Category Archives: Aquascaping

Hardscape Materials

In aquascaping, choosing the right hardscape is vital. Hardscape refers to the materials added to build the structure of your aquascape such as rocks, pebbles, gravel and wood. This part of the aquascaping process is often rushed or overlooked, but in our opinion is one of the most important things to get right in order to achieve a pleasing aquascape. Once the hardscape is placed in the aquascape it cannot be changed very easily, so take your time in choosing the right hardscape and everything else will be much easier.

We are working on building our hardscape selection, with more and more materials being added each month. We realise a good selection of hardscape can really help aquascapers achieve the desired look and provide inspiration to try new things and scaping with different materials.

So far our rock selections consist of…
Dragon Stone – A finely detailed rock with many crevices
Mini Landscape Rock – Mini Landscape Rock is used by many aquascapers and is one of the most desirable and widely used rocks in aquascaping.
Knife Stone – Unique form and fine textures
Lava Rock – Rough texture, perfect for planting mosses as it sticks easily.
Leopard Stone – Fabulous stone in a very special black and white optic
Fossilised Wood Stone -Multicolour fossilized wood. Colours from white over red and brown to black in the middle. Wooden structure can often be seen according to the annual rings.
Stonewood -S tonewood is a wonderful stone that instantly brings colour to an aquarium.
Maple Leaf Rock – Red/brown with think white veins. Web like apearance.
Picture Stone – Picture stone is a lovely pale yellow stone with veins that range for white to dark brown.

In our Aquascaping wood supplies we have…
Manzanita Wood – Manzanita wood is a very attractive wood with many twisted branches that adds beauty and character to your planted aquarium.
Standard Driftwood – Budget driftwood which is heavy and sinks easily.
Redmoor Wood – Redmoor wood is one of the most popular woods in planted aquariums. It’s brancy nature and interesting shapes make it very attractive in the aquarium.
Curio Wood
Talawa Wood
RiverWood
Sumatra Wood

We also carry a range of gravels and pebbles. See our hardscape section for a full list.

Here’s a superb example of what can be achieve with Manzanita Wood…

Manzanita Aquascape

We also love using Dragon Stone for Iwagumi aquascaping…

There are some truly stunning pieces of Manzanita Wood Available, this is just one of our many pieces with many branches…
iwagumi dragon stone manzanita-wood-large-968-p

 

New Aquarium Soils & Substrates!

Tropica Aquarium Soil 9L

I am very pleased to say that we have added a exciting new range of aquairum soils and substrate to our ever growing number of products for planted aquariums…

  1. Tropica Aquarium Soil
  2. Tropica Aquarium Soil Powder
  3. Tropica Plant Growth Substrate

Getting things right from the beginning means starting with a good bottom layer for your plants to grow in. Tropica’s new aquarium soil is the perfect bottom layer for your planted aquarium. There’s NO NEED FOR CAPPING with gravel or sand, making this ‘all in one’ substrate a simple product to use.

First, layer the soil across the bottom of your aquarium 5-6cm deep, sloping towards the back to add depth. Next, add any hardscape such as wood or rock and fill the aquarium with 2cm deep of water. Now your ready for planting. Planting before you fully fill your aquarium with water makes the job much MUCH easier, and this is the way we recommend planting any tank. After your plants are in, fill the tank slowly with water, being carefully not to disturb any of the plants you have just put in. It really is a simple product to use. Tropica Aquarium Soil also helps promote healthy growth of your aquatic plants by altering the water parameters in the plants favour. It also promotes red colourations in your aquatic plants.
TIP: During the first 3-4 weeks of set-up, change 50% of your aquarium water 2 times per week. Aquarium Soil leeches ammonia initially which need diluting with fresh water. After this (around 4-6 weeks) you are ready to add fish. And you can slowly start to decrease the amount of water changes you do per week.

If you have a nano/small aquarium, Tropica’s Aquarium Soil Powder is the preferred choice, as the grain size is smaller which looks better in smaller tanks and with smaller plants. It is also useful in the foreground of larger tanks, and makes things easier when planting more delicate plants such as Hemianthus Callitrchoides and Eleocharis Acicularis.

We also now stock Tropica’s Plant Growth Substrate. This product is designed to sit underneath your chosen gravel or sand. It is a long term nutritious substrate ensuring healthy growth in the long term. You are required to layer 1cm of Tropica Plant Growth Substrate underneath 4-5cm of your chosen gravel/sand to ensure the substrate does not leak into your water column.

