03-07-2010, 10:38 AM
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Also the last for me. Aside from previous comments on this one, it also makes the area look larger. When you space out wood and/or rock in a tank, so long as nothing is "centre" or in "pairs", it always gives the impression of more horizontal space, and that is a plus. Variable distances between objects creates a more natural and spacious look.
On the substrate, yes, more depth for plants. I often recommend 4-6 inches, with less at the front (2-3 inches) and the depth towards the back, either sloped or in terraces with rock (provided it is not calcareous, the "lace rock" sold in fish stores is OK). Just happened to be reading an article on substrate in the current AFI last evening and the author Mike Hellwig mentioned 5-6 inches depth for a planted tank. More depth works in planted aquaria because the plant roots keep the bacteria and nutrient/gas exchanges active in the substrate, whereas in a non-planted tank less substrate is better because the added depth with no plant roots provides more chance of compaction and related problems.
And once you have the wood with plants around them, you will not notice the substrate and it will not be so "boringly" obvious as you put it. But if you want to add something to that, some flat but variable;e rock works. Flat slate is less effective, but chunks of rock that have shape (non-flat surfaces) but a re somewhat flattish in general can be laid on the substrate or slightly buried to create a nice effect, and then plants around them, moss growing over them...lots of ideas. If you check the photos, esp the close-ups, under my "former" 70g and 90g, I had this sort of layout with flattish rock that matched the gravel colouration, so it is not really noticed but yet you sense something is there because it breaks up the gravel. It should never be "obvious" but subtle, if that makes any sense.