Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays!

I'm going to have to take a little break from posting as I'll be away at my family's for the holidays and won't have access to the internet to post. Expect a return to regular posting around the 1st of January, and in the meantime, have a very happy and safe holiday!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Aquascape of the Week: Junichi Itakura's 2008 ADA Entry

This is Junichi Itakura's entry to the 2008 ADA International Aquatic Plants Layout Contest and it is a classic example of a mound style aquascape. The tank placed 21st out of all the entries this year (you can see entries 1-10 and 11-20 in previous posts). I really like the use of color in this aquascape as well. If you look closely, in the foreground is some reddish tinted dwarf sag grass which really adds to the incredible array of textures and colors. Good job Junichi Itakura!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Last Minute Gifts for the Aquascaper

Ever tried to tell a loved one that you wanted a pair of ADA Lily Pipes only to get a befuddled look in return? Let's face it, those not in the aquascaping hobby won't be familiar with 90% of the products and trying to explain all the terminology can have disasterous results (you may end up with a sweater). That's why I'm composing a list of gifts that you can ask for that won't leave those buying you gifts confused.

The easiest way to get exactly what you want, whether it's
AquaSoil Amazonia or a metal halide lamp, is a gift certificate. Explaining you want Amazonia II and not Amazonia, and a 9 liter bag, not 3 is just too much information for those not familiar with aquascaping. Buying it yourself is the best way hands down.

ADGShop.com is one of the best places to recieve a gift certificate from. This place is an outlet for Takashi Amano's Aqua Design Amano products and it is guaranteed to make you drool. They have everything from the legendary ADA rimless ultra-clarity tanks to high quality fish food. Their customer service is top-notch as well. When a delivery of AquaSoil I had ordered never arrived, they shipped out another package immediately. Finding how to buy a gift certificate is somewhat tricky though, so be prepared to send along this page.

If a gift certificate is not your style and you want friends and family to be able to give you something physical, you can ask for the
2009 ADA Calendar or 2008 International Aquatic Plants Layout Contest Book which contains the fantastic entries to the contest this year. Both available from ADGShop.com, these are awesome gifts for any aquascaper, and won't break the bank (both are under $20).

If you want something more practical for the everyday aquascaping expenses, you can't go wrong with a
Drs. Foster & Smith gift certificate. They have almost anything any fish-keeper could need, including live fish and live plants from their LiveAquaria.com Website! Yes, it's true, you really can get live plants and fish from Santa.

Finally, if you live outside North America, check out
AquaEssentials UK. They have ADA products, and plenty of other accessories and tools you won't find elsewhere to keep you busy. They even have a wide selection of live shrimp! Gift certificates are available, with world-wide shipping available.

So have a Happy Holiday and hopefully you'll find one of these gifts under your tree (or in your email!).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Aquascaping Answers: Kelvin Ratings and Green Dust Algae

Alright, time to answer some aquascaping questions! I'll dive right in:

I was doing some research on the compact florescent bulb lighting system on my freshwater planted aquarium. (20 gal). I found out that I have this bulb. SmartPaq Daylight 10000ºK Actinic 460nm 40W I read online that this bulb is likely structured for a salt water reef tanks. Apparently actinic light is supposed to benefit corals. Other sources seem to suggest a K rating closer to 6700 for fresh water plants. Is this salt water bulb harming my plants? Would I get more results out of a 6700 bulb The best bulb available that I cant find is a 10000k/ 6700k 40 watt bulb. Will this make any difference? Thanks

First of all, you are not hurting your plants by using an actinic bulb. However, it's probably not doing them any good either. That's because plants use specific wavelengths of light for photosynthesis. These wavelengths are not produced by actinic bulbs, so yes, you would get more results out of a 6700K bulb. As to what Kelvin rating creates the best growth for plants, that's not the measurement you want to look at. Kelvin just approximates the color the light appears to the human eye, and not the wavelengths produced (though they do often correlate roughly). Therefore, it's much more helpful to get a spectral output graph for the bulb in question. Bulbs that match up with the wavelengths used for photosynthesis will probably be better for you plants. The differences may be too small to notice though, so if you can't find a spectral output graph,
just go ahead and buy a light in the 6700K-10000K range and it should put out the approximate wavelengths needed. That dual 6700K/10000K bulb sounds perfect. For more reading on the subject, check out my article Understanding Full Spectrum Aquarium Lighting.

