Thursday, August 27, 2009

Another Droolworthy ADA Aquascaping Gallery Video

Another amazing ADA gallery visit video has surfaced, and let me tell you, it's another 4 minutes of awesomeness. Like the last video, it's shots of all the aquariums set up in the ADA gallery in Niigata, Japan, but this one is a bit higher quality. You get to see plenty of aquascaped planted aquariums, a few glimpses of a salt water aquarium, and some really neat nano aquariums. I especially love the emergent ferns in the tank at 3:25 (not to mention the spotless sand foreground and gorgeous Roseline Sharks). All I can say is it must take a lot of work to keep each one of these aquariums that clean and immaculate! Be sure to check out the thread for some still photos of the visit as well.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Aquascape of the Week: Kirua's "A Stony Heart"

Been a while since I've done an aquascape of the week feature (maybe I should change it to just "Featured Aquascape") but with the recent revealing of the IAPLC results, it means entry photos will begin surfacing around the web. This beautiful aquarium placed 97th in the world, which out of the 1000+ entries is a pretty big honor. This tank really deserves it. I love how the hardscape forms the center of the tank, and the play with light and dark areas really adds to the visual interest. Congratulations Kirua! More information on this tank can be found here.

Stay tuned for the IAPLC contest top 10 tanks, I've been hunting around for them and will post them as soon as I find them!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Starting an Iwagumi Aquascape

There's a lot to like about iwagumi aquascapes. Their simplicity is calming and beautiful and there's something special about watching a school of fish hover over a "field" of grass. Starting your own iwagumi aquascape, especially your first, is likely to lead to the exact opposite feelings: lots of pulling out of one's own hair and frustration as your aquascape is consumed by every algae known to man. Why? Well iwagumi aquascapes usually rely on only 1 or 2 species of plants, usually carpeting plants like dwarf hairgrass or HC, which don't grow particularly fast or soak up a lot of nutrients. Let's imagine a typical beginner mistake starting up an iwagumi aquascape.

When you first start an iwagumi, chances are you have some rocks, and a species or two of carpeting plants. You probably have a CO2 system of some sort, and pretty powerful lights and a fertilizing schedule. The aquarium probably looks pretty barren, aside from a few sprigs of plants strategically placed. Fast forward 3 weeks and you probably have a mess of algae that has covered your rocks, plants, and even substrate, suffocating the remaining carpeting plants into submission.

What happened? You created a perfect environment for algea. When you set up a tank, it's critical for your aquatic plants to establish a dominance, soaking up all the nutrients they can. If you don't have enough plants, algae moves in and will smother everything, thriving on the excess nutrients your plants aren't using.

So how can you avoid this when you set up your first iwagumi aquascape? The key is fast growing stem or floating plants. Add as much of these as you can, without shading out the carpeting plants. They are excellent at soaking up excess nutrients and some even release chemicals that retard the growth of algae (called allelochemicals). They don't have to disrupt your pefectly planned iwagumi layout, simply float them in your aquarium for the first few weeks, or until the carpeting plants have a chance to take hold and spread. Also, hold back a bit on fertilizing until your plants really start growing, and fertilize in proportion to the amount of plants you have in the aquarium. Gradually up the fertilizing, keeping track of algae and reducing it if you see the algae starting to crop up. This helps swing the balance in favor of your aquatic plants, and algae won't have as much of a chance to gain a foothold.

Some plants that work particularly well at keeping algae at bay in the early weeks of a newly set up aquarium are Hornwort, any hygrophila species, or any floating plant (although these can quickly become a pain to get rid of since they grow so quickly and tend to hide in everything--I'm looking at you duckweed!).

If algae does get out of balance, the best thing to do is reduce your lighting period, reduce fertilizer dosing if you are dosing too much, make sure your CO2 is steady and wait. As long as everything is balanced, your plants should be able to outcompete the algae and your iwagumi will be back on track.

Good luck!

*Photo by Mikhail Sharonin of Russia, who placed #435 in this year's IAPLC contest

Monday, August 03, 2009

APC Tank of the Year Contest Announced

Aquatic Plant Central has recently announced a brand new 2010 Tank of the Year contest, complete with some pretty substantial cash prizes ($350 for first place). The contest is open until January 31, 2010, so you have plenty of time to plan, set up, and photograph an aquascaped tank, even from scratch. Aquariums will be judged on originality, cleanliness, difficulty, and composition along with bonus points awarded to a popular vote winner. This sounds like an awesome opportunity to start from scratch and get a brand new aquascape going. The 46 gallon is looking a bit tired after the move...

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