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Crystal Iwagumi - The Story of an Inspired Scape

Whitebeard

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14 Aug 2015
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Bangalore, India
Hi All,

Big Fan and a Heartfelt Thank You!
I am a great fan of UKAPS and have been following the interesting trials, tribulations and conversations as a mute spectator for a long time. I would like to start with a sincere “Thank You” to all the members of this forum, who have helped planted tank and aquascaping hobbyists across the world, including myself.

This is my first post / journal on UKAPS. And this is my first attempt at creating an aquascape with a story behind it. I will present this as a multi-part post with each part covering different aspects of the aquascape. This post covers the build up of the inspiration to a story and the initial hardscape formation to represent the story. I will pause after this post for your feedback and comments and any inputs to make the scape better. Moving forward, each part would evolve into different aspects till planting is completed.

Pardon me if it is boring | Laugh out loud if you find humour | Get inspired if you find my story good
but most importantly walk with me through the journey of this inspired scape.

Chapter 1 - The Inception

The Spark!

Twelve years into this hobby and I have accumulated more nature goods than I have been able to execute some decent aquascapes 😊. The other day, I was rummaging through the stock and came across a bunch of dragon stones that I had not used for a long time. I had not done any Iwagumi till now, it looked simple, and the Dragon stones were a perfect fit. So Iwagumi it is.

The Search for Inspiration
They say…every aquascape is inspired and should have a story behind it. So began the search for the inspiration (Story can be made up 😊). So searched and researched on Iwagumi layouts from Mr. Amano’s to amateur’s and formed a high level outline of the structure with the Dragon Stones in my mind. Simple process – odd numbered stones, some big, some small, facing away from each other or all aligned towards a single point in the aquarium surrounded by lush green carpets.

The inspiration was in place, but not the story for the aquascape. All I could think of was things like “neighbors angry at each other” (with stones facing away), “Lovers looking at the sun” (with all stones in one direction) etc. Nothing Classy.

The Trial
The search and research process went into Analysis-Paralysis. It was time to get my hands dirty. So added the ADA Super 4, mounded up the Power Sand Basic S, sprinkled the Amazonia additive, poured in the Amazonia and levelled it with low front and high back. Done according to the books and I was happy.

My aquarium tank has an odd dimension.. neither long, not square.. but somewhere in between. I am not sure what was the inspiration behind this size. More importantly, I am still not sure why I purchased this size. My bad. But there it is, sitting squat on the cabinet, completely empty with a band of etched hard water stain on its forehead…

The question was.. where should be the placement of the Iwagumi? In the center? At the golden ratio? Where?. After some deliberation and given that the tank is placed immediately towards the left from the door, I decided to go with 1/3rd from the right of the tank, with the larger stone facing the left, smaller stone facing the right back corner and so on..
The first large stone was set in place, followed by the next largest facing the opposite direction followed by another in alignment with the right, followed by…. And so it went on till I tamed all the dragons big, small and tiny. This is how it looked after about 5 hours of wrestling with the unruly dragons…
CrystalIwagumi1.jpg

Oh wait.. this looks like a natural crystal formation… The Story!…

This Aquascape tells The Story…
…of crystals taking birth in the depths of Mother Earth’s womb…different elements pieced together with scorching heat and pressure. Till the day they break free through the surface. A wonder to be seen and appreciated…Oh man.. this is getting out of hands.

Simply to say, the inspiration was of an Iwagumi, and the story behind the aquascape is of natural crystals that have formed and are growing in all directions through the surface of the earth.
------------------------------
Hope you enjoyed the story till here. Do comment and provide your inputs.
 

Jayefc1

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2 Sep 2017
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2,247
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Swadlincote
Love the story so far will be waiting in anticipation for chapter 2
The scap looks natural and you have done excellent work with the some times quiet unruly dragon stone and as they will be the main focal point the way it is slightly of centre gives a good feeling of it being very natural
 

Whitebeard

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14 Aug 2015
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Bangalore, India
Hi Folks,

Had some time today and it so happens that I "discovered" some driftwood in my stash. So, before I build the chapter 2 of this, I thought of using the driftwood for the final look and built it into the upcoming chapters.. Here is what I think the final layout could be.

The drift wood tones down the towering presence of the dragons. So not sure on whether I should go with only the dragons or dragons + wood. If latter, hopefully the wood and stones are in balance...

Planning to have some mosses, H. Pinnatifida and plagiochilla sp.

Let me know your thoughts. Inputs and criticisms appreciated.

20210208_084608.jpg


Taking this scape a bit slow due to work and other commitments.. not able to spend enough time. Pardon the "Head Band" on the tank. Tried everything but it refuses to vanish...
 

Whitebeard

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14 Aug 2015
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Great read so far :)

I'm not a fan of the wood, the stone on its own has a great impact.
Thank you for the kind words Nick!

I agree with you.. The stones have a good presence.. May be with some tall growing background plants it will mellow down a bit.
 

Libba

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12 Jan 2021
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116
Location
Australia
I really liked the way it looked before you added the wood to be honest. The rock arrangement was really stunning but is now obscured.
 

