Friday, February 23, 2007

Aquarium Fish Highway

Edit: The pictures should work fine now, the original website where they were from was having issues, so I uploaded them here. Sorry to anyone who had to put up with those big ugly "Ooops" pictures!

I found these pictures the other day of a hobbyist who has built a system of "highways" so the fish can swim from tank to tank. And you though you were obsessed!

Imagine trying to fill these with water? The logistics and physics aspect of this is mind-boggling. Better be careful though, if the water in either tank gets below the tube opening, all the water in the tube will empty out into the tanks!

The pictures were hosted on a website, but the domain has since expired. Here are the FAQ's about the highway:

What is a Fish Highway?
Imagine a means for fish to swim out the top of your aquarium, up to the ceiling, across the room and then down into another tank. That's a fish highway. They're made of acrylic plastic, the same material used for many custom built aquariums.

Why doesn't the water spill out of the highway?
The highway tube is completely sealed except for the openings at each end which are submerged below the tank water levels. Like a large drinking straw, when the air is sucked out of the tube the water rises inside it and will stay there unless you let the air back in.

Do the fish swim in it?
The fish do swim in it.

Does it harm the fish?
As the fish swim higher the pressure drops a little but it's only slightly lower than the pressure pressure in the tank.

How do you fill it?
When the air is sucked out of the sealed tube the water from the tanks flows into it. Eventually, after all the air is removed the tube is filled with water.

How do you clean it?
Water flows through the highway continuously so the tank filters clean the water in the highway. Algea is removed using cleaning magnets for acrylic tanks.

How does water flow through the highway?
Water is pumped through a separate pipe from one tank to the other using a small pump. As the tank water levels change (one rises and the other falls) flow is induced through the highway by the force of gravity.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Aquascape Analysis #6: Gallery 22 Iwagumi

This week's Aquascape Analysis is Tank 22 from the ADA Europe galleries. It's different from previous aquariums in that it is an sanzon iwagumi style nature aquarium, which is a subset of the nature aquarium style. It contains only a few different species of plants and one species of fish. It also makes use of rock as a prominent hardscape in a distinctive non-equilateral triangular arrangement. You'll notice the rocks are placed so the largest rock is at the peak of the triangle and the two smaller rocks seem to lean or point towards the largest rock. This is the basis of sanzon iwagumi.

The profile of an iwagumi tank is almost always flat. This is due to the use of carpeting and grassy plants. If anything there are gentle, natural slopes to emulate nature, but no major profile-defining shapes. This helps to concentrate the viewer's attention on the rocks and convey a sense of openness and airyness.

As for the focal points, in an iwagumi tank, these are almost always the rocks that make up the hardscape. Usually the main focal point is the largest, most prominent rock. In this aquascape, this hold's true. The two other rocks form the secondary focal points. Notice how the two secondary focal points (yellow) flank the main focal point (red) and how the main focal point seems to follow the Golden Rule.

The flow in an iwagumi tank is almost always exclusively following the shapes of the hardscape, as these are almost always the focal points. Therefore the flow is very simple and relaxing.

As for the foreground (green), midground (blue), and background (yellow), these are harder to define and less concrete in an iwagumi. Often, an iwagumi will look like one large foreground, with no discernable background. However, in this iwagumi, the two smaller rocks seem to anchor the midground. The background consists mainly of the largest rock and the taller grass towards the back of the aquarium. Again, the ground in an iwagumi are much harder to define and often subjective.

Overall, iwagumi tanks are based on relaxing simplicity and visual appeal. The use of three stones is not random: the human mind prefers odd numbers visually. Using only a few plant species keeps it uncluttered, and using prominent rocks as hardscape provides clear focal points and guides for the viewer's gaze.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Newest Aquarium Residents

I just wanted to share with you all my newest aquarium residents, purchased a week ago:

These are Pseudomugil gertrudae, or Gertrude's Rainbow. As you can probably tell, they're tiny fish, only about 2.5 cm (1 inch) long. I have three males and three females, and hopefully if I'm lucky I'll have some babies eventually! They tend to school loosely, like other rainbows, and if there's food available, the males always put on a show to scare away the other males, flaring their polka-dot fins. For the most part, they're very docile, but they are cunning little hunters and within hours after introducing them to my tank they had already eaten all the copepods (barely visible jumping specs) in the tank.

Overall, they seem to be fitting the bill as a shrimp-safe planaria eater so far. Planarias are carnivorous worms that can eat baby shrimp and are just plain gross to look at. My tank was crawling with them, but now they're all gone.

I also got some Tiger shrimp. Hopefully these will breed as well! Also, since these are a different family than the Cherry shrimp (Caridina vs. Neocaridina) they won't interbreed.

