About time too! Plant guru Dennerle has released a package aimed at the entry, intermediate and even expert level of 'scaper — and it's fabulous, says Nathan Hill.
The tank is a manageable 45 x 31 x 36cm wide (18 x 12 x 14”), and that extra width gives it a nice low, workable profile. For someone considering a first stab at aquascaping it’s forgiving in size and set of dimensions.
Apart from CO2, which is absent, it’s a kit that’s been well thought out. You get glass, lighting, external filter, substrate, backing sheet, cover glass and detachable brackets to hold them in place, a ‘J’ design thermometer (though not a heater), 3kg of Dennerle’s Deponit mix planting substrate and 6kg of shrimp gravel.
There’s even a base mat for both insulating and stopping the tank from cracking, some shrimp food and fertiliser.
The aquarium glass is well put together, without smudging of silicone. The front two edges are curved, which is a consideration if hoping to use the tank for photography. Not everyone is a fan of distorted effects at corners.
The lighting is similar to the overhead T5 compact fluorescents used on the Dennerle marine cubes, but with a plant-friendlier 24w 8,000k bulb inside. The light connects straight to the glass with nylon screws you’ll need to secure with a screwdriver for peace of mind, though I just used a butter knife on mine.
The absence of heater is likely down to Dennerle’s implication that this should be a planted shrimp tank, hence the inclusion of the shrimp food.
For the aquascaper wanting to go trop, just ditch the shrimp, add a 25 or 50w heater, consider some nano compatible fish and you’ll be back on track.
initially daunting, the filter is a joy to work with. There are lots of moving parts and bits that disconnect, unscrew and separate, so familiarise yourself before rigging it up.
The outlet and inlet are both clear plastic, saving the need for expensive glassware, although the brackets holding the filter on — and the filter itself hangs directly to the tank — detract somewhat from this feature.
You can marginally adjust the height of the inlet/outlet pipes, sufficient to create rippling at night to offset the results of any CO2. You can also aim flow direction.
That said, the filter can be remotely connected up by hoses, so can be treated like a classic, small external. Priming it is blissfully simple. Unscrew the plug on top of the canister, fill with water from the tank via a jug, re-screw the plug and turn on.
Cleaning the filter is more awkward as there are no shut-off valves for inlet or outlet. You need to lift the whole lot from the tank before starting. Once done, opening the canister and accessing the media (mechanical and biological) is simple, but you do need to remove the biomedia before you can get to the foams.
Sadly absent is a CO2 kit, and for me this would clinch the deal. With the great lighting and nutrient rich substrate, I think that the gas is the sensible route to take and, if considering the tank as a planting effort, definitely budget in a sensible system.
The cover glass isn’t essential and with sensible stocking shouldn’t be needed. Though the cover is a pane of glass, the holding clips impacted on the aesthetics of the tank.
However, if you have jumping fish you’ll want reassurance. My only concern is that even with one in place, it still leaves a jumpable gap where space has been given over to accommodate the pipes of the filter.
The thermometer does that annoying thing of wicking water over the edge if the tank is filled too much, but all thermometers of this nature can do so.
The substrate is lovely and dark — if that’s your thing. I suspect it’ll be put to good use, providing a nice contrast under bright carpeting plants in many tanks. More importantly, it’s entirely shrimp friendly, so there’s no fretting over pH spikes from it or slowly leaching toxins.
A brilliant package that should attract many new aquascapers. The tank doubles equally well as a fish system or shrimp system for those who prefer wider options than a nano cube.
I can’t wait to stick on a big CO2 canister and see what results I can get from my plants under that light. Round up some décor, spend a creative weekend with some potted plants and tweezers and enjoy, I say…
Price: £220-225 for the set, £65-75 for just the tank.