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The Shortest Day


5 Sep 2016
After a gentle nudge by @CooKieS , I've decided to make a micro journal for a tank build I'm doing.


(Tropica Substrate used as a base layer in case the scape is run longer term)

The tank is a WIO 60F (60cm x 30cm x 22cm) loaned to me by @LondonAquascaper and is being set up as part of a planted aquarium gallery at Roots and Shoots Makes a Splash! on Saturday 10th June which I'm co-organising with @shangman . It's a whole day event of aquatic life celebration in the heart of London, and the gallery will be there as a source of inspiration and education.


(Tropica Soil used as the main body of substrate, as well as a filter bag of lava rock and media to support the largest stone)

This particular tank is supposed to reflect an achievable high energy aquarium and so I went for a classic Iwagumi, which I'll admit isn't that easy to do, but is what enticed me into aquascaping because of its boldness and simplicity. I've done a few tanks that I guess could be technically defined as Iwagumi but I consider this to be my first proper Iwagumi, where I've given significant thought to rock choice and placement. I've used Frodo stone previously used in my 2022 IAPLC tank so they already have a bit of patina and character.


(The rocks in place with a top layer of Tropica Soil Powder to make it easier for the plants to plant and root and also enhance the scale)

Someone pointed out to me (and I think I agree) that there's been a recent influx of people doing Iwagumi in this style; not as a snippet of a mountain ridge, or as a recreation of the gates of hell, but as a formation you could stumble upon in a field perhaps. I guess it's still relatively far flung but I feel it's a bit easier to imagine in a real setting. I was of course inspired by the works of Adam Paszczela who uses Frodo stone extensively to recreate whole mountain ranges with expert precision. He also recently highlighted the value in using some flat-surfaced rocks alongside rounded and pointy ones and that stuck with me and hopefully translated into the end result of this tank.


(Not my picture: photo credit presumably to Adam Paszczela. An example of his work).

There's only 8 weeks or so until the event day so I've actually decided to grow this as a dry start as it should fill in quickly and avoid a lot of startup issues, needing only to be flooded on the day. I also have several other aquariums and two ponds at home and so keeping maintenance to a minimum is ideal! I've grown many plants emersed but never done a full dry start, although I can't imagine it's much different. I've chosen Eleocharis acicularis 'mini' as the main carpeting plant with 'wilding accents' using Eriocaulon 'Vietnam' and Littorella uniflora. I did also think about adding small accents of Cryptocoryne albida 'Brown' for contrast but I'll try that out later.


(Splitting the Eleocharis acicularis into tiny clumps took hours but will massively speed up the time it takes to carpet)

Our forum sponsors Riverwood Aquatics, Horizon Aquatics and Aquarium Gardens kindly supported this project in aid of the whole event, kudos to them! 💚


(Day 1 of the fully planted scape!)

Photo Dump

Stunning shot. Stunning scape 👍
Thank you Thierry! 🙏🏾
How did you clean up the rocks from your previous tank? They look like they've never seen water!
I actually didn't do anything to them 😅 I took them out of the scape last summer and they've just been sitting in storage ever since. A lot of them were quite green before so I'm not sure what's got them looking clean!
Sure, looking at it now can't believe it was 10 years ago. Scroll past the first image to the next to see the actual hardscape.

Every tank gets better and better! Can't wait to see the rest that you do for the event 😍 Better get mine in order too....
One Month

It's been a month since I setup the Iwagumi and it's growing in nicely!


The whole reason for doing it this way was because of the time constraints and I didn't want another tank to look after. So far it's been a total breeze and I think as long as I didn't have livestock, I'd definitely like to use the dry start method again one day.

For whatever reason, half of the Eriocaulon didn't root and turned brown. I suspect it might not have been moist enough but equally some plantlets which you'd expect to be drier did just fine. Either way I need to fill those gaps and I'm thinking to add Littorella uniflora as it makes a great wild looking edge to a carpet and can handle the shade.

I've only sprayed it a handful of times in the last month so it's been kept on the dryer side, although there's always water droplets on the plants and condensation on the glass. I noticed tiny amounts of mould but it hasn't progressed which I'm thinking is down to the springtails I added.


I imagine when I flood it there will be some soil visible still but I'm more than happy with the look regardless. It will add that extra layer of realness to the display anyway!

I've also added a Chihiros C2 RGB to the front to help turbo charge the growth as I don't have another available 60cm light unit.
Looking great and looking forward to seeing it in the flesh at the event :)
Thank you Paulo! And thanks for all your advice on it along the way.

I actually have this burning desire to flood the tank but I dare not risk it at this point.
This is a lovely scape 👍
Thank you Jon!