Friday, December 14, 2007
Color temperature, measured in Kelvins, is often the easiest measure to find, after wattage. It is a measure of the overall color of the light as it appears to the human eye. Lower color temperatures appear reddish while higher temperatures appear bluish with white in the middle of the range. Often, a temperature between 5000K and 10,000K is recommended for a planted aquarium. However, two bulbs with the same color temperature may in fact be emitting very different light, some more useful to plants than others. This has to do with the different wavelengths of light, and explains why relying on color temperature alone can be misleading.
Visible light is made up of many different wavelengths, mixed together. It's the absorption or reflection of particular wavelengths that produce colors. Plants require certain wavelengths of light to carry out photosynthesis using chlorophyll. The light that chlorophyll absorbs is used to power photosynthesis. By examining the wavelengths of light absorbed by chlorophyll, we can begin to understand the needs of our aquatic plants.
As shown above, plants need the majority of the light to be around 400-450nm and 650-675nm (or blue and red light). The blue light is used for leaf growth, and promotes bushy, compact growth, while red light is mainly used for flowering and strong stems. They reflect most green light, thus explaining why leaves are green.
Armed with this information, we know that any aquarium light will need to produce large amounts of blue and red light. Most bulb manufacturers include the spectral output graph of their products on or in the packaging. Examine this output graph and try to find a bulb that matches up with the spectral absorption graph for chlorophyll. The closer the match, the better the bulb will be for your plants. For example, the following graph is for a GE 9325K bulb.
The bulb matches up fairly well, although the spike at 600nm is not really red enough (650-675nm) for a plant to fully benefit. The blue light spike is however beneficial, and the spike in greenish-yellow light will make the bulb look bright to the human eye.
Although you may not notice a major difference between bulbs, a mix between a color temperature that you like and a spectral output that your plants like will help create healthier plants and a healthier aquarium.
For more in-depth information on the science of full spectrum aquarium lighting, check out this discussion of aquarium lighting science and photosynthesis, or this aquarium light bulb comparison study. For more information on lighting metrics, check out this page on Kelvin, nanometers, PAR, and CRI.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
This is a cross section of the "waterfall." A tube and airstone blows bubbles up through a space behind the wall, and as a result, pulls water and tiny grains of sand (blue dots) from a sloped reservoir (sloped so that gravity pulls the sand down and into the bubble stream) up the narrow space. Once the grains reach a second opening, they forced out the second opening with the water current and fall back down the front of the wall back into the reservoir. Here's a picture of what this looks like before any plants are added:
As you can see, very fine sand must be used for this to work. Additionally, where the sand falls is affected greatly by other currents in the tank, and it will inevitably fall outside of the reservoir. This means this effect is not the most practical for everyday use, as using it with a filter would probably blow the falling sand everywhere else in your tank. I'm sure much tweaking and adjusting is necessary to find the best type of sand suited for this application, and what size space behind the wall works best. How the sand is ejected from the top of the bubble column is also probably a problem area that requires a lot of attention and adjustment. It's hard to tell from the diagram, but the bubble column space most likely extends above the water line. This forces the water pulled up by the bubbles out the sand-ejection opening. Otherwise, the sand would continue to follow the current of bubbles and water up and out the top of the column (and you'd have a messy volcano effect instead of a waterfall!). The final effect, if done correctly, looks absolutely stunning in pictures.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Sunday, October 07, 2007
I've just noticed that in Internet Explorer, the sidebar seems to be pushed way down the page for some reason. It looks fine in Firefox, however. I've done a bit of research and it turns out IE is just really fussy and it could be any little error in the code. So I have to sort through the entire code and see if something is tripping up IE. I apologize to all those who use Internet Explorer, I'll try to have it fixed as soon as possible, but bear with me, it's going to take a long time to figure this out! In the meantime, you may want to look at getting Firefox instead...
This Aquascape Analysis is for Jordan Reece's beautiful "Iwagumi Rock Garden," which was also the tank of the month at Aquatic Plant Central. The tank is an ADA 90P and it's a perfect example of Japanese style (Amano inspired) aquascaping.
First, the profile is a pleasing "V" shape with two uneven peaks on either side. This creates a natural valley in the middle, carpeted nicely with Hemianthus callitrichoides. The two rocks help create the height, aided by some taller stem plants. They also act to separate the aquascape into three distinct areas: the left, the middle, and the right. This is aesthetically pleasing to the viewer.