I'll be posting a fish profile with more info on these guys a little later!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

ADA Aquascaping Contest 2007 is Open

For any of you who feel like putting your aquascaping skills to the test and competing with the world's best, the 2007 Aqua Design Amano (ADA) International Aquatic Plants Layout Contest is now open for applications. More information and application forms can be found on the ADA website. New for this year, you can now apply online as well. There will be one Grand prize of JPY1,000,000 (a little over $8,000!), one Gold prize of JPY300,000 (about $2,500), two Silver prizes of JPY100,000 (about $800), three Bronze prizes of JPY50,000 (about $400), twenty Honor prizes of JPY10,000 (about $80), and 100 Winning works which will receive a certificate. Entries must be received before May 31, 2007. Good luck to anyone who enters, and tell us about it, I may even feature your tank!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Iwagumi and Sanzon Iwagumi Aquariums

Iwagumi aquascapes are a subset of the Nature Aquarium style, pioneered by Takashi Amano. Based of Japanese gardening principles, iwagumi literally means "rock formation." Rocks form the structure of Japanese gardens, and so in an iwagumi aquascape, rocks play a major role. Also, how these rocks are placed and how many of them there are is also very important. Many different styles of iwagumi have been adapted to the aquarium, but the overall theme is that of tranquility and simplicity.

The most common iwagumi style is called sanzon iwagumi. Sanzon means "three pillar" in Japanese and these aquascapes make use of three rocks, with two smaller rocks and one larger rock. According to JAANUS, this term was first used in the 11th century Japanese garden treatise "Sakuteiki." The grouping of stones comes from Buddhism; the central stone is called the
chuusonskei (or the big Buddha) and the smaller flanking stones are called kyoujiseki (or attendant stones). The kyoujiseki are often tilted or pointed towards the chuusonskei as if bowing down to it. The chuusonskei is almost always positioned according to the Golden Rule.

Other styles are less frequent, but always make use of an odd number of stones of varying sizes. In the aquascaping community, iwagumi has taken on additional traits as well. Iwagumi aquascaped aquariums often have one single type of carpeting plant (often glosso, hair grass, or hemianthus callitrichoides) and one single species of schooling fish (most commonly rummynose tetras, cardinal tetras, or harlequin rasboras). This adds to the feeling of simplicity in the aquascape.

Many assume that caring for and maintaining an iwagumi aquascaped aquarium is easier than other styles. It is in fact much harder due to the restrictions in terms of a single plant species and the high light levels. Carpeting plants are often rather slow growers and don't absorb much in the way of nutrients. Therefore, starting an iwagumi aquascaped aquarium and getting it balanced is by far one of the most challenging aspects of the hobby. Algal blooms are common and stem plants are not available to help cycle the tank and achieve a balance. Instead, it is a lot of trial and error trying to get rid of algae and determine the correct fertlizer levels. Most use Amano shrimp or other types of shrimp to help control aglae. Iwagumi aquascaped aquariums are definitely not for beginners, but can be some of the most beautiful and peaceful aquascapes imaginable.

Friday, February 09, 2007

New Domain Name

As you may have already noticed, Aquatic Eden is now it's own domain! The address of the blog is now Don't worry, all bookmarks and links to the old address will still work, they'll simply be forwarded here. It'll just make it a little bit easier to remember the URL.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Dutch Vs. Nature Style Aquariums

In the world of aquascaping and planted tanks, there are two major schools of thought: the Dutch style and the Nature style (also called Japanese style, but not to be confused with the el Natural style which is not a style of aquascaping but an entirely separate approach to keeping a planted aquarium). Both are popular styles that are based on the arrangement of plants in the aquarium and the way it is aquascaped and are by no means the only way to aquascape a tank. Most hobbyists choose to loosely follow one school based on their own personal preference of what they think looks better.

Dutch aquariums are an older style of aquascaping, dating back to early 20th century Holland. The style focuses on neat rows of plants radiating out from a central focal point, with lower plants in front and taller plants in the back (creating depth). You'll often see this described as "streets" or "avenues" using plants.

Dutch aquascapes also feature more colorful aquatic plants. They can be likened to a well kept garden, where all the plants are arranged with a purpose and kept well trimmed and defined. It may not be the most natural looking, but it is extremely beautiful and visually interesting. A significant hardscape (rock and/or driftwood) is usually not present or visible. Color, contrast, and the beauty of the individual plants is paramount.

The Nature aquarium style was pioneered by Takashi Amano in the last decade. The style of this type of aquascape is very much focused on nature and imitating both natural landscapes and snapshots of natural environments. This means that a Nature style aquascape can look like a miniature version of a mountain range with tree lined slopes, or like a scene under the surface of a small river.

Hardscape usually plays a role in framing the aquascape or helps to create flow. Nature style aquascapes are often also one of three shapes: concave shaped, convex shaped, or triangular. Concave means that the height of the plants decreases to some central low point, then slopes back up. Convex is the opposite of concave, and is often called an "island" shape since the plants are low on either side but high in the middle. Finally, triangular shaped aquascapes are shaped like a right triangle, and the height of the plants slopes gradually from high on one side of the tank to low on the other. In most Nature style aquascapes, there is only one main focal point and it is almost always positioned according to the Golden Rule. Natural appearance, flow, and other Japanese gardening principles are most important

Within each of these styles there are further sub-styles that I'll explore a little further in another article.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Digg and Added

Today I tweaked a few things with the site, and most importantly, I added Digg and links to the bottom of every post. So if you like an article or want to save it for later, digg it or save it to your! Also I expanded my list of favorite aquascaping and aquatic plant books on the right-hand side. Check 'em out!

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