Top tips when purchasing aquarium soils and substrates:

      • It’s a good idea to purchase soils/substrate and any hardscape materials such as wood or rock before getting hold of your plants. This gives you time to plan your layout and make sure you have enough soil/substrate and hardscape materials before your plants arrive.
      • Remember to carry out 2 weekly water changes, 50% each time for the first 3-4 weeks. This is important in any new planted aquarium, but especially if your using aquarium soils.
      • If your wondering how much Aquarium Soil you need, 1 x 9 Litre bag per 60L of aquarium water is what we would recommend.
      • If your wondering how much Plant Growth Substrate you need, then this table will help you…

Tropica Plant Grow Substrate chart

 

Wave Aquascaping scissors

New Aquascaping Tools from Aquarium Gardens

Aquarium Gardens have released a new range of aquascaping tools for planted aquariums.

We have a wide variety available, from spring scissors (great for quick trimming of stem plants and moss) to wave scissors (perfect for carpet trimming such as Hemianthus Callitrchoides). The quality of the tools is really high, and the price is attractive too. The tools are made from surgical grade steel and will last you a long time.

Let’s take a look at how these tools can make trimming and planting a whole lot easier…

Aquascaping Tweezers

I’m sure we’re all familiar with trying to plant with our fingers? It’s often a frustrating and messy task. It can be very difficult to push the plant into your substrate using your fingers without it floating back up to the surface again. A long pair of tweezers makes the whole process much simpler. Not only can you plant with precision and ease, the extra length on the tweezers means you don’t have to get your whole arm in the tank.

Aquarium Plant TweezersAquascaping Scissors

When it comes to trimming your plants, we have every tool for the job. Trimming your aquascape calls for slender, sharp and clever tools. Tasks such as trimming carpet plants and shaping your stem plants requires tools specifically designed for the job…

Spring Scissors

Perfect for fast and precise trimming of stem plants and moss…

Spring Aquascaping scissors

Wave Scissors

Designed for trimming carpet plants such as Hemianthus Callitrichoides…

Wave Aquascaping scissors

Angled Scissors

Great for reaching those hard to get to spots….

Angled plant scissors

 

Start with Quality Plants….

One of the most important things when starting a new aquascape is starting with healthy vibrant plants. You’re much more likely to have a successful planted aquarium if you start with the right plants….

Here at Aquarium Gardens you can rest assured that your plants will arrive in top condition. This is because we hold our plants in a very different way to most retailers. We hold all our aquarium plants in an emersed, humid, well lit and well fertilized environment. The results are outstanding. The plants continue to grow rapidly and are fed all the vital nutrients direct to their roots for super healthy growth. What’s more, because they are kept out of water, they are completely algae free GUARANTEED!

Let’s take a closer look at some of out most popular plants…

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Glossostigma Elatinoides

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Staurogyne Rubescens

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Bacopa Caroliniana

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Pogostemon Helferi

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Hemianthus Callitrichoides

For more super healthy aquatic plants visit our website at www.aquariumgardens.co.uk

List of our Top 5 Aquarium Carpet Plants

Carpet plants are used to create a lush green lawn or mat of plants that, as the name suggests, create a carpet look along the bottom of your aquarium. The popularity of these plants has boomed tremendously over the last 5-10 years, especially in aquascaping. So we have put together a list of our top 5 carpeting plants available on our website:

 

1. Hemianthus Callitrichoides – the smallest aquatic plant in the world that’s currently available to aquarists. Hemianthus Callitrichoides or ‘HC’ for short, is the ultimate carpet plant. It’s tiny tear drop shaped leaves, lush green colour and creeping nature is what makes it so popular for carpeting. Not the easiest plant to care for mind you, certainly if your new to planted aquariums. It requires plenty of light intensity to penetrate down to the bottom of your aquarium, and CO2 that is adequately circulated around the lower parts of your aquarium. If these requirements are not met then HC often suffers. It also requires regular pruning, not only to keep it in shape, but to make sure the carpet does not get too thick. When this happens the underside of the plant usually dies and lifts away from your substrate. Due to the small size of Hemianthus Callitrichoides, it is the perfect plant if you want to create a sense of scale in the aquarium, or make things appear bigger than they actually are. Therefore they are great for smaller aquaria or nano tanks. If the aquarist has a good understanding of how to care for this plant, it certainly is one of the most stunning carpeting plants around.

