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This is my first attempt at a serious aquascape. I'm certain I will make every mistake. But let's just go for it and learn by doing!
I spent a lot of time thinking about what kind of scene I wanted to make. I ultimately decided to make a forest, inspired by the wet and beautiful old growth forests in my area. This kind of habitat is my happy place.
Here's the initial sketch for what I'm trying to shoot for.
Then I spent about three weeks collecting sticks and stones. It turns out awesome, gnarly branches are hard to find around here, so most of the ones I found were just big straight sticks. One day while walking I found a tree that had broken in half and fallen over. The stump had an awesome core that slipped right out when I pulled on it. It was a really cool looking piece of wood so I decided to make it my centerpiece even though it's gigantic.
Boiling wood to get the tannins out!
I got more than I needed so I could have some options to work with.
I cut about a 1" point off the bottom of the huge stick so it would be flat, then I zip-tied it to eggcrate/light diffusers that I had cut a basket shape into.
I roughed out the big mounds with lava rock that I bought from Home Depot.
I covered the mounds with cheap fish tank gravel. I figured if stuff was going to fall into the cracks of the rock it may be something less expensive than nice substrate. I also jammed these sticks in really firmly, then poured hot glue into the base where the stick met the rocks. Hopefully this will keep the rocks from shifting around so much.
Then I capped everything with a few inches of Fluorite.
Fortunately this step roughly coincided with a meeting of a local fish club that I attend. I was able to get a lot of plants from other members by either buying or trading some of my shrimp. One member gave me a completely ridiculous amount of plants. He's on this website, too. Maybe he'll see this post (hi Norman!)
The stuff in the bucket is stuff from my 10 gallon tank. The stuff in jars is stuff that grew OUT of my 10 gallon tank, which I just kept in the jars on the kitchen table. Now is the time for harvest!
After many hours here's what it looks like. I decided against the manzanita sprig on the left because it made that corner too dark. I like where it is now, though.
Things are coming along but I still think it needs a lot of work, both compositionally and horticulturally. The space to the left of the main branch seems empty and without focus, and it's throwing off the whole composition. I keep trying to put stuff there but nothing is working for me so far. I think what I need is a very small but nicely shaped stick or two to awaken that space. A piece of hardscape that is tiny enough that I can put it in the extreme foreground without blocking the view.
From here I really want to cover the parts of sticks that are coming out of the water with some crazy riparium-type plants. I'm going to try and find a bright LED or two to hang over the whole affair. If I'm lucky maybe I can illuminate that back left corner some more... The light I'm using is 30" long but only has lights in the center 24". With these branches it really casts some deep shadows back there.
Anyway, now to get cycling!!
Lists updated July 15, 2013
java fern windelov/lace
java fern needle
java fern trident
anubias nana gold
anubias nana petite
dwarf baby's tears/HC
giant baby's tears
Lindernia rotundifolia 'variegated'
Hydrocotyle Tripartita 'Japan'
dwarf amazon sword
+so many mystery plants.
Let's see how many of these plants I can keep alive
6x rummy-nose tetra
~20 Taiwan fire red shrimp
29 gallon tall tank (30"x19"x12")
Finnex Ray 2 LED
5000K CFL clamp light
Fluval 405 canister filter