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Seanmiller09 04-06-2011 10:22 PM

Help with Aquascaping 30g Tall
Well I have decided to try a biotope tank as opposed to just throwing random plants and fish in. I just aquired a 30g tall (about 24x12x24). So I was wondering if anyone could help me out with a few topics.

First I can't decide on a biotope to aim for. I am wanting to do something a little unique to challenge myself, but I am not fully opposed to the common biotopes seen in the hobby. I am limited by my somewhat hard water with a pH of about 7.8 (very unfortunate since some of my favorite fish and biotopes occur in soft, accidic watter). Due to the nature of the tank I also think it is fitting to try and create a lake, swamp, or forest setting with very calm current. The reason I suggest this is that I don't feel 2' is an adaquate distance for the active fish mainly found in streams in rivers. I also don't feel there is adaquate room to create a good current to work with. Thoughts? And the given height allows for the use of floating plants that would not intervene with the rooted plants. This height would also allow for stong vertical elements such as simulating tree roots.

Next is the challenge of arranging the tank. Given such a tall, narrow tank I’m having difficulty deciding how to arrange the tank. Given the ratio of height and width vs. depth, I want to try and create an illusion of depth in the tank. I’m toying with ideas of using similar type plants throughout but using slightly taller plants nearer to the front and shorter nearer to the rear. I was also thinking creating an empty path as somewhat of a focal zone, narrowing as it recedes into the tank (as seen in 1pt perspective drawings) terminating in some small plants. If this strategy was employed, what is an effective method to prevent plants from spreading into the open area(if I end up using runner style reproducing plants, for example)?

Any other suggestions for how to layout a tank of such odd proportions? Possibly just one tall mound of whatever non-plant component is fitting to the region filled in with plants and some lose components around it but leaving some open areas in the substrate?

I guess the possibilities really are limitless, I’m just wondering if anyone had any suggestions. Or if anyone has tackled a tall, narrow aquascape and would like to post a few pictures; that would be awesome.

Thanks for any help


Byron 04-08-2011 05:09 PM

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I happen to have a similar-sized tank, recently acquired, for my SE Asian lagoon aquascape; it is 29g and 30 inches in length but still "boxy." As you mentioned, there is not length for swimming fish, so a lagoon, pond, flooded forest type of biotope works very well in such "squarish" tanks.

I'll attach a photo of the 29g to give you one idea on filling the space; I have a rather interesting-shaped branch from the lower left across diagonally to near-right. Floating plants [Ceratopteris cornuta and the floating leaves of a Red Tiger Lotus] provide fairly dense shade, so crypts and Java Fern on the substrate. I have some Aponogeton plants that came from one of my parent plants that I stuck in the back, not sure they will do well with little light, but as I had them "spare" I thought it worth trying. The fish are all small, Boraras brigittae, sparkling gourami, Dario dario, dwarf loaches; soft water. There are hard water species from this region too, the Celestial Pearl Danio for instance, and Emerald Dwarf Rasbora. All these species are in our profiles.

This sort of layout could also work for South America, pencilfish, hatchetfish of the Carnegiella genus, Ember Tetra, etc. Soft water of course.

Central America/SA harder water fish include the Endler's Livebearer, and there are some other smallish livebearers.

African killifish would work in a similar aquascape. Also soft water.

A sponge filter would be adequate for the above. Another aquascape idea would be more rock, as a pile of rock up the back with openings and caves sporadically. There is a quite small rift lake cichlid that would suit this setup, can't remember the name, but there was a thread about it not long ago; the fish was sold as Dario but turned out to be this shell-dwelling cichlid that can be kept in a small group in a 20g or 30g tank.

These are first thoughts to start things. One idea about water, with a fairly small tank it would be possible to consider soft water, using either RO or distilled or rainwater mixed with some tap water. With plants and few fish, water changes could be minimal, using rainwater/tap water mixed. Once established, the pH would tend to remain low even with small water changes of tap water.


Seanmiller09 04-12-2011 09:12 AM

Thanks for the reply Byron. I meant to reply sooner, but it’s been pretty hectic recently (the semester is just about up so I’ve got final presentations and portfolios due in two weeks, not fun).
I really like that tank; it is a very nice use of space. The effect of the mostly open substrate due to the small footprint of the Crypts in conjunction with the arrangement of that branch (a really nice piece of drift by the way) makes it feel larger; especially the way it touches the substrate in the rear, leading one's eye to the open space continued behind the thick fern.
I’ve got the pH right now at 7.1 but I’m going to reduce it slightly further and possibly go with either the S America or SE Asian biotope as mentioned. Do you have any suggestions for substrates suitable for either region? Would a plant friendly substrate such as vermiculite/sand or even just soil covered with fine gravel be appropriate? I have been looking into some of those fish you mentioned as well. Those are very interesting fish. I have not seen any of those at my LFSs (that I’m aware of, but I haven’t been looking either) but I am going to be looking out for them on my next trip out there.

redchigh 04-12-2011 10:08 AM

nevermind, noticed Byron already mentioned it.

I vote for livebearer habitat.

As for substrate, any small-grained dark substrate would be nice. I prefer small black gravel (often called sand) over soil, but Byron will encourage you to leave the soil out due to risks.

He does have a good point, especially if this is one of your first tanks.

His layout would treanslate to south/central american fairly easy, with swords (ozelots perhaps?) replacing the crypts and Echinorodus var Vesuvius along the sides.

Byron 04-12-2011 11:35 AM

On the fish species, depending where you live, you may have to wait for certain special species, as they will be wild caught and only available once a year. But if the tank is ready for them, you'll be set.

On the substrate, it depends upon your plant selection. In the pictured tank I used very small black river gravel. It would be more appropriate in a Amazonian aquascape than SE Asian, but it was all I had on hand and I didn't want to spend more money just then. For a SE Asian setup like this is, a brown substrate like the Flourite Dark would be better, or the red which is sort of the colour of iron clay and authentic to the region. I am not myself partial to that colour only because it is so "obvious" so i would go with the Dark [brown] if I were doing this again. Crypts would be better in an enriched substrate.

For Amazon, the small black gravel works; or dark sand like the dark gray playsand [I have used this in my 33g Amazonian now] or the Flourite Black Sand. Enriched substrates are more expensive, but in such a relatively small area a couple bags will be sufficient. Substrate-rooted plants will benefit from these substrates: crypts, swords, Sagittaria, Vallisneria.

As redchigh mentioned, I am not a fan of soil. I have done a lot of research because I was considering it for one of either my 29g or 33g when I decided to re-do them a month ago. Diana Walstad makes much of soil, but other equally-experienced botanists/aquarists have noted that some of the supposed benefits are not relevant, especially considering the risks. And none of the aquatic plants we use in aquaria come from soil substrates; they occur in mixes of clay and sand, and this can best be achieved with enriched substrates that are safer and benefit much longer. Some day I will probably try soil, but it will have to be in a tank for which I do not have fish waiting so I can run the tank for 4-6 months to stabilize it before any fish go in.


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