Advice on 1st Aquascape - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 10-03-2019, 02:09 AM Thread Starter
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Talking Advice on 1st Aquascape

Hello everyone!

I'll start with a bit of background. I've had a few planted tanks in the past, but they've all been "moderately successful." And by that, I mean plants and bettas (and a few snails/shrimp) have lived well, but my plants never really thrived, and my layout was always impulsive and never thought out. This will actually be the largest tank I've had so far (due to space limitations.)

I have a 16 gallon I'm planning out, and unfortunately that's basically the largest tank I can get.

I basically want an Order and Chaos kind of theme. I have pretty bad ADHD (primarily inattentive,) and its basically a reflection of what goes on in my head. Things are a complete mess, but are also ordered and organized.

SOO the idea is to basically have a piece of bonsai driftwood (that I already impulse ordered) with something attached (Christmas moss is the plan rn) on the far right side, and for the left side to be kind of an overgrown almost wild area. I want the "chaos" to bleed into the "order", so Vals are one of the plants I really think I'll use (so they can grow out and end up floating into the order)

I've been going back and forth between using sand around the base of the bonsai because it'll make it look cleaner, but I don't know if 16 gal would be too small to make that idea look good in the tank.
The second thought was to have a carpet in both sides to help blend the two halves, but I'm not sure the lighting will be sufficient.

I also have a lot of questions regarding what fish to stock (I'm pretty adamant that I want shrimp,) but I also have a blind diamond eye betta that I'd like to keep in the tank too. But I think I'm supposed to post that under the fish topic?

This whole project is such a practice in patience for me. I really want to impulse purchase everything like I have in the past, but I know that's not the way for me to succeed this time around. Its torture, but it also makes me smile
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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 10-03-2019, 02:28 AM
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How will you grow your plants? You need to think about your substrate and ecosystem as the foundation for your design. There are many choices. Watch the context for advice. Tips for dirt vs inert, etc.

Please share more, and you will get more advice.

Cheers

Style: Organic soil (dirt), sand, gravel, plants, moss, algae, biofilm, mulm, snails, shrimp, small fish
Tech: Fluval Plant 3.0 Nano, Top Fin MF10, Tunze 3161, Eheim Skim 350, Neptune Apex EL
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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 10-04-2019, 01:53 AM Thread Starter
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Haha sorry, I didn't realize how non specific it was if you aren't in my head

For substrate I'll be using Tropica aquasoil. The substrate in my current tank is inert, and I used potting soil with a cap for my first tank. From what I've been reading about the pros and cons of different substrate types, aquasoil is a better fit for what I need

I think I more so need help with design decisions. I received the driftwood I ordered today, and I'm starting to realize this portion is going to be more difficult than I originally thought. I got a bonsai tree and 8 smaller pieces of manzanita. I like the bonsai, but I'm not really in love with this one. There's more variation in the coloring than the pictures showed, but maybe thats because it as waterlogged when the picture was taken.

I haven't visited my LFS since I started planning this. I intend to make a trip this weekend

Questions:
1) Ideally, I should love what will be a centerpiece of my tank, right? I think I need to accept that I'll have to spend more than I'd really like to get a better quality and not try to cut corners to try to speed up this process. So 2nd part of this question: whats a good place to look for a new bonsai tree?

2) How the hell do you start figuring out how to arrange various pieces of driftwood? I don't know where to even begin on this one

3) Do most aquascapes end up using rocks to support various other pieces of hardscape? I didn't get any, and wasn't really planning on it, but it feels like it may make this easier if I have another element to play with. And as with the first question, any recommendations on where to get it?

4) I'm pretty set on having driftwood in the "chaos" side of the tank. Where's a good place to find smaller pieces? (by smaller I mean 20" or less)

I may or may not have underestimated how crucial/detailed this step is... I'm just sitting here looking at this stuff and I'm not even sure where to begin
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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 10-09-2019, 01:39 PM
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Kuvi, I think that some pictures of what you are working with will also be important. My advice would be to set up some of your current wood, rocks and bonsai in the best way you would like them to go and start from there. Do some research on the rule of thirds in aquascaping design and that should get you on your way. I recently posted to another thread and put this picture in it to give a breif explanation of the rule of thirds.

