Going Dutch - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 97 (permalink) Old 02-06-2014, 04:12 AM Thread Starter
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Going Dutch

I was inspired by another member, ua hua, to do a dutch aquascape challenge. I decided to make a journal of it and share my progress. I am open to any constructive feedback and guidance.

Current Image of Tank 6/12/2014

Tank size (75 gallons)
Lights (zoomed T5HO; current satellite plus led; BML Dutch plus)
Eheim Canister 2215 replaced with 2217 on 6/7/2014
Pressurized CO2
Foam Wall (Sakrete EZ Base Patio stone and paver base)
hydro inline heater
UV Sterilizer (added 5/4/2014)
Ista Max Mix CO2 Reactor

Flourite Black (5 bags)
Flourite Black Sand (2 bags)

Walls {
Left wall (Taiwan moss; anubias nana)
Back wall (java moss. Microsorum pteropus 'Windeløv')
Right wall (Taiwan moss; Microsorum pteropus 'needle' removed because it seemed to block the inflow)

1. Lace Wisteria (Hygrophila difformis fast grower pH 5.5 - 8)
2. Rotala rotundifolia (fast grower pH 5.5 - 8)
3. Jungle Val (Vallisneria americana var. americana fast grower pH 7)
4. Ludwigia repens (fast grower pH 5.5 - 8)
5. Amazon Sword (Echinodorus bleheri fast grower pH 6 - 8)
6. Bacopa caroliniana (fast grower pH 6 - 8)
7. Tiger Lotus (Nymphaea lotus fast grower pH 6 - 8)
8. Cabomba purple (fast grower pH 6 - 8)
9. Lobelia cardinalis (slow grower pH 6 - 8)
10. Downoi (Pogostemon helferi slow grower pH 6 - 8) -- trying it again
11. Rotala macrandra (Butterfly fast grower pH 5 -7)
12. Echinodorus angustifolia 'Vesuvius' (slow/ medium grower pH 6 - 8)
13. Hygrophila corymbosa (slow grower pH 5.5 - 8)
Moss ball (Cladophora aegagropila slow grower pH 6 - 8)
14. Limnophila hippuridoides (slow/medium grower pH 6 - 8)
15. Brazilian Pennywort (Hydrocotyle leucocephala fast grower pH 5.5 - 8)

Top Level Swimmers:
3 Marble Hatchet (Carnegiella strigata 2" temp 75-81° F, KH 10-18, pH 5.5-7.5) (3 died from ick 4/29, 4/30)

Top - Mid Level Swimmers:
7 5 Boesemani Rainbow (Melanotaenia boesemani 3" temp 72 - 77, KH 9 - 19, pH 7 - 8) {4/24: 1 Boesemani disappeared; 5/3 : 1 Boesemani died from internal parasites or white lesions and missing scales}
3 2 6 Threadfin Rainbow (Iriatherina werneri 2" temp 72 - 77, KH 7 - 10, pH 5.8 - 6.5) {4/28 : 1 Threadfin disappeared}
3 Praecox Rainbow (Melanotaenia praecox 3" temp 64 - 72, KH 8 - 12, pH 5.8 - 6.5)
1 Turquoise Rainbow (Melanotaenia lacustris 4" temp 70-77, KH 10-12, pH 7.0-7.5)

Mid Level Swimmers:
7 3 Von rio flame tetra (Hyphessobrycon flammeus 2" temp 72 - 77, KH 4 - 8, pH 5.5 - 7.5) {5/2 : 1 died may be due to ick; 5/4 : 1 died from possible internal parasites; 5/5 : 1 missing, assumed dead} removed remaining 3 to other tank

Bottom Level Swimmers:
2 German Blue Ram (Papiliochromis ramirezi 3" temp 72-79° F, KH 5-12, pH 5.0-7.0) Male died 5/3 with no outward signs of problems; female died 5/6 with popeye
1 Apistogramma borellii (4" temp 68 - 79, KH 8 - 18, pH 6 - 8) { died 5/4 with no outward physical symptoms, possible due to internal parasite}
7 dwarf cory cats