Hemianthus Callitrichoides

 

2. Echinodorus Tenellus – sometimes refereed to as the ‘mini amazon sword’, this plant is part of the sword plant species group and is one of the smallest. It has long grass like leaves . It propagates by runners quite happily under good light and can quickly be used to cover areas of your aquarium. Under high light, growth can be very compact and fast. In my opinion Echinodorus Tenellus is a great plant to begin with if you have never tried carpeting aquarium plants before. It has much lower demands than other carpet plants (such as Hemianthus Callitrichoides and Glossostigma Elantinoides). However, having said this, to create the best carpets use lots of CO2 and fertz. Do not overshadow with taller plants.

 

Echinodorus Tennellus or Mini Amazon sword Aquarium Plant

3. Sagittaria Subulata – also known as “Dwarf Sagittaria”, this plant is another great beginner carpeting plant. It’s leaf shape is fairly similar to the E.tenellus, in that is has long grass like leaf shapes, usually a bit thicker and a bit longer. Much like the E.tenellus, it propagates through runners. This plant can sometimes, almost randomly, grow quite tall. The best way to keep it short is to trim it regularly. Another great choice for beginners as it has lower demands all round. A nutritious substrate always helps.

Buy Sagittaria Subulata or Dwarf Sagittaria - Aquarium Carpet Plant

 

4. Staurogyne Rubescens – a stem plant that has a low bushy compact nature, thus making it another great plant for carpeting. It can look similar to some Hygrophila species, however, it will not grow much higher than 5-10cm. To keep it low down, regular pruning it required. To carpet this plant requires a little more expertise. When the stems become to a long upright position, cut these off and replant the cutting. This can be done repeatedly to encourage a carpet. Under higher light, many stems will creep horizontally.

Buy Staurogyne rubescens

 

5. Eleocharis Acicularis – very similar to Eleochairs Parvulus. It has a common name of hairgrass. As this suggests, it has fine grass like leaves. When planted in groups it will quickly form a dense group of plants. To encourage fast growth, fire lots of CO2 at it and it will quickly shoot out runners to form a carpet. Under lower light, growth is much slower and creating a thick carpet is much more difficult. Because of its small delicate grass leaves, it is another good carpet plant for creating a sense of scale, and much suited to smaller aquaria. The leaves easily sway under the filter flow, thus creating some movement to your aquarium.

Eleocharis Acicularis AKA Dwarf Hairgrass - Aquarium Gardens

 

So there we have it, our top 5 aquarium carpet plants. One last tip that applies to all carpeting plants; ensure your aquarium water is being circulated around the lower areas of your aquarium, otherwise your carpet plants may not receive the vital CO2 and nutrients they need to grow.

Aquascaping Maintenance & Care

 

 

A few weeks ago we looked at what to think about when setting up an aquascape (see blog post: Aquascaping – The Basics). Focal points, plants and positioning all play an important part in building an aquascape.

Now we look at how this aquascape has grown in and developed, and we need to decide what care is required to maintain the overall development.

Aquascape at 5 weeks:
Aquascaping with Carpet plantsAs you can see the plants have started to carpet and fill in the gaps. It might take another 4-6 weeks for this scape to be fully grown in. Patience is also required in aquascaping!

These plants haven’t just been left to grow on their own. Oh no, they wouldn’t have got this far on their own! The ‘Aquascaper’ must look after and care for his plants in order for them to grow how he wishes. Fundamentally, plants need light, co2 and nutrients to grow. It is down to the aquascaper to provide the correct amount.

Light 

When it comes to light, you must first look at the plants you are intending to grow, and how much maintenance you think you can handle! The plants in this aquascape are keen for a medium to high level of lighting (0.50 Watts per litre +) in order to grow and carpet the way we want them to. To little and the Glossostigma & Hemianthus Callitrichoides in this aquascape will grow upwards towards the light. Give these plants enough light and it will crawl along the substrate and create a carpet just like we want them to.

 

The Aquascaper can also create problems. Using medium to high levels of lighting requires more water changes, pruning, co2 injection and fertilization. The high light level is effectively accelerating the rate of growth, and subsequently increases the needs for co2 and nutrients. We also increase the risk of algae forming! Therefore, the aquascaper is required to spend more time maintaining their scape.

