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Going Dutch

15372 Views 96 Replies 20 Participants Last post by  MamaJu
I was inspired by another member, ua hua, to do a dutch aquascape challenge. I decided to make a journal of it and share my progress. I am open to any constructive feedback and guidance.

Current Image of Tank 6/12/2014

Tank size (75 gallons)
Lights ([STRIKE]zoomed T5HO[/STRIKE]; current satellite plus led; BML Dutch plus)
Eheim Canister [STRIKE]2215[/STRIKE] replaced with 2217 on 6/7/2014
Pressurized CO2
Foam Wall (Sakrete EZ Base Patio stone and paver base)
hydro inline heater
UV Sterilizer (added 5/4/2014)
Ista Max Mix CO2 Reactor

Flourite Black (5 bags)
Flourite Black Sand (2 bags)

Walls {
Left wall (Taiwan moss; [STRIKE]anubias nana[/STRIKE])
Back wall (java moss. [STRIKE]Microsorum pteropus 'Windeløv[/STRIKE]')
Right wall (Taiwan moss; [STRIKE]Microsorum pteropus 'needle'[/STRIKE] removed because it seemed to block the inflow)

1. Lace Wisteria (Hygrophila difformis fast grower pH 5.5 - 8)
2. Rotala rotundifolia (fast grower pH 5.5 - 8)
3. Jungle Val (Vallisneria americana var. americana fast grower pH 7)
4. Ludwigia repens (fast grower pH 5.5 - 8)
[STRIKE]5. Amazon Sword (Echinodorus bleheri fast grower pH 6 - 8)
[/STRIKE]6. Bacopa caroliniana (fast grower pH 6 - 8)
7. Tiger Lotus (Nymphaea lotus fast grower pH 6 - 8)
[STRIKE]8. Cabomba purple (fast grower pH 6 - 8)
[/STRIKE]9. Lobelia cardinalis (slow grower pH 6 - 8)
10. Downoi (Pogostemon helferi slow grower pH 6 - 8) -- trying it again
[STRIKE]11. Rotala macrandra (Butterfly fast grower pH 5 -7)
[/STRIKE]12. Echinodorus angustifolia 'Vesuvius' (slow/ medium grower pH 6 - 8)
13. Hygrophila corymbosa (slow grower pH 5.5 - 8)
Moss ball (Cladophora aegagropila slow grower pH 6 - 8)
14. Limnophila hippuridoides (slow/medium grower pH 6 - 8)
15. Brazilian Pennywort (Hydrocotyle leucocephala fast grower pH 5.5 - 8)

Top Level Swimmers:
[STRIKE]3 Marble Hatchet (Carnegiella strigata 2" temp 75-81° F, KH 10-18, pH 5.5-7.5)[/STRIKE] (3 died from ick 4/29, 4/30)

Top - Mid Level Swimmers:
[STRIKE]7[/STRIKE] 5 Boesemani Rainbow (Melanotaenia boesemani 3" temp 72 - 77, KH 9 - 19, pH 7 - 8) {4/24: 1 Boesemani disappeared; 5/3 : 1 Boesemani died from internal parasites or white lesions and missing scales}
[STRIKE]3[/STRIKE] [STRIKE]2[/STRIKE] 6 Threadfin Rainbow (Iriatherina werneri 2" temp 72 - 77, KH 7 - 10, pH 5.8 - 6.5) {4/28 : 1 Threadfin disappeared}
3 Praecox Rainbow (Melanotaenia praecox 3" temp 64 - 72, KH 8 - 12, pH 5.8 - 6.5)
1 Turquoise Rainbow (Melanotaenia lacustris 4" temp 70-77, KH 10-12, pH 7.0-7.5)

Mid Level Swimmers:
[STRIKE][STRIKE]7[/STRIKE] 3 Von rio flame tetra (Hyphessobrycon flammeus 2" temp 72 - 77, KH 4 - 8, pH 5.5 - 7.5) {5/2 : 1 died may be due to ick; 5/4 : 1 died from possible internal parasites; 5/5 : 1 missing, assumed dead}[/STRIKE] removed remaining 3 to other tank

Bottom Level Swimmers:
[STRIKE]2 German Blue Ram [/STRIKE](Papiliochromis ramirezi 3" temp 72-79° F, KH 5-12, pH 5.0-7.0) Male died 5/3 with no outward signs of problems; female died 5/6 with popeye
[STRIKE]1 Apistogramma borellii [/STRIKE](4" temp 68 - 79, KH 8 - 18, pH 6 - 8) { died 5/4 with no outward physical symptoms, possible due to internal parasite}
7 dwarf cory cats

