Yeah, let's face it...I love what canister filters do...I just strongly dislike...I mean- I hate- looking at them...Unacceptable, in my aesthetic world! In my office at Unique Corals, I have a ridiculously simple 20 gallon blackwater aquarium.
And here is the typical IAPLC-type pic my friend Johnny Ciotti took of the tank, sans blackwater and filter components, so as not to offend the sensibilities of the competitive aquascaping world! (we'd call this a "sanitized" shot for the heathens who cannot handle looking at a blackwater-type display):
Of course, the aquarium is not just a "stand-alone" item in my world; it is part of an overall aesthetic. My office is an earthy, organic, and calming place, and everything that goes in it has to impart that sense of belonging to a larger whole.
And that includes...the filter.
I have seen hundreds and hundreds of aquarium in my travels around the world. Many are amazing. Some are downright spectacular. Yet very, very few are truly...memorable. I say this with the utmost respect, because it's hard achieve. And creating a memorable aquarium goes beyond what's inside the for walls. It's about how the aquarium interacts with its environment.
I love my aquarium for the simple reason that it says something about me and my aesthetic.It seems oddly in conflict with the high-octane, ultra-colored saltwater world we have at UC...yet it just...works. Brown fish! Crazy. And it seems to have an amazing calming effect on visitors, who will stop in and just...stare. Of course, a lot of my reef-keeping visitors will stop in and say, "Dude, your filter needs changing- the water is so brown!" Ugh. And then, there are those who just get it without the need for a lengthy discourse on blackwater...
I hate looking at plumbing. And the simple fact is, other than drilling through the bottom, the modern aquarist still has a limited number of ways to discreetly get water from the tank to the filter and back. All involve tubing and returns into the aquarium.
Fortunately, the good folks at ADA make those amazing glass return and intake components, with an aesthetic that is as pleasing as it is distinctive- so the part that's in the tank is as good as it can be. The Eheim surface skimmer is another story. It is a &*^% to hide in this tank...Since I don't run it 24/7/365, I have to "just deal with it' when it's in the tank. Sure, I could have built some sort of woodwork or rock around it to hide it, but that would change the character of the whole 'scape...I had to compromise...
The real adventure is hiding the filter itself in an open shelf like I use in my office. With a minimum of sleepless nights, this was rather easily solved by going to my local import store (Pier 1) and looking at wicker baskets large enough to hide my Eheim 2213. After a little searching, I found a beauty that fit perfectly into my color and texture palette, and, with a little careful maneuvering, I was able to plop that 'ol filter right in!
I drilled two discreet holes in the table for the tubing (assuring that the table will forever house an aquarium on its surface!), and ran the tubing from the canister straight up into the glassware. Quick disconnects very close to the filter assure easy maintenance- you just pull the whole basket out from under the table, remove the filter, and get your maintenance on!
To hide the quick disconnects at the top of the basket, I utilized some very cool recycled cardboard "mesh" from something I ordered online...It just had a certain "look" that worked! And I used this cool "Platypus" brand duck tape in a simulated leather texture to wrap around the filter tubing to evoke a feeling of jungle vines...or at least, to get rid of the awful green of the Eheim tubing and compliment the overall aesthetic a bit more.
The end result was an aquarium that not only fits my aesthetic, but compliments the space with a minimum of intrusion, while being completely functional and easy to access for maintenance.
In the end, an aquarium should be whatever you want it to be. To me, an aquarium is not just a hobby, or a piece of decor- it's a statement- part of my life- and I want it to provide visitors to my home or office not only an enjoyable experience, but just perhaps- a little piece of insight into my world.
Simple things can help accomplish just that.
Stay creative. Stay true to yourself.
And stay wet!