Clean-up Crew:
5 Otocinclus Catfish (Otocinclus sp. 2" temp 74-79° F, KH 6-10, pH 6.8-7.5)
2 1 Siamese Algae Eater (Crossocheilus siamensis 6" temp 75-79° F, KH 5-10, pH 6.5-7.0) {moved 1 to 20 gallon bc he was being too aggressive 5/9} added 1 back when the plants grew in more
1 Zebra Netrite snail (Neritina natalensis sp. "Zebra" 1" temp 72 - 78, dH 8 - 12, pH 7 - 8.5) {pronounced dead 5/5 since it hasn't moved and it's body isn't retracting back into the shell when touched}
1 Black Mystery snail (2" temp 68 - 85, KH 12 - 18, pH 6.5 - 8)
1 Apple snail (2" temp 68 - 85, KH 12 - 18, pH 6.5 - 8)

Notes from www.aqadvisor.com
Note: Marbled Hatchet may jump - lids are recommended.
Warning: At least 5 x Neon Dwarf Rainbowfish are recommended in a group.
Warning: At least 5 x Turquoise Rainbowfish are recommended in a group.
Warning: At least 5 x Marbled Hatchet are recommended in a group.
Warning: At least 5 x Threadfin RainbowFish are recommended in a group.
Recommended temperature range: 78.8 - 80.6 F.
Recommended pH range: 7 - 7.
Recommended hardness range: 10 - 12 dH.

If I remove the snails
Recommended pH range: 6.4 - 7.
Recommended hardness range: 5 - 12 dH.

Judging criteria for the planted aquarium

1. Hardware
- All equipment should be out of view (need to move CO2 diffuser)
- Flourite is very low against the front glass

2. Plants
- 80 percent of aquarium floor needs to be covered
- No more than one plant specie for every four inches of tank length.
- Use of color and contrast

3. Animals
- Appropriate number of fish to the size of the aquarium
- schooling fish should be at least ten (need 2+ Marble Hatchets; 2+ Threadfin Rainbow; 2+ Neon Dwarf Rainbow; 4 Turqoise Rainbow)
- Compatibility of fish species and other animals

4. Water Conditions
- Optimal temperature 78
- nitrate level
- phosphate level
- hardness level 7

__________________________________________________ _________
Beginning of the journey

Week 1:
I am still in the process of planting but here is my attempt at the traditional dutch style with modifications...
1) it's a 75 gallon, not a 90
2) I can't afford the cabinet so it is what it is
3) I am in the process of figuring out how to make a java fern or moss wall. Where do you get the foam board backing for the back wall??
4) If there is supposed to be 1 plant per 10 cm width and my tank is 48 inches or approximately 121.92 cm wide, I think I'm supposed to only have 12 to 14 stem varieties of plants, right? Does that include the plants I use as "streets"?
5) I need help with lighting. I have the zoomed aqua sun ho led but I don't really feel that it's sufficient. I tried to read the many threads on the forum but feel overwhelmed. Any suggestions?
6) so I tried to follow the focal point guideline... Hopefully it's noticeable I drew lines all over the front of the aquarium trying to get the 1/3 measurements just right so if it's not apparent as they grow in then I will need to make some adjustments.
7) some of the plants are from existing tanks I have, others are from my lfs and some from the big chain pet stores. Unfortunately I don't know all the names of the plants so I don't know the growth rates. Only time will tell. I suspect that the plant with the purple flowering buds isn't even aquatic, even though it was sold that way at the chain pet store. I'll need help identifying it. Are there aquatic plants that flower underwater other than Anubias? I'll be ecstatic if there are

So who else is up for the dutch challenge?
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post #2 of 97 (permalink) Old 02-06-2014, 03:58 PM
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Looking good so far! Points to you for trying a serious Dutch setup. On first inspection it looks like all of your plants are aquatic so you probably won't have to worry about issues there. Now, on to your questions.

