50 Gallon SA Themed Pseudo-Aquaponics Riparium - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 24 (permalink) Old 06-24-2015, 08:19 AM Thread Starter
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50 Gallon SA Themed Pseudo-Aquaponics Riparium

Inspired by photos on this site of many beautiful riparia?(sp) created by hydrophyte and others, I decided to finally give it a go myself. I prefer scapes that look more natural and "wild," a la many biotope tanks, so the concept of a riparium deeply resonated with me. I love plants and planted tanks in particular but, as I have come to understand, there are not that many truly aquatic species that spend their entire lives submerged. A riparium solves this problem while also giving me access to a wider variety of plants and (hopefully) the chance to see many flowers as well.

Since I love to build things, I decided to take a somewhat DIY approach to this project, including the tank stand, light fixture and, to some extent, the filtration.

I live in a small apartment in South Korea so I wanted to build a stand that could accommodate multiple tanks to maximize space efficiency. I also needed a somewhat low-cost/high quality lighting solution that could be suspended fairly high above the tank, so thought galvanized steel pipe would work pretty well with PAR38 LED bulbs.

Here is my initial sketchup design of the tank stand and lighting fixture:
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Assembling the stand frame by my front door (what I wouldn't do for a garage or basement!):


Stained and sealed:


Light fixture and cabinet doors added. The 2 bulbs shining in the photo were just used to test the wiring.


More to come later!
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post #2 of 24 (permalink) Old 06-26-2015, 05:12 AM Thread Starter
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I wanted to grow a fairly thick area of plants in the riparium section so, instead of having a lot of small(er) riparium planters suctioned to the sides, I decided to go with larger riparium boxes elevated using plastic pipe legs. This also gave me the idea of using the riparium as a filter a la aquaponics. I drilled a bunch of holes in the bottom of each 30 x 20 x 10 cm box where the "clean" water would flow out into the tank after passing through the roots and substrate. The substrate is a mix of mostly clay "hydroballs" (like LECA) with peat granules mixed in and topped with some smaller clay gravel and sphagnum peat moss. I plan to keep South American species in the tank (probably some Apistogramma) so I figured the sphagnum moss + peat would not only help the plants, but also serve to soften and acidify the water slightly. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong about this.

Anyway here is a photo of the boxes as they are being assembled:


For the "filter" I attached a sponge to the intake of a SICCE Syncra 0.5 (mainly to prevent fry or small fish from getting sucked in) which will pump water through a spray bar about 10 cm above the riparium boxes. My hope was that this would also provide some good oxygenation as well.


The hardscape consists of several pieces of driftwood thrusting up over the water line like tree trunks. I had to silicone rocks to the bottom of a few pieces so they could stand upright:


After adding some plants and filling the tank:


full tank + stand:
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post #3 of 24 (permalink) Old 06-26-2015, 05:26 AM
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that's really nice setup!


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post #4 of 24 (permalink) Old 06-26-2015, 05:35 AM
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Sweet looking tank.
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post #5 of 24 (permalink) Old 06-26-2015, 05:40 AM
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Nice setup.


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post #6 of 24 (permalink) Old 06-26-2015, 07:58 AM
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Yea that is a cool setup!

those lights are pretty sweet also! Any fish going in there?


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post #7 of 24 (permalink) Old 06-26-2015, 12:18 PM
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great setup! very well done

my 8 gallon journal:
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my 35 gallon journal:
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post #8 of 24 (permalink) Old 06-26-2015, 01:59 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the kind feedback everyone

I just got some new driftwood and a Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura) today and changed the layout a bit.

Here's a closeup of the original plant layout:


And after removing some fittonia and adding the Prayer Plant:


The Prayer Plant with its large, colorfully pattered leaves is definitely the "centerpiece" of this layout. I just hope that it ends up doing well. People seem to have very mixed results with this plant in riparia.

Here's a wider shot showing the new driftwood. As you can see I added a few smaller pieces to the "land" area. Eventually I plan to add some stones to the bottom and perhaps to the riparium boxes as well.


I'm still not satisfied with the driftwood layout - something still seems to be missing. I'll probably do a little shopping this weekend to see if I can find something to fill the void.

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Originally Posted by Dropped View Post
those lights are pretty sweet also! Any fish going in there?
Thanks! this is actually a pretty inexpensive setup (which is why I decided to go this route in the first place). The steel pipes and fittings all cost me under 30 bucks. The bulbs are 36 watt (12 x 3W) Bridgelux PAR38 LEDs purchased on eebay from China for about 15 bucks each. I went with semi "reef" bulbs figuring that the blue wavelength could help the plants out a bit.

I'm still deciding on the fish. It's been less than a week since I added water so it'll be a while yet before it's cycled. Right now I am leaning towards Apistogramma (probably agassizii tefe bauana wild, if I can find some) or Adoketa, with perhaps some pencilfish and hatchetfish. I'm still open to suggestions
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post #9 of 24 (permalink) Old 06-26-2015, 02:09 PM
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You are the second one I see in just about a week to acquire prayer plants. Curious to see how that turns out.


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post #10 of 24 (permalink) Old 06-26-2015, 02:22 PM Thread Starter
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In case anyone is curious here is a list of the plants I currently have in there, in no particular order:

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
Mosaic Plant (Fittonia)
Sweet Flag (Acorus gramineus)
Ribbon Fern (Pteris cretica)
Unknown Fern (bought directly from a store and forgot the Korean name)
Star Grass (Dichromena colorata)
Hairy Water Hyssop (Bacopa lanigera)
Echinodorus scaber
Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura)

I'm still looking for a few more low-medium height plants to add to the left side near the forked driftwood - suggestions are very welcome. There is a very very tiny Echinodorus scaber growing just to the right of the driftwood. It was just a bulb when I stuck it in there a few days ago and it has already sprouted 2 new leaves.