Clean-up Crew:
5 Otocinclus Catfish (Otocinclus sp. 2" temp 74-79° F, KH 6-10, pH 6.8-7.5)
[STRIKE]2[/STRIKE] 1 Siamese Algae Eater (Crossocheilus siamensis 6" temp 75-79° F, KH 5-10, pH 6.5-7.0) [STRIKE]{moved 1 to 20 gallon bc he was being too aggressive 5/9}[/STRIKE] added 1 back when the plants grew in more
[STRIKE]1 Zebra Netrite snail (Neritina natalensis sp. "Zebra" 1" temp 72 - 78, dH 8 - 12, pH 7 - 8.5)[/STRIKE] {pronounced dead 5/5 since it hasn't moved and it's body isn't retracting back into the shell when touched}
1 Black Mystery snail (2" temp 68 - 85, KH 12 - 18, pH 6.5 - 8)
[STRIKE]1 Apple snail (2" temp 68 - 85, KH 12 - 18, pH 6.5 - 8)[/STRIKE]

Notes from
Note: Marbled Hatchet may jump - lids are recommended.
Warning: At least 5 x Neon Dwarf Rainbowfish are recommended in a group.
Warning: At least 5 x Turquoise Rainbowfish are recommended in a group.
Warning: At least 5 x Marbled Hatchet are recommended in a group.
[STRIKE]Warning: At least 5 x Threadfin RainbowFish are recommended in a group.
[/STRIKE]Recommended temperature range: 78.8 - 80.6 F.
Recommended pH range: 7 - 7.
Recommended hardness range: 10 - 12 dH.

If I remove the snails
Recommended pH range: 6.4 - 7.
Recommended hardness range: 5 - 12 dH.

Judging criteria for the planted aquarium

1. Hardware
- All equipment should be out of view (need to move CO2 diffuser)
[STRIKE]- Flourite is very low against the front glass[/STRIKE]

2. Plants
- 80 percent of aquarium floor needs to be covered
- No more than one plant specie for every four inches of tank length.
- Use of color and contrast

3. Animals
- Appropriate number of fish to the size of the aquarium
- schooling fish should be at least ten [STRIKE](need 2+ Marble Hatchets; 2+ Threadfin Rainbow; 2+ Neon Dwarf Rainbow; 4 Turqoise Rainbow)[/STRIKE]
- Compatibility of fish species and other animals

4. Water Conditions
- Optimal temperature 78
- nitrate level
- phosphate level
- hardness level 7

Beginning of the journey

Week 1:
I am still in the process of planting but here is my attempt at the traditional dutch style with modifications...
1) it's a 75 gallon, not a 90
[STRIKE]2) I can't afford the cabinet so it is what it is
[/STRIKE][STRIKE]3) I am in the process of figuring out how to make a java fern or moss wall. Where do you get the foam board backing for the back wall??[/STRIKE]
4) If there is supposed to be 1 plant per 10 cm width and my tank is 48 inches or approximately 121.92 cm wide, I think I'm supposed to only have 12 to 14 stem varieties of plants, right? Does that include the plants I use as "streets"?
5) I need help with lighting. I have the zoomed aqua sun ho led but I don't really feel that it's sufficient. I tried to read the many threads on the forum but feel overwhelmed. Any suggestions?
6) so I tried to follow the focal point guideline... Hopefully it's noticeable:) I drew lines all over the front of the aquarium trying to get the 1/3 measurements just right so if it's not apparent as they grow in then I will need to make some adjustments.
[STRIKE]7) some of the plants are from existing tanks I have, others are from my lfs and some from the big chain pet stores. Unfortunately I don't know all the names of the plants so I don't know the growth rates. Only time will tell. I suspect that the plant with the purple flowering buds isn't even aquatic, even though it was sold that way at the chain pet store. I'll need help identifying it. Are there aquatic plants that flower underwater other than Anubias? I'll be ecstatic if there are :icon_eek:[/STRIKE]

So who else is up for the dutch challenge?


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Looking good so far! Points to you for trying a serious Dutch setup. :proud: On first inspection it looks like all of your plants are aquatic so you probably won't have to worry about issues there. Now, on to your questions.

3. Walls- I answered that in response to your question my thread. ABSOLUTELY make walls. They're considered an essential component of this type of aquascape/aquarium in the Netherlands. True Dutch aquascapes as they're done to conform to the NBAT rules are pretty much required to have them.

4. Number of species- In my conversations with past NBAT national champions they've said that the 1 plant per 10 cm of length includes ALL plants in the tank, not just stem species. There's a little wiggle room there but in general, don't go over more than 2 above the 1/10cm rule. Sticking to the rule is best.

6. It looks like you've got a good start on the street and focal points. Figuring out how fast things grow, what would be best to place where, and all that comes with time tinkering with your tank. Don't freak out if you need to move things around and adjust the size or shape of a grouping to get it just right; that's all part of the process (and fun!). :)

It looks like you've got a couple different plants in there that would traditionally be used as a focal species; the sword and banana plant lily(lilies?) especially. For now it's probably a good idea to put them both in the middle open spaces so you can see how they'll grow in a more appropriate location.

Take a look at my 60 gallon thread for some ideas. Right now it's just packed with plants in a vague semblance of an aquascape so it's worth looking at while I learn how the plants do in my system. It'll be changing a lot with time, as yours probably will be too.

