Inspirational aquariums: Darren Dalton's temperate aquascape

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Visiting the exceptional Seahorse Aquariums Ltd in Dublin, Nathan Hill chanced upon this superb shop display.

The brainchild of Seahorse Aquariums staff member, Darren Dalton, this unheated ADA Optiwhite 90 x 45 x 45cm/36 x 18 x 18" was a delightful in-store find.

Not only did it show all the allure and promise of a bedding-in aquascape, but Darren had taken the unusual move of including the grossly underrated Rainbow Shiner, Notropis chromosus, as its centrepiece fish. Look closely and you’ll spot other species here too. Cleaning duties are taken care of by three Amano shrimp, Caridina multidentata, as well as three unidentified Otocinclus.

Despite the tank being unheated, the environment stays warm at 23°C/73.4°C courtesy of ambient factors. The wood used is simple bogwood; three pieces have been attached with cable ties to create the shape seen here. A thick layer of Christmas moss is coated over it to give that drooping, woodland effect.

With some help from Aquascaping legend Peter Kirwan, the 'scape was sculpted with this central hardscape in mind. Towards the back corner, Vallisneria provides height, while the mid ground is seeded with Lilaeopsis brasiliensis.

In the foreground, whisps of Eleocharis sp. 'mini' grow, with a brace of Cryptocoryne lucens sat behind them. The finishing, dark touches are brought by the Anubias nana tied to the lower sections of the wood. Hardscape rocks are the very affordable Dragon stone.

Lighting is T5 fluorescent provided by 4 x 29w tubes in an ATI Sunpower unit, and filtration, hidden in the cabinet beneath, is courtesy of 2 x JBL e1500 canister filters. Note that one side is connected up to glassware but the other has bespoke stainless steel outlet and spraybar attached — a very nice touch that is becoming increasingly popular. A connected CO2 unit delivers gas to a level of 30ppm at all times, and a mixture of ADA’s Brighty K as well as Brighty Step 2 provides fertilisation.

However, if you want to see this aquarium in the flesh you might struggle. Not long after we saw it during a previous Shoptour of Ireland, a customer was clearly equally taken and purchased the whole tank as seen — lock, stock and barrel.

The cost to recreate Darren’s 'scape

ADA 90 x 45 x 45cm/35.4 x 17.7 x 17.7" Optiwhite — £509.99

ATI Sunpower 4 x 39w — £369.95

Spray bars and outlets — £380 approx

Bogwood — £50 approx

2 x JBL e1500 filter — around £300 for both

JBL 601 CO2 unit — around £190

Dragon stone — £30 approx.

Total hardware cost excluding plants — Around £1829.94.

Take a look at 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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