3. Walls- I answered that in response to your question my thread. ABSOLUTELY make walls. They're considered an essential component of this type of aquascape/aquarium in the Netherlands. True Dutch aquascapes as they're done to conform to the NBAT rules are pretty much required to have them.

4. Number of species- In my conversations with past NBAT national champions they've said that the 1 plant per 10 cm of length includes ALL plants in the tank, not just stem species. There's a little wiggle room there but in general, don't go over more than 2 above the 1/10cm rule. Sticking to the rule is best.

6. It looks like you've got a good start on the street and focal points. Figuring out how fast things grow, what would be best to place where, and all that comes with time tinkering with your tank. Don't freak out if you need to move things around and adjust the size or shape of a grouping to get it just right; that's all part of the process (and fun!).

It looks like you've got a couple different plants in there that would traditionally be used as a focal species; the sword and banana plant lily(lilies?) especially. For now it's probably a good idea to put them both in the middle open spaces so you can see how they'll grow in a more appropriate location.

Take a look at my 60 gallon thread for some ideas. Right now it's just packed with plants in a vague semblance of an aquascape so it's worth looking at while I learn how the plants do in my system. It'll be changing a lot with time, as yours probably will be too.

7. Some plants will flower under water, but most stem species flower above water. Chances are good that the plant you're talking about was grown above water in the nursery and came with buds. It's common for those buds to open when first put into an aquarium.

Points to you for taking the Dutch Challenge! I look forward to seeing your tank grow and change with time.

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post #3 of 97 (permalink) Old 02-08-2014, 03:25 AM Thread Starter
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Making adjustment to Dutch Aquarium

Thank you Phil.

I took your advice and moved the sword out of the right hand corner and replanted it towards the center of the tank. I originally put the amazon sword in corner to camouflage heater.

The banana looking plant was actually a Nymphoides sp. ''Taiwan'' that was melting away because of all the moving around. Hopefully it will recover in my other tank. I was hoping that it would create that "curtain" effect... maybe not

So I have 14 plants in the tank now, that's 2 over the recommend guidelines. I'm trying my best to keep to the 1 plant per 10 cm.

I think that the left back corner feels cluttered. My LFS gave me some Limnophila aromatica for free so I had to find a place for it. I put it in the corner hoping that it will hide the equipment. I placed it next to the water wisteria (left of the amazon sword) but I'm on the fence about these two plants. Maybe I should let the tank grow in a little before I do more editing.

The other thing that I am trying to figure out is if I should keep the Echinodorus 'Vesuvius' where it is. Is it considered a stem plant or a grass?

I have 2 red plants in the tank, a red tiger lotus and some Ludwigia glandulos which looks really sad right now. I'm not loving it...
any suggestions on red plants? Something that is going to stand out.

Here's some pics I took with my phone. Disregard the white lines on the tank, I was making sure I had the spacing right. Yes, I know... a little OCD
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post #4 of 97 (permalink) Old 02-08-2014, 03:52 PM
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The best advice I can give right now is to just let the tank be for a while. Let the plants grow out until the tank's full and then start seriously considering aquascaping. Unless you're willing to drop the $$ you need to fill in all that empty space at once, that is.

The awesome thing about Dutch tanks is it's ok to tweak things over time as you learn how the plants do in your tank. Just don't move things around every day.
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post #5 of 97 (permalink) Old 02-08-2014, 04:22 PM
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I just saw this thread and I'm glad to see others attempting to try the Dutch scapes. It needs to stay relevant and not become a thing of the past. I don't think there is anything wrong with making a twist on the traditional Dutch style by using hard scape but to see someone attempting to keep it traditional is encouraging to say the least. I agree with Phil about letting it fill in and grow for awhile before deciding on final plant positions. I spent my first years in this hobby strictly growing different plants with no concern with regards to actually scaping anything. I helped me just to learn certain plants growth rates and habits. Keep at it and don't be afraid to move things around once they grow in and place them in better suited places.