The focal point is clearly the rock on the right side of the aquarium. The bight green plants around it help to create a draw for the viewer's eyes, contrasting with the darkness of the rock itself. There is a secondary focal point on the left side of the tank around the other rock, which draws the viewer's eyes because it juts up into the background.
Both rocks form the basis for the flow present in the aquascape. Since they are mostly vertical, the viewer's gaze naturally flows down the rock from the focal point and towards the opposite focal point, crossing the middle of the tank.
The foreground, which wraps around the front of the aquarium, is separated from the background by the Blyxa japonica. The contrast in textures between these two plants makes the area where they meet and overlap very interesting and pleasing. The taller plants behind the rocks help to create a deeper sense of depth to the aquascape, enhancing visual interest.
Overall, this aquascape could very well have come straight out of the ADA gallery. Congratulations to Jordan for creating such a beautiful and mesmerizing aquascape!
Sunday, September 23, 2007
On September 16th, the Tokyo was home to the equivalent of the Oscars for the aquascaping community. The awards for the International Aquatic Plants Layout Contest 2007 winners were awarded and slides of the winning aquascapes were displayed. Although there aren't any clear pictures of the aquascapes yet, there are photos of the slide show and event over at Creative Aquascape Union. Check them out and I'll post the winning aquascapes when better photos pop up!
Friday, September 07, 2007
The AquaClear line consists of hang-on-back (HOB) filters in different sizes that simply hang over the edge of the aquarium, eliminating the need for hoses and space beneath the aquarium to house an external filter. They are a perfect solution for beginners and those short on space. The filters are also extremely economical, ranging from just $22 for a Mini which is rated up to 20 gallons to $65 for a monster 500 which can handle up to 110 gallons all by itself.
The system works by pulling water up through an intake tube via an impeller and pushing it through the filter media and back into the tank via an overflow lip. The media is where the AquaClear filters really shine. Unlike other HOB filters that use cartridges, AquaClear media is held in an easy to remove insert, but each set of media (biological, chemical, mechanical) is it's own individual unit, wrapped up in a mesh bag and stacked one on top of the other. This makes it very easy to clean and prevents shock to the aquarium since you can replace the media one at a time, allowing the bacterial colonies to propogate from the old media to the new. It also spreads out the media over a greater area, allowing longer contact times and improving efficiency. Using your own media is possible, though not as convenient as in a canister filter. The set-up also allows for easy restarts, since the distance the impeller has to pull the water is minimal. All is needed is to fill the filter with water and the impeller will do the rest. The filter also allows the flow to be adjusted by simply shifting the intake tube to the side of the impeller. This is handy during feeding times when you don't want the filter's flow to create a blizzard of food flakes. The lack of tubing and the ever-annoying suction cups (ever done battle with a suction cup inside your tank that just doesn't want to let go?) also makes it very easy to move this filter from one tank to another, making it an excellent choice for a quarantine tank filter or a seeding filter to jumpstart the bacterial colonies in a new tank.
The quality of the plastic used in the filters is a little questionable, but unless you routinely abuse your filter equipment with heavy objects or like to leave it out on the floor to step on, it's not a big deal. The only other qualm users might have is the waterfall style outflow. This can get quite noisy depending on your water level (unless you enjoy the noise of splashing water) and for those of you with CO2 injection of some sort, the water disturbance will cause a lot of CO2 to escape.
If you're looking for a cheap, basic filter that is dependable and convenient, AquaClear filters are definitely a best buy, earning five out of five fish.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
- Lighting - It's a clamp light from Ikea called DINGE with an 8 watt compact fluorescent flood bulb of normal "soft white" color temperature. It's kept on for about 8 hours a day and is clamped onto the side of my desk bookshelf above the tank.
- Temperature - There is no heater in the tank, but my computer sits right beneath it under the desk, so it gets a constant stream of warm air flowing past it, keeping it slightly warmer than room temperature.
- Water Changes - I change about 40% of the water every week using a small plastic cup.
- Fertilizers - I use no fertilizers, since the light is not very intense, the plants are not very demanding plants, and the small size of the tank would make overdosing fertilizers far too easy
Sunday, August 19, 2007
The glass vase is about 1/2 a gallon (about 1.8 liters) so it's quite small. The light is a simple 8 watt compact fluorescent flood light I bought at Ikea (it's not really the right color temperature, but it gets the job done). There's no filtration, since doing water changes is so easy and there's no livestock except a few Malaysian trumpet snails.
