Aquascapes

Marie-Sophie Germain is no stranger to fishkeeping, having written books on nano aquaria, tropical shrimp and even scorpions. In addition, her articles have appeared in the French magazine Aquarium à la Maison. More recently, Marie-Sophie has been appointed as Community Manager for Dennerle France for whom she created the fantastic Danish style aquarium featured in this article.

dragons fury quality2

Striking and bold, a tank full of red plants is certain to turn heads, especially when carried out as nicely as this Danish-style aquarium has been. It seems hard to imagine that this style of aquascaping won’t take off in popularity in the near future.

What is unexpected about Marie-Sophie’s tank, is that it isn’t crammed full of red stems as one might think, but rather a well-balanced array featuring just about ever colour on the red side of the spectrum from a deep crimson red to a pleasing yellow-brown foreground, passing vibrant orange on the way.

All of the plants appear in great health and some are even starting to grow emmersed as they poke out of the top.

The tank in question is a Dennerle Scapers’ Tank which has the dimensions Dennerle believe to be the perfect measurements for a nano aquascape (45L x 31H x 36W cm) as well as a variety of equipment choices that make this package ideal for growing plants and succeeding with shrimp. The tank has a nice depth and a wide footprint which makes for a visually pleasing arrangement that’s often missing in the numerous slim tank models.

dragons fury, danish style aquascape

The set comes complete with external filter, hang on thermometer, Deponit mix and shrimp substrate, some fertiliser and shrimp food.

Marie-Sophie has added a Dennerle Nano co2 kit to this setup and uses as drop checker to control the co2 level and, having experimented with lighting levels, Marie-Sophie found that two lights were needed to maintain the vibrant red colours seen in her aquascape. She initially started with just the one 24 watt light before trying four Dennerle LED lights at 5 watts each. Unfortunately, these did not produce the same levels of blue light that the 24 watt Scaper’s lights were capable of meaning the plants lost their red colouration slightly. Marie-Sophie rectified this by swapping her four LED units in favour of two 24 watt Scaper’s lights.

The use of Red plants in aquascaping is increasing and the contrast they provide with more traditionally used green plants is a striking element in any aquascape. High lighting levels and iron supplementation are often used to promote the growth of red plants. Some plant species turn red when they reach the top of the water column, near the light source, whereas others can exhibit vibrant orange tones.

The plants used in this Danish-style aquascape are all good examples of red aquarium plants which can be found quite easily online, or through aquatic retailers. Some are slightly more rare, however it is possible to create a similar effect at home.

Plants used in this aquascape include:

Ludwigia repens rubin

Ludwigia glandulosa perennis

Nesaea sp.

Cryptocoryne Sp. Flamingo

glandulosa

Having written a book on shrimp, and running here own website on the subject, Marie-Shphie added a some shrimp to her Danish style aquarium and the role they perform in maintaining attractive leaves cannot be underestimated. Their ability to control algae is well known and they are gentle on the leaves, unlike some fish and snails that munch away indiscriminately.

Marie-Sophie Germain is passionate about growing red plants in her aquariums, and I’m told there are further projects on the horizon. Let’s hope the ever increasing use of red aquatic plants gives birth to a whole new category of aquascaping.

 

For further information on this revolutionary tank, Marie-Sophie has started a Facebook page on her Dragon’s Sunset Aquascape where she keeps a timeline of tasks accomplished and regularly adds photos. Those interested in this emerging style of aquascaping can also check out the Danish Style Aquarium Facebook page.

The equipment for this aquascape was provided by Dennerle France of which the Facebook page can be found here.

 

 

Feast your eyes on this beauty, and check out the tank size too. A lot of work has gone into creating such a masterpiece in a relatively small tank, and it all started with meticulous layout choices.

hamsa aqua design tank aquascape

Tank specifications:

Size: 60 x 30 x 20 cm

Subtrate: silica sand + Tetra Initial stik + ADA Soil New Amazon (Refined)

Lighting: 4 x18watt Leutech spiral lamp 7200Kelvin .
DIY Hamsa Aqua Design Lamphood & Style stand

Filtration: Hang on filter

hamsa aqua design shallow tank

The effort put into selecting and positioning the hardscape is what made this tank look as great as it does today. The wood itself protrudes from the water and appears as if it’s actually growing amongst the crevices produced by the rockwork. The only way this was made possible was through constantly rearranging the layout until it was perfect.