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post #6 of 97 (permalink) Old 02-08-2014, 10:30 PM Thread Starter
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I saw your post too late as I already changed some plants around this morning because I didn't like some of the plant placement. UGH. Hopefully the plants won't melt too much. So now I'm just going to wait for the plants to grow in

Ua Hua,

I was actually inspired by your previous dutch aquarium post so I decided to keep a journal of my dutch aquarium challenge. I have been trying to keep to the dutch guideline as close as possible. I still need to build a moss wall for the sides of the tank. I am still debating if I will do what everyone else does and sandwich moss between plastic mess or use Styrofoam sheets. Currently I have some java moss clipped to the back of the wall with suction cups until I figure out a more permanent solution.

Has anyone had any experience using Mattenfilter / Poret foam filter as walls?

Here are some more pics of my tank after I moved the "street" again.
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post #7 of 97 (permalink) Old 02-09-2014, 05:35 PM
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Looking better, now for another challenge- don't touch the plants for three weeks. Can you do it?

As far as the wall thing goes, if you don't want to tear the tank all down and let it sit dry for a few days while the silicone cures I wouldn't go with a foam wall. Poret foam will work if you can get it in 1/2" thickness, paint it, and find a way to stick it to the walls. It'll probably be cheaper to get plastic mesh and coconut fiber matting from a garden center to make the walls out of and should serve the same purpose.

If you're looking for something more rigid you can zip tie plastic mesh to egg crate and paint it fairly easily. That sort of thing is easy to super glue ferns, Anubias, or other epiphytes to if a moss wall isn't your thing.
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post #8 of 97 (permalink) Old 02-10-2014, 02:07 AM Thread Starter
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Next challenge ...


3 weeks without touching the tank?! WOW, that's an eternity. I'm going to try my best though. Good thing I have other tanks to mess with... plus I have school work that I need to do

Planted wall {
How would you attach egg crates to the wall? Would "instant ocean HOLDFAST" work? Maybe not since the aquarium walls have to be dry I guess I could always move the fish to another tank for a couple of days if it comes to that.
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post #9 of 97 (permalink) Old 02-10-2014, 12:22 PM
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Suction cups!

If you're able to move the fish to a different tank long enough to use Holdfast, you may as well use silicone and styro board. That's a better solution if you're willing/able to make a more long term/semi-permanent change to your tank.
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post #10 of 97 (permalink) Old 02-15-2014, 12:09 AM Thread Starter
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Planted Wall


I want Juwell background but can't find in the States. I found this how to build a foam wall by Smooth-on. Although it looks awesome, it also looks really messy and frustrating to a novice. I don't think the time and money invested in the "smooth on" option will produce anything as nice as what was done in the video.

I really like the styrofoam idea with the magnet attached to the back. I think that using silicone to permanently attach the styrofoam to the tank isn't an option (because my husband says so ) Do you have to seal the styrofoam with cement or can I just paint it with water resistant spray paint or paint it with acrylic?

I was also looking for black egg crate for the aquarium wall and ran across Universal Rocks 48-Inch by 20-Inch Rocky Flexible Aquarium Background. What do you think? Too thin?

Anyone have any experience with Universal Rocks?
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post #11 of 97 (permalink) Old 02-15-2014, 02:37 PM
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I just checked out that video and that setup is a bit fancier than is really needed for making a plant wall. All you really need is a piece of sturdy foam board (again, I prefer the solid core plastic stuff, not the boards made from compressed balls/beads), some way to keep it where you want it, and a way to make it the color you want.

In the past I've done this two ways:
1- Painted solid core foam sheets with black Rust-O-Leum (NOT the spray; it'll melt the styro). This was easiest for me and worked well in a large tank where I'd intended it to be permanent. This one got a lot of silicone all over to seal it and make sure it didn't lift up.

