• You are viewing the forum as a Guest, please login (you can use your Facebook, Twitter, Google or Microsoft account to login) or register using this link: Log in or Sign Up

Sandy Nook . . .

Wookii

Member
Joined
13 Nov 2019
Messages
4,260
Location
Nottingham
So it's time for a rescape after the last scape, Kinabalu grew out to the point of being beyond recognition with the original scape.

My own personal interest in scapes has leaned heavily towards Biotope/Habitat style scapes over the last 6 months, however I still have one foot firmly on 'Nature Aquarium' ground. On the one had I like the more natural look with a sandy bed, structural leaf litter, shadowy low level lighting, more muted planting and the like. On the other I can't quite let go of the lush stems, and vibrant colours of the bright Nature aquarium style. If anything, therefore this new scape is something of a confusion of styles reflecting that inner turmoil!

In the end this scape involves a bit of experimentation for me, a chance to try out some new techniques - sand with enriched substrate, leaf litter, minimal hardscaping, whilst still having a last play with bright light and bunches of background stems.

HARDSCAPE:

Hardscape design first; two things I have learned from my last two scapes is a) I always use too much hardscape, b) no matter how much hardscape I use, I can barely see any of it it after 3-4 months!

With this hardscape I wanted to try and use up the bare minimum of front to rear in tank real estate, as I only have 40cm to play with (I could really do with the 60cm width sized tank in all honesty), and wanted as much open area at the front and possible. Whenever I try and I also wanted a way to reliably separate a front sand substrate, from a rear soil substrate, with a decent difference in height. Attempting such construction with rocks is tricky, and always takes up much more width area than I wanted.

In the end I went with perspex - not a typical hardscape choice, but stick with me here . . .

So I cut a strip of 6mm clear perspex, and using a paint stripper heat gun, proceeded to shape it into a curvature that I wanted to for the rear of the sandy area.

84796727-EEF9-4B72-AFB9-BBDFABC153FB.jpeg

0E190D6C-E6EA-4D17-9B03-C5C7667607EE.jpeg


I then assembled some random bit of wood against it to form the basic structure and shape I wanted to achieve. I wasn't too concerned about the detailed aesthetics, because a) wood tends to looks much more similar when its wet, and b) my earlier comment that most of it won't be visible in due course.

I had to account for my proposed depth of sand, where I planned to put any large plants (like my big chuck of Trident fern), and where I wanted to add a few lumps of lava rock for attaching epiphytes. once I'd settled on the positins, I then drilled the perspex, and screwed the pieces of wood to it with stainless steel screws, before finally cutting the top edge of the perspex to shape:

880AEB16-1D28-4677-BF8E-6BB2DC989AAF.jpeg


1EF39F8C-E5F3-403A-B681-DDBFD329803A.jpeg

C1CF114B-8AE8-4426-A9A2-9259CBA2B7BD.jpeg


34B50F08-720E-4646-AC1E-F41C7DB601B0.jpeg

D2A7BFEF-1725-4F81-83BA-44C3B6BA4F05.jpeg


This achieved the main objective of minimising the front to rear depth used by the hardscape. I know the wood looks a bit random here, but hang in there, it'll make more sense later.

Once made, I soaked the whole assembled structure in a tub for about 6 weeks to water log it, and ensure it sank. Then it was time to assemble the tank proper:

Wood/perspex pre-fab washed and in:

39D455D7-F465-4171-BFEB-4CDF24729003.jpeg


Then bags of crushed lava rock and soil were added to the rear. For this I used mostly the old stuff from the last scape to try and kick start the tank maturation, and then capped it off with 10-15mm of new Tropica Soil Powder.

To the front I created a nutrient rich base layer using a mixture of Eheim peat granules, a couple of handfuls of old bacteria rich aquasoil, a couple of handfuls of new soil, and some Bonasai Kanuma soil, with a sprinkling of a little Osmocote graules and some strategically placed Seachem root tabs. I secured this mixture in place as best I could with a layer of fine plastic mesh before adding a decent layer of silver sand combined with a sprinkling of ADA La Plata to vary the texture. The perspex did the anticipated job, and managed to keep the soil and sand separate:

I left this to run on a dark start basis for a few days to clear the initial ammonia release from the new soil. Then drained it again and added a few bits of lava rock ready for planting.

BCA8518D-BBD5-44E0-A221-C91A5AE887C2.jpeg

16F1C9E1-7AB1-4418-B6D0-61CFE82A8517.jpeg


I also added a small piece of Hygrolon, and whipped it in place with some DOOA Terra tape, to wick water up for a tiny bit of emergent growth on the piece of wood above the water level. I had wanted a little more than this exposed, but this is how it worked out.

EC2270B0-62D9-4AB1-AF2C-CAE1A978F69E.jpeg


Those with keen eyes, and a distaste for obviously made made items in the aquaria, will undoubtedly have spotted that the perspex is still visible. However the huge amount of plants I had left over from my previous scape ensured I could cover all visible areas - and so, onto planting . . .
 
