Your tanks: Barry Cranwell


Jeremy Gay visits photographer Barry Cranwell — a reader with a passion for Discus and plants.

Barry Cranwell sends us pictures of his fish from time to time and we bumped into him while on a London shoptour and at the Festival of Fishkeeping at Hayling Island.

He first invited us to see his fish a while ago, but he sold his entire tank to friends who were so impressed with the set-up that they made him an offer he simply couldn’t refuse.

After a period of keeping just Discus and plants, Barry took the plunge into marines, but didn’t do too well. So he was soon back to keeping what he knew and loved.

When we visited him we got to see the latest tanks — a Juwel Vision 260 and Juwel Lido 120, both in black. These have the wow factor, and there was something about the décor and plant arrangement that put the two tanks straight into my list of favourites.

By Barry’s own admission the tanks are decorated in a jungle style, and I think he’s got that theme down to a tee. When you first look into the larger tank, the first thing that hits you is the richness of colours, shapes and textures.

The blend of Dennerle light tubes, floating plants and overhanging bogwood and plants gives the tank an even more mystical look as light and shade mix. His garden is also cultivated in jungle style and the two complement each other perfectly.

"I have always felt that Discus don’t like bright lights, so a combination of floating plants, tall overhanging Vallis and the large leaves of the Tiger lily seem to work a dream. I feel that this system  helps the Discus relax within their captured world," says Barry.

The lights are T8 Dennerle light tubes, timed to come on at 9am, go off at 1pm then come on again from 5pm to 10pm. This method of lighting is known as a ‘siesta’, and Barry says that algae hate it. I couldn’t see any algae and the plants looked great, so his method seems to work well.

Barry says that his wild Discus are always calm and relaxed, and don’t hide because they know that there are lots of hiding places they could dash into if they felt threatened. As a result, they are normally always out looking for food — though I think our photography disturbed them slightly on the day of our visit.

All the plants are from Andy at Greenline and Barry swears by them. Andy even uses a picture of Barry’s old planted tank on his website.

None of the plants Barry uses are difficult to grow, and I think that adds to their appeal. The aquascape certainly looks jungly as intended, with large leaved plants and lots of bogwood. I think the black substrate is key in both his aquascapes as they highlight the plant colours, and that substrate, plus the choice of lighting, shows up so many different greens and reds.

Even the tank itself seems to suits the aquascape. The tall bow front of the Juwel suits the Discus and the vertical leaves of the vallis that stretch to the surface further accentuate height. The black trim of the tank frames the whole picture perfectly. Black is underrated as a tank trim. It's the best colour for showing up what is in the tank, instead of distracting from it and showing up what is outside instead.

All Barry’s Discus are from Chens Discus and Barry was very complimentary about the high quality of service that he got from Andy at Greenline and Francis from Chens Discus. In this latest set-up he chose wild adult fish, five of them, and at a stocking ratio of no more than one Discus per 10-12 gallons.

"Remember, don’t overstock, don’t overfeed, give them plenty of clean water and you will be rewarded with healthy, happy Discus,"says Barry.

"Try not to be tempted to buy that extra one or two beautiful fish. If you have to, get another tank!"

And, going by his own set of rules, Barry did just that and set up the smaller Juwel tank for one of his favourite sorts of Discus, the White varieties.

And, showing that size doesn’t really matter when it comes to aquascaping, Barry has managed to set up the Lido in the same way, and with very similarly styled décor — again to great effect. In fact I was hard pushed to find a favourite.

I do love the big tank though, and after trying out many planting styles over the years you have to give it to this jungle-style tank, as I feel it needs no improvement. I don’t know about you but I want a tank like this now!

Substrate: Heating cable, Seachem fertiliser, black quartz gravel.
Water: 30% RO, 70% filtered through three chambers MM80 from Purity on Tap. Ammonia 0, nitrite 0, nitrate 0.
Temperature: 29-30°C/84-86°F.
Lighting: T8 Dennerle light tubes, set ‘siesta’ style.
pH: 7, controlled by Dennerle Evolution Deluxe, GH15, KH10.
CO2: One bubble per second.
Filtration: Juwel internal filter, plus Eheim external filled with Siporax.
Maintenance: Two buckets of water are changed each day, which Barry reckons is about 40% each week. Half the sponges in the Juwel filter are rinsed every 6-7 weeks, or if flow drops off.
The Eheim filter is serviced every six months and the Siporax rinsed in old tankwater.

The plants
Selection of Vallisneria spp.
Aponogeton boiviananus.
Aponogeton madagascariensis.
Anubias nana on wood.
Anubias nana loose.
Nymphaea zenkeri.
Broadleaf Sagittaria platpyhylla.
Java fern.
Floating plants.

The fish
2 Nhamunda Red wild Discus.
2 Wild brown Discus.
1 Wild gold Discus.
30 Cardinal tetras.
6 Dwarf black Corydoras.
Algae eating shrimp.

This item was first published in the March 2008 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine. It may not be reproduced without written permission.