Setting Up Adequate Filtration For Aquascapes

Adequate filtration is a vital element in a planted aquarium. There are many types of filters that exist in the marketplace that we can choose from, but there are a few guidelines that must be followed to create a successful aquascape.

An aquascape needs three types of filtration for the plants and faunas to thrive:

  • Mechanical Filtration:

This first type of filtration removes debris, floating fish wastes, and other visible contaminant matter in the water column. This is usually the first stage of the filtration in the aquascape. Debris need to be removed to prevent floating matter from polluting the water column. Mechanical filtration is usually achieved with filter floss or filter wools. Mechanical filter media needs to be replaced or cleaned every few months to prevent clogging of dead matters that could lead to an ammonia spike.

  • Chemical Filtration:

This second type of filtration removes removes harmful chemicals from the water column by using chemical reactions. While chemical filtration will not remove ammonia, their presence as a filter media could help with the quality of water in an aquascape. Chemical filtration media that are commonly used are activated carbons and resins.

  • Biological Filtration:

This type of filtration is probably the most important type of filter in any types of aquaculture, including aquascapes. Biological filtration breaks down ammonia and nitrites in the water column into a less toxic form, nitrates. Without a biological filtration, an aquascape will not be able to thrive. Adequate biological filtration is achieved by adding zeolites, ceramic rings, bio-balls, or any other media that supports the buildup of advantageous bacteria. Normally, it takes time for an aquascape to have adequate biological filtration since the aquascape ecosystem needs to go through steps of the nitrogen cycle before reaching maximum biological filtration potential.


A Simple Guide to Aquarium Fertilizers

Aquarium fertilizers are more essential in high-tech aquascapes since the growth rate of plants in high-tech aquascapes is fast compared to their low-tech counterparts. Low-tech aquascapes generally do not need additional fertilizers since the essential nutrients are supplied by fish waste. In high-tech aquascapes, if carbon dioxide and lighting is sufficient, the only limiting factor to plants’ growth is the lack of essential nutrients. Fish waste alone will not be sufficient to supply the nutritional needs of the fast growing plants of high-tech aquascapes.

Nutrients that are essential for plants are classified as macro nutrients and micro nutrients. Macro nutrients are Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P), and Potassium (K). While Nitrogen and Phosphorous are abundant in aquarium water, Potassium is usually scarce. Dosing additional Potassium in aquascapes is recommended to keep the level of macro nutrients on a stable level. The lack of Potassium in the aquarium can be observed from the yellowing of the plants’ leaves. Dosing excess Nitrogen and Phosphorous will definitely lead to algae outbreaks and, therefore, contrary to standard aquascaping advice of adding all macro nutrients into the aquarium, I would advise only to add Potassium as an additional macro nutrient fertilizer.

Micro nutrients, or trace elements, are magnesium, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, zinc, cobalt. Some other elements are also classified as micro nutrients but the elements listed above are the most essential elements for healthy plant growth. Aquatic invertebrates, especially shrimps, are extremely sensitive to copper. If you have shrimps in your tank, it is better not to fertilize micro nutrients to the tank since most micro nutrient fertilizer contains copper. If you plan on adding micro nutrients to the tank, add only copper-free fertilizers if you have shrimps in your tank.

Aquarium fertilizers come in many forms. Fertilizers can be classified as one of the following types: substrate fertilizers and liquid fertilizers. Substrate fertilizers are mixed with the base substrate before the aquascape is constructed, therefore, these types of fertilizers are used only once in your aquascape if you do not plan on re-scaping your aquascape in the future. Substrate fertilizers are usually buried beneath an inert substrate material, such as holland sand or other decorative substrates, to prevent nutrients leaching to the water column, which could cause algae outbreaks due to nutrient imbalances. Liquid fertilizers are recommended for aged aquascape since they are easily injected into the water column or to the base substrate by using a syringe.

How to Set Up Pressurized CO2 System

If you are looking to create a high-tech aquascape, it is essential that you add a pressurized CO2 system for your plants to grow properly. Without proper amount of CO2, the bright lights and nutrient-rich substrate of high-tech aquascapes will quickly create a state of imbalance for the aquarium ecosystem, which will cause algae outbreaks. This article will explain how you should setup a pressurized CO2 system for your aquascape.