Want a scape with less maintenance? Reduce your lighting. This will reduce the need for co2, nutrients and water changes. With lower lighting, you are slowing the rate of growth, and as a result, reducing the need for co2 and nutrients. There are many plants that thrive under lower lighting. Many Cryptocoryne, Echinodorous, Java Fern and Vallisneria can all do well under lower lighting. Do your homework when choosing plants. We have come up with a simple rating system to help you choose the right plants for your desired scape. All the ratings can be found here : Plant Difficulty Ratings. All of our plants are given a rating to help you make the right choice.

Week 6 pic1

Co2

In this aquascape co2 is a requirement in order to meet the plants demands for growth. Medium to high light requires co2 injection as the higher light levels have accelerated growth rates which require more carbon to complete the photosynthesis process. Should the Co2 levels be too low, algae is given the chance to thrive, rather than the plants. Algae has several survival properties that plants don’t have. Algae can survive without the three essential elements plants need: light, nutrients and co2. Supply all these in the correct amount and your plants will thrive, and algae will stay away.

Planning a lower light aquarium might suggest co2 is not required, but is still recommend for healthy growth. An alternative is to supply carbon in a liquid form from a bottle. It requires a daily dose and is best suited to ‘lower tech’ planted aquariums that require less carbon for growth. Take a look at our shop for more information on Liquid Carbon.

Week 6 pic5

 

The aquascape above has not come without it’s problems. Algae in the early stages is very much a problem. It’s especially difficult in a high light aquarium such as this one. A simple way to reduce your lighting intensity is to raise your light higher above the surface of the water. This can help control the rate of growth and prevent stress to the plants when the aquarium is given to much light. Algae did appear in this aquascape, about 10 days in. Raising the light helped eradicate the algae, along with many water changes. The light currently sits around 30 cm above the water surface.

Water Changes

Probably the most undesirable task, water changes have to be done. More so in the early stages, for this reason: organic waste. Organic waste is the build up of nutrients that are not required, mainly ammonia. This occurs from plant decay, substrate, wood, fish food and fish waste. In the early life of your aquarium where it is yet to establish enough bacterial colonies to cope with this organic waste, algae thrive from it. A solution? Water Changes. Many water changes will effectively dilute the organic waste.. We recommend doing as many water changes as you can during the first 4 weeks. As guide try 2 weekly changes of 50%. Over the next 4-6 weeks, beneficial bacteria build up will help deal with ammonia by completing the nitrogen cycle. The nitrogen cycle converts the unsafe ammonia into a much safer nitrate. Less ammonia = less chance of an algae outbreak.

 

If you require any further help with your planted aquarium, or thinking of setting on up for the first time, feel free to contact us with any questions you have.

 

How to Aquascape with Plants on Wood

Aquarium plants on wood are simply great. Being one of my personal favourite ways to scape an aquarium, it’s almost effortless to create a beautiful looking aquascape using plants that are attached to wood. By using 3 or 4 different pieces of wood with a range of beautiful aquarium plants growing on them makes scaping easy!

If your planning on setting up a new planted aquarium, first, take a look at our plants on wood, coconut and bamboo sticks. Depending on the size of your tank, choose a number of different species that take your fancy. All our plants on wood are easy growers, can be grown under high light or low light, with co2 or no co2. These plants actually prefer growing attached to something. Your chosen pieces can be used as the skeleton of your aquascape. Try re-arranging them in different layouts. The wood becomes the main focal point and you can then put other plants of your choosing around this.

Here’s a great example of a planted aquarium using plants on wood from Aquarium Gardens to create a wonderful aquascape…

photo (3)

This tank is just 1 day old, but as you can see there is an instant impact made with the arrangement of wood and plants. Something like this is relatively easy to pull off. Just 4 pieces of wood have been used, with various different plants attached to them (Java fern, Pogostemon, Anubias & Javamoss). Once the pieces have been placed, other aquatic plants that do better pushed into the substrate are planted around them.

Take a look at our range of plants of wood and try using them to build your own stunning aquascape!

Aquascaping – The Basics

Aquascaping – My last post looked at how we might go about planting Hemianthus Callitrichoides. We showed you that a few pots can go a long way! This is how the same aquascape looks one week after planting:

Aquascape Update

As you can see the HC has started to crawl across the substrate, in a few weeks it will have fully carpeted. I will then be required to trim weekly to keep this plant under control.

Pots used: 4 x Hemianthus Callitrichoides, 3 x Echinodorus Tenellus, 2 x Glossostigma Elantinoides 1 x Hairgrass

Aquascaping Basics

The first thing you must remember when you start a new aquascape is the hardscape is always going to stay in the same position. Plants can be trimmed, moved or taken out. The hardscape can not (unless you want a big mess!).