PLANTING:

So because this scape isn't really sure what it wants to be, I have two distinct areas to plant. A habitat style foreground, and a soil background, with a divider of sorts in between.

I wanted the foreground to be minimal maintenance so I don't have to mess with it too much, so I have gone mainly with dwarf crypts - Parva, Albida Brown/Red and Lutea Hobbit, a couple of pieces of Blyxa Japonica, and a couple of pieces of Littorella Uniflora that I fancied trying.

The rest are largely epiphytes; several varieties of Buce and dwarf Anubias (Pangolino, Petite/Bonzai) on the wood and rock, along with some Coral moss and Cameroon moss.

At the 'divider' section I have added Mini Christmas Moss whipped onto the top of the tallest piece of wood, including above the emergent bit, and also planted some plants that should eventually become taller and add some colour (not currently visible), including a Tiger Lotus bulb to try out, and an Echinodorus Aflame in-vitro plantlet, and finally wedged in a decent clump of Trident fern tied to a rock. Behind the tallest piece of wood I've added a Crypt Spiralis Red Tiger (courtesy of @Roland), and a Crinum Calamistratum, to soften the wood and add more height.

For the background I wanted typical lush and bushy stems, so I have used my existing Rotala Orange Juice and Rotala Macrandra on the left, Limnophila Aromatica Mini on the right, and Potomageton Gayi along the rear glass. Here I've used another small acrylic divider along the length of the tank to try and keep the P Gayi from invading the other stems as it did in my last tank. Time will tell if this is sufficient to contain it.

Finally I added a load of botanicals to the open sand areas, including some various small seed pods, alder cones and twigs, and small oak and Indian almond leaves. The jury is still out for me as to whether I like the look or not, as the plain areas of sand looked nice before hand, and the foreground now looks very 'busy', but its an easy change if I decide to remove some of them.

There is quite a bit of tannin tint to the water, which isn't an issue to me, but makes photographing tricky, particularly under the Vivid's RGB lights, but anyway, here are some basic phone pics:

3D264CC9-69DA-4794-A417-C31AA713C611.jpeg


9829C47C-46B8-4C9C-BD45-E1DBFA40A52C.jpeg


FAD883DD-D303-41C8-ABEF-FC464406D11E.jpeg
 
Love it.
The use of the perspex is genius idea.

Thanks Gill - yes, the perspex construction worked really well, and was dead simple to implement, and just made everything else that followed so much easier. Having done it both way ways, I'll be definitely be using the perspex again in the future.
 
Loving the concept and the execution. You have done exactly as I did when I thought about my last scape. I wanted and was determined to have a large sand area, which looked really good when I'd finished but as I normally do, I began to clutter it with excess crypts and extras that I think it looked much better without. It's stayed in the flux at the moment until I get around to removing, rather than adding stuff.
For me with your nice botanical I think you could perhaps consider them like hardscape and cut back on them a little, leaving them in strategic areas but opening the sand a little more. It looks great as it is but I think open, negative space, could improve things further.

What are you planning on stocking it with? I wanted the open area because I'm either going the cory route or apisto's, with other fish the open sand isn't as big an issue.
 
Loving the concept and the execution. You have done exactly as I did when I thought about my last scape. I wanted and was determined to have a large sand area, which looked really good when I'd finished but as I normally do, I began to clutter it with excess crypts and extras that I think it looked much better without. It's stayed in the flux at the moment until I get around to removing, rather than adding stuff.
For me with your nice botanical I think you could perhaps consider them like hardscape and cut back on them a little, leaving them in strategic areas but opening the sand a little more. It looks great as it is but I think open, negative space, could improve things further.

What are you planning on stocking it with? I wanted the open area because I'm either going the cory route or apisto's, with other fish the open sand isn't as big an issue.

I'm glad it's not just me that is cursed with the "I've got it, so I've got to use it" way of thinking. I was determined to use use every spare plant I had so there is not much growing in room. I could really have done with upscaling to a 600 x 600 tank with the same plant mass, but SWMBO would not permit it! I think you are right though, the sand did look better more open - luckily that is an easy change.

Stock will be my existing fish, which are currently holidaying in a holding tank - Embers, Kubotai, Chilli's and a bunch of Habrosus Cory's - the sand was very much with them in mind. They are tiny ofcourse, so I don't think the botanicals will make much difference to them - and I think they will appreciate the more extensive sand areas compare to the tiny bit they had in the last scape - it's more the impact on the human viewing experience.

I may remove the botanicals and take another shot, for comparison, and see what people think.
 
Very impressive @Wookii, very nicely done. What back-light are you running on that? Looks very good.
Making me itch for a rescape, maybe when the days get shorter 😊
 
This is a great passion for the hobby and a very nice aquarium :);):thumbup:

Thanks Roland - that C. Spiralis Tiger is beautiful by the way, my crappy phone pictures don't do it justice - I'm praying it doesn't melt on me.
 
Very impressive @Wookii, very nicely done. What back-light are you running on that? Looks very good.
Making me itch for a rescape, maybe when the days get shorter 😊

Thanks Sam.

