This amazing planted tank is the work of 17-year-old aquascaper Sam Clowsley.
Your planted tank has a very natural appearance. What or who inspired you?
My main inspiration came from Takashi Amano whose latest tanks have the most natural look of any I’ve seen.
This tank was inspired by one example some people may have noticed from the ADA gallery. It gave me many ideas: the 'cove' in the middle created by the wood, for example, and also the plant selection which works very well together.
How old is the tank and how long do you plan to keep it running?
This is just over four months old and the high lighting more than doubles the life of the aquascape! I intend to keep the set-up for about another three to four weeks.
You are using metal halide lighting. What do you feel are the benefits of this over fluorescents?
The halide gives a whole new feel to the aquarium and, unlike fluorescent, you get a ripple effect which brings the tank to life.
The plants love the light too. I started with a few bunches of Hemianthus micranthemoides which, under high lighting, 'crawls' along the substrate rather than grows upright. I now have loads.
Algae can be a problem when using high intensity lighting. Did you experience any issues and, if so, how did you resolve them?
Under the very high lighting stem plants grew too quickly and were too healthy for algae. However, when trimmed, they were exposed, releasing ammonia where cut.
I have had problems with slower growing plants like Cryptocoryne wendtii ‘green’ and Lilaeopsis noveazealandiae. The latter started to grow black brush algae, due to my short-term neglect, so I unplugged the light, added Easylife Easycarbo and left it in darkness for three days.
I cut older leaves off the crypts as new ones are always appearing.
What influenced your selection of fish and shrimps?
I wanted one or two groups of tetras which would shoal well in my set-up.
I had heard that Rummynose tetras shoal constantly, so took just this opportunity to buy and try some.
Your plants must grow quite quickly under such high lighting levels. What are your pruning techniques?
While normally trimming the Cryptocoryne wendtii 'green' weekly I would remove up to 20 old or infected leaves each time — but I have not trimmed the Lilaeopsis noveazealandiae since it was planted.
I would have liked to trim it a couple of weeks ago, but it would not have grown back before I had planned to dismantle the tank. I would have cut it right down to the substrate as any cut leaves will not continue growing and may cause algae problems.
Every two weeks I trim the moss during the water change when the water level is low, so preventing a mess.
I cut the Hemianthus micranthemoides into shape with kitchen scissors, as you don’t have to be quite as precise as when dealing with leaves of Cryptocoryne.
I cut it roughly to what I want, then neaten it up when I can get a clearer view and make a nice curve.
What is your CO2 and fertiliser dosing regime and did you have to adjust as the tank grew in?
I adjusted CO2 injection over the first few weeks, changing flow around the tank to try and get it as even as possible. It’s around two bubbles per second now.
For fertiliser I use EI dosing as this provides the plants with more than enough nutrients at all times. I did increase the amounts of fertilisers and CO2 when H. micranthemoides really started to grow as it takes up a lot of nutrients and CO2.
What is your water change and maintenance schedule?
I am doing a 50% change every week, usually taking an hour. My routine also includes trimming any algae-infected leaves and cleaning glass, if necessary.
The filter is cleaned every two to three weeks and that takes an extra 30 minutes.
You are one of the youngest competitive aquascapers in the UK. What made you decide to start in the hobby?
I started keeping plants when I first started fishkeeping. I never liked plastic, always buying live plants.
A few growing failures only served to encourage me to try harder, so I looked up how to keep them and came across aquascaping. From then on I have always wanted to get better. It all becomes addictive and I always look forward to the next tank.
How old were you when you created your first aquascape and was it a success?
I was 15. It was more Dutch inspired and I wanted to try all the different plants available. I managed to grow some, but, being impatient, wanted a higher tech tank to get things growing quicker, so took it apart and started a new set-up. That’s why I never finished my first few aquascapes!
Younger fishkeepers are often deterred from trying aquascaping. What encouragement can you offer them?
Give it a go! Start with a low-tech aquarium, then move on to the tank of your dreams. Also search the Internet as there’s so much information out there. People on some great forums are also happy to help.
Name: Sam Clowsley.
Years of experience: Five years in fishkeeping, two years aquascaping.
Number of tanks: Two.
Favourite fish/inverts: Cherry shrimp.
Favourite plant: Hemianthus micranthemoides.
Pet hate: Black brush algae.
Size: 60 x 40 x 40cm/24 x 16 x 16” braceless, rimless OptiWhite.
Volume: 80 l/18 gal.
Fish/shrimps: Otocinclus affinis, Red eye tetras, Rummynose tetras, Neons, one Crossocheilus siamensis and more than 50 Cherry shrimps.
Plants: Hemianthus micranthemoides, Cryptocoryne wendtii 'green', Lilaeopsis noveazealandiae, Hydrocotyle leucocephalus, Taxiphyllum alternans, Anubias sp.'bonsai', Rotala sp. 'green,' Echinodorus tenellus.
Filtration: Tetratec EX1200 with glassware.
Lighting: Aquamedic 150w halide with Osram daylight bulb.
Substrate and fertilisers: Oliver Knott nature soil. Estimative Index (EI) dosing.
Hardscape: Manzanita wood.
CO2 dosing: Ceramic glass diffuser via pressurised CO2, 24/7.
Heating: 300w Hydor inline heater.
Background: Diffuser film/white wall behind.
This item first appeared in the June 2010 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine. It may not be reproduced without written permission.