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Build Thread ekmek's Nature Aquarium (ADA 60P)

Jun 13, 2023
After a stand failure at the beginning of the year led to me tearing down all my tanks and selling most of my plants and equipment, I've finally gotten back into the aquarium game.

I spent many months scouring threads here, scrolling through Instagram, and inspecting every AGA/IAPLC layout I could find. Ultimately, I decided I really wanted to keep the layout as simple as I could—just a traditional Nature Aquarium layout, where I could focus on my two current obsessions: grassy plants and Nymphaea. I'm not sure if I've quite hit that mark, but I've had so much fun with the tank this last month, and I'm so excited to share the process with you all.
I started by playing around with some lava stones (bought as a mix of Blue faerie and Icelandic Lava) and situated a piece of branch wood I had lying around on top. I tried my best to fill the visual space with hardscape, without taking up too much physical room in the aquarium. I wasn't sure if the layout was balanced enough with the single piece of branch wood, but adding any of the other pieces I had made the layout feel congested, so I just went with the one.
My next few evenings were spent coming home from work and doing small tweaks to the wood and stones. Eventually I found a positioning that I liked and began to add some smaller stones to support the main structure. These smaller stones are a mix of black, brown, and red lava rocks that are sold in a big bag at a hardware store intended for fire-pits/barbecues. I had previously smashed these stone up for use as a drainage layer in my UNS Carnivourous Plant Bog I had set up previously, so I wasn't concerned about them messing with water quality or anything. I loosely tossed them around the structure, conceptually thinking that maybe at one point these were attached to the main stones, and over eons little bits have eroded and fallen off.
Next came the substrate. First, a warm coloured sand was added to the foreground and between the 'islands' in hope that the red/brown lava pebbles would feel a bit more cohesive with the whole layout. I think eventually this will be swapped out for a 'nicer' sand, something with a more varied grain size, but for now this will do just fine. Aquasoil seems to be rarer than gold here in Maritime Canada, so while I've always used Tropica aquasoil in the past, this time I'm trying out Fluval Stratum. First impressions were not the best; Soil felt very crumbly and light compared to other soils I've used, and I've been told anecdotes about its low nutrient content which is not ideal. Will likely supplement with root tabs in the future. Just for fun, a thin sprinkle of SLAQUA Magic Powder, and Millione Bacteria Powder were added under the soil. These products supposedly contain bacteria and yeasts which help develop the microbiota in your substrate, acting as a food source for grazers like shrimps and snails.
Next came the first batch of plants. I've recently been enamored by the the way grass-like plants look in an aquarium. They're a very effective way at filling up the height of a layout and provide an excellent sense of motion as they flow in the current. They often invoke a very powerful image to my eye; they have a sort of untamed chaos to them without being overly dominate in the way brightly coloured stems might be. For this I chose a mix of Cryptocoryne retrospiralis and Eleocharis vivipara. Rather than planting them in strict groupings the two plants were mixed together and planted some what randomly in the back of the aquarium. The hope is to have a dense curtain of grasses dancing in the flow, with the contrast between the thin vivipara and the thicker Cryptocoryne providing some visual intrest. At the rear of the 'valley' some Eleocharis acicularis was planted to keep the grassy theme, but to allow for some negative space between the islands. Some scant stems of Hygrophila polysperma were added in front of the grass curtain, and some Rotala rotundifolia 'blood red', and Ludwigia repens were added for some colour. Lilaeopsis brasilliensis was plugged in between some of the stones, and some rhizomes of Microsorum 'trident' were added onto the wood. The light (16" SBreef Freshwater) was installed over the tank and set on a timer. The filter (eheim 2215) and the inline co2 was also set up at this time.

The tank was quite cloudy for quite a while after the initial set up, but with daily waterchanges It seems to be mostly fixed. The wood was also producing a disgusting amount of slime over this period, something which the pondsnail that snuck into the tank seemed to absolutely love. The fern's bare rhizomes are starting to show new leaves now too.
Two weeks later, and the algae has started to arrive. some faint greening on the glass, and diatoms on the sand; nothing a toothbrush won't fix. The crypts seem to be adapting well, with new growth showing some beautiful brown tiger striping. The vivipara has also started to reach the surface and produce baby plants at the tip of the blades.
And that brings us to the most recent (13/11/2023) shot: Sand is still getting brown algae. Crypts are showing some more melt (but have more new growth too :) ). Gave the Ludwigia a trim and added some Bucephalandra (sp. apple leaf and sp. wavey green) to the tank. DSC_0137.png
Put in a request at the LFS for some Hygro pinnatifida and Taiwan moss to cover the bald wood with, some Myrio tuberculatum for the orangey hues, and the crown jewel of the layout Nymphaea micranthra which will 'finalize' the layout plant wise (or so I tell my self ;)) which will be here sometime next week.

Thanks for reading my ramble :)
@SingAlongWithTsing created a neat spreadsheet showing the par of the SBReef lights. They are powerful for sure. You do not have many plants (plant mass) in the tank yet so algae will be a thing unfortunately. Also I would not go over 35% both channels until the tank has grown in quite a bit more. Make sure your CO2 is on point.
I thought I saved the link but must not have. Im sure he will share it for you.

Screenshot at 2023-11-13 20-21-34.png Screenshot at 2023-11-13 20-21-49.png Screenshot at 2023-11-13 20-22-01.png Screenshot at 2023-11-13 20-22-08.png
the link to the google doc
Current state of things.

Added some Myrio. tuberculatum, and Hygro pinnatifida to the layout. Still no lillies, seems like the local market has dried up :cry:
and my search for a N. gardneriana or N. micrathra here in Canada has been fruitless. The Rotala grows so fast, and one particular stem seems to shoot to the surface in no time. The E. vivipara is slowly becoming my biggest gripe with the layout; it grows incredibly fast and often ends up looking incredibly messy. E. montevidensis (or even one of the long flowing Erios) would probably have been a better choice.

Honestly the tank has been looking pretty grungy as of late; had some major issues with diatoms that took
forever to clear up, my crypts melted back to nothing, and a leak in the CO2 Line lead to a pretty sad state. Now there's some BBA popping up on the wood. A little disheartening, but It'll come around eventually. Any insight/feedback is well appreciated.

Lowkey toying with abandoning the grassy theme all together, and replacing it with various stems, but that's a thought for later.

I hope the New Year treats you all well.