2- Eggcrate, spray foam, suction cup, and Rust-O-Leum wall. This is probably the better choice for making a removable wall. When I did this one I covered a sheet of the cheap white eggcrate with expandable spray foam (I used Great Stuff brand), let it dry, trimmed it to my desired thickness, painted it with matte black Rust-O-Leum and attached it to the walls. Again, I intended this to be a permanent solution so I siliconed the whole thing to the glass.

To make it removable, simply decide on how you want to do it (suction cups, magnets, etc) and attach them to the eggcrate before foaming. I used cheap suction cups with metal hooks used for hanging stuff on glass and zip-ties on an egg-crate and plastic mesh moss wall with great success. Depending on the type of hooks, you may need to do a little modification with plyers to make more of an L shape rather than a J shape hook for easier attachment.

A point worth noting is that regardless of the method of attachment you use; if it's meant to be removable make sure you use many magnets/suction cups along the bottom as that's the most likely place for lifting to occur. For safety's sake, figure out how many magnets/cups you want to use then double it. The more points of contact across the whole area of the wall, the better.

The universal rocks background will be difficult to attach plants to without using super glue. It also looks a lot more expensive than the DIY options.
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post #12 of 97 (permalink) Old 02-16-2014, 12:49 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you for the tips. I went to Home Depot to to gather my supplies for the foam walls and got sidetrack when I went to the plant section of Home Depot. I stumbled across "Sakrete EZ Base Patio stone and paver base" and had an idea

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My husband and I decided to put all the white egg create, pink foam, and paint stuff back... We figured, we needed a black foam board that was waterproof, so why not give it a try. We purchased suction cups and coral glue too but ended up not using them.

I have a bar in the middle of my tank so I had to cut the foam into 2 pieces for the back of the tank. I actually had to cut even more off to fit in the opening of the tank... this is why I should have gotten a tank without the bar

I tried to attach the java moss to the wall with coral glue but it didn't look good. It left a white residue, plus messy when I was trying to attach the java moss to the foam board. I thought about push pins or stapling the moss to the foam board but eventually decided to just use fishing line. I figured if it doesn't hold up then I can just pull the fishing line off and try something else and no java moss would be damaged in the process. It isn't pretty but I hope that the java moss will grow in and cover all the fishing line.

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It was 1 AM and I was too lazy to get out the hose to suction water out of the tank so I just went for it. I shoved the foam boards into the tank, wiggled the bottom of the board into the substrate and tucked the top of the board under the lip of the opening. I didn't use the suction cup or magnets since it was such a snug fit... flush to the glass too, so no worries that fish will get stuck behind it. Plus my filter intake still fit over the foam so I didn't have to cut a place in the foam for it.
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Here's a bad picture of the back wall... I have a gap on the sides large enough for my heater and/or filter. I haven't gotten to the sides of the tank yet... I wanted to get some feedback first.

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What do you think? Disaster or genius? Should the foam cover the entire back and side wall? I have a 3-4 inch gap where there is no foam, do you think that will be ok? I have extra foam so I could fill in the gaps. I wasn't sure and now having gone through it, I think that I could do a better job.

How should I have attached the java? I still have the side walls to do... but first I need to get more java moss. Or should I try some other plant? Any suggestion? I saw that you attached java fern to your walls... how did you attach them?
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post #13 of 97 (permalink) Old 02-17-2014, 12:45 PM
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Oooooh, I like that. How much was it and is it soft enough to be able to push staples into? I may give that a try in one of my tanks. I'm curious to see how well it stays in place without adhesive and if it turns out to be toxic. Let's hope not on the last point.

If the fishing line's holding the moss down then it's good enough. If you want/need to add more moss give the mesh trick a try…if it's soft enough for staples. I used two plastic grids and suction cups for the moss wall in the 75. If you can get grid sheets attached to the wall that should work nicely. I typically use staples or bent framing brads to attach ferns and Anubias. I've used super glue/cyanoacrylate on ferns and Anubias too. The only drawbacks to the glue is you have to make sure both surfaces are dry first and gluing makes it harder to move plants around as needed.