It looks rather barren now, but it should slowly but surely fill in. The plant in the back is a narrow leaf Java Fern, the front left is a dwarf Sag and the front right is Stargrass. There's also some Christmas moss tied to the rock and a little leaf of hydrocotyle on the far right. I think once it gets established I'm going to move in a few cherry shrimp to add some color. The total cost of this nano aquarium was about $20 for me, but would be about $50 for all materials:
- $15 for the bulb and light
- $20-30 for the vase (I had it on hand)
- $5 for the substrate
- $5 for plants (Came from another of my tanks)
- $5 for wood and rock (Already had this on hand)
Friday, July 27, 2007
Just like the sun on a hot summer day, the lighting in your aquarium is probably responsible for most of the heat raising the temperature in your aquarium. With planted aquariums, the lighting often gets very hot and if the temperature of the room where the aquarium is is high as well, this can rapidly warm the water. Therefore, one of the ways to cool your aquarium is to cool your lights. Cooling the aquarium lights also helps to extend the lives of the bulbs, so if your lighting doesn't come with any sort of ventilation fans, consider adding some. They can be purchased at almost any aquarium supply shop or online.
Another way to cool your lights is to raise them up off any sort of canopy you may have. This will improve air flow around them and in turn reduce their temperatures. Also, removing an aquarium lid or canopy can also reduce the temperature in the aquarium through evaporation. As the water evaporates, it cools the remaining water and with the top of the aquarium open, evaporation occurs much more rapidly. The downside to this is you will have to top up your aquarium much more frequently to make up for the increase in evaporation.
For a simple and cheap way to cool your lights and your aquarium at the same time, try placing a regular household fan next to your aquarium at water level so it is blowing across the top of the water. Or you can get specially designed aquarium cooling fans like the ones above. By moving air across the surface, you are increasing the rate of evaporation and therefore cooling the remaining water. The moving air will also cool the lights. Again, the downside to this approach is watching the water level and topping it off to make up for all that water being lost.
If you have money to spend, the best option for cooling an aquarium is a chiller. These are not cheap and are usually at least $500 but it is basically an air conditioner for your aquarium. Some use electricity and a semiconductor to cool the water and others move the water past coolant. I would only really recommend these if you have money to burn or if you live in an area where the temperature of your tank is consistently pushing 85-90F (30-32C) and you are trying to keep heat sensitive specimens such as shrimp.
A final, and marginally effective method is to do partial water changes with cool water. A word of warning here: do not use very cold water and do not change a lot of the water at once. Large temperature swings will be very stressful on your fish and could end up in illness or death. Instead, change small amounts with slightly cooler water often. Another idea I've seen discussed is to use a small plastic container floated on the surface full of ice. As long as you have good circulation in your aquarium and as long as it isn't too much ice, this should work alright as well. However neither method will bring the temperature down very low without a lot of effort.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Sorry it's been a while since the last post, it's been a combination of a hectic personal life and running out of post ideas for the most part. I'm still looking for another worthy tank to analyze for an Aquascape Analysis so that should be up sometime before the end of the month.
For now, take a look at these animated images found on http://www.aquasaigon.org. They detail the different layers of rock used in an iwagumi aquascape:
You'll also notice that the first stone placed is placed according to the Golden Rule of Aquascaping.
Friday, July 06, 2007
Sunday, July 01, 2007
- Mosses love light. Although they will survive in minimal light (especially the ever hardy Java Moss) they will grow scraggly and stringy and grow very slowly. The more light you give your moss, the faster and fuller it will grow.
- Mosses grow best attached to something. This is their epiphytic nature. They can attach to almost anything using strong anchor fibers, but the best options are rocks or driftwood. Simply tie the moss down onto an object and within a week or two it will be safe to remove the string. If you let your moss drift around, it will grow stringy and be much less attractive.
- Mosses grow much better with CO2. Although not needed, growth is dramatically affected by CO2. When I first added CO2, my Christmas moss took off and grew very rapidly. Combined with higher light and being attached to something, it also makes the moss more dense and healthy looking.
- Avoid moss eating fish and bugs. Siamese algae eaters top out the list here as the worst offenders, but there are also reports of small bug-like animals that can also devour whole stands of moss in days. If you see stripped fronds or notice your moss looking more stringy than usual and you have an offender in your tank, you are best off moving them or trying to feed them enough so they don't take to snacking on your moss.