The hardscape forms the main shape of your aquascape, so time should be taken when placing your rocks or wood in a natural position. Often, the main stone or piece of wood will be placed off-centre. Symmetry in aquascaping is often very boring. How often do you see symmetry in nature? Nothing is ever perfectly centred or in line, because it’s not man made. So as much as you want to line things up and centre rocks or wood, try your best not too!

In the aquascape above, the majority of the rocks are to the left of the tank, sloping in height from rear-top left to near-bottom right. This technique is very appealing to the eye and helps add depth to the scape. The plants have been chosen to reinforce this triangular look. Echinodorus Tenellus has been used in the top left corner, this being the taller plant out of the four used (although still a relatively small species). Glossostigma Elatinoides has been used in the middle and Hemianthus Callitrichoides in the foreground. The plants are in order of height, just as the rocks have been placed. A few clumps of Hairgrass have been placed in-between or beside rocks to add a touch of randomness and a more natural feel.

The main focal point to the aquascape is the centre rock piece pointing towards the top right. The rocks point is positioned off-centre, a little to the right. Again making the scape look more natural. After your eye has been drawn to this point the rest of the aquascape unfolds pleasingly. You might be drawn to the left side first and the plants at the back of the aquarium. After this you will probably venture further and glance down to the bottom right foreground area, where smaller rocks and tufts of plants lay. Ultimately, the layout should draw the eye with ease around the scape.

Next time, I will be looking at what’s required to grow such plants. How much light, co2 and nutrients is needed? We will also take a look at how the plants are doing and what sort of tank maintenance is required.

Don’t forget, we stock all these aquarium plants and many more in our online store aquariumgardens.co.uk. All of our plants are of the highest quality, algae and snail free!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to: Prepare Hemianthus Callitrichoides for Planting

Hemianthus CallitrichoidesHemianthus Callitrichoides, or HC for short, is probably the most popular foreground carpeting plant of the moment. It is actually one of the smallest aquatic plants in the world and only been around the hobby for 10 years or so. If cared for properly, HC will trail along your bottom of your tank to form a lush green carpet. It does best with co2 injection and good circulation. This is often overlooked but a very important factor in the success of growing HC. Ideally you need a flow rate of 10 x your size of the tank, and you literally need to see the co2 bubbles rolling over the plant at the bottom of you tank. If you are not injecting co2, liquid carbon offers a great alternative method.

How to prepare your HC pots:

Here’s how we prepare our HC for planting.

First of all, remove the whole plant including rock wool out of the pot. Then tear the plant in to two pieces.

Remove HC from Pot

Next, carefully cut away the bulk of the rock wool. You do not need the majority of the rockwool that comes with the plant.

Cut off rock wool

Using scissors, cut the HC into smaller portions (about 1-2cm each). This allows you to cover more ground when planting.

IMG_0583

 After this you can start planting your HC. Using planting tweezers grab the roots of the plant and push into your substrate. Be careful not to bury too deep. Plant each bunch about 2cm apart and cover the desired area. It’s easiest to plant whilst you tank is yet to be filled with water. Every so often spray the plants to avoid them drying out.

Planting HC

Below is a good example of how far apart each piece of HC should be. Over the coming weeks, the plant will start to cover the substrate and fill in all the gaps to create a carpet.Planting HC 2cm apart

More news will be posted as this tank progresses. Watch out for the full aquascape to be posted soon!

You can buy Hemianthus Callitrichoides here.

Jungle Style Aquarium

A great example of a jungle style aquarium. Large leaved plants, little hardscape on show & a mixture of colours all add up to the perfect jungle aquarium!

You will need a medium to large sized aquarium as many of the plants used in jungle aquariums are on the larger side.

Maintenance on these types of aquariums is very much on the easier side. With only a 50% water change every week and pruning of dead/oversized leaves.

As long as you have medium light, consistent co2, nutrient rich substrate and/or liquid nutrient dosing & good circulation, you will find your plants flourishing.  Because of the huge plant mass you will need lots of liquid fertilizers and lots of co2.

Here are some good plant collections to get you started with a jungle style aquarium:

Discus Plant Collections

Mixed Cryptocoryne Collections

For a high plant we recommend lots of plant food and a nutrient rich substrat. Here’s a couple of things you may need to feed your plants:

Root tabs to nourish your substrate

Liquid Aquarium Plant Fertilizers