Matt Clarke speaks to reader Tony Swinney about his stunning nature aquarium...
The tank looks beautiful and we can see some Luis Moniz inspiration. What do you like most about this particular style of aquascaping and planting?
The 90 x 45 x 45cm/36 x 18 x 18” tank created by Luis Moniz is one of my all-time favourites and was a major inspiration for this tank. I really like the cleanliness of the style — especially with a bright background — with the clear space all round the ‘scape that the ‘mound’ layout gives you.
It really focuses the viewer on the centre space of the tank before their eyes radiate and find all the little details elsewhere.
Your OptiWhite glass tank looks classy and the water gin clear. It’s almost as if there’s no water! What sort of filtration do you have, or is much of this down to the quality and clarity of the OptiWhite?
The tank runs from two filters: a Tetratec EX1200 and Eheim 2075, both with Sera Siporax biological media. These give the gin-clear look. OptiWhite glass means you don’t see the green tint of float glass, so the colours within are truer to life.
What are the plants among the soil substrate and will they hold the soil together and prevent it from mixing with your paler foreground sand?
The foreground plants are Cryptocoryne parva and Dwarf hairgrass (Eleocharis parvula). To a degree, they should hold the Aquasoil together. However, the fossilised wood ‘rocks’ will play a bigger part in doing that.
The idea of rock placement was to create little channels where the substrate would meet the sand in a more natural way. That is happening now, but the shrimp are also shifting it too.
As the Aquasoil is lighter than the sand I can waft it with a paintbrush and ‘blow’ it back into place.
What types of mosses have you added to your tank and how do you keep them all looking so good?
Each branch has a different moss, and from left to right they are Taiwan moss, Triangle moss, Ectropothecium moss, Creeping moss and Weeping moss. They were all tied to the roots with some brown fishing line before the water was added.
At the minute I trim them every couple of weeks with shears to encourage thicker growth, as some are growing a little bit straggly. I may reduce the varieties in future if some continue to grow stronger than others.
The wood looks great. What is it and where did you track it down?
The pieces are Redmoor root. These were sourced from The Green Machine which also supplied me with the tank itself, substrates and plants.
What is the cabinet you’ve used? It looks like a Hagen.
It is a Fluval Osaka 260. I did buy the Osaka tank too but wasn’t too keen on the rounded corners and aluminium trim, so decided to upgrade to the OptiWhite for a cleaner look.
How have you found Bolbitis?
Tricky! It’s the one plant I’m struggling with and I have had a lot of dieback from it too. I trimmed the old foliage right back and, after two months, am only just starting to see new growth. I heard it can take some time to adapt to a new tank, so for me patience is the name of the game.
What’s the reactor you have on the side of your cabinet?
It’s an Aqua Medic 1000 CO2 reactor. I use a drop-checker to monitor the gas levels and tend to run it as yellow as possible without causing discomfort to the fish.
Are you planning to let the moss take over, as it does in Luis’ tank, or do you want to keep the rocks free?
I’d like the mosses to cover the wood and take on a more natural look. It still looks very ‘placed’ on the branches. I don’t plan to let it come forward onto the rocks though.
Monoselenium is in among the bases of the roots and that should give a smooth transition from mosses to foreground plants.
How much maintenance does it need and what do you do?
I’m currently doing 30% water changes every other day and give the glass a general wipe over when I do so. I’ll probably tidy up the sand and Aquasoil a little too. The Hygrophilia difformis is growing well, so that needs pruning every week and I’ve been trimming the mosses every other week.
How did you take your pictures? They’re amazing!
I’m a photographer and re-toucher by trade, so have access to excellent equipment. I shoot on a Nikon D3X with a variety of lenses and using two studio lights on my shots really helps. I’d like to move the tank from the wall to sort out the lighting on the background, but that is a major number! My next tank will sit on a cabinet on castors to give that flexibility.
Name: Tony Swinney.
Years of experience: Two.
From: Cobham, Surrey.
Number of tanks: Three.
Favourite fish: Altum angels.
Pet hate: Buckets!
Size: 100 x 45 x 55cm braceless, rimless, OptiWhite glass tank.
Filtration: Tetratec EX1200 and Eheim 2075 external filters with PM glassware.
CO2 dosing: AquaMedic 1000 reactor, FE pressurised, solenoid on timer from 8am-2pm.
Heating: Hydor 300w inline heater.
Lighting: Arcadia luminaire with four 39w T5HO bulbs, two Hagen Power-Glos and two Hagen Life-Glos on timers. 18w Interpet MoonBlue T8 on from 9am-10.15am and 3.45pm-7pm.
Substrate: Eighteen litres of ADA Aquasoil Malaya, five litres of ADA Sarawak sand and some gravel.
Hardscape: Fossilised wood and Redmoor roots.
This item was first published in the October 2009 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine. It may not be reproduced without written permission.