The backlight is the Lightground one, I got it from Horizon: The LightGround Back Light 60x36

It seems to work okay, my only complaint would be the film that comes with it. It has a strange effect on my tank where you can see light coming through it from the front of the tank, but it seems to block light when viewed from the side, its a strange effect - I'll have to try and photograph it to show you.
 
I just love the creativity of using perspex as a technique for hardscaping. Genius!!!
 
I just love the creativity of using perspex as a technique for hardscaping. Genius!!!

Thanks Rosie. As I mentioned above, it worked really well. It meant the wood is really secure, there’s no risk of it being knocked over, or coming loose like it did in my last scape, and no messing about with cig filters and superglue this time around.

Plus it means you have the potential to do some interesting things like have the wood leaning forward and defying gravity, like I did with the central piece, to create some shadow. That would not been very easy to achieve without loads of additional supporting rocks at the base and rear.
 
Really interesting. Wholeheartedly agree with your comments re adding lots of hardscape only for it to disappear amongst the plants and at the same time significantly decrease the water volume and in effect the tank size. The Perspex is a great solution.
Personally I’m not a fan of the botanicals as the cones in particular appear out of proportion to the other vegetation. To my mind their place would be the forest floor surrounded by much larger vegetation....but that may well just be me over-thinking things.
Anyway, great aquarium and really useful tips.

Thanks, Ian
 
Really interesting. Wholeheartedly agree with your comments re adding lots of hardscape only for it to disappear amongst the plants and at the same time significantly decrease the water volume and in effect the tank size. The Perspex is a great solution.
Personally I’m not a fan of the botanicals as the cones in particular appear out of proportion to the other vegetation. To my mind their place would be the forest floor surrounded by much larger vegetation....but that may well just be me over-thinking things.
Anyway, great aquarium and really useful tips.

Thanks, Ian

Thanks Ian.

Yes, I think you're probably right, the botanicals mess with the scale, as it's a relatively small tank, with largely dwarf plants on the foreground. They have also, unintentionally, filled the little valley ways I created to draw the eye into the central area, so I'm going to pull most of it out this afternoon, and take another image to compare.
 
Thanks Rosie. As I mentioned above, it worked really well. It meant the wood is really secure, there’s no risk of it being knocked over, or coming loose like it did in my last scape, and no messing about with cig filters and superglue this time around.

Plus it means you have the potential to do some interesting things like have the wood leaning forward and defying gravity, like I did with the central piece, to create some shadow. That would not been very easy to achieve without loads of additional supporting rocks at the base and rear.
Yes I love how secure and solid it looks, while still getting a "light" effect. The defying gravity side of hardscape seems super hard but looks amazing, so it's great to have another tool in the arsenal to achieve anything.

Just had a a very hard day putting my new hardscape together, I should've waited a few days to see this haha! I personally found that only screwing the wood together worked to hold things up - glue and filters and balancing lava rocks just doesn't do it, so it's just so useful to be able to screw the wood to something almost invisible. You could also screw a smaller bit of perspex to wood and use it to slot inbetween rocks or down into soil to secure it without needing to try to balance rocks and things so much. The wood I used this time is so large that perspex would've still been really hard to use, but next timje I'll def think of it amongst the hardscape materials to get a more fabulously extreme look.

I like the botanicals but cones do seem to be the hardest type to get to look right in a tank, I've never worked out how to get them to look natural like leaves do.
 
Personally I like the look of the botanicals but I'm not a scaper by any means.
It looks like you have alder cones from the Italian Alder Alnus cordata. The Common Alder Alnus glutinosa has cones that are about half the size if not smaller. So that might help your sense of scale.
 
This looks stunning. I love the different textures across the tank, it's like there is something of interest going on almost everywhere. Good job @Wookii I'm looking forward to seeing how this develops over time.

I think if ever I rescape I'll be following suit regarding the hardscape.
 
Personally I like the look of the botanicals but I'm not a scaper by any means.
It looks like you have alder cones from the Italian Alder Alnus cordata. The Common Alder Alnus glutinosa has cones that are about half the size if not smaller. So that might help your sense of scale.

Thanks, yeah I’ll have to seek out a Glutinosa come the autumn, I only managed to find two trees locally this past winter, and both were Cordata’s.

I really like botanicals too, but I think the issue I’m coming up against is the one in my first post, of this scape not really knowing what it wants to be.

I think if the scape was predominantly a habitat scape with wood and twigs, and minimal background planting, a floor covered in botanicals looks right at home. Like this:

02951115255_324603028252393472_n_1400x.progressive.jpg


But as you add any significant amounts of planting, particularly small plants, then the concept starts to fall apart a bit.
 
This looks stunning. I love the different textures across the tank, it's like there is something of interest going on almost everywhere. Good job @Wookii I'm looking forward to seeing how this develops over time.

I think if ever I rescape I'll be following suit regarding the hardscape.

Thanks mate. Yeah, I think the look of it will change a fair bit once the stems have grown in at the back, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the Lotus and E. Aflame turn out adding some colour in the middle.
 
Back
Top