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:
As 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.