Shallow Reef Aquascape

After countless hours playing  with rocks (Big kid lego?) I think i finally have a structure im happy with.  This big structes will be on the 2/3 of the tank and i will be re-using the structures out of my IM Fusion 30 for the other half.  To glue the rocks together I have been using a product called Fijicrete. I also made sure no attach no more than 2 rocks together so its still easy enough to take apart and move it around…. It would be extremely heave as one solid piece!  Let me know if you have any feedback so far.



IM Fusion 30L 5 month update

I’m far to overdue for an update!  Its been about 5-6 months and the reef is flourishing. Far to good.. infact the tank is overrun with coral (mostly because i keep adding them).  Next summer i’m planning on doing a 5.5-6′ shallow reef.. so i’m slowly stockpiling!

Here is a video update of the tank:


And for fun I also made a video at night with the Blue UV lights. the UV coral really pops.. kind of like a black light party!


Slightly older but nice shot of the tank 🙂






Previous update (9 weeks)

innovative marine nuvo 24 – The lost shrimp city

After realizing i was severly suferring from multiple tank syndrome i decided it was time to consolidate a few of my tanks.. but if i was going to cut down on tank s the new one had to be pretty awesome. I love the look of Mr Aqua 12G long tanks however it wasnt quite enough capacity to combine a few shrimp tanks..

Let me introduce the innovative marine nuvo 24. This stylish little tank is is made of 6mm bent glass and has a built in sump… this is generally a salt water thing but seemed perfect to hide all of the equipment and keep that clean look. One of the best part are the dimensions. The tank is 36x12x13. The sump area is about 3″ deep leaving 10″ ish deep for the display area.

Innovative marine nuvo 24

The stock pump is 460 ish GPH which has tons of flow for a small thank however i feel its a bit overkill for my shrimp (and a little loud) so i just ordered a Sicce Syncra Silent 1.0 Pump – 251 GPH.


For lighting I decided to try out the new ecoxotic e-series, this awesome little light has tons of par and a wireless remote that lets youe-series-ecoxotic fine tune each color to achieve the perfect blend. the light also had a built in timmer and a few pre-programmed modes to simulate clouds and thunder storms. (these modes cant be used with the built in timer.. but i plan on fixing that later with an arduino based controller) The light it selv is very small and sleek




The wood for the scape was stolen out of my other nano tanks. After about 20 different spaces i finally designed on a layout using 3 chunks of driftwood into one feature.



(offsetted for astecticinterest.. always rember to use the rule of thirds!) it was time to start my dry start (DSM)

For my new tank i decided to go with Glosso due to is ease of maintenance.. but omg was it a slow proccess. I had a lush carpet of HC in a little over a month. my glosso dry start had two months to grow before i start to fully fill and even when flooded 2 months later it still had lots of work todo.





Now with a pretty cool design ready i needed to find a stand. The cube stand I had was 36″ wide and fit the tank perfectly.. however it was pretty flimsy and I didnt trust it with 150lbs of water ontop of it.  Time to re-enforce it!


To add strength I glued strips of 5/8″ plywood to the stand using PL400 , clamped it down and let it dry over night.


Once dry i used a bit of drywall mud to smooth it out and bled the seams from the origional stand with the plywood.
with the structural work done it was time for paint.


And i do say it turned out awesome!  The seams blended perfectly and gave the stand a nice chunky look… which a weight worthy stand ready it was time to fill it.


I added a giant bag of bio-rings from various other tanks and let the tank run over night, tested the water the next day and things looked good so i added my first batch of shrimp



More updates to come once I get the new pump and co2 diffuser 🙂

Jan 12 2015:
Well it’s been a good month plus since the last update and the glosso is slowly but surely spreading. I finally almost have a nice lush carpet!








Dry Start HC (Dwarf Baby Tears) – DSM

Many aquatic plants can be grown emersed rather than submersed.  The main reason to grow a plant immersed is faster growth.  The air around us has an abundance of CO2 which greatly accelerate plant growth.  Hemianthus callitrichoides commonly known as HC or Dwarf Baby Tears is an excellent example of plant that can grow both submersed and immersed.

I decided to try out the Dry Start Meathod (DSM) in 6 Gallon fluval edge tank with the top removed. HC originates from Cuba and loves a humid environment.

My Process:
Tank: 6G Fluval edge (topless)
Lighting: Finnex Planted Plus
Substrate: Fluval Stratum
CO2: Paintball tank with Aquatek mini regulator
Filter: Zoomed 501 with 9mm glass lilly pipes
HC loves a soft smaller grained soil, this ensure the delicate roots can make they way down with minimal resistance. In my case i used Fluval Stratum due to local availability. For lighting I decided to try out Finnex’s new planted plus led light.. which so far is yielding fantastic results. If HC does not have enough light it will grow vertical rather than spreading across the substrate to form a lush carpet.

