Ok, so the makeover isn’t all that extreme, but it was much needed in the case of our outdoor pond display located at the corner of the store on the field end of the parking lot. As you may know, we periodically re-vamp our displays inside the store, and in this case it was time for this old pond to get dressed up. If you’ve visited our retail store you’ve probably seen this pond, the body of which is constructed of landscaping blocks with a cascade of natural stone on the back end. It’s been there for years, and though the structure has remained much the same, the plants really make the pond come to life. Read More »
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A Natural Aquarium: Supplies and Care for the Planted Aquarium – Part 2
Click here to read the first part of this article: A Natural Aquarium: Supplies and Care for the Planted Aquarium – Part 1
Filtration on a planted tank can be minimal, and some experienced Aquatic gardeners even keep them without filtration, but for beginners it’s always good to have a safety net. A submersible or canister filter will be ideal to minimize surface CO2 displacement. Even a simple power filter will work, but the likelihood that you’ll need supplemental CO2 will be increased. Do not use under gravel filtration.
There are lots of substrates that will be suitable for a planted aquarium. Fluorite, being one of the first iron-enhanced, porous clay, plant-specific substrates has these benefits as well as an rather fine grade for good root development. I would say any fine grade, smooth freshwater substrate will do , even mixed with sand to make a finer mix. Substrate is mostly a matter of taste, though roots are delicate and prefer a smoother denser base. Make the gravel bed at least 3-4″ deep.
Most plants can tolerate a pretty wide temperature range, but be sure to look at the specific needs of the plants you want to keep to make sure they don’t prefer temps that you won’t be able to maintain. You’ll want to keep the temperature of the tank regulated more for the fish than for the plants, but some species may not thrive in that ideal range. Average temps that keep tropical fish happy will also keep a slew of aquarium plants happy. Do avoid extreme changes in temperature, like strong drafts from windows and doors. Keep the tank in a temperature stable area, and keep an appropriately sized aquarium heater to regulate the temperature, keeping it in the ideal range.
How you decorate a planted tank is entirely up to you. I prefer the natural look, devoid of plastic bridges and castles, but a good piece of gnarly driftwood and a couple of interesting rocks are always welcome. You don’t have to add any embellishments if you don’t want to, but they do add more cover for fish and a focal point in the garden so to speak. Rocks and wood are also useful in terracing. Do be aware before adding any rock in particular as some types of rock and ornamentation may significantly alter PH and other aspects of the chemistry. Beginners may also want to avoid collecting from sources other than aquarium stores and stick to items designed for aquariums to avoid contamination from outside sources.
Though many of the necessary nutrients for plants will be provided by the fish and feeding, a heavily planted tank will inevitably need some supplemental fertilizer for continued growth and vigor. Products that provide iron in particular are important, with several other micro-nutrients following closely behind. Some plants may need even more nutrients or root tab fertilizer, but keep a broad range fertilizer on hand to start for regular dosing. CO2 injection is a little more complicated and may not be essential initially. Supplemental CO2 will come into play especially when the system is established and the plants really get going and will probably be necessary once the demand for CO2 from the plants increases. You may want to consider how you’ll provide supplemental CO2 early on if not right away at set-up. For a really impressive set-up and robust and lush growth, it should be included in your plan by any means. You can invest in manufactured regulated injection systems, or with a little research, you can do-it-yourself, but that all depends on you and the needs of your tank.
Reap the Rewards
So, you’re all set-up and ready to add all the fun stuff. The principles of set-up are basically the same as any other tank. Start out slow with hardy species, be patient with the progress and the growth, be diligent with maintenance, and keep track of what is working and not working, and you’ll be on the road to success. Plan ahead so you know what you want to add, when and where you want to add it, and always be aware of chemistry and how both the plants and the fish are reacting to any me additions.
Once the tank has become established, and if you’ve taken the process step by step, the maintenance should be pretty minimal, and the results greatly rewarding. A daily feeding and glance over your equipment each day, routine weekly water quality maintenance, periodic trimming and pruning, and annual bulb replacement will leave you in awe of your investment.