Obviously your design does not have to perfectly coincide with these but you can see in the pic that there are very nice lines of plants and hardscape that line up with the diagonal lines and the intersection of the thirds lines. These intersections are places where you would want a focal point or, if you want, a prominent negative space point. My suggestion would be to add more rocks if you have them and then make one side of the planted areas larger than the other side of the planted area. Then align rocks and wood to give a natural flow for the viewer. That can be generally from upper left to lower right or vice versa and you can even add some contour along the way.
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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 10-09-2019, 06:28 PM
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A couple of things.

1) All these bonsai trees we buy are actually man made. They are not literally bonsai trees. People have just glued wood together to make them look like a bonsai tree. As such they all have massive amounts of color variation when dry. This doesn't matter though since they all turn the same shade of brown after being in your tank a few weeks. So if you like the shape of the tree you are good to go.

2) As much as I like buying stuff online to save some money there simply is no replacing holding the hardscape in your hand before buying. Your local fish store (if well stocked) is going to a vital resource. Go there for wood and rocks.

3) Your aquascape does not need to be perfect out of the gate. I have torn down and redone the aquascape in my spec V at least 8 or 9 times in the last year.

4) Create a footprint of your tank out of cardboard and play with layout on this. You can bring it with you to your local fish store and try out pieces of hardscape on the cardboard so you will be able to tell there whether or not its going to fit right. This is helpful even if you have the aquarium at home already because its frankly easier to position things on a 2 dimensional surface.

Hope this helps.
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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 10-09-2019, 08:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by minorhero View Post
4) Create a footprint of your tank out of cardboard and play with layout on this. You can bring it with you to your local fish store and try out pieces of hardscape on the cardboard so you will be able to tell there whether or not its going to fit right. This is helpful even if you have the aquarium at home already because its frankly easier to position things on a 2 dimensional surface.
I actually did this several times with my Spec V before I had everything I wanted for the final scape.
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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 10-09-2019, 09:54 PM
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You ask some great questions.

1) A good hardscape is the skeleton of most tanks (Dutch excluded) and if you love the hardscape starting off, you can have a very enjoyable tank from day one. If you can find a specialty fish store nearby they are likely to have a good selection of driftwood - maybe even special "bonsai" looking pieces. It's always nice to see your driftwood in person so you can pick your favorite piece. You can also shop online. Check this out -

https://buceplant.com/collections/bonsai-tree-hardscape

2) Two ways to get started aquascaping. You can watch other aquascapers and take notes, and you can experiment. I have a couple aquarists I follow on Youtube and I've learned a lot from them. Check out George Farmer, Jurijs Jutjajevs, Rachel O'Leary, MD Fish Tanks, etc. Everyone I listed documents their builds and they demonstrate a wide variety of approaches. At some point, you'll just need to experiment, see what you like, seek feedback, and keep making changes until you like what you made.

3) Many aquascapes use rocks, but it is absolutely not necessary. Mostly a matter of aesthetics. Your local fish store probably has some, or you can use rocks you find outside. Just make sure to wash them well before use. Hot soapy water is probably fine.

4) Again, your local fish store or online are safe bets for driftwood.

Everything flows.
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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 10-10-2019, 12:19 AM
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You may want to create a mood board for yourself for the chaos and order sides. Pictures of other tanks, nature, art, etc. When it comes to composition look at the tank as a series of shapes. Diagonals are a great start. Also think about negative space. Have a look at japanese rock gardens. Also think about pitching your substrate from front to back and side to side. This adds a sense of depth and makes things feel more organic. I've seen professional aguascapers put sheets of plastic to shore up little hills so they don't settle out. I had that happen on one tank. Started out with a nice gentle hill and ended up dead flat years later. Composition is a really fun thing to learn. I bought a camera a few years ago and started learning what works. There are rules you can follow that work every time. Like the poster above said the rule of 3rds never fails to look good. Also think carefully about scale and perspective. Have a mix of small and big things. The variety is pleasing to the eye and again mimics nature. The more time you spend looking at tanks you like the easier it will be to set yours up. You will begin to know what works for you. If you haven't seen the Amano Nature Aquarium World books I highly recommend them. He is a master if composition. Good luck!

Last edited by rakali; 10-10-2019 at 12:26 AM. Reason: there not their ArGhhhhhh!
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16 gallon, advice, aquascape, betta, fluval spec 16

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