The planting gives the impression of being immersed amongst a mangrove swamp, with lush green growth bursting through the wood.

hamsa aqua design aquascape

Check out the Hamsa Aqua Design website

Some tanks have the ability to catch your eye, and that’s exactly what this one does. The vibrancy of the plants, the contrasting colours and impeccable cleanliness give way to an admirable display. Below are some truly fantastic images accompanied with some early setup photos and more information on the aquascape.

120 litre aquascape

There’s so much to take in with this aquascape, especially the striking contrast between the décor and the varying plant tones. Whilst vaguely conforming to the Dutch aquascaping style, this tank doesn’t look as messy or regimented as many, more typical, Dutch scapes can be. In fact, the sparing use of tall background plants and the inclusion of Altelanthera reinekii mini and Staurogyne repens provides the planting variety traditionally associated with this style whilst not restricting the space inside the tank.

aquascape hardscape

The initial hardscape layout seems to resemble a nature aquascape and provides a balanced frame for the plants, whilst also seducing us with twisty driftwood branches, one of which is to be wonderfully adorned with flame moss at a later stage.

colourful aquascape
Having been planted, but not yet fully mature,  this aquascape is already looking glorious. The depth and height of this tank give a dimension to this aquascape that very few planted tanks possess.

aquascape

 

Seen from the front, it is clear variety of plants used and the attentive maintenance is highly evident. Everywhere you look there’s intrigue and colour. The plants look to be in perfect health and are exceptionally vibrant.

 

Full Specification:

Flora

Altelanthera reinekii mini

Rotala sp green

Rotala h’ra

Rotala colarata

Dwarf hair grass

Ludwigia arcuata

US fissidens

Flame moss

Staurogyne repens

Rotala macrandra

Pogostemon helferi

Hydroctyle Japan

Forna

Black neon tetras

CDP

Otocinclus

Redline rasboras

RCS

Hardware

60x45x45 CADE Opti-clear Tank, stand, poles,

ADA Amozonia II soil

ADA Nile Sand

Sera 500 reactor

Dupla reg Armature Pro, Dupla magnetic valve, Dupla cylinder 1.5kg and bubble counter

Fluval 406

Vortech mp10

ATI Power module fixture 4x 24w (2x Giesemann midday, 1x KZ fiji purple, 1x Giesemann aquaflora)

Borneo Wild 17mm intake and outtake

Hydor 200w inline heater

Godea Ionut’s tank is extremely vibrant tank and appears to be a cross between a river scape and planted aquarium. The hardscape is a simple arrangement of rocks and one small piece of driftwood and form a pathway through the centre.

The contours of this aquarium are highly pleasing and it is abundantly clear that great attention to detail has been paid to all aspects of this setup.

One of the greatest elements is the exceptional colour dotted around the tank, in contrast to the background which helps the plants to stand out even more.

Just like his previous effort, I’m sure this tank will improve with age and careful trimming.

 

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The full plant list is as follows:

Didiplis diandra, Hydrocotyle sp. japan, Blyxa japonica, Ceratopteris thalictroides, Micranthemum umbrosum, Hemianthus micrantemoides, Hygrophila polysperma rosanervig, Ludwigia arcuata, Christmas moss, Hydrocotyle leucocephala, Vallisneria nana, Limnobium laevigatum, B. heudelotii, Fissidens fontanus, Eleocharis parvula, Utricularia graminifolia, Monosolenium tenerum, Microsorium pteropus needle leaf, Limnophila sesiliflora, Rotala Rotundifolia

 

A video of this setup can be found below:

 

As far as a purist is concerned, many aquascapes are far more like living pieces of art than a carefully constructed attempt to house tropical fish. This fine tank, on the other hand, is totally contrary to this theory and provides a wonderful environment for livestock. The natural décor is arranged in the most realistic of ways and, thankfully, the lighting is far more subdued than the frequently encountered carpet plant wonderlands.

 

angel forest aquascape

The main hardscape feature is the wood which the creator has collected locally and soaked in very hot water for several days, leaving water which is not too dark, yet pleasantly stained with tannins give give a natural glow.

The planting is very simple, with only a few species used, sparingly, to great effect. You can probably make out the Blyxa japonica, java fern and Fissidens fontanus in the photo.

Livestock includes some juvenile angel fish, a whiptail catfish, a farlowella catfish and some rummy nose tetra.

 

angel forest aquascape

In the modified version of this tank, the updates look equally stunning, with the rearranging of the hardscape to create more space in the foreground and the addition of some Cryptocoryne plants and cardina tetra, it has become a modern take on an Amazon aquascape.

Most aquatic shops have a display tank or two, some have several, but they are rarely as large or impressive as this one. This 3240 litre aquascape was created at Subscape Aquarium in Melbourne, Australia and measures 300 x 90 x 120 cm. Filtration is provided by two Eheim 2260 canister filters whilst the lighting comes from six 150 watt metal halides. CO2 is a simple 22 kg pressurised system hooked up to a reactor.