7. Some plants will flower under water, but most stem species flower above water. Chances are good that the plant you're talking about was grown above water in the nursery and came with buds. It's common for those buds to open when first put into an aquarium.

Points to you for taking the Dutch Challenge! I look forward to seeing your tank grow and change with time.


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1,903 Posts

The best advice I can give right now is to just let the tank be for a while. Let the plants grow out until the tank's full and then start seriously considering aquascaping. Unless you're willing to drop the $$ you need to fill in all that empty space at once, that is. :)

The awesome thing about Dutch tanks is it's ok to tweak things over time as you learn how the plants do in your tank. Just don't move things around every day. ;)

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1,903 Posts
Looking better, now for another challenge- don't touch the plants for three weeks. Can you do it? :D

As far as the wall thing goes, if you don't want to tear the tank all down and let it sit dry for a few days while the silicone cures I wouldn't go with a foam wall. Poret foam will work if you can get it in 1/2" thickness, paint it, and find a way to stick it to the walls. It'll probably be cheaper to get plastic mesh and coconut fiber matting from a garden center to make the walls out of and should serve the same purpose.

If you're looking for something more rigid you can zip tie plastic mesh to egg crate and paint it fairly easily. That sort of thing is easy to super glue ferns, Anubias, or other epiphytes to if a moss wall isn't your thing.

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Suction cups! :thumbsup:

If you're able to move the fish to a different tank long enough to use Holdfast, you may as well use silicone and styro board. That's a better solution if you're willing/able to make a more long term/semi-permanent change to your tank.

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I just checked out that video and that setup is a bit fancier than is really needed for making a plant wall. All you really need is a piece of sturdy foam board (again, I prefer the solid core plastic stuff, not the boards made from compressed balls/beads), some way to keep it where you want it, and a way to make it the color you want.

In the past I've done this two ways:
1- Painted solid core foam sheets with black Rust-O-Leum (NOT the spray; it'll melt the styro). This was easiest for me and worked well in a large tank where I'd intended it to be permanent. This one got a lot of silicone all over to seal it and make sure it didn't lift up.

2- Eggcrate, spray foam, suction cup, and Rust-O-Leum wall. This is probably the better choice for making a removable wall. When I did this one I covered a sheet of the cheap white eggcrate with expandable spray foam (I used Great Stuff brand), let it dry, trimmed it to my desired thickness, painted it with matte black Rust-O-Leum and attached it to the walls. Again, I intended this to be a permanent solution so I siliconed the whole thing to the glass.

To make it removable, simply decide on how you want to do it (suction cups, magnets, etc) and attach them to the eggcrate before foaming. I used cheap suction cups with metal hooks used for hanging stuff on glass and zip-ties on an egg-crate and plastic mesh moss wall with great success. Depending on the type of hooks, you may need to do a little modification with plyers to make more of an L shape rather than a J shape hook for easier attachment.

A point worth noting is that regardless of the method of attachment you use; if it's meant to be removable make sure you use many magnets/suction cups along the bottom as that's the most likely place for lifting to occur. For safety's sake, figure out how many magnets/cups you want to use then double it. The more points of contact across the whole area of the wall, the better.

The universal rocks background will be difficult to attach plants to without using super glue. It also looks a lot more expensive than the DIY options.

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Oooooh, I like that. How much was it and is it soft enough to be able to push staples into? I may give that a try in one of my tanks. I'm curious to see how well it stays in place without adhesive and if it turns out to be toxic. Let's hope not on the last point.

If the fishing line's holding the moss down then it's good enough. :) If you want/need to add more moss give the mesh trick a try…if it's soft enough for staples. I used two plastic grids and suction cups for the moss wall in the 75. If you can get grid sheets attached to the wall that should work nicely. I typically use staples or bent framing brads to attach ferns and Anubias. I've used super glue/cyanoacrylate on ferns and Anubias too. The only drawbacks to the glue is you have to make sure both surfaces are dry first and gluing makes it harder to move plants around as needed.

As for the spaces and side walls, that's totally up to you. NBAT tradition and rules dictate covered side and back panes. If you want to stick to "How It's Done For Real" then yes, you need to cover the sides. A space in one corner for heaters/filter pipes is easily covered by a tall bunch of stems and shouldn't pose an aesthetic problem over time.

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1,903 Posts
The walls are looking great! I can already see the mosses growing and can tell those walls are going to be nice. Thanks for sharing the tip on the pegs, that's an awesome idea. I think I'll give those a go myself when the time come.

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1,903 Posts
Look at that! It's coming along really well MamaJu. Love the pic of your girl on top of the tank now that she can't see through the wall. LOL

A couple things to consider:
1. Salt may harm and or kill your plants depending on concentration and how long you let it stay in there before changing the water.

2. CO2 gas + crushed coral = a large increase in Ca, Mg, and CO3 input into your tank. Keep an eye on your GH and KH; especially KH. If they start getting above 5-6 degrees, take the crushed coral out. That being said, I bet the sword plant, rainbows, and livebearers love the increased hardness.
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