Your tanks: Paul Meelen


We take a look at the stunning aquascape of Paul Meelen.

Your tank looks great! What was your inspiration?

Most inspiration came from the AGA Aquascaping Contest websites. Years before I had my own aquascaping tank I saw and admired those examples, so wanted an Amano style tank! Then I had the choice of a nature tank or an iwagumi style.

I also like Amano tanks because they use driftwood, look more natural and can create a nice sense of depth.

You are from Holland where the Dutch style of neat arrangement originated. Is this style still popular there and why did not follow it?

You will always see the Dutch style inside every forum or magazine. When I started I was always impressed by Dutch-styled tanks and this is when my passion began.  

When I see a Dutch style of tank now I like it, but the longer I look the less interesting it becomes. The plants are too clean and always in neat rows or lines. Amano tanks can use similar plants, but look different and more natural.

What are the current fishkeeping and aquascaping trends in mainland Europe?

While the Dutch style remains popular, I see more people changing over to creating nature and Iwagumi styles. However, aquatic outlets in Holland do not cater well for the keen nature aquascaper.

You can buy basic equipment in our shops, like glass diffusers, driftwood and stones, but for lily pipes, aquascaping tools or other glassware you have to place orders over the Internet.

More people have nano tanks. but these are usually too small for most fishes so shrimps are popular. They are perfect, always busy cleaning the plants and soil.

However, as a contrast, you also see tanks of two or even three metres (6.5-10’) long in the European hobby.  

As for fish, a lot of Discus, Tanganyika, Malawi, Amazonian and marines are still very popular.

How is the UK hobby regarded in Holland with regards plants and aquascaping?

The only differences are mostly in the equipment used or materials. I don’t know how easy it is in the UK to order plants through the shops, but it is very easy in Holland. If you can’t find or order in shops you can always try the forums on the Internet.

A lot of enthusiasts trade plants or sell them for reasonable prices.

When I have some left over from pruning I will often send them to fellow forum members. This is also a great way to try new species.

I miss good magazines in Holland, as most are related to the Dutch style or marine tanks. If you want information you need to use the Internet or import foreign magazines.

Did you have any problems with this tank and how did you overcome them?

Luckily I had none. All the equipment worked great. I only changed the filter. First I had an Eheim 2213 but now have an Eheim 2217. I also have the Aquamedic inline CO2 reactor so the stronger flow of the 2217 works better with the reactor.

After buying the reactor I could remove the CO2 diffuser inside the tank.

That reminds me of the time when I used the glass diffuser. I also had a glass valve and bubble counter and, when changing the tube between bubble counter and valve, the top of the valve broke.

How old is this aquascape and for how long will you keep it running?

It is around 11 months old and took time to complete because I was looking for the right shape of driftwood. I finally found the right pieces at an aquascaping event in Holland.

I have no idea how long it will be running. For now it is looking great but, as always, can be better and I get new ideas from the Internet.

One day I want to make an iwagumi layout in my 60 x 30 x 30cm/24 x 12 x12” tank

What’s your maintenance schedule?

For my large tank it isn’t that complicated. Every two weeks I trim the plants, clean the glass and introduce new tapwater.

What would be your biggest tips for planted tank beginners?

Take your time and don’t rush it, but most of all enjoy the progress when setting up

an aquascape and the view it offers. Try to make some parts yourself, as I built the stand from MDF using some pictures from the Internet.

Don’t rush the hardscaping either. Try different layouts and consider them for a day or so. When the tank is not filled it is easy to make changes or adjustments.  

How much did the entire set-up cost?

Around 1.000 euros/£905.

Fishkeeping CV

Name: Paul Meelen.

Age: 25.

Location: The Netherlands.

Years of experience: Eight.

Occupation: Student/web designer.

Number of tanks: Four.

Favourite fish/inverts: Celestichthys margaritatus.

Favourite plant: Pogostemon helferi.

Pet hate: Cats which hang around my aviary in the garden!


Size: 100 x 50 x 50cm/40 x 20 x 20”.

Volume: 250 l/55 gal.

Fish: 25 Celestichthys margaritatus, seven Otocinclus sp. seven Yasuhikotakia sidthimunki, Amano shrimp, Cherry shrimp.

Plants: Java moss, Hemianthus callitrichoides, Anubias nana, Microsorum pteropus ‘Narrow’, Cryptocoryne balansae, Eleocharis acicularis, Pogostemon helferi, Rotala rotundifolia, Rotala sp. ‘Green’.

Filtration: Eheim 2217.

Lighting: HQI lamp, one 150w, two 39w T5 and Moonlight.

Substrate and fertilisers: Simple aquarium gravel and tapwater.

CO2: Pressurised.

Background: My grey wall!

This item was first published in the Christmas 2009 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine. It may not be reproduced without written permission.