My tank is relatively clean, free from algae, but I do get green dust algae on the glass. It stays off the plants, but I can't seem to keep it off the glass. Any recommendations? I don't believe I'm over feeding and I've cut my lights back a few hours. Is it just a matter of more regular water changes?

Ahh, the dreaded green dust algae. This one plagues even experienced aquascapers. What causes it is still not certain. Otherwise balanced tanks often experience it, so I wouldn't worry too much about reducing lights and feeding just yet. I'd try your hand at removing it. It's actually a zoospore, and this is important to keep in mind when trying to minimize the green haze it creates on aquarium glass. The usual tactic, scraping it off the glass with an algae scraper, won't work all that well, because this algae can swim. It will just swim right back onto the glass and re-attach itself. Weird, huh? So there are two ways to combat it. There's the not-so-patient method which involves scraping down the glass while doing a water change and sucking up as much of the algae as possible as you scrape it off. This has mixed results, but if done thoroughly and repetitively, should work. The patient method is to wait 2-3 weeks and not scrape it at all. This allows the algae to complete it's lifecycle, at which point it will turn into a thick jelly-like wrinkled substance. After 2-3 weeks, it will either drop off on its own, or you can safely scrape it off, sucking up the remains. Most people report this method to be most successful and the green dust algae does not return. I've managed to keep it in check with regular scraping and water changes and a handfull of Otocinclus catfish, but it's still there. I'm not that patient to let it grow out! Good luck!

Ask a question about aquascaping, keeping aquatic plants, plant-friendly fish, lighting, CO2, fertilizing, or any other aquarium plant related question in the comments to this post, and I'll answer them in next week's edition.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Aquascape of the Week: Justin Law's Secret Garden

First of all, my apologies on being a day late with the aquascape of the week, the holidays are wreaking havoc on my blogging schedule! I promise I'll have the answers to the Aquascaping Answers questions up either later today or tomorrow.

Anyway, I've decided to feature another one of Justin Law's outstanding aquascapes. This one, called Secret Garden, really lives up to the name. It's overgrown, but just enough to give it that "this was once nicely trimmed" feeling. The driftwood also works very well here, creating interesting lines, and the rocks are present but not obtrusive. For full details and more pictures of this tank, visit Justin's CAU page on this tank.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Aquascaping Answers

Judging by the number of emails I get with questions about aquascaping or keeping plants, you have questions. Instead of answering them directly, I've decided to open it up and allow others to benefit from the questions and answers. So here's how this will work:

Ask a question about aquascaping, keeping aquatic plants, plant-friendly fish, lighting, CO2, fertilizing, or any other aquarium plant related question in the comments to this post, and I'll answer them in next week's edition.

Also, if you know an answer to a question posted, feel free to answer it! That way we can share information and experiences.
Finally, I'm looking for a name for the series. I've tentatively picked Aquascaping Answers, but if you have any better ideas, leave a comment!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Aquascape of the Week: Takashi Amano's ADA 26

This is a classic from Takashi Amano's ADA. I don't actually know the specific name of this tank, other than the designation of "ADA 26" but it sure is beautiful. I've had a look through the Nature Aquarium World books and haven't found it, so I'm going to stick with "ADA 26" unless someone else can find a proper name. The shape of the layout here is so dramatic, and the contrast of colors and leaf shapes is amazing. The natural "valley" in the middle of the layout draws attention while the bright green on one side and the red on the other keep the eyes busy. I personally love sand-foreground tanks, and tried one myself, but it's just a pain to keep clean in a long term tank. This aquascape proves without a doubt that Amano is a master at the art form.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Aquascape of the Week: Stephen Chong's Bamboo Forest

This week's aquascape is an amazing little tank called Bamboo Forest by Stephen Chong. I was amazed recently with an entry to the ADA aquascaping contest at how aquascapers are starting to not only mimic landscapes, but also specific types of trees. Stephen does an excellent job here of capturing the look of a bamboo forest. The choice of plants is excellent and the dense bushy growth mimics how bamboo really looks in the wild. Feel free to browse Stephen's other aquascapes, there are plenty of excellent ones!

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