This article is by no means as comprehensive as it could be on the subject. There are without a doubt innumerable other literature, articles, blogs, forums and websites entirely dedicated to this corner of the aquarium hobby, and I encourage anyone reading this to explore the topic in depth. I want to spark your interest because I think there is nothing more beautiful than a natural, lush green planted slice of aquarium, and I hope that you’re inspired to create your own. Whether you choose a fantasy or a true to nature biotrope, dream of making anyone who sees your tank green with envy, or keep it your personal treasure, give it a shot; you won’t regret it.
Artificial Reefs – Reconstructing Coral Reefs Worldwide
Please welcome back Eileen with some insight into artificial reefs.
When most people think of coral reefs, they picture crystal clear water, colorful corals and active schools of fish like those in places like Hawaii and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. As pristine environments like these are becoming more and more threatened however, the face of the traditional “coral reef” is changing. Artificial reefs are becoming more popular as methods of saving the reefs, protecting the beaches they neighbor, increasing recreation and tourism and even creating more “farming areas” for those fish popular in the aquarium trade.
Although artificial reefs are becoming more and more advanced as we learn more about what the marine life needs to thrive, the creation of reefs is nothing new. Ancient civilizations like the Persians and the Roman Empire created their own underwater barriers to help defend their harbors. Ancient fishermen were attracted to shipwrecks for the fish that would live in and around the wrecks. Japanese farmers created their own underwater farms to grow kelp in the the 1500’s and fishermen in South Carolina sunk unused timber to attract more fish to the coasts before the Civil War.
The “Osborne Reef” was one of the first efforts in the United States to create an artificial reef for recreational uses and to preserve and expand the existing coral reefs. This reef was used as the final resting ground for well over a million tires off of the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida and was considered one of the most ambitious and environmentally-friendly projects. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. Marine life couldn’t grow in the tires and the tires themselves weren’t firmly anchored enough to save nearby natural reefs from damage during Florida’s active hurricane and tropical storm seasons. Though the original project had good intentions and the right idea – using items that would normally fill a landfill or have no other purpose – a multi-million dollar project is now underway to remove the tires from Osborne Reef.
Other projects have learned from the mistakes made with Osborne Reef and are now working to bolster the struggling coral reefs worldwide. The Rigs-to-Reefs program uses obsolete, unused or retired oil rigs to create new underwater reefs. The old rigs – most of which already have healthy reef populations around their bases from years of use – are either tipped onto their sides on the ocean floor or are cut in half, leaving the base intact and moving the top of the rig to a nearby location. New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) is also doing their part to save the reefs by sinking decommissioned, outdated subway cars. The stainless steel cars are cleaned, decontaminated, stripped of anything unsafe for the marine life, and then sunk to a new home in the Atlantic Ocean. Numerous decommissioned boats and ships of all sizes have also been scuttled and sunk to create new reefs, some of the most notable being the USS Oriskany and the USS Spiegel Grove, two naval vessels.
While projects like these are recycling structures that may have never normally seen the bottom of the ocean, other organizations are creating new structures designed specifically with marine life in mind. Reef Balls is an organization that creates structures for artificial reef use. They have over 20 styles and 10 sizes for various uses like coral reef and mangrove rehabilitation, oyster reefs, aquaculture farming, recreational purposes like fishing and snorkeling, erosion prevention, and scientific research. Companies can sponsor and build their own reef balls and government and private grants are also available. So far, over 59 countries have reef balls sunken off of their coasts. Companies like the Neptune Memorial Reef in Florida and Eternal Reefs, a Reef Balls’ sister company, are even creating artificial reefs using cremated remains to create underwater cemeteries.
Artificial reefs are becoming more and more common. They give new life to structures that would have been scrapped in the past and are helping to revitalize struggling reef communities worldwide. SCUBA divers, fishermen, surfers, and marine scientists are all already making use of these new reefs and as the aquarium hobby grows and expands, artificial reefs will become more important in sustaining populations for our own hobby. With the support of aquarium community and marine-loving citizens worldwide, we can turn terrestrial trash into new homes to brink some of the animals we love back from the brink.
Thanks, Eileen. This is a really interesting topic. Looking forward to your next article.
Image 2 attributed to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Artificialreef.JPG