Your tanks: Peter Kirwan


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George Farmer takes a look at Peter Kirwan's amazing aquascape, which Peter has entitled Mountainscape – a name that suits it perfectly.

When I first saw photos of this aquarium my immediate question was, “how big is this?” The sense of scale is very impressive and one can easily be fooled into thinking the tank must be at least 90cm/36”. It is, however, a converted Juwel Rekord 60, measuring just 61cm/24” and holding 54 l/12 gal.

Filtration and heating
Peter removed the supplied Juwel internal filter and heater, common among many aquascaping fans, as the filter takes up significant space that can be otherwise filled with plants and hardscape.

Filtration is performed by a small Eheim 2211 external canister filter with a rated flow of 300 lph and filled with sponge and ceramic ring media. No chemical filtration is used.

There is no additional heating as Peter’s house is fairly warm and the chosen fish and plants are happy with lower than regular tropical temperatures.   

This is provided via an EJQ Trading overtank luminaire fitted with 3 x 24W HO T5 lamps.  Rather than use the popular plant specialist tubes, Peter opted for regular daylight lamps — Osram Lumilux Triphosphor 865 (6500K) that can be sourced for less than £5 each.  

The photoperiod is set for a straight eight hours. This is relatively high lighting, at well over one watt per litre (5 watts per 1.1 gallon), that Peter says is necessary to keep the Hemianthus callitrichoides plant growth as compact as possible.  

An eight-hour photoperiod is ideal when using higher intensities, as it helps to prevent algae while giving enough light to provide sufficient plant growth.

CO2 injection
This is supplied via a pressurised system consisting of a 2kg fire extinguisher, regulator and needle valve, CO2 hose, bubble counter and Rhinox glass/ceramic diffuser which is positioned just below the filter inlet, with the filter acting as a CO2 reactor.

The gas is injected 24/7 at one bubble per second, with sufficient surface agitation to ensure oxygen levels are not compromised at night when the plants stop photosynthesising and respire.

Liquid fertilisation
With all that light and CO2, adding sufficient macro and micronutrients regularly is essential to prevent nutrient deficiencies. Peter daily doses 2ml of Tropica AquaCare Plant Nutrition. This contains all the required nutrients, including sources of nitrogen and phosphorous that may otherwise go deficient, especially in high-growth set-ups with low fish load.  

Tropica recommend dosing their fertilisers weekly, but many enthusiasts prefer to dose nutrients daily. To help ensure nutrient levels do not build to excess and prevent algae, half the aquarium’s water is changed twice per week.  

Peter reassures me that algae was never an issue with this set-up.

ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia is used as the substrate. This is well known for its richness in nutrients, as well as its effect on stabilising pH once settled after a few weeks of installation. The substrate was used from previous aquascapes and had decomposed into a mud-like state, making it suitable for moulding into positions to help support the rocks.

Peter emphasises that this is best done with as little water in the aquarium as possible, as otherwise severe clouding takes place.  

Peter’s intention was to assemble a mountain range scenario, as well as create the illusion of greater depth and overall scale, using only his small aquarium. I think it works incredibly well, mainly because of his clever rock selection and composition, as well as plant choice.  

He uses mini-landscape rocks. Outside the UK they are known as Seiryu rock.  

Peter actually used a hammer and chisel on some larger rocks to create the sizes and shapes he required to form the necessary ‘mountain peaks’.  

The planting suits the small aquarium size, Hemianthus callitrichoides (HC) being the smallest carpeting plant available. The sand pathway through the rocks helps to create a further sense of depth.

Peter told me the most time-consuming task was positioning rock, and he intends to move them again ready for his upcoming ADA aquascaping contest entry.  

The HC was pruned back quite hard after four weeks, growing back even better and was photographed after six weeks.  

A lot of hobbyists have difficulty with this plant, but Peter has obviously no problems at all. I expect his soft water helps, having a low KH and GH.

Peter’s fish choice is also ideal, with a dozen or so Lampeye killifish (Aplocheilichthys normani).

Fishkeeping cv
Name: Peter Kirwan.
Age: 44.
Home: Dublin, Ireland.
Occupation: Film industry.
Aquascaping experience: Three years.
Favourite aquascaper: "There are many different aquascapers and many different styles that influence me, and too many individuals to mention here. The ADA competition entries can throw up many different surprises each year and this undoubtedly influences me the most."

Tank specification
Aquarium: Juwel Rekord 60 (61 x 36 x 31cm/24 x 15 x 12”), 54 l/ 12 gal.
Filter: Eheim 2211, sponge and ceramic rings, 300 lph.
Lighting: 3 x 24w HO T5 6500K, 5 watts per 1.1 gal, 8 hours.
CO2: 2kg pressurised system with glass/ceramic diffuser into filter inlet, 1 BPS, 24/7.
Fertilisers: 2ml Tropica AquaCare Plant Nutrition per day, 50% water change twice a week with soft tapwater.
Substrate: ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia.
Décor: Mini landscape rocks and aquarium sand.
Plants: Hemianthus callitrichoides.
Fish: Lampeye killifish (Aplocheilichthys normani).

Check out some of the other great planted tanks in the Your Tanks section:
Sam Clowsley
Jeremy Squires
Andy Hart
Mark Evans, part one
Balazs Farkas
George Farmer
James Starr-Marshall
Viktor Lantos
Norbert Sabat
Steven Chong
Jason Baliban

This in an item from the Practical Fishkeeping archives. If you enjoyed this article, why not take out a subscription to Practical Fishkeeping magazine? Check out our latest subscription offer.