Aquascape - on the cheap

Fishkeeping can be an expensive hobby. There really is no limit to what can be spent on some setups. Size, Stock and Style all dictate the cost of your home aquarium. Wether your choosing freshwater or saltwater you can be sure to find a gadget for every element of the hobby. With the home aquarium industry topping 36 million pounds every year in the UK alone, nobody can deny Fishkeepers are spending money on the hobby they love.

For some of us, spending lots of money isn't possible and we look to alternative ways to achieve our goals. Money saving skills are probably more noticeable when it comes to decorating our aquariums. Depending on the type of aquarium your aiming for, you can easily pick up some nice rocks or river stones, gravel, wood and fallen leaves from most local woodland areas or riversides.

Now, obviously to create an aquascape you have to use aquarium safe products. Not all wood and rock you may come across will be suitable and these could come with disastrous results. These come in the form of the following:
  • Pollution from traffic
  • contaminated waterways
  • rocks containing high levels of metals
  • wood containing sap
  • leaves from unsuitable trees
If collecting some materials yourself from your local area be sure to stay away from roads first and foremost. The fumes from the exhausts of passing cars will pollute any leaves, rocks, branches that are near the side of the road. Using any of these would be a sure fast way to fail.

Sometimes when Im looking for nice rocks to use, I look in the water as well as the banks and forrest floor. We have a very small stream close by and from a short distance, with the leaf litter and slow movement, you would consider the stream to be the perfect habitat for a killifish (if we were not in Scotland that is!) On closer inspection, the water surface has an oily film on it and the water is a copper colour. This is the result of a waste pipe of some kind leading directly into the waterway. Needless to say, there is no signs of life in the area and using anything collected from this area would result in the same situation in your home aquarium.

It often easy to spot a shimmering rock from a distance because of the sunlight sparkling of the tiny little silver speckles on the rock. In my early Fishkeeping days, I made this mistake myself and it took weeks to realise what was causing my water perimeters to be off the scale. Some rock contain high levels of metals. If you can identify the type of rock your holding you can check it against this list of aquarium safe rocks/stones.
  • Onyx
  • Slate
  • Granite
  • Lava Rock
  • Petrified wood
  • Quartz
Collecting wood has a few rules to follow too. The most important one is not to rip down branches from standing trees. Asides from being destructing and making yourself a bit silly, the main reason is the sap that will be inside the branch. This is toxic to fish. Even some branches you pick up on the ground may contain some sap. A good way to check is to try and bend the branch, If it bends easily, there is still sap. Not all trees are suitable either. Avoid pine and evergreen trees due to their high sap content. My favourite is oak tree. I find their branches to be the nicest and where I live they are in abundance. You can sometimes pick up branches with empty acorn casings which add a nice effect.

Leaves are found everywhere. They blow with the wind which for me is great because every autumn I end up with a good sized pile of leaves right on my back door step. However they can also blow close to roads so be aware of where you collect from and avoid any areas you think may pick up fumes from passing cars.
Fallen brown leaves to have great benefits for your aquarium. The tannin acids they release into your aquarium create a brown water effect. This mimics natural habitats for many fish. They also contain other chemicals that leach into your water that can combat fungal growth, lower pH levels and even cure diseases without the need for medicines.

So to achieve a lovely natural looking aquarium on a small budget grab your boots and head out into the wild. You never know what treasure you might find.

Just remember to get permission first if your walking on private land.

I want to see everyones locally sourced aquascapes so feel free to share your photos with Lothian Fishkeepers facebook group.

Thanks for reading guys...

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