- Periodically clean out your moss. Moss works as an excellent filter, trapping all sorts of debris. The trouble is, this also encourages nasty types of algae to grow, including Blue Green Algae. When you change your water, run your fingers through the moss and shake out any loose debris, making sure to remove as much of it as possible from the tank.
- Avoid algae at all costs. It is next to impossible to clean any type of algae out of moss. Often, if your moss becomes infested with algae, you'll have to rip it out the affected areas completely. The fronds are just too small and delicate. Instead, maintain adequate CO2 levels and fertilize regularly to fend off algae.
- Mosses love being trimmed. As much as a pain in the butt it can be to try to trim moss and clean up all the cuttings, it will grow back thicker and fuller. There really is no strategy, just trim it back with scissors and try desperately to catch all the small pieces (otherwise you'll have moss sprouting up all over your tank!)
Monday, June 18, 2007
Celestichthys margaritatus, commonly known as the Celestial Pearl Danio or Galaxy Rasbora, was previously thought to only exist in one specific location in Myanmar east of Lake Inle. Heavy over-collection prompted concern from hobbyists and the government in Myanmar, which banned the export of the Celestial Pearl Danio in February. It was widely thought that the species was on the brink of extinction in the wild.
However, Practical Fishkeeping reported that since the government of Myanmar banned exportation of the Celestial Pearl Danio, new populations of Celestichthys margaritatus have been found in several locations.
As good as this may be, it does not remove the Celestial Pearl Danio from risk. The locations where the fish may be found are now common knowledge and if Myanmar lifts the ban on export, as it very well may do due to the new populations, over-collection will begin again. As many as 3000-5000 species may be collected per day in some locations according to the PFK article, but for how long? And that's per collector! Unfortunately, as long as there is a very strong demand for these fish from the aquarium trade and there is money to be made, Celestichthys margaritatus will continue to be over-collected and will be at risk for extinction in the wild.
Ironically, the species is relatively easy to breed in captivity. Responsible aquarium hobbyists should demand tank bred Celestial Pearl Danios in order to protect the wild populations. As more and more hobbyists breed these beautiful fish themselves, they will be increasingly available, and they can be appreciated in the aquarium while maintaining a diverse wild population.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Here's a great video of the highly prized Celestial Pearl Danio (previously called the Galaxy Rasbora) doing a courtship dance before spawning (although not yet proven, some have said this is a territorial display between males). These fish are highly endangered, so breeding them in your aquarium is important. Not much is known about their breeding behavior though, so this video is very helpful! If your Celestichthys margaritatus are swimming around each other like this, chances are you're doing something right and will see some fry shortly.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
There are some extremely beautiful aquariums, but just the sweeping pictures of all the aquariums in one room is pretty enough. There are even a few salt water aquariums as well. If you are ever in Japan, give this gallery a visit, I hear it is worth the trip! For more information on ADA and the gallery, head over to ADA Japan.
Yikes! Look how full that one is!
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
This is a fantastic time-lapse video of Hemianthus callitrichoides growing over a 6 day period. Just amazing to watch!
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
The profile of this aquascape is an off-center V shape. This creates visually interesting height differences, and these sloping lines also help to guide the viewer's eyes. Even the hardscape seems to follow the profile, maintaining the relaxing lines of the aquascape.
The main focal point (in red) is done by the book. It is perhaps the easiest way to create a focal point and one of the most effective ways. The red plant is also positioned perfectly according to the Golden Rule of aquascaping. The secondary focal point (in yellow) is also a product of the profile, and is located where the two sides of the V intersect. This small scene is perhaps one of the most interesting in the aquascape and is very pleasing to the eye.
The flow follows the profile and hardscape of the tank as well, guiding the eyes from the main focal point to the secondary focal point. It is done in a way that is natural and relaxing and therefore gently guides the viewer's eyes.
Finally, the foreground (green), midground (yellow), and background (blue), show more starkly the effects of the V shaped profile and how Sergio has used it to his advantage. Note the division created by the V is not a straight line through the background and foreground, but a more natural wandering line (red). The foreground here is entirely sand, which is becoming more and more popular, as many foreground plants require constant maintenance. The sand also adds contrast to the aquascape, highlighting the plants behind.
Sergio's aquascape is a classic design with clear inspirations from Takashi Amano that blends all the tenets of the nature aquarium style. The result is a wonderful aquarium that is pleasing to look at and a work of art. For more information on Sergio's tank and his many DIY projects, check out his journal.
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