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Critique My 17 Gallon (black lava rock)

2143 Views 15 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  jfishy
So it was looking great last night, and all seemed well enough for me to go asleep. But I was looking at it this morning, it just didnt just seem right and didnt flow and fit together anymore. Imma just make a new one soon, but yeah, give me some ideas. What could make it better. Tips for rock scapes in a 17 gallon?


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I think the left side looks pretty good as it is. But the right side is a little distracting. The back right rock doesn't really fit IMO. And this is further enhanced by the distracting tubes.

If it were me, I would leave the left side, remove the rock on the right and leave it open. I would then move the small plant in the foreground over to the open space. And the small stems in the middle, try to trim those and spread them so they follow the slope of the middle rock (not sure if that makes sense). That way the plants in the middle will lead you to the open space instead of having an abrupt cut-off.
I like it, looks pretty good.

Other than the tall grass in the back, the right side looks pretty good too to me.

Maybe a few more plants?

Also is that a small crypt in the left front? It looks out of place.
thanks guys. Yeah the right side was really throwing it out so I took it out. Also, the bottom right rock on the left structure was different colored so I switched it out for one more of similar color. Yeah aha the plants are off, I just put them in to live since they were from my existing tank, but a lot of em I will be getting rid of and getting a few more other kinds. It was just the hardscape that I was focusing on. Thank you guys for your thoughts. Any more are still welcome.
difficult to see but this was the minor change done so far.


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Once the water clears I think it'll look a lot better without the rock you removed.
Once the water cleared up and looking at it, it didnt look bad. However it was looking a bit boring and small and didn't capture what I was going for. Before the rocks, it was all flat leveled with stem plants at different heights. With this scape, I wanted plants to grow emersed out of the water. I wanted a grand look. Also, I always find myself (in basic flat tanks) slightly looking to the right, and then to look to the left. With the first try, with everything being in the left, I still liked to look to the right, and had to push myself to look left naturally. So for the next time, I wanted the focus to go from right to left. In regards to being grand, in the first attempt, I raised the soil up high up, but still looked small. Maybe because it wasn't high enough? maybe the slope wasn't steep enough? I do know I used a lot more soil, as I almost finished another 9 L bag of aquasoil.

Still having lots of unused rocks, lots of time, and an opportunity to work while I don't have fish in the tank, I tore it down and made a fresh scape. In the first attempt, I was interrupted many times (girlfriend felt it was a great time to ask a lot of favors from me aha, and little sister was crying a lot) and because of that, I stopped to many times and made lots of corrections. This time, nobody was home and I just started placing stones. I started from the left really steep and high up, then slowly bring it down. All the small rocks in between are shards of slate to support the structure, and will be covered. My plan is for lots of it to be covered in anubius bonsai. Mixed within climbing on the rocks is hygrophila pinnatifida, and the back having stem plants. The front, I am planning to carpet with HC, but I am timid as my first attempt didnt go well. Here is the second attempt redone, after the water has somewhat cleared.

Again thanks to the previous and future critiques, help, and tips

aha and also dont mind the tubes, Ill be moving them around and fixing them up soon so they arnt in the way. Also soon all the outlets will be stainless steel like the inlets.


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You asked for feedback. Here it comes:

It is difficult to see with all the cloudy water; please wait and take the picture after all that filtration has a chance to clear things up a bit. Despite that, I liked the original mountain/slope hardscape best. The rocks in the latest version do not look as connected - maybe plantings can fix that. Not sure about the plantings; in any version. Give them some time to grow and fill in.
I like the one before last best. It looked natural, and proportionate to the tank.

The latest arrangement, I think the rocks around the bottom look staged, as if their sole purpose is to hold the big mound up. In a bigger tank you could extend the footprint with a few more, shorter rocks to make the transition look more natural. But here you are out of floor space.
thank you tomfromstlouis. what plantings would you suggest?
to further improve the latest one, would more stone help it not look staged? or change the arrangement of the bottom rocks or top rock? thanks guys, these suggestions and thoughts are great so far, im really learning from this :)
To be honest I like the 2nd to last one as well. There was more open space on the right hand side and the foreground seemed more pronounced. The latest reincarnation, the mound is a little large scale wise. You could take the rock in the back left and plop it right in the middle where there is open space. And then remove the two rocks in the front and replace with a smaller rock? This will increase your negative space in the front and to the left considerably.

Keep in mind that the plants are going to change the scape a lot as they grow and fill in and it is fairly easy to tweak a scape with strategically placed plants as things fill in. So try not to over think it! Have fun, do what you think looks good and go with it!
Consider where you want your focal point. Right now to me it is the tip of the tallest rock in the dead center of the tank which looks off to me. I would suggest you determine what kind of aquascape shape you want. To me the first aquascape was a concave shape, the second one is triangular and the third is convex. Decide on a shape and then set your focal point(s) in the tank where you like it and then work out from there. The second triangular aquascape is by far the best with a much better focal point.

You have some really nice rocks to work with for sure.
thank you tomfromstlouis. what plantings would you suggest?
Successful mountain scapes tend to have mostly low growing plants, so the usual foreground suspects are all possibilities. Plus, your tank is not large, so even typical mid-ground plants should be rare and rear for your tank.

If you like a clean simpler look, try one mid height species in back (blyxa, hair grass can get tallish, Vesuvius, etc.), one shorter species in between the rocks on the slope, and one foreground cover plant. Maybe add a moss in there somewhere if you want. I would lean towards the finer leaved varieties because larger leafed plants can overwhelm this kind of look.
aha thanks :D
If I wanted to go from mountain to triangular again, would bringing down the angle of the top rock do that and turn out nicely? I want to try but im afraid of ruining the mound I made to stack it up here aha
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