3400 litre aquascape

The aim was to make a spectacular display for their shop and I think it’s fair to say they’ve done just that. Rather unsurprisingly, this is the largest tank they have. The focus was on creating a natural layout so that fish could be observed behaving as they would do in nature.

Despite the scale of this tank, maintenance has been keep under control with plants requiring less trimming that others such as anubias, needleleaf java fern, bolbitis, cryptocorynes etc. This allows the tank to appear very densely planted without requiring constant pruning.

An impressive shoal of between 100 and 200 rummy nose tetra graces the tank and can be seen in the video below.

Introduction

I had recently ventured in to the world of planted aquariums using the Dennerle system. Basically the system comprised of a heater cable laid on the floor of the tank and covered with a mixture of silica sand and compost which had been mixed half and half by volume, this layer was about 2.5cm deep. Then there was a layer of fine (1 – 2mm) quartz gravel covering the first layer and with a depth of 5cm at the front rising to 10cm at the rear. For lighting I used four x 40W trocal tubes with reflectors. I used a compressed gas CO2 system and filtration was done using an external power filter but rather than use a spray bar for the returning filtered water I extended a pipe to the floor of the tank and placed a diffuser over the end in order to minimise turbulence which could have lost valuable CO2 to the atmosphere. The CO2 unit used a solenoid which was connected to the lighting timer so that there were no CO2 added once the lights went off since plants only use CO2 for photosynthesis.

Running the tank

There was nothing out of the ordinary done regarding tank maintenance, I made a twice weekly water change and added the recommended fertilizers, iron and trace elements as directed by Dennerle for this system. The CO2 was dosed using this formula: (Tank volume in litres x The waters KH value) divided by 40 = CO2 bubbles per minute, In terms of numbers this meant (225 x 4) / 40 = 22 bubbles of CO2 per minute. This simple formula worked perfectly for me and I never had to adjust anything.

The Plants

I started out using some of the faster growing plants in order to take up any excess fertilizer and CO2 so that I would avoid any early algae problems before a balance could be achieved. To my surprise all the newly added plants did amazingly well, I say to my surprise because up until this point I had absolutely no luck at growing aquatic plants. I had even switched over to all plastic plants and believe it or not even some of those were the worse for wear after years of being removed and cleaned. A friend’s comment about even my plastic plants losing their leaves meant I had to take some action and that was the inspiration behind this tank. After this early success I began searching out the plants which were supposed to be more demanding and each time they grew like weeds, so with my confidence very high I decided to go for the real difficult plants and I purchased a small bunch of Rotala macrandra and yet again it grew like a weed.

planted-tank
From this to …

DSCF1398
and it didn’t take very long for this to happen

Then one day while visiting a plant specialist aquatic shop I saw a few lace leaf plant bulbs loose in a tank and on inspection they were nice and plump and very firm with a few new leaf shoots beginning to appear. So how could I resist what I saw as the ultimate challenge?

Madagascar’s Lace Leaf Plant

The bulb which I chose already had three small leaves and when I got it back home I planted it immediately. I placed it at one end of the tank just in front of some fast growing Ludwigia sp. which purely by accident provided some shade. I read all the information I could find about the plant and from what I read my tank sounded far from ideal. Most articles on line said that the plant demanded cool water 18 – 22°C and moderate shade, my set up was 26°C and very bright so I was prepared for my first failure with the Dennerle system.

Despite my pessimism the plant soon settled in and sent up several new leaves, the new leaves were straw coloured and didn’t look particularly healthy but as the leaves aged a little they slowly turned green and after just one or two months the plant seemed to be doing very well.

agr1
The original shoots have turned in to a healthy little plant

At this stage I made my first mistake with the plant. The Ludwigia sp. behind the lace leaf plant was very fast growing and it had created some very heavy shade, a little too much in my view, so I pruned it quite heavily in order to let some more light through and improve my Lace leaf plants chances. This turned out to be disastrous because within a couple of days leaves started to die and fall off. Realising my error I used an A4 sheet of card placed on the tanks condensation trays directly above the lace leaf plant and this had the desired effect and just as quickly as it had declined it began to recover so a more permanent method of shading the plant was made (the condensation tray over the plant was taped in to a black bin liner) and the plant continued to grow at a very good rate.

agr2
The plant is beginning to make a nice centrepiece. You can also see a straw coloured
new leaves just beginning to show itself right at the base in the middle of the plant,

Summer came and went and in that time the temp had spiked in to the low 30′s C due to the very hot summer weather but this didn’t seem to have any adverse effect on the plant at all. So I had learned that the temperature didn’t seem to be too vital but shade was very important for the plants well being. Like all Aponogeton spp. Lace leaf plants are meant to under go a dormant period but after 18 months of solid growing mine had not shown any sign of going dormant and continued to grow at a pace.