Before you start installing your CO2 system, you will need to purchase or obtain these essential equipments for the system itself. An in-depth topic of each of the equipments listed below will be on a different post:

  1. Pressurized CO2 tank
  2. CO2 regulator
  3. Check valve (optional)
  4. Bubble counter
  5. CO2 Diffuser
  6. High-pressure hose for CO2
  7. CO2 indicator

After obtaining the equipments listed above, connect the parts using the high-pressure hose in order from item 1 to 5. Note that only item 5, i.e. CO2 diffuser, should be inside of your aquarium water. Other items should stay out of your aquarium water.

Install CO2 indicator in your aquarium and place the item on the opposite end from where you attach your CO2 diffuser to get an accurate reading. The reason for this is obvious: the closer the indicator is to the source of the CO2, the more CO2 the indicator should read. We want the indicator to show whether the CO2 levels in the furthest spot gets enough CO2. Also note that the CO2 indicator should be placed below the halfway mark of your aquarium tank to avoid false reading due to diffusion of CO2 from the water surface.

After completing the steps explained above, your pressurized CO2 system is ready for use.

A Definitive Checklist for Setting Up New Aquascapes

In this short post, I will list all of the equipments that are needed for a new aquascape. I hope this list will aid every aquascapers during shopping at pet stores. This list is not exhaustive, since there are many other equipments and enchancement that we can buy to add to the aquarium. This list will give you the essential equipments and some optional items that you can include in your aquarium.

Low-Tech Aquascapes

In plain, simple definition: low-tech aquascapes are those that use less equipment than high-tech aquascapes. To start a new low-tech aquascape, we need the following items:

  • Aquarium
  • Pressure mat
  • Specialized aquarium stand
  • Filter
  • Filter media, such as carbon active, filter floss, zeolite, ceramic rings, etc.
  • Regular output lighting, which usually comes with a new aquarium purchase
  • Substrate material
  • Timer
  • Base fertilizer (optional)
  • Surface skimmer (optional)
  • Background screen (optional)
  • Thermometer (optional)

High-Tech Aquascapes

A high-tech aquascape needs more sophisticated equipments. These equipments can be expensive due to the complexity of their design. Below is a list for setting up high-tech aquascapes:

  • All of the materials that are needed in low-tech aquascapes
  • Higher output lighting, such as metal halide or high-output fluorescent lights
  • Liquid fertilizer
  • CO2 injection system:
    • Bubble counter
    • CO2 canister
    • CO2 regulator
    • High-pressure hose for CO2
    • CO2 valve
    • CO2 diffuser
    • CO2 indicator
  • Liquid carbon supplement (for small aquascapes only)
  • Chiller or heater

Concave, Convex, Triangular and Rectangular Aquascapes

In the aquascaping hobby, there are many different aquascaping designs that are implemented by aquascapers. All of these designs will fit into one of the four aquascape types, namely concave, convex, triangular and rectangular aquascapes. This article will explain each of these four aquascape type.

Concave Aquascapes

Concave aquascapes are characterized by high background in the sides of the aquarium and low to no background around the middle section of the aquarium. Many aquascapers implement either a small cosmetic sand path, an empty space, or a lower background plant group. This type of aquascape is very effective in creating the illusion of depth and perspective in an aquarium.


Convex Aquascapes

Convex aquascapes is high in the middle and low on the sides. This type of aquascape is often reffered to as island or mound aquascape. This type of aquascape is best used to express a single focal point in the middle of the aquarium. Driftwood is often utilized extensively to add some contrast to the aquascape.


Triangular Aquascape

Triangular aquascape is high on one side of the aquarium and low on the opposite side. This type of aquascape is best used in aquariums that are placed near the corner of a room to create a feeling of vastness on the side that are further away from the corner of the room. Cosmetic sand is often used in this type of layout to enchance colours and texture of the aquascape.


Rectangular Aquascape

Rectangular aquascape is high everywhere. This type of aquascape is best used for dutch style aquascapes as they utilize the whole width and length of the aquarium to showcase different aquatic plants.


How to Create Soil Mounds / Terraces

One important aspect of an aquascape is the sense of depth or perspective. In conventional planted aquariums, the sense of depth is not emphasized through the use of different substrate elevations, or commonly known as terracing or soil mounding. An aquascape that has not incorporated any form of soil mounding or terracing will look dull and flat. The solution to creating great depth or perspective in an aquarium is to master the art of soil mounding or terracing. This post will discuss how to create the perfect soil mound that never flattens out.

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