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What do I need to achieve an aquascape like the following picture?

6245 Views 7 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  somewhatshocked

This will be my first planted aquarium and I want one that will someday have something that looks similar to how the wood and plants are above. What all is required to achieve this look, and what do I need to research?
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This will be my first planted aquarium and I want one that will someday have something that looks similar to how the wood and plants are above. What all is required to achieve this look, and what do I need to research?
You need years and years of experience.
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The picture you posted is an advanced tank and likely a competition tank. Competition tanks are like the difference between have a horse as a pet that little girls feed carrots to and racing in the Kentucky Derby. The former is easy to do and relatively relaxing with just normal maintenance. The latter is constant maintenance and all done after a short period of time.

Anyway at its most basic level you need a fertilizer regimen (there are several to pick from), you need a light that is capable of putting down at least 50 or so par at substrate level, and you need a co2 tank, regulator, and means of diffusing the co2 into the tank. Plus you need a canister filter or sump.

Minimal cost for the co2 stuff, light, and fertilizer is going to be somewhere around 250 dollars (this is buying used and going with just the cheapest options around). Prices go up from there (probably closer to 500+) and this doesn't include plants, the tank, stand, filter, or livestock. Plus you can expect to be doing one to three 50% water changes each week in a competition tank. Probably 3.

Anyway you can definitely have a lush green tank filled with a variety of plants and fish just don't expect your first tank to look like the picture you posted. Best bet for figuring out how is a combination of looking at the journal section of these forums and finding a tank you like and replicating what they do, and/or going onto youtube and watching channels like George Farmer and MD Fish Tanks for tanks you can do at home or Green Aqua for crazy competition type setups. Good luck!
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I'd argue that's not exactly a competition tank. Just a tank that's well-manicured but still requires a good amount of effort.

There's a lot of moss (just need low/moderate light, decent flow and temperatures that aren't too high) on the wood. Crypts in the right foreground. Anubias(?) in the left foreground. What looks like Glosso or a mix of Glosso and something else as a carpet, which requires CO2 and ferts.

None of the plants in the tank are overly complicated. It's just a great example of what you can do with a few simple plants and some effort.

Tank journals are for sure the way to go. You'll find in-depth information about how people keep their tanks, which plants they use, how they grow, lighting, ferts, water parameters, substrates - you name it.
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If it’s your first planted tank, you are better off going with a design that is easier to maintain. The tank in the photo requires much more intensive maintenance.
To expand on what @minorhero said, you're gonna need lots of big hardscape. Stuff that will barely fit in your tank. That's the biggest mistake I see among beginner aquascapers, tiny rocks and wood.
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Two years ago I started like this. No experience with planted aquariums, found an aquascape online and tried to imitate it. Then algae took over so I had to tear it down and start over. Then another algae took over and it had to tear it apart again. Then I realized my water turns murky like tea because of the wood, so I started hating the wood and all the extra water changes. So I took it apart again and got rid of the wood. Besides all this time the plants were struggling because of different reasons resulted from my inexperience. Two years later I finally got my plants to grow and look healthy. As you can understand the tank is nowhere near what it was initially supposed to be.

This is not to discourage you but to make you understand that as a beginner you have a lot to learn before you can achieve something that looks like that picture.

Oh, I also have a question to you. How much are you ready to invest in it? What is your budget?
Should be pointed out that you don't have to invest much to have a great planted tank. You could be all in for $100 and within a few months have a gorgeous tank. Most of my setups, including plants/ferts/livestock/fancy substrate, are under $200. But I have some setups that have cost several thousand dollars. Not many but a couple.

10gal tank: $10
Lighting: $25
Substrate: $5
Filter: $20
Plants: $20
Hardscape: $20
Total: $100

20gal long tank: $20
Lighting: $50
Substrate: $30
Filter: $30 (for fancy HOB)
Plants: $50
Hardscape: $20
Total: $200

Full range of ferts & such would cost about $30 for a multi-year supply. Livestock would be relatively cheap regardless of the tank above.

The freshwater side is just cheaper than the salt side when it comes to creating a nicely scaped and stocked tank.

Currently putting together a couple pico tanks on the salt side - for macroalgae, inverts and a couple basic coral - and the equipment costs alone have been bonkers. Mind you, I'm cheaping out and it's still spendy. Here's a breakdown of one I'm starting without using any of my existing equipment or hard goods - all new. Some of the algae and livestock I already have, so I'm not including those costs. Also not including refractometer, mixing station, RO/DI system, additives or anything like that because I already have them.

UNS 2.5gal tank: $70
Lighting: $110
Tiny wavemaker: $75
Sand: $30
Rock, to get something nice: $90
Extra/as-needed filtration: $30
Coral: $130
Macros: $100
Salt: $85
Glue & Epoxy: $35
Heater: $35
Temperature controller & replacement probe: $40
Auto top-off system & reservoir: $95

That's $925 not including what I already have or what I've forgotten. Did another setup for about $300 because I already had everything but the tank, lighting & pump. Makes me really appreciate my cheap freshwater setups.

Edit: That UNS tank's costs were actually quite a bit higher because I bought 4 varieties of sand to get scale just right, 5 different epoxies to get the color right and nearly $400 in other lighting to pinpoint exactly what I wanted/needed for the setup.
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