We check out Jeremy Squires' small but sensational planted tank set up.
Your hi-tech system is very impressive. What made you go DIY?
I wanted to go hi-tech but without any messy explosion of hardware. I wanted simple, clean lines and going DIY allowed me to mix and match hardware and squeeze everything into a small space. I have a canister filter, CO2 controller, in-line pH probe, simple in-line CO2 reactor, two ball valves, and a bubble counter.
Is the tank equipment always on show and, if so, was this a conscious decision?
I intended to build a façade to cover the equipment housing, but many people are intrigued by what’s going on under the tank... sometimes more than inside!
Was there a particular design influence?
I’ve always been drawn to the nature style, but knew it would take many tanks before I could truly start aquascaping that way. Instead I’ve been on a quest to understand the ecology of the planted aquarium: how it works and how to be successful.
Many of my tanks are experiments for investigating aspects of planted aquaria. One day I’ll shift my focus to aquascaping.
What appeals to you most about the Celestial pearl danio/Galaxy rasbora?
Their small size and flashes of colour! They look stunning against the vibrant greens of the tank. They also school together nicely and add a calming effect with their easy behaviour.
You are using very strong lighting for such a small tank. How do you avoid algae issues?
I’m using 100w of metal halide, but you can’t rely on wattage and tank volume to indicate how much light you have. I position the light to achieve a set amount of photosynthetic active radiation (PAR). This can be measured with a PAR meter and indicates how much of your light is contributing to photosynthesis.
I target somewhere around 70mols/m2/sec of light measured at the substrate. This is not strong, but adequate for aquatic plants. Combined with a consistent supply of nutrients and CO2, algae is minimal.
Why use both a CO2 drop checker and an electronic pH controller?
The pH controller injects a steady, consistent amount of CO2 into the water but does not tell you what that amount is. You could try using the pH-KH-CO2 relationship chart, but it would be inaccurate due to complications in getting a true KH reading.
The drop checker allows us to indirectly measure the CO2 more accurately than using aquarium water alone.
It’s also a continuous visual cue, showing your CO2 levels. Green is good, yellow too much and blue too low.
Your Glossostigma elatinoides is immaculate. How do you achieve such a low, dense carpet?
I plant Glosso as sprigs snipped from a mother plant. I cut off a single leaf pair and it’s not essential to include a rootlet. I plant the sprigs 12mm/0.5” apart and cover the planting area.
Planting the clippings requires a fine substrate and if that’s too coarse the sprigs will not stay seated long enough to root. I also get the proper lighting level.
Glosso grows tight and compact if given 70 mols/m2/sec or more. However it grows loose and vertical when lighting is less than 50.
Why your unusual substrate choice?
I use backyard soil capped with fine gravel. The idea was inspired by reading The Ecology of the Planted Aquarium by Diana Walstad who describes the biology of soil sediment, how it interacts with aquatic plants and the importance of micro organisms in the substrate.
A true soil substrate enables you to harness the power of biology instead of relying on inorganic chemical dosing and CO2 injection.
What does your dosing regime consist of?
I use a standard Estimative Index approach and I dose with home-made solutions of KNO3, KH2PO4, and Plantex CSM+B. I dose every other day with 15ppm NO3, 1ppm PO4, and 0.1ppm Fe. If my tank is non-CO2, I dose the same amounts, but only twice a week.
What was your water change and maintenance schedule?
I only use RO water, believing that if you start with pure water and only add what’s needed, you know exactly what’s in the water and how much.
By not having to guess, I can better diagnose any problems that may occur.
Using RO water as the basis, I create my aquarium water with 5ppm Mg, 20ppm Ca, 20ppm K, and a KH of 125ppm (7°). I do this for all my tanks and perform a 50%-70% water change every week. I check the canister filter every month and remove heavy organic build-up, making sure not to destroy the bacteria living in the filter.
I measure lighting every few months to see if PAR values are still on target, but mostly I trim, trim and trim!
Name: Jeremy Squires. Age: 39.
Location: San Francisco, USA
Years of experience: Seven.
Occupation: Digital visual effects artist (film industry).
Number of tanks: Two running at any time.
Favourite fish/inverts: Harlequin rasboras, Celestial pearl danios, Bumble bee shrimp
Favourite plant: Hemianthus callitrichoides.
Pet hate: Snails eating my Anubias nana ‘petite’
Size: 25.4 x 25.4 x 25.4cm/10 x 10 x 10”
Volume: 14 l/3.1 gal after aquascaping.
Fish/shrimps: Celestial pearl danios, Cherry shrimp.
Plants: Glossostigma elatinoides, Micro sword, Java fern, Christmas moss, Potamogeton gayi, Hemianthus micranthemoides.
Filtration: Mini canister with ceramic bio media.
Lighting: 100w metal halide (PAR 70 mols/m2/sec at substrate).
Substrate and fertilisers: Backyard soil capped by 2mm gravel, Dosing (three times a week): NO3 15ppm, PO4 1ppm, Plantex CSM+B 0.1ppm (Fe).
CO2 dosing: 30ppm (paintball canister) with Aquamedic controller.
Heating: Metal halide.
This item first appeared in the July 2010 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine. It may not be reproduced without written permission.