my new 3-sided aquascaping opportunity - The Planted Tank Forum
LinkBack Thread Tools Display Modes
post #1 of 4 (permalink) Old 07-12-2005, 05:46 AM Thread Starter
Algae Grower
PTrader: (0/0%)
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: SFran Bay Area, CA
Posts: 69
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.

Design Thoughts:
- 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?

TommyBoy is offline  
Sponsored Links
post #2 of 4 (permalink) Old 07-12-2005, 12:07 PM
PT Biologist
SCMurphy's Avatar
PTrader: (4/100%)
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Maryland USA
Posts: 3,220
It's gonna be OK son, sit down and take a deep breath or 40. Why are you getting so worked up? It's just an aquarium, if you don't like how it looks you can take it all out and try again. I know, I have.

The best place to start is to take a look at the contests that the AGA has held the last few years. Look at the comments the judges made on the tanks. Some of them are useless ("your substrate wasn't perfectly even across the front" comes to mind) but others go into the placement and selection of the plants. Take notes on the tanks you liked, what you liked about them.


Get a pad of paper and a pencil and sketch out a few designs that interest you. You know what materials you have on hand and what plants you like to work with, so try to incorporate those into the design. When you get an idea of what could work, go get a cardboard box about the size of the tank, cut out a viewing space on a side or three and try setting it up like you would the tank. Play with the elements, step back and look at it. Change it around. Have some fun. Set up the tank, try one out that you liked, take pictures, start an online journal, give us something solid to look at and work with you on.

Why am I telling you this and not answering your questions? You are probably the first to actually try this out. I have one of these tanks empty in my house, and if I had the room for it I'd be setting it up to be viewed like you are suggesting. I'd probably be setting it up with a sump system to keep as much equipment out of the tank as possible. Someone else (Momotaro, I think) was looking at one of these tanks just a few days ago and we had a discussion here on the lighting. It sounds like you are the closest to geting one started, so don't be shy, go for it.


Aquascape? I'm a crypt farmer.

It's a fine line between fishing and standing on the shore looking like an idiot.

That IS an aquascape, it's titled "The Vacant Lot".
SCMurphy is offline  
post #3 of 4 (permalink) Old 07-13-2005, 05:33 PM Thread Starter
Algae Grower
PTrader: (0/0%)
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: SFran Bay Area, CA
Posts: 69
cut to the quick

Thanks, SCMurphy! I've started breathing again.

But seriously and to be more concise, I think you cut to the most important questions:

a) If you have an Oceanic "Cube" (or maybe even a JBJ 24 gal "Nano-cube"), how have you set it up? ...can we see any pictures, or planning sketches, or planting diagrams, etc.? Perhaps the rest of us can learn from you.

b) and... If you did set it up to be viewed from ALL 3 SIDES, I (for one) would especially love to see your pictures, planning diagrams, etc.

TommyBoy is offline  
post #4 of 4 (permalink) Old 07-14-2005, 02:02 PM
Wannabe Guru
PTrader: (0/0%)
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 1,205
I have the 29 g cube and it isn't aquascaped all that nicely because I've been busy and unskilled but I've played with the hardscaping some. I have 2 tall thin rocks on end near the rear center of the tank and that part looks OK. But a real aquascaping job needs to be done. I want to see yours!

It will be challenging but very much worth it. The depth thing is hard to deal know there are better words but it's too early for me to think of them. The front-to-back dimension of the tank is pretty large, and you have the same distortion on the sides, so balancing out the side views and front views takes some work since the apparent position of items is so completely different depending on which side you're viewing.

You may want taller elements than you're used to using as it's kind of a tall tank (and then you get the lighting issues). This may be the tank for you to use lots of wood. A big rooty thing! Some appropriately large showy fish would also be nice.

Anyway, I can't really help, but I hope you keep us updated with your progress. I need to empty my tank and move it 10 feet so I'll be looking for help too. They're great looking tanks.
Mori is offline  


Quick Reply

Register Now

In order to be able to post messages on the The Planted Tank Forum forums, you must first register.
Please enter your desired user name, your email address and other required details in the form below.

User Name:
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.


Confirm Password:
Email Address
Please enter a valid email address for yourself.

Email Address:


Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page
Display Modes
Linear Mode Linear Mode

Posting Rules  
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome