Inspirational aquariums: Midget gem with pennies to spare!


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It's always reassuring to see aquarists undertaking projects that are closer to the typical financial means of everyday keepers. Nathan Hill checks out this particularly tasty budget balancer.

Oliver Knott is one of the more prodigious aquascapers around, both in output and innovation, and it was nice to glance at a couple of his works at Interzoo in the realisation that these were projects that we could all undertake at home.

Unlike the gas gobbling, fertiliser black holes espoused by aquascaping gods like Amano, this little diamond could easily be engineered from a well thought through Christmas wish list, or as part of an end of month bonus.

The sheer depth of the substrate means that many nutrients will be abundant for a long while, and so anyone looking to replicate this set-up wouldn’t need to invest in any other supplements for a few weeks.

The only factor I’m not including in the price of this set-up is the cost of the animals you may wish to include.

The individual must decide whether to go shrimp or fish, but I’d recommend the shrimp path — and thinking that a small brace of Crystal bees would go down a treat… 

How I'd set up

Obviously Oliver’s design is very much his own thing, but for something similar I’d use these components:


Fluval Flora 30l kit with light and filter — typically £89. One 10l bag of Oliver Knott Naturesoil (and that’s easily enough to give the generous depth of base as seen) at £29.99; Fluval pressurised CO2 kit (to replace smaller kit once it runs out) at £69.99; one 250ml bottle of Easycarbo at £5.99.


Rock lovers could opt for the pricey Manten stone, but the clever shopper will hunt for a choice piece of petrified wood at around £7-10.


Buy a few and grow them in yourself, taking cuttings to fill gaps. To avoid height issues, but still have something looking similar, go for a few Staurogyne repens in the foreground, a couple of Hygrophila pinnatifida in the back right corner, and either a leafy Hygrophila or Cryptocoryne species of your choice for the centre rear. I’d expect to spend a maximum £15 as initial outlay on these.

Total outlay:


Difficulty rating:


Time to mature:

Eight weeks until your project looks like this one!

Check out some of our other inspirational aquariums:

Discus the centrepiece

Modernist approach

Low maintenance island tank

Planted pico

Zebra plec breeding set-up

Calming moss tank

Rocky cichlid tank

Fun iwagumi

Classic nature aquarium

Medium sized reef tank

Posh nature aquarium

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