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Aquascaping a planted aquarium

There are few things more beautiful than a healthy thriving aquarium. You've probably seen in books, tanks that look like a section of the river has simply been lifted out and placed in an aquarium. Creating a beautiful tank is not as difficult as you may think. In fact, every great looking aquarium incorporates many of the same design principles. In this article we'll look at these principles and how to make the most of your tank.

Step One

Even if you have a full tank of fish, there is no problem with aquascaping your tank with them in there. Start by removing your rocks and plants from the tank so all you are left with is a tank full of water, gravel and fish (be careful removing the plants because you can probably use some of them again). At this point, use a gravel cleaner and do a 1/3 water change because you'll find that a lot of detris and waste has accumulated underneath the rocks and you need to siphon that out. If the water is very murky, dose it with Bio Super Concentrate or another bacteria booster, as this will not only assist in clearing the water, but will also remove a lot of the dissolved waste.

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Step Two

The next thing is to slope the gravel towards the front of the tank leaving about 1cm at the front. This is what creates a feeling of depth in the tank. A plastic ruler is useful for doing this but make sure you don't bury any fish! Now you can start placing rocks and driftwood into the aquarium.

The best way of working with rock is to create features that incorporate holes and cavities. You can do this by purchasing pieces of rock  that  have formed this way, or use small pieces on top of each other

(A quick word on rock - some rock such as bush rock and sandstone can leach minerals into the water effecting your water quality, pH and hardness. Red Lava rock and Woomera rock that we stock is guaranteed not to effect these and we also have a great new range of acrylic ornaments available).

No matter what size your tank, try to develop a rock feature up the back and in the middle of your tank, placing smaller rocks at the sides and front. Leave the corners bare because that's one of the places you will place plants. Try partly burying the rocks or sprinkling gravel on them for different effects. The bigger the tank, the more rock you'll need or use a combination of rock and driftwood for a different effect. Another variation is to use an air operated sunken ship, a scuba diver, or a resin castle. Place an airstone under the rocks and gravel  for another type of effect ... just use your imagination.

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Anubias on DriftwoodStep Three

You should now have a tank with a nice rock feature in the centre, and some vacant space in each corner. The way you use plants can make the difference between a great looking tank and an average one. Plants are most effective when you use several bunches of the same type of plant in each area. To start, use 3 bunches of Hygrophilia in one corner, and 3 bunches of Ambulia in the other corner (the bigger the tank, the more plants you'll need but you can take cuttings and slowly grow more plants in these areas if it looks a bit sparse). On each side of  your large rock feature place 2 bunches of Macranda this is a different coloured plant to contrast with the other two. You should have a vacant areaExample of Salt Water Setup at the front, here plant some smaller plants such as crypts. These come in pots and quickly throw runners. About 3 is enough to start with. As an alternative feature would be a piece of driftwood with anubias grafted to it.

Step Four

Place a flourish tablet amongst the new plants or use Basic Grow and Daily Grow. As the plants start to grow, shape them and take cuttings (snip off any dead leaves too). Every time you water change, reslope the gravel  but you don't have  to take everything out again. Just like an outside garden, it can take several months before you really see how great your tank can look. Drop in, the staff are only too happy to give you some ideas about ways to aquascape your tank and to assist you in choosing rock, driftwood and plants.

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