Eventually the lace leaf plant had a height of almost 6ocm (if the leaves were held straight up) and an even bigger spread, quite simply it had out grown my tank and it no longer looked right. So the decision was made to replace it with something else since I felt I had learned all I could about the plant and succeeded completely with it, but as I later found out the plants success was even greater than I had realised.

agr3
To big for my tank, it had to be replaced

Having grown quite attached to the plant I didn’t want to simply throw it away or give it to my Red Hook Metynnis to devour as I did with the majority of plant prunings so I took them to my local aquatic store and exchanged them for some dry goods, you’ll notice I said “them”, well yes. When I came to dig up the plant I discovered three nice healthy off shoots which had established and grown tangled with the mother plant giving the impression that there was just a single plant when in fact there were four in total.

Footnote

The Dennerle system is out of favour at the moment especially the use of a heater cable. I would say keep an open mind, I went from a complete plant novice unable to grow any aquatic plant for more than a few weeks to someone who could grow almost any aquatic plant long term. As much as I would like to take the credit for this it was in fact all down to the very good Dennerle system. If I were to set up another planted aquarium in the future I really can’t see how I could get better results using a different system and so I would stick with Dennerle.

Taking some plants from a previous aquascape, Mikolaj Weterle has created a masterpiece in just 30 litres of tank volume.

Before People Came aquascape by Mikolaj Weterle
Before People Came aquascape by Mikolaj Weterle

 

The key to success for this type of aquascape is immense attention to detail and meticulous maintenance.   The steep bank to the left combined with the smaller bank in the far right corner gives a sense of depth whilst the intricate use of multiple plants in a small space makes this tank look significantly bigger than it actually is.

The small size of the ember tetra also contributes to this effect as well as the path running from front to back.  A good mix of redmoor root and basalt stone formed the initial layout and contours of this aquascape. The natural look and “texture” the planting has is due to the number of different plants used, sometimes with just one or two stems sitting amongst a patch of carpeting plant.

before people came aquascape
Close up of the planting detail by Mikolaj Weterle

 

Of particular interest to me is the Lilaeopsis brasilensis  growing up the left side slope along the largest piece of redmoor root. This looks fantastic and softens the “man-made” look tanks can initially have.

Here are the full specifications for this aquascape:  

Size [cm]: 45x25x27 (30 litres volume)

Lighting: 2x14W (Solar Duo Boy)

Filtration: Hydor Prime 10

Substrate: ADA Amazonia 1, ADA Amazonia New, white sand

Décor: Red Moor Wood, basalt stones

Fertilisation: CO2, Ferka (Balance K, AquaShade, Rosetta) + KNO3.

Fauna: Hyphessobrycon Amandae, Neocaridina heteropoda var. Red

Flora: Microsorium widelov mini, Microsorium pteropus small leaf, Cryptocoryne parva, Lilaeopsis brasilensis, Glossostigma elantoides, Hemianthus callitrichoides, Vesicularia montagnei, Drepanocladus sp., Fissidens fontanus, Fissidens sp. Thailand, Fontinalis antipyretica, Fontinalis antipyretica var. Gigantea, Fontinalis hypnoides, Riccardia chamedrifolia, Blepharostoma Trichophyllum, Utricularia graminifolia.

Lighting up the background is a great way to add an extra splash of colour to any aquarium and here we can see a magnificent sunset effect.

aquascape

Whilst lighting for this aquarium is provided by three 6400 kelvin T5 tubes, the additional lighting used for the sunset was a simple halogen bulb shone against the wall directly behind the aquarium.

The tank itself measures 90 by 35 by 45 cm with DIY substrate and CO2.

The contoured Riccia carpet starts things off well and the branches sweeping across the tank do add a natural look, but there is one single planting element that stands out: colour. The vibrancy of the reds reinforced by the yellow of the sunset makes a very vibrant display.

aquascape

The bush of alternanthera reineckii to the right is highly impressive feature and is accompanied by steep banks of tall red stems on the left of the tank. The long wavy Vallis to the rear of the tank looks great against the sunset and gives a jungle-like finish to the tank.

Not many fish call this tank home but it’s fair to say that the choice of guppies is a colourful complement to this setup.

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