To start you will want to find a foal point (either rocks or driftwood) and play around to find your desired look. This can be a interesting process.. i know i tried at least 20 different combinations of rocks and layouts until i decided on this one.

Aquascape Hardscape

For the 6 Gallon tank i used 2 pots of HC.. three would have been nice but two is doing the job.
You ideally want to plant small plugs about an inch apart for maximum spread.  You can get quicker spread the more you break up the bunches.. this can however be a time consuming process.. so get comfy!

Insert each mini clump with long tweezers and ensure the roots are within the soil. I try to leave just the top leave above.
I also randomly inserted about 8 root tabs to aid in future growth once flooded.

HC first planted

I filled a spray bottle with distilled water and a bit of Excel (metracide 14) to help prevent any mould or algae from forming.
Spray your HC so that all of your substrate and leaves are moist. Next take a chunk of clear cling wrap and cover the top of the tank… Covering the tank with clear cling wrap will let in the light and hold in the humidity.  I opened up the syranwrap for about 20-30 min every 2-3 days. re misted and let it air out.  Its important to get good air exchange in your tank… alternatively you could leave a corner or two not fully sealed to allow air exchange or lower humidity if there is any sign of mould. (Distilled water is more pure and will bring in less foreign bacteria to the tank.. using excel or metracide in the water also acts as an anti fungal)

Photo update:  1 week into my dry start (DSM)

Dry Start HC  - 1 week

Two weeks into the HC DSM

Dry Start HC - 2 weeks

Three weeks into the DSMHC 'Dwarf Baby Tears' dry start - 3 weeks

Three weeks into HC DSM – Top view of spread

HC spread 3 weeks

DSM does work very well.. how ever it does require patience.. but that seems to be most thing when it comes to aquascaping.  After another week or two i will flood the tank.
Once flooded the HC will be starved for CO2. I plan on injecting pressurized CO2 at a high rate for the first 4-5 days to allow the HC to adapt.. then i will slowly lower the CO2 over the next week or two until it is at a low steady ammount. I plan on using this tank for fancier shrimp (who generally dont like high CO2 or PH swings..) so I plan on getting the CO2 as low as possible while still keeping the the HC happy.

Week 4

Just over 4 weeks in we have a lovely carpet of HC taking over the tank! IT looks so nice its time to flood it.


When filling i used a tuperware lid to pour onto so i did not disturb the HC/substrate

Filling the tank using a lid

Since i have such a shallow tank I decided to burry the ceramic co2 diffuser into the carpet to to partially hide it and give the bubbles a little more time to float up.. The output of the lilly pipe is aimed so that it pushes the bubbles across the tank allowing more diffusion time.

Co2 diffuser in HC

Co2 diffuser in HC

I set the CO2 to 3-4 bubbles /second for the next 4-5 days then turned it down and added a few CPD’s for the next 1.5-2 weeks while still slowly lowering the CO2.

The HC looks happy and is pearling!


Once i got the bubbles down to 1 ever 2-2.5 seconds i decided it was time to add in my shrimp. One of the OEBTs enjoying its new home!


Osaka Forest Tank log

After finding a stellar deal on a 84 Gallon Fluval Osaka 320 I decided to start a new project.  Sadly the tank has a bunch of small scratches that I dint notice until after I had the tank (thats what happens when you buy a tank from photos…at least they arnt to noticeable once it filled with water.

I have never been a fan of the generic pet shop backgrounds so once the tank showed up I decided to spray paint the background to make a nice clean backdrop. A black background will make your plants and fish pop and is always a good choice.

Start by giving the back of the tank a good cleaning. Make sure there is no oil or dirt on the tank before you paint it.


Mask/tape off absolutely every side of the tank to prevent any over spray hitting the viewing area. A little work now will save you alot of clean up later.


Spray paint the back using a flat black paint.  Do multiple light coats to prevent runs and create a seamless backdrop.


Preform a water test by filling the tank with water to see how it looks and confirm there is no leaks.. (yay the scratches have mostly disappears!)

fish tank water test

The filter for this tank is an FX5.. argueably a little overkill but you can not over filter a tank.. My only worry is to much flow as the tank will be stocked with armys of tetras and danios.

FX5 Filter

Since this will be a planted dirt tank.. i decided to go with good old Miracle Grow Organic Choice Potting Mix capped with Eco-Complete.
I also used some Instant Aquaria to cap the the dirt as the price was right!

Using eco-complete i create a esthetic border to hide the dirt (unlike my first planted tank where you can see the layers).


Once I had my base I capped with with instant aquaria and eco-complete.

At this point i have used about 3/4 a big of Eco-complete to make a 1-1.5″ layer. 2 bags of instant aquaria and 2 bags of Eco-complet


I will be adding 2-3 more bags of eco-complete to make hills on the side (once my order shows up)

Once the driftwood was prepared (quit floating) I decided to play with some scapes in the tank.