As for the spaces and side walls, that's totally up to you. NBAT tradition and rules dictate covered side and back panes. If you want to stick to "How It's Done For Real" then yes, you need to cover the sides. A space in one corner for heaters/filter pipes is easily covered by a tall bunch of stems and shouldn't pose an aesthetic problem over time.
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post #14 of 97 (permalink) Old 02-17-2014, 03:29 PM Thread Starter
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Planted wall in Dutch Aquarium

The panels were $12 and I bough 3. The foam is soft enough to staple into and ridged enough to stand on its own. I went to the manufacturer's website but wasn't able to find any material composition or toxic information about the Sakrete EZ Safe. I emailed them but haven't hear back yet. I'll let you know when or if I hear back from them. I hope that it isn't toxic for the fish I really like the look and was thinking about doing it to all my tanks in the future. But I'll need to see how it holds up. I'm glad that it is easy to take out if I change my mind. The annoying part is that it makes a big mess to the substrate. I imagine that adding the walls to an empty tank is much easier... but it seems that I like to do things backwards and take the more challenging route. My tank was full of water, fish, plants and substrate when I added the foam walls I ended up pulling up all my plants... so I failed the last challenge of not touching the plants for 3 weeks I only made it a week. It was my fault that I didn't plan things out better.

I had to redo one of the panels on the back wall so that there were no gaps. I'm glad that I did because it looks a lot better. I completed the side walls too. I didn't leave any space for the heater or anything. I figure that I would let the heater just float in the corners and eventually it will be hidden once the plants grow in. Now I wish I went with an inline heater but I didn't realize that there was such a thing until after I purchased 2 jager heaters . Oh well, my husband will probably change it out in the future because he is convinced that the heaters are going to melt the foam. (I wasn't going to bring up the fact that boiling hot water is put in Styrofoam cups all the time and we normally don't keep our tank above 82 degrees )

Mess stapled to foam wall... what a great idea. Why didn't I think of that? I'm going to try out the grid and staples on the side walls once I get more java moss. I have some Taiwan moss but I'm not sure if it will look right to have mixed mosses on different walls. What do you think?

If I could do it again...
1) Get a 90 gallon tank and hire someone to build the tank stand and canopy. This was a Black Friday impulse buy. Great deal on a 75 gallon though. We wanted a bigger tank but we should have gone bigger
2) Purchased an inline heater.
3) Done more research on lighting... I have Zoomed Aquasun LED HO and Current Satellite LED Plus running currently.
4) Put up the foam walls before adding substrate or flooding the tank.

Oh well, it's a learning process...
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post #15 of 97 (permalink) Old 02-22-2014, 08:52 AM Thread Starter
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Sakrete Ez Safe foam

Got a response from the company... Sakrete EZ Safe can be placed near a pond and the runoff from it is safe, however they do no recommend using this product in an aquarium because the fish may pick or eat the foam.

Well, I figured that I'll take the chance with Sakrate EX Safe in the aquarium. It's been a week and all the fish are still alive. I'll be sure to keep an eye on the foam and the fish.

If fish picking at the foam is an issue, I decided to also experiment with a white plastic grid and moss on one wall to see how the moss grows through the grid. If the fish end up picking at the foam, then I will cover the moss with a plastic grid on the remaining walls.

I used some plastic pegs I got from Joann's Fabric in the Styrofoam area.
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Push the plastic pegs into the holes of the foam board, lay moss down, then cover with plastic grid.
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Here are updated pictures.
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I had to replant everything since I did everything in reverse. I'm not sure if I like the plant relocation but I'm going to let the plants grow in for now.

Last edited by MamaJu; 02-22-2014 at 08:54 AM. Reason: typo
MamaJu is offline  

current satellite led+, dutch aquarium, moss wall, planted wall

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