While I was reasonably happy with the first scape, there were a few issues with it. Reaching down into a 30" tall tank while standing on a chair was back aching and the growth rate of the plants (especially the hygro) demanded trimming/pulling every 2 weeks or so. Eventually I started to leave the trimming for a month at a time and the disorganized appearance that ensued wasn't very pleasing to the eye.
The anubias, while very slow growing, had covered all but the longest branches of the driftwood; I'd forgotten what an excellent piece it is and wanted it to remain a focal point of the tank.
The Crypt. spiralis grew taller and faster than expected, spreading out through the other crypts and it ultimately became nothing more than a menace. Pulling nodes was tricky as the roots would bring up soil and make a mess unless it was done slowly - again adding to the back pain.
The aspect that I came to dislike most was the chaos created by having so many different species of fish and plants. There was too much to look at and no cohesiveness.
Although I've watched numerous videos and How-To's on creating balance and depth in a scape, and while I conceptually understand the principles, I have literally zero artistic ability. My solution was to find a tank design that featured a large piece of driftwood and a large open swimming space at one end, and attempt to copy it. Here is the tank by Tom Barr that I used for inspiration and how I went about adapting his layout to my needs.
Gravel and plants Painted in:
Plant choices are meant to be as low maintenance as possible.
The background screen is Vallisneria nana "Tiger". It grows quickly and spreads via runners, which could make it rather high maintenance, but I've found that its root systems are quite small and fine. Since it grows up to the surface the leaves are easy to reach and giving them a tug usually pulls the nodes up out of the substrate with minimal soil and mess. Also, once you get a hold of one node, the other young nodes along the runner come out all together. Certainly much easier than just about any stem plant.
The plan was to have a hedge of Crypt. wendtii "Green" with a few nodes of pinkish Crypt. wendtii "Green Gecko" as highlights/accents. Turns out that half of the wendtii "green" were mislabeled and are most likely Crypt. undulata. Thankfully I mixed the two types quite evenly and the green hedge is now a more natural looking mix of green and brown. So far it's been a happy accident. The nodes of Green Gecko are in there, but not standing out as I thought they would.
The carpet choice was a struggle. I used E.tenellus (pygmy/narrow leaf chain sword) before and while it grew well, it did tend to get taller and more uneven than I would like. I settled on Crypt. parva despite knowing that it is VERY slow growing. It is indeed growing, slowly, and I am not yet ready to give up on it, but I am not entirely pleased with how I placed it. I think that I should add more and completely cover the gravel *more on this point later* As a backup plan I acquired tissue cultures of two different types of E.tenellus that are growing in other tanks; when they have matured and propagated I'll evaluate their growth and compare them to what to parva has accomplished before deciding whether a change needs to be made.
My 5 Boesemani returned to the tank. 4 males and 1 female. Acquired from a LFS before I knew anything about rainbow fish or learned about the importance of lineage.
Current with 5 Lacustris (Turquoise), 1 Parkinsoni, and 5 Siamese Algae Eaters:
As you can see the parva is slowly coming along while the other crypts are doing very well. The Tiger Vals melted and are trying to recover, but either some fish or snails are munching on the young leaves and slowing their growth. A few nodes in behind the crypts are starting to get a foothold and will soon be filling in the background.
I am still undecided whether to put the black background on again. I am expecting the Vals to make a dense screen eventually and so I will likely delay the decision until I see what it looks like.
More to come later, including stunning fish pictures from a new friend with amazing photography skills.