So far this seems to be my favorite layout.. I think it will look even better once i build up the left/right sides and have a valley in the center….

The waiting games is killing me! (hurry up eco-complete order!)  I decided to DIY Night Light Aquarium leds. which turned out great.

So far i’m loving the aqua color on the tank.


Over the past week or two I have been stocking up on plants which are currently housed in my shrimp/fry tanks. The shrimp seem to love snacking on the algae and micro organisms on the fresh plants.





Planning the layout.

WHen it comes to drift wood a small rotation can totaly change the look of the aquascape.  I must have tried 30 different varations until i decided which way to go. I would advise that you leave the tank water less for a few days to give you time to play with different scapes.  Its much harder to change once filled so be patient and find the best layout possible.  Below are a few (of many) examples of different looks with just 2 pieces of drift wood.






And the winning design……………




Next you want to half fill the tank with water and start planting!

Its always best to you tall stems/plants as your “background, and work forward to medium mid ground plants then finally low lying front plants or carpets.
If you know the proper name of the plant you should be able to find out its lighting requirements, co2 needs and maximum growth height. Be sure to plan for future growth to avoid replanting later.




Night shot with only the LED’s on.


Update: March 18/2013

Its been about 6 weeks and time for an update. The plants have really started to grow in, especially the hyghro along the back.. i have trimmed it a few times now.  A few of the plans such as the tall spiky ones in the bottom left has dropped their old leaves and grown new ones , the lots/Lilly have done lost most of their original steam and are being replaced with a healthy new batch. This is common as a plant adjust to its new environment.


live-aquarium-plants planted-tank  planted-tank-side-lotus

osaka-planted-tank planted-aquarium

The ivory mystery snail is cleaning up the powerhead for me 🙂

I have added 5 Ottos to the clean up crew


DSC_5405 - edited full




I have also added Pressurized CO2 and built an automatic dosing system.

aquarium-co2 co2-automated-doser

Update – May 28/2013

Wow.. .. I just realized that I have only had this tank up and running for about a month and a half now.. it feels like much longer!

April 11th, 2013

Beginning of a planted tank

May 25th, 2013 (quick cell phone shot for now)

Osaka forest planted tank

Not to shabby for 47 days in. .. I cant wait to see what this tank turns into over time.
I was also inspired but another member to shoot a quick underwater video and give you guys a fish eye view of the tank.

[youtube_video] Vj4P6H32iws [/youtube_video]

Update: 6/13/13

I finally got a proper tube holder!


I also wanted to take a night show was the lovely led night lighting.  The tank has really filled in the past few weeks.  I even trimmed it twice in the past month.


31/07/2013 – Time for an update!

Its been a while, so i think i’m due for an update.  The Amazon Swords and lilly pads are litterly taking over the tank. I think my system may be working a little to well! I have to trim it every second week and have buckets of extra plants (anyone need plants?!)

The amazon sword nicely hides everything as it has taken over the left hand side of the tank. There is also a stem full of “runners” and mini swords popping up. I may move some into other tanks.. or sell a few.  The Lilly pads are massive and shading the right hand side, these will also need trimming as the huge shadow has started to kill my red plants..    The only thing not growing like the weed is the dwarf hair grass.. i’m not to sure why.. any ideas?


How to prepare drift wood

Finding interesting pieces of driftwood can help create a stunning under water aqua scape. The first thing you will need to do is find some interesting wood.  Drift wood can be picked up from a local pet store or scavenged from local oceans or streams. If you are driftwood hunting in nature be sure your wood is a hardwood as softwoods such as pine will decompose far to quickly in the aquarium and create a hazardous environment for your fish.

Preparing the driftwood.
1. Using a pressure washer or a scrub brush remove all dirt and bark from your wood.
2. If possible boil your driftwood in a large pot, bathtub or bucket.  this will help release tannons and kill any potential hitchhiking creatures.
3. If your driftwood is floating, you may have to let it site for a few days up to a month until it finally decides to sink..  In my experience most peices have sunk within 3-4 days of soaking.


Large garbage or recycling cans make excellent soaking containers,  just be sure to give it a good rinse first!


I soaked my wood for about 5 days.  Each day I would dump out and fill the bin with fresh water to help release the tannins (tea color in the water).

The tannins will not hurt the fish (in fact it may even be beneficial to most fish)  Removing tannins is mainly an ascetic choice and is personal preference.  Tannins generally fully leach out after about 3 months.


Once your driftwood is fully water logged its time to place it in your tank and decide on a lay out!
Be sure to rotate it and try every possible angle until you get it just right.  You can also stack multiple possible small pieces togeaterh to create interesting larger pieces.