Your tanks: Mark Webb


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This PFK-inspired aquascape uses Cryptocoryne species to great effect.

Your tank looks great. What inspired you to create this style?
Having scanned Internet sites and PFK for ideas I was reading the April 2009 issue which featured a very attractive low maintenance set-up by George Farmer and was entitled Tales of the Crypt.

I was very attracted to the Cryptocoryne species which includes a great variety of size, shape and colour within the species, and the petrified wood is a very attractive material to use for hardscaping. I liked everything about the set-up,

I decided what I wanted and set about researching the best set-up to achieve good results.  Although CO2 isn’t essential for crypts, I wanted to automate as much as possible. With a pressurised CO2 system I wouldn’t need to worry about leaving the tank while away.

You have exclusively used Cryptocoryne species. How many pots did you use and were they expensive?
I purchased the plants from The Green Machine and I used 30 pots, costing just over £200.

The plants were all created by Tropica and their quality was excellent. Planting well got the tank off to a flying start.  

Crypts are notorious for 'melting' as they adjust to new environments.  Did you suffer from any such problems?
I can’t say I suffered any melt. I had a few yellowing leaves, but nothing significant.

The most interesting thing about the first few weeks was watching the crypts changing colour. Most started a very similar shade of green and have now developed into a wonderful variety — from dark green to dark red to amber to bright green. The colour variety of this species is wonderful.

Did you suffer from any other issues, such as algae? If so, how did you overcome them?
I suffered a nasty outbreak of Staghorn algae after five weeks. I started 35% water changes every three days and trimmed all the affected leaves during each one.

I also started daily adding three times the recommended dose of EasyCarbo and this did the trick. (Ed’s note: This is not recommended as in high doses this can be toxic).

Crypt layouts are great for long-term set-ups. How long do you intend keeping this one running for and do you think you’ll get bored with it?
I plan to run this set-up and see how it goes, as I can’t see myself becoming bored with it. There is always new growth and plenty of life to watch, especially with the fish and shrimp — which are now breeding.

I’m also planning to start another tank, so there’s no chance of boredom with the hobby setting in!

What are the biggest lessons you have learned from this tank?

The biggest lesson has been to develop patience. I decided on a fishless cycle and ran the tank for seven weeks before planting and adding fish. It wasn’t necessary to run it for so long beforehand, but I had a holiday planned halfway through the cycle so decided it best to leave well alone until my return.

This did no harm and may have contributed to the plants settling in so well.

What advice would you give to beginners who want to achieve something similar?
Research first to understand how everything works. Go for ample filtration and aim to go over rather than under. I would always favour a fishless cycle — and be very patient before adding anything to the tank, monitoring ammonia, nitrite and nitrate.

Add your fish gradually, with maybe initially 30% of your final population, and wait a few weeks before adding more in two or three stages. This ensures you will not overload the filters before they are fully matured.

Also seek out a good quality plant food and dose it regularly.

You are using CO2 injection. Why not run lower lighting and switch off your CO2?
The set-up is working well at the moment and I would be loath to change anything to do with a winning formula.

I initially chose a pressurised system to avoid having to add liquid carbon. This is especially useful when leaving the tank for a week or two while I’m away from home.

I only run my lighting for six hours per day and wouldn’t want to reduce that, but it may be something I will experiment with later.

How much did you entire set-up cost?
My total budget was £1,000.

Your photography is very good.  Can you share some tips?
I use a Canon SLR and recommend spending as much as you can afford on your lenses.  

I use the available light from the overhead T5s. This generally gives quite a slow shutter speed of 1/15-1/80 at f4, so I find it essential to use a tripod.   

Fishkeeping cv

Name: Mark Webb.
Age: 54.
Location: Hornchurch, Essex.
Years of experience: Eight with marines. Kept freshwater tank since 2001, but only started seriously with aquatic plants since June 2009.
Occupation: Director of food packing company.
Number of tanks: Two.
Favourite fish/inverts: Phenacogrammus interruptus, Puntius denisonii.
Favourite plant: Cryptocoryne.
Pet hate: Dead Cryptocoryne!

Size: 104 x 44 x 62cm/41 x 17 x 24.”
Volume: 260 l/57 gal.
Fish: Nine Cardinal tetras (Paracheirodon axelrodi), nine Gold tetras (Hemigrammus rodwayi), three Glowlight tetras (Hemigrammus erythrozonus), five Flying foxes (Epalzeorhynchos kalopterus) and three Sailfin mollies, (Poecilia latipinna).
Inverts: Approximately 20 Cherry and Crystal Red shrimp
Plants: C.wendtii ‘Mi Oya’, C.parva, C.beckettii ‘petchii’, C.wendtii ‘brown’, C. wendtii 'green', C. x willissi,  C.wendtii ‘Tropica’ and C.undulata  ‘broad leaves’.
Filtration: Two Eheim 2028 filled with Siporax.
Lighting: Two 39w T5 for six hours per day.
Substrate, CO2 and fertilisers: ADA Powersand + Aquasoil, Zambezi gravel. petrified wood, grape wood,
CO2: Pressurised using a fire extinguisher system with Aqua Medic 1000 in-line reactor
Background: Black paper.

Check out some of the other great planted tanks in the Your tanks section:

Viktor Lantos
Norbert Sabat
Steven Chong
Jason Baliban

This item first appeared in the April 2010 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine. It may not be reproduced without written permission.