my new 3-sided aquascaping opportunity
I just got a new tank this weekend. It is my largest to date: Oceanic 37 gal. "cube" (20Hx20Wx24L, in inches). It also seems to lend itself to a possible 3-sided design.
- I could set it up as a 3-sided or a traditional front-on design. I would like to set it up as a 3-sided one, if I can come up with a good design AND it works.
- I want at least three (3) territory landmarks in either design set up.
- I am looking to build an aquauscape with lots of hiding places (perhaps mandmade as well as natural ones), lots of plants (some floating too) and still have some open spaces.
- I would like to create some kind(s) of natural looking hills and valleys or terracing slightly off or associated with the front-on or 3-sided "strong points." I am not (yet) big on the idea of a single central mound (they tend, IMHO, to all look alike). I am thinking maybe of having 2 minor terraces/mounds (maybe 1 larger than the other) with a "stream" of space between them (I love the underwater river looks I've seen in others tanks, when they work).
- I want to make this a overfiltered (Fluval 302), lower pH (4.0 - 6.0), fairly softwater/blackwater (peat filtered possibly) tank.
- I have already bought and will use Eco-Complete (brand) for the primary substrate. Most of my current tanks are gravel substrate (plus peat bottom layer). One uses Red Sea's FloraBase brand (plus peat bottom layer). Until I try out and get a soil or APS/colorquartz tank up and working well, I do not intend to use those technologies on this large (or larger) of a tank (or I at least think thusly so far). I did see a website with Lewis Navarro using APS and Eco-complete, maybe I could use my leftover FloaBase in there too.
- I would like to try something new.
-- Perhaps use some of the pagoda rocks that I've bought over the years but have never used. They range from highly eroded to more just relief lines in the rock, and from cantelope to 8 inch sandwich bun size.
-- And/Or, perhaps use some other kind of wood or wood layout. I've used what I call the Amano "reaching out" branches look. I've also used what I call "natural bridges" of wood. I've never used a latteral line look of branches (but love looking at them), nor the "root" look (since I feel they either work REALLY well or not at all).
-- I like the intensity and gnarliness look of those light and dark burlwood (I think it is some kind of African wood and the other is some kind of grape vine maybe, eh?), but the shapes seem tricky (namely: a) they could become boring very easily in an aquascape, and b) that you have to choose between their utility in providing an interesting look and of providing hiding spaces).
-- Maybe combine rock and wood with stone as the primary aquascape artifact in addition to the plants.
More of my Design History:
- All of my tanks to date are front-on. And, my plants tend to be small/dwarf varieties.
- All of my tanks to date are nano-tanks or pico-tanks (1-5 gal), either horizontal or vertical lay-out typically with a chunk of small Malaysian wood OR prominent rock.
- I have and have looked through again: 3 Amano books, 1 book on Dutch Design ("Aquarium Beautiful," I think it is called), and the example book "Complete Aquariums."
- I've not been successful creating hills and valleys that last multiple generations of plantings.
-- My nano- and pico-tanks to date have had to survive/evolve through multiple generations of plantings and re-design. Sometimes it has been due to trial-and-error. Sometimes due to my getting bored with the lay-out. Sometimes, due to new fish stocking plans.
-- As a result, my hills, prophetically, "are made low" (i.e., they tend to degrade over time, losing the peaks AND valleys I originally created. And, when I used a rock as the root of the mound, it eventually became the sole component of the mound.
...The foolish designs of mice and men, alas!
- I've read about terracing, but have never seen much more on "how to" other than a reference to using plactic (preformed, cut and curve?) or rocks as a butress to hold back the terrace. And, most uses of rocks that I've seen as examples, tough beautiful and formal, do not look natural.
My questions for the group.... I know these (and the above) are a lot! These are meant to spark your thoughts, not stiffle your responding. I am open for any words of wisdom, not matter how "spack" (or concise).
1) Has anyone else attempted a 37 gal Oceanic Cube? ...How about a tank designed to be viewed from 3-sides? I'd love to read your "sea stories."
1a) If so, what 3-sided tank design issues did you discover in planning and executing/implementing? and/or... What 3-sided tank design issues do I need to keep in mind?
1b) If so, what particular 3-sided tank maintenenance issues have you come across and how have you handled them?
1c) If so, what design thoughts do I need to have in mind for the height of this tank? What maintenance issues?
2) Anyone vote for traditional front-on over 3-sided?
2a) If so, why so?
2b) Does anyone think I am crazy for thinking of 3-sided? If not, why not?
3) How does one know how to build natural looking, sustainable set of peaks and valleys, and/or terraces?
3a) Anyone ever tried one of these? a) a cluster (loose or fixed/"glued" with silicone) of lava rock as the root of the peak? b) a flourist/flower arranging or other styrofoam form? (I've heard of using styrofoam & molder's polystyrene to create a faux rock side/background. If so, how do you heat the substrate? or otherwise avoid anearoic zones?) c) a coconut shell? d) just thought of another one, a clump of or shaped form of polymer clay (Matthew Christian talks of using this or polystyrene as decorations. Just thinking they could be used as the core of a hill) or e) other, please specify?
4) I am hearing so much conflicting advice on the use of rocks and on wood with rocks. Anyone else run into this? Anyone know where to point me to finally find some answers?
5) Does anyone know where I can go (and the URLs, if applicable) for more aquascape information, design journals/blogs? ...ESPECIALLY, any that speak specifically to cube tanks, 3-sided design, terracing (with heating and Eco-complete if possible), and about the ins and outs on handling rocks and wood?