Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Undefined Art - by Andrea Freel


Hi Guys,

Lothian Fishkeepers has a lot of very good fish breeders, Aquascapers and shrimp keepers too. Andrea Freel has gave one of her tanks a revamp. She says its not an aquascape or biotope or even a planted tank but I think its everything that I would like my tank to be so well done Andrea!

So Andrea, Thanks again for sharing your aquariums with the group. You certainly do have what it takes to produce beautiful looking aquariums. Your previous set up was a twin tank design what made you go for a single tank this time round?

The diptych (twin tank) aquascape I did at the start of this year is slightly painful to look after, to be honest.  You have to do a lot of plant maintenance, a lot of cleaning and general tank maintenance and do it doubly each time. 

You bet I did not want this again!

And, we already had the tank and equipment. In essence, this new one is a total revamp of a tank that was already running.

With your latest tank, what was your inspiration? 

Fish, wood and botanicals were my inspiration.  I’m not sure what came first. The tank is not really an aquascape in its true sense. It is not a planted tank. In fact, it is extremely low-tech. I wanted something beautiful and something easy to maintain at the same time.

More than six months ago, I accidentally came across beautiful pieces of manzanita wood online.  I simply could not resist buying these branches although they were expensive and I was not thinking about a new scape back then. I just thought this wood  would come in handy one day.

And then I discovered wonderful botanicals by Tannin Aquatics. I just thought this material was so fantastic and gorgeous I wanted a tank with lots of botanicals and leaves in it. 

I wanted a South American set up, with dwarf cichlids rummaging through the leaf litter and various pods.  Tiny schooling tetra fish swimming amongst the branches in the middle and finally some interesting life at the top to complement the floating leaves and twigs.

Can you tell me what substrate you used?
The bottom of the tank is formed using Crushed lava rock 8-10mm by Naturstein Garden (you can get it online from Amazon) and Unipac Fiji fine sand which is widely available. There is no soil type substrate as this is a low tech setup.

For your hardscape, what did you use to create this look?

I used manzanita wood and seiryu stone.
The manzanita was so gorgeous when I put it in an empty tank! 
However, when I started adding the seiryu stone, it turned into a nightmare. I just could not arrange both the wood and rocks into a decent naturally flowing scape. The rocks each looked so different from each other, their shapes and strata did not match at all. And the wood was so tangled and oddly shaped, it was very difficult to work with and it just would not fit in neatly with the rocks.The garden saw was used a few times and I eventually settled on this layout.

Can you list the plants you used? 

Instead of plants, I used various leaves and botanicals provided by Tannin Aquatics. This is such a fantastic material that looks great in various kinds of set-ups.  In addition, there is Christmas moss on the wood and a bit of Pelia moss in the back right corner. 
I also used branches, spare plant cuttings from other tanks and leaves to float on the surface. They serve as a shelter for the hatchet fish and visually break up the layout.

what did you use to attach the moss etc to the wood?
Cotton thread and fishing line was used to attach the moss.   

The aquascape is stunning alone but you have fish in there too. what did you decide on and why?

The fish choices were pretty clear right from the start.  
The feature of the tank is the true checkerboard cichlid (Crenicara Punctulatum).  These fish all start as females and eventually the biggest one will transform into a male and second biggest will become a dominant female. They will form a pair while the rest in group stay a smaller size.

Next, the tank was really asking for some life above the branches. Marbled hatchetfish (Carnegiella Strigata) are top dwelling and suit the set up really well. When I put the hardscape together I new they were perfect for this.

Ember tetra (Hyphessobrycon Amandae). They are lively tiny and often underrated fish. In this tank, I wanted tiny fish that would just complement the final set up and look great fine manzanita branches. Also their colour is orange/light red which adds to the autumn feel of the tank.
I recently added a pair of Apistogramma Agassizii (Alenquer). Again, with their beautiful warm reddish colour, they really suit the tank.
And finally Ottocinclus because they are cute and consume algae.
Marbled Hatchetfish (Carnegiella Strigata)



Maintenance on such a nice aquascape much be quite high, whats your routine and what do you use for ferts co2 etc?
The most difficult is to take out all the leaves to give the sand substrate a good vacuum clean and to direct your hose underneath those rocks and wood whilst not sucking any Ottocinclus out of the tank. Honestly, this set up is so easy! I change water weekly and do basic maintenance such as cleaning glass or lily pipes.The tank has no CO2 or sophisticated lighting system, no plants, no fussy fish.

What kind of tank have you used?

240l Optiwhite by the Greenmachine, 90cm long, 45cm wide and 60cm high. I am only keeping it two thirds full to prevent the hatchet fish from jumping out. Also, this is a classic rectangle lay-out so it would not look right if the water surface was higher than 45cm. It has TetraTec2000 filter and Chihiros A series LED.

Why do you enjoy aquascaping? 
I enjoy keeping fish and I like their tanks to look well, too. If you do one well, it’s really stunning to watch. The combination of biology, chemistry, and mechanical things appeals to me, too.

How long have you been serious about aquatic plants layout?

To be fair, I am still waiting to get serious about planted set-ups.  I have one (well, two actually) at home and did two or three tanks for friends. I am somewhat attracted to blackwater and biotope tanks now.  I have another blackwater tank at home, actually. 

What would be your dream set up?

So the next one is definitely going to be a sophisticated planted set up.  Unless, I discover something else and divert again.

Any advice for us regarding aquascaping?
Don’t get into it if your partner is not 100% supportive.  Our floor is always wet and the house is full of rocks, wood, buckets, bags of sand, spare lighting units, hosepipes, and… fishtanks!

Thats Definitely some great advice and I can say my house is like that most of the time too. Well, Thank you Andrea for sharing with us again. It definitely seems like your aquarium designs are getting better with each one. Hopefully we will see more in the near future

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