going to start doing more research on scaping rules to see what I can do from here. The plan so far is to let everything grow out, covering the heater and filter etc. The rock is placed slightly to the left but that's as far as I know about manipulating focal points - I'll do some reading on that now.

    For now, I'm thinking about finding some driftwood roots to make an archway over or in front of the rock - I think my scape is most similar to the U type (read a bit about that last night)

    EDIT: Oops, forgot to move the outflow - I'll do that now. PB290005.JPG
     
  16. Sapdaddy

    Sapdaddy New Member

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    Keith:


    I tried to analyse the focal points of my aquarium as best I could, this picture is what I could come up with: if I drew the lines right, it has something to be desired. 2.png

    I had originally set up the tank to have an illusion of depth with the my substrate as per SLS' instructions (shallow at the front, deep at the back) - unfortunately that damn catfish wrecked everything. It is impossible to re-structure the substrate but I tried to recreate the illusion using the gravel - assuming people look at the tank ignoring the dark substrate layer at the bottom.

    I have a feeling a couple of nice driftwood pieces with arching branches over each other might finish the look, but what the hell do I know haha. Do you have any recommendations?

    Nick
     
  17. keithgh

    keithgh Moderator Staff Member

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    [​IMG]
    Nick even moving the inlet and outlet makes a difference and certainly looks a lot better.

    This is a very quick and rough ideas.

    I have moved the rock so that the tip of it is on the "Focal Point" this will give you an idea what it will look like.

    Big Twiggy Driftwood laying on the rock and leading to bottom RH side. (it will not be cheap)

    Tall plants back LH to give you height.

    The front low plants or a moss which ever you can afford.

    Go to where I suggested you go and ask for some cheap plants please.

    I often see very cheap good pieces of DW on the forum.

    Dont forget to show photos of tank and ask for suggestions.

    That rock garden is killing your aquascape if you want a little rock garden make one outside.

    Keith:):)
     
  18. Sapdaddy

    Sapdaddy New Member

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    Been working on this one ALL DAY - But I am VERY happy with the way it turned out!

    As you can see I made a number of changes and carpeted the area with plants on a low budget - I expect it will take quite some time to grow out. Any chance you would be able to estimate how long? :)

    PB300011.JPG PB300013.JPG

    I love listening to you Keith, especially since you give me the exact same advice as the ADA specialist I occasionally visit! You clearly know what you're talking about. Anyway, he helped me look through some DW and helped me analyze my 1/3s. I'm conditioning it as we speak, but I marked the area I plan to place it with a couple of pebbles.

    PB3000122.jpg

    I spent the day re-scaping the tank (lightly of course, I didn't disturb the substrate much) and managed to fix the rock positioning and the gravel pathway - I even managed to add in some depth illusion. I then re-planted all my carpeting plants in their new locations to compliment everything.

    PB300008.JPG

    The plants at the back will get nice and tall but for now I trimmed them to help cover more area (propogated what I cut).

    Can I get that "WOW what a fantastic improvement" now? hehe :) jokes, I know I still got a bit to go.

    Still open to any suggestions! I probably didn't do this perfectly - I'll draw up a grid so we can properly see what I'm doing.

    2.png

    Of course, now that I see the grid I will move where I plan to place the DW a bit to the left. I plan to align the DW I bought together to branch from the ride side to the left in front of the rock. I'll then plant some ferns on it coming towards the front of the tank, giving a 3D effect. Hopefully this will work when the DW is ready. I also notice the tallest point of my rock is a little off, I have since shifted the rock a bit to the left.

    PB300010.JPG
     
  19. Sapdaddy

    Sapdaddy New Member

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    I managed to wedge the pieces together to make this - it is very sturdy and is actually kind of difficult to take apart again.
    I think I'll use it - putting it in after I buy some fern and soak/boil it longer. I don't have any equipment to attach the pieces any other way and I think this looks pretty good as it is.
    PB300003.JPG
     
  20. keithgh

    keithgh Moderator Staff Member

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    Sapdaddy

    The wife was looking over my shoulder while I was looking at your tank her comments were put it this way, mine have been rather soft compared to what she said.

    WOW you are getting there but its extremely slow, put it this way it took me 30 years to where I am now, you have started kindergarten and with a lot of hard research and work you will finish school then start your apprenticeship.


    To be perfectly honest there are plenty of plants in your tank do not look very green and healthy at all.

    What ferts and how much talk to the recommended LFS in Sydney.

    I have never used ADA soil but your plants should look a lot better than that

    Here are a few ideas when working in 1/3rds put some masking tape at all the intersecting lines on the front glass of the tank then all you have to do is place ???? then stand back and see if it is exactly where you want it.

    The outlet is best located at the top LH end note water flow far better for all plants

    This time I coloured the white path.

    Moved all the tall plants back LH corner to give extra hight at the back LH end.

    I placed those tw0 rocks on the now same substrate as remainder of the tank.

    I laid a carpet of moss or very low plants on one half to show you what it could look like.

    That will keep you busy for a while now.

    Keith:):)
     

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