Your tanks: George Farmer


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George Farmer shows off his low-maintenance planted nano tank.

What was the thinking behind this style of planted tank?
I’m away from home Monday to Friday, so wanted something low maintenance yet relatively attractive.

The aquascape has evolved over the last year or so and improves as it matures. I’m a fan of the nature aquarium style and used the classic hardscape-dominated design with a pieces of Sumatra wood and petrified wood, both from Unipac.  

The plants have grown in nicely, with a few additions and replacements over the months.

The latest addition is Hydrocotyle verticillata, which has an interesting form and leaf shape.

As you're away from home five days a week, who then maintains the tank and what maintenance do you do?
My two daughters maintain it when I am not there. The fish are fed twice a day and liquid fertiliser added daily. It’s a simple process as I have mixed a combination of fertilisers in one pump-dispensing bottle.

Every two or three weeks I perform a 50% water change, wipe the glass, prune the plants and clean the filter. It’s the lowest maintenance planted tank I have ever run!

The tank looks neat with no visible equipment. Tell us more about it…
It is an inexpensive off-the-shelf Orca MT30, supplied with a good built-in filter and Power Compact T5 fluorescent lighting. The supplied lamp was designed for a marine system with a blue/white tube, so I replaced it with a cheap daylight version.

No heater is supplied, so I use a 10w model set to 26°C/79°F and fitted into the filter. I prefer open-topped tanks, but evaporation is not an issue with a hood.

The bow-fronted design of the tank makes macro photography quite tricky as it distorts the image, but the curved edges are a nice feature.

Have you had any problems with the tank?
A couple. I was going to transport it to the Festival of Fishkeeping as part of the UK Aquatic Plant Society exhibition stand. I performed a large maintenance session and shortly afterwards suffered from major ‘Crypt melt’ due to the change in water conditions.  The plants took a few weeks to recover.

Eventually, wanting even slower growth, I decided to stop adding liquid carbon. Black brush/beard algae soon covered the wood and the Ludwigia stopped growing, so I resumed liquid carbon dosing. The algae cleared up and plant growth improved.

Do you dose nitrates and phosphates in this aquarium?
There is no need in this set-up as the lighting intensity is not very high and I am not injecting CO2. Enough nitrates and phosphate are provided by my fish and food, as well as my tapwater. I do not tend to add nitrates and phosphate much these days as I prefer lower maintenance set-ups or tanks without plants.

What other tanks are you running?
I have two aquariums at home and two at work.  My home tanks include this one and a marine aquarium featured in PFK’s January 2010 issue.  The marine tank is evolving into a reef with corals, including SPS, and I am planning to upgrade soon.  

The aquariums at work include a 60cm OptiWhite African-themed planted tank with Anubias and Bolbitis. The other is a tank I use every month to create step-by-step features for PFK. This will be upgraded soon too.

What’s the best feature about a planted aquarium?
Plants provide shelter, oxygen and nutrient removal to benefit the fish.  Additionally they make excellent aquascaping tools to help you create something very beautiful — a slice of nature in your own living space.

Plants are not the only way to aquascape an aquarium, but are relatively inexpensive when compared with something like corals in a reef tank. You can make a planted tank as simple or complex as you wish by using different equipment and plant species. I like all types of aquaria, but find a well planted and nicely aquascaped aquarium particularly relaxing.

What basic photographic tips can you pass on to enthusiasts?
Turn off your built-in flash. Use a tripod.  Get to know your camera settings: use differing white balance setting and exposure compensation. If possible, use a low ISO setting. Shoot the tank square on if close to the glass. Turn off any external non-aquarium lighting if you can see reflections.  

Think about composition: how will the fish and décor appear in the frame?

Consider upgrading to a DSLR camera for superior results. Some models are less expensive than high-end compact cameras and provide more room for creativity.

What are the biggest lessons you have learned in your time in the hobby?
The fishkeeping hobby is massive, encompassing every aspect from nature and technology to art and science. It’s moving forward very quickly, with many new species and wide range of cutting edge and user-friendly equipment available.

Whatever you’re into, from a natural pond, to biotopes, even to an ULNS reef, there’s something for you.  

The Internet is a good source of information but, because of lack of regulation, take advice only from reliable sources.

Never think you know it all too, for as soon as you do it’s time to give up!

Fishkeeping cv
Name: George Farmer.
Age: 33.
Location: Stamford, Lincolnshire.
Years of experience: Eight.
Number of tanks: Four.
Favourite fish/inverts: Currently Green chromis and SPS corals. It changes almost daily!
Favourite plant: Cryptocoryne (crypts).
Pet hate: Rubbish display tanks in aquatic shops.

Size: 30 x 34 x 37cm/11.8 x 13.4 x 14.6”
Volume: 25 l/5.5 gal.
Fish: Ember tetras, Otocinclus, algae-eating shrimp.
Plants: Various crypts, Java moss, Bolbitis, Hemianthus micranthemoides, Ludwigia arcuata, Hydrocotyle verticillata.
Décor: Unipac Sumatra wood and petrified wood.
Filtration: Built-in internal behind background, 300 lph powerhead.
Lighting: 18w Daylight PC T5, eight hours.
Substrate: Seachem black sand, silica sand and pea gravel for décor.
Fertilisers: Easy Life Easycarbo and Profito.
Background: Black (built-in filter).