I also plan to add a good number of floating plants to the water section. I have plenty of frogbit, water lettuce and water sprite from my other tanks. Finally I would like to add some epiphytic ferns and/or orchids to the protruding driftwood. A few species I have in mind are Schoenorchis fragrans, Epidendrum nanodes porpax and Vanda coerulescens. I thought it'd be cool to plant some Phragmipedium directly in the box, but can't find any for sale in Korea. Once again, your suggestions are very, very welcome.

Lastly, does anyone have any experience with Basacote in their tanks? I want to add some time release fertilizers to the substrate but they don't sell Osmocote in Korea. Basacote seems like a pretty good alternative but I couldn't find very much useful information about it.

Bump:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mariostg View Post
You are the second one I see in just about a week to acquire prayer plants.
Probably 'cause it looks so damn cool and supposedly can be grown in riparia

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mariostg View Post
Curious to see how that turns out.
me too!
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post #11 of 24 (permalink) Old 06-26-2015, 06:39 PM
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That looks really nice. You did a smashing job on the stand and light fixtures!
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post #12 of 24 (permalink) Old 06-26-2015, 06:57 PM
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I went shopping and came back with 3 plants. One being prayer plant lol.


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post #13 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-02-2015, 10:40 AM Thread Starter
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Made several changes and additions to this tank in the past week.

I added a adjustable flow valve to the pump because the water spraying into the riparium boxes was making waay too much noise. I added a small sponge filter to the tank as well mainly for surface agitation (there was none) and the extra aeration certainly wouldn't hurt.

I added a some water hyacinths as floaters and a red mangrove. I originally planned to add water lettuce (pistia) and maybe some frogbit and water sprite as floaters but I liked the fact that water hyacinths have large foliage that is visible from the side of the tank. The potential to flower is also a nice bonus.

I also rearranged the driftwood a bit in the front to balance out the spacing and am fairly satisfied with the result.

As far as the plants in the riparium, they all seem to be healthy and doing well so far. Quite surprisingly, the Prayer Plant is thriving more than all the other plants and actually has me a little worried that it will grow too large and dominate the riparium section. I've had it for almost exactly one week and in that time it's already put up a few new leaves with 2 or 3 more ready to "unfurl" very soon. And it flowered! Granted, the flowering is probably just the result of the change in photoperiod when I purchased it, but it was still pretty cool to see.

Here are some updated pics (Sorry for the crappy cell phone quality. I wanted to purchase a nice camera to take better shots of my tanks but with a baby on the way in a few months my better half killed that idea quick).





Full tank shot:


Close up the Maranta flower:




Future Plans:

I'm trying to find a nice short plant with some thick foliage to fill the left side of the riparium (around the driftwood). Thought about Baby's Tears (Soleirolia soleirolii) but I read that it can go crazy and smother other plants very quickly.

I also plan to tie some small epiphytic orchids to a few of the larger protruding driftwood pieces. Currently thinking about some Bulbos, Nanodes porpax and Schoenorchis fragrans.

Eventually I will also add some large rocks and tons of the leaf litter to the bottom of the tank in preparation for the final addition - the fish
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post #14 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-31-2015, 08:57 AM Thread Starter
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The tank has evolved a bit since my last update about 2 months ago. Most of the plants have been doing quite well, especially the Maranta leuconeura (prayer plant) which continues to sprout new leaves and expand its footprint. The only plants that did not do well are the Epipremnum aureum (pothos) and Bacopa lanigeri. Both of these were shaded heavily by the taller foliage of other plants and I suspect this is the reason they declined. The Fittonia was also being heavily shaded by the Maranta, but adapted well to this situation by growing out horizontally to open areas. Some new additions include:

Alocasia amazonica (African Mask Plant)
Calathea lancifolia (Rattlesnake Plant)
Bulbophyllum lasiochilum
Trias picta
Ophiopogon japonicus (Mondo grass)

I also replaced the water hyacinth with Pistia stratiotes as the hyacinth seemed to require light levels that could be too strong for some of the other plants in order to thrive.

On the equipment side, I was having too many problems with PAR38 bulbs and Chinese sellers on evilbay that I decided to scrap the whole approach and go completely DIY with Bridgelux Vero 18s, LDD drivers and Arduino controllers. Big thanks again to O2surplus, jeffkrol, MrMan and others from this forum who gave me much needed advice and feedback.

Here are some new pics:







As for stocking, I added 20 marbled hatchetfish and some pygmy corys a few weeks ago. All are doing well so far. I know that hatchetfish are capable of leaping quite high but I've heard it's quite rare for them to jump higher than 15 cm or so in home aquaria so I decided to take my chances. I plan to add a pair of Ivanacara adoketa to the tank soon as soon as I can figure out how to lower the pH of my water a bit.
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post #15 of 24 (permalink) Old 08-31-2015, 03:20 PM
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Just saw this thread today.

Skoram, this is very nice work. I think the design is ingenious and the fact that you did this within your living space tells me you were very determined. It must have been tedious to frequently take out and put away the project tools and materials.

And to top it off, great results!

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According to my husband, I have a habit of jumping right in!

Last edited by Daisy Mae; 08-31-2015 at 03:21 PM. Reason: Typo
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