Sunday, November 16, 2008

10 gallon planted office aquarium planning

You may or may not know that a tangent hobby of mine is aquariums.  Specifically, I really like planted aquariums.  I currently have a 29 gallon planted tank and a 10 gallon planted tank setup at home.  For some time now, I have been contemplating putting a 10 gallon planted aquarium on my desk at work.  I actually have 2 new empty 10 gallon aquariums sitting in my garage, just waiting for such a project.  But I have been slow to fill them up.  The first reason for my hesitancy is money.  It's pretty cheap to drop some gravel in the bottom, fill it up with water and toss in a goldfish.  But that's not what I'm wanting to do.  Aquatic plants, good aquatic soil (substrate), and interesting fish are not cheap and not always found at the nearest PetsMart or PetCo.  Whenever you order things online (plants or fish) the 2 day shipping can get pretty expensive.

The second reason I haven't setup my office tank is that my company is moving to a new building in the Spring.  It probably wouldn't be too big of an issue to move my office tank to the new building (across the street), but it would be easier to just set it up once whenever we have moved.  And I'm slightly concerned that my desk situation will be different in the new office and I won't have room for a 10 gallon aquarium on my desk.  I'm not sure what I would do then.

My last excuse for not starting this project is for lack of a good idea.  There are so many different possibilities for aquatic inhabitants (fish, shrimp, etc), as well as plants.  I recently came up with a design plan that I think is doable and would be pretty interesting and fun to watch.

General SetupThis aquarium is going to be a dedicated planted tank.  I will be using inspiration from the greatest aquascaper (yes, this is actually a word) of all time, Takashi Amano.  The aquascapes designed by Amano are simply amazing.  Whether you are into aquariums or not, I suggest you take a couple minutes out of your day to do a google image search using his name.  You'll be glad you did.

Back to my aquarium, which will not compare to anything Amano has every done...  The picture above is a bird's eye view of my plan for the aquarium.  The aquarium will have a center feature that I would like to think of as a pasture.  The substrate will be good, rich black aquatic soil in this center section.  I will go ahead and plant it fairly dense from the start with low-lying plants.  There will be a line of rocks sectioning off this "pasture" from the background plants, which will be taller and maybe have a higher substrate level.  I think I will probably use the same substrate in the back, even though it doesn't look that way in the picture above.  In the very front I will use white sand as an aesthetic feature only.  This is a pretty common feature in planted tanks and I think it looks really great.

Since this is a plant blog, I will start with the plants of my aquarium and save the fish for second.  Actually, this tank is really going to be focused on the plants more than the fish anyway.  I will probably order all of my plants online 2 or 3 days before I am ready to set it all up.  Ideally I would like the plants to arrive on a Saturday so that I can be at home when they arrive and take my tank to work immediately.  I will add the substrate and about a 1/4 inch of water.  Then I will carefully plant all of my new plants.  Cryptocorynes have delicate root systems and often have trouble making transitions.  Many times the leaves will rot away shortly after the plants are replanted and then new leaves will have to grow.  I have had about 50% success with Crypts.  I'll probably have to buy more than I need, expecting some of them to not make it.  Here is my list of plants that will occupy the picture above.  Check out the links below to see pictures of these plants.

Lilaeopsis novae-zelandiae "microsword" (1/2 sq ft for $20) as ground cover in the "pasture" section.  This plant sends off runners and should fill in nicely over time, but I would like to plant it fairly dense from the get-go, so that my office tank looks more or less established whenever I set it up.
Echinodorus tennelus "narrow leaf chain sword" (10 plants for $8) - a little taller than microsword.  These will be planted behind the rock barrier.
Cryptocoryne spiralis (3 plants for $6) and Cryptocoryne retrospiralis (2 plants for $4) - These are some cool Crypts.  They will be planted as accents in the background with the chain sword.

Other "Decor"
I will place a couple pieces of driftwood (more stick-like than log-like) (~$15-20) in the center of the pasture.  I think I will leave these bare.  I could plant some mosses on them later, if I wanted to change the look a little, but I think I would prefer to have the contrast of the brown wood over the bright green layer below.

I have already picked out some rocks (some free ones that I found).  I think these will work rather well.
Rocks for the barrier

Celestichthys margaritatus
Celestichthys margaritatus

A small school (probably 6) celestial pearl danios (Celestichthys margaritatus)These little fish are great.  They are relatively new to the aquarium hobby.  I have had a subscription to Tropical Fish Hobbyist for a couple of years now and I remember the issue where one of these little guys graced the cover as the next new fish that everyone would fawn over.

Corydoras Pygmaeus
A small shoal (6) of pygmy corydoras Corydoras pygmaeus.  I have to say this is one of my favorite fish.  I have six of these in my 10 gallon aquarium at home and they are simply hilarious.  They are so tiny and they spend all their time wiggling their little hind ends as they zip around the aquarium.  And they do really well in shoals.  Just google their name and you will find quite a few pictures of 5 or 6 of these guys swimming around together.

I might also add a couple of cherry shrimp later, if all goes well.  I have never kept cherry shrimp, but they are very intriguing.  I have two bamboo shrimp right now in my 10 gallon aquarium at home, and they have done remarkably well.  I have just fed my fish daily on flake food and occasionally added an algae wafer for my catfish to nibble on.  I guess the shrimp eat the algae on my plants and probably eat some of the flake food, as well.  I just might do the red cherry shrimp a couple months after setting up my office tank.  We'll see...

Eco Complete Planted Aquarium Substrate for center planted section
White sand for front arc

The 10 gallon aquariums that I already have do not have light hoods already.  I haven't decided if I should go all out and buy an expensive light bar that reaches over the top, while leaving the top surface of water exposed, or if I should just get one of the cheap black hoods that covers the top of the tank.  I have some time to think about it and check on prices before the Spring, I guess.

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