James Starr-Marshall takes a look at the fabulous nano aquarium of Hungarian aquascaper Balazs Farkas.
What was your inspiration for this stunning nano aquascape?
A couple of years ago I was standing on a cliff top in Arizona, looking down on the sandstone formations of the Red Rocks in Sedona and admiring their contrast with green bushes and trees.
It was a moment of absolute wonder, so an easy decision to get rid of my old aquascape and do something warm, comforting and less wild.
Were there particular reasons for choosing such a small tank?
There’s a visual challenge as small tanks are a pain to aquascape and you run out of space very quickly.
You need to use simple lines, yet create depth and dimension with small visual tricks and it’s more difficult to get that wow feeling you often have when looking at larger tanks. I have seen many stunning larger aquascapes but few brilliant small ones.
Hi-tech nanos are difficult to maintain. Balance can be lost quickly and algae strike with brute force. However, they are your best teachers if you want to know everything about natural aquariums, plants, ecological balance and aquarium gear.
How did you go about selecting the fish and shrimps? Were shape, size and colour important?
I try to keep to the stocking rule of a maximum of 5cm/2”sized fish per 4.55 l/1 gal. I have strong filtration, so went a little above that.
Then you need to look at the colours of the aquascape and plants and decide whether you want to contrast that with fish colour or be more subtle.
The Sedona set-up required grey fish to contrast with the red hardscape and green plants in this tank. The rainbows are perfect, having just a pink/reddish tint on their fins and nice long shapes.
I am still using and overdosing Easy Carbo so I did not want shrimp sensitive to it. Red cherries tolerate it pretty well but I will be changing to Crystal Reds soon.
Because of their small size, planted nano tanks can quickly get overgrown. What pruning techniques do you employ?
I never use stems or fast-growing plants in small tanks. Pruning is not about jumping in with your best scissors. It is a ritual, so take time to think of what you are going to do and enjoy it. It’s a calming task that will bring nature closer to us.
Which nutrients and additives did you supplement and did you experiment to find the best dosing regime?
That is done for us with the Estimative Index and I have made and used an all-in-one fertiliser solution for a long time. After multiple laboratory measurements of the water in heavily planted tanks we found that aiming to dose about 10ppm of phosphate shows better results, as far as green spot algae is concerned, than the EI 1-3ppm range.
I use a complete GA Macro with potassium-phosphate mix. I also add Easy Carbo mainly for its algae-killing ability. I found that by adding ADA ECA (iron) the leaves of the tenellus started to turn red.
What about your water change and maintenance schedule?
I started with daily changes for the first two weeks and slowly decreased them to two-weekly changes after two months.
Did you experience algae issues and if so how did you combat them?
When we went for a skiing break, and left the tank with just fertilisers added daily, it was full of Staghorn algae when we returned.
The only solution was to remove all affected leaves or parts of leaves, increase water change frequency and inject Easy Carbo directly over the leaves through a syringe after stopping the filter, and left it for a minute.
Your filter is turning the tank over roughly 25 times an hour. Why do you have this high flow rate?`
Nanos need higher flow rates to keep waste floating and deliver the CO2 quickly to the plants. The stronger flow usually comes with a bigger filter canister and that’s a nitrification bonus, keeping the ammonia levels low. General hygiene is very important for a healthy algae-free tank.
Glass lily pipes are an excellent choice for a planted tank of this standard. How often do they require cleaning?
I have cleaned the tank glass and lily pipes zero times since the start of this tank! They are both absolutely spotless.
Name: Balazs Farkas.
Location: Budapest, Hungary.
Years of experience: Four with planted tanks.
Occupation: Television director.
Number of tanks: One.
Favourite fish/inverts: Crystal red shrimp.
Favourite plant: Hydrocotyle verticulata.
Size: 36 x 22 x 26cm/14 x 8.5 x 10".
Volume: 20 l/4.4 gal.
Fish/shrimps: Six Iriatherina werneri, three Otocinclus affinis, nine Cherry shrimps, Neocaridina heteropoda.
Plants: Lilaeopsis brasiliensis, Hydrocotyle verticulata, Hemianthus callitrichoides, Echinodorus tenellus, Anubias barteri var. ‘nana’, Microsorum pteropus 'Windelov', Taxiphyllum barbieri 'Christmas'.
Filtration: Eheim Professionel 2222 with Eheim Substrat Pro, ADA Bio Rio and ADA NA Carbon, Cal Aqua Nano glass lily pipes.
Lighting: ADA Solar Mini M 27w (seven hours).
Substrate and fertilisers: Tropica Plant Substrate, ADA Aqua Soil Africana.
Hardscape: ADA Dragon, Ohko stone.
CO2 dosing: Pressurised, on timer, external diffuser.
Heating: Hydor ETH 200w external heater.
This item first appeared in the May 2010 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine. It may not be reproduced without written permission.