It's a lot of fun to source, test, and share all of the cool aquatic botanicals we offer. It's really fun to work with them ourselves!
Lately, I've been playing with an aquascape in my home office that draws inspiration from various tropical streams around the world, specifically, parts of South America and West Africa, where smooth, rounds stones, larger-grained sand, branches, seed pods and "twig-like" materials accumulate in moderately sluggish water.
Obviously, there is a great deal of creative freedom when you're drawing inspiration from a huge geographical swatch of the world, multiple ecological niches, and no rigid requirement to represent a specific biotope. As a hobbyist and aquascaper, it's really the "perfect storm" for creative expression...and fun!
For fishes, however, I'm going South American for sure, with a bunch of Characins, Apistos, and Pygmy Corydoras being the "stars" of the tank.
Our aquarium is an Innovative Marine "Fusion Lagoon 50", which has a wide, relatively shallow footprint (30"x24x16"), which gives you great front-to-back depth and an opportunity to create a great sense of scale with the hardscape materials, while keeping plenty of negative space for fishes to swim.
We decided to start with a gently sloping sandbed, using CaribSea "Torpedo Beach", one of my favorite substrate materials- and the primary feature, Manzanita branches, following the "flow" of the sandbed from right to left. We selected pieces with long, thin, open sweeping branches, laid on end to achieve a "fallen branch" effect. In case you haven't played with this stuff before, our Manzanita is a terrific material to work with, as each specimen has lots of open, thin branches and a good structure, while not eating up too much space in the aquarium.
One of the things I love about Manzanita is that you can easily "lock" a few pieces together to achieve intricate, yet open structures that create real interest, height, and scale in your 'scape. We took full advantage of this "modular" aspect when selecting and placing our driftwood pieces, ultimately using a total of 3 pieces, with the largest being about 18.5" x 11" x 6.5", which, when combined, still leaves plenty of open space in the tank, as this "mid construction"(left side still bare) shot shows:
Tannin Tip: Like most 'scapers, I love to place hardscape materials in the tank even before the substrate is in, just to get a feel for the general layout, and how things will ultimately "flow" within the 'scape":
Obviously, I am incorporating some of my favorite hardscape materials for this aquascape, and I've elected to use the venerable "Savu Pod", along with the underrated "Terra Sorrindo" Pod, the "Lampada Pod", and the nut-like "Heart Pod" as the basis of the botanical array. Mixed in as "supporting members will be "Encontro Pods", Banana Stem Pieces, and, if they "play well" with the overall dynamic of the layout, Coco Curls.
I like a variety of botanicals in a tank; however, when you're trying to create a display in which leaf litter is not the primary theme, I think it's important to limit the selection and quantity of materials to just a few (like half a dozen or so in this instance), so you don't overdo it. I also selected some small river stones to create a complimentary, random effect on the substrate.
With my initial selections made, I began work on the next aspect of the aquascape- placing the substrate into the display. This was my first chance to get a real feel for how the aquascape would flow within the tank, and how the materials I selected would contrast visually with the substrate. I am liking the vibe of this tank thus far, as my selections seem to work well together with the materials I've placed at this point.
At this point, I'm ready for the next phase, which is to place my prepared botanicals into the display...which to me, is where the real fun begins! And of course, all of those fun "edits" and adjustments to the hardscape that can make a huge difference in the feel of the layout. For example, I am not sure, but I might add a bit more slope to the sand on the right and the left side of the tank, to provide a bit of a more dynamic look. We'll see. What do you think?
Here's a shot of the tank at the last stopping point. It's starting to come together, but has long way to go yet. Should be fun.
In the next installment, we'll look at the results of the "tweaks" and the placement of the "supporting cast" of botanicals.
And stay wet!