Whitebeard

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14 Aug 2015
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I really liked the way it looked before you added the wood to be honest. The rock arrangement was really stunning but is now obscured.
Thanks Libba!

Away with the wood then..need to think of what to do with the mosses...
 

Whitebeard

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Chapter 2 - The Balance
Eons passed since the crystals broke through the earth. They stood there like a group of solitary warriors watching all the directions and fiercely guarding the land of their masters, unwavered by the fierce winds, snow, scorching heat and chilling nights. They were anything but getting stronger as the days passed in these harsh conditions and were in the prime of their existence.
20210207_214812.jpg

Mother Nature, as she always does, was evolving, finding ways to bring in balance for her inhabitants to live and thrive. On her search for unbalanced places, she came across these solitary group of crystals. She was mesmerized by their grandeur. She thought on how could she have missed noticing her creation in her wanderings on earth for eons, as she passed the same place millions of times? Did they come into existence after her last pass in these lands? What as amiss for her to miss these crystals?
Looking longer at the crystals, she felt that something was not right. The whole place was unbalanced. The land around the crystals was dry and barren, compounded by the sharp stance of the crystals, too much of heat and too much of cold with nothing alive around the crystals to mellow down their presence. And she decided to bring in balance – balancing the dry with wet, and that too for a long time. She wished the land with rains and left the place, remembering to visit on her next rounds of this place
The wish came true. Dark clouds started to gather over the land of the crystals. Thunders and lightning followed. What started as a drizzle quickly turned into torrential rains lashing on the crystals and the lands around them. Washing out eons of dust off the crystals, making them shine like never before in their existence.
The rains continued for many years, soaking the ground around the crystals, creating streams and rivers, which connected to other streams and rivers. This brought in the seeds of life, of plants and shrubs from far off places of the earth. Floods dispersed and settled the seeds on the land around the crystals, waiting for the right conditions to sprout.
After a long time, the floods receded and the sun was shrining bright and strong like a king proud of winning the war of his lifetime. Water started to evaporate and the high humidity signaled the seeds of a happier time – a time to thrive. The seeds started to germinate and just like the crystals eons ago, new green vegetation started to break through the soil. Bone dry and grey land changed to fertile and green, and in stark contrast to the solitary group of crystals.
It was a sight to Behold!
Crystal Iwagumi2.jpg


Crystal Iwagumi 3.jpg


Crystal Iwagumi 4.jpg


Getting on to the topic of the journal, I decided to go with a mix of plants (Too much of plants in fact :))
  • Micranthemum Montecarlo – from the front and left glass up till the foot of the dragon stones
  • Glossostigma Elantinoides – at the foot of the dragon stones to bring in some perspective
  • Ludwigia Palustris “Hi-Red” – at the right backside
  • Rotala Hra – back of the dragon stone iwagumi, covering the gap between the large stones
  • Rotala Rotundifolia Green / Myriophyllum Aquaticum – from the left of Rotala Hra to the edge of the Iwagumi
  • Anubias Nana – placed at low light areas around the iwagumi
  • Hygrophilla Pinnatifida – scattered on the Dragon stones
  • Needle Leaf Java Fern – in between the iwagumi stones
  • Alternanthera Reineckii mini – inner edges of the iwagumi wherever visible
  • Peacock Moss – scattered on the Dragon Stones
The water here is as hard as the dragon stones, and is a lot of trouble. I have decided to get a RO unit and looking at some options. Given I have time now, taking the opportunity to try out the Dry Start Method for carpets, while I can transition the In-Vitro stem plants in a separate tank till flooding.
I combined ideas from two methods - One Pot Iwagumi Challenge by @George Farmer and lazy dry start method by Jurijs Jutjajevs. So took a pot, split it into single Montecarlo stems and placed them on the substrate. I already had a DSM lot of Glosso, so I removed the individual plantlets from the runners and placed them the lazy way on the substrate.
Lights are Chihiros WRGB 2 lights for 6 hours at 70% capacity.
I will move the Anubias, and start in a separate tank.
Now the wait starts for the carpets to root and cover the substrate…
fingers crossed with a silent prayer to Mother Nature to truly make this scape a sight to behold
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I hope you liked the Chapter 2 - The Balance of the Crystal Iwagumi story.
Do comment and provide your inputs if you see something any improvements or if something will not work out in the scape…:D
 

Whitebeard

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Hi Folks,

Thought of posting a third week update on dry start of the Iwagumi..

The Monte Carlo seems to be slowly but strongly rooting into the substrate. The glossy seems to be struggling to root, so will plant them this weekend. Anubias are throwing out new leaves and the Ludwigia hi-red is getting taller.

Took the effort to plant the Rotala hra last week from One In vitro pot. Observed some mold growth on some plants this week.

The bigger stone on the left rear had slanted a bit more..did some adjustments to make it a bit more straight.

Lighting upped to seven hours per day at 70% intensity on chihiros WRGB II. Misting once in two days.

Overall happy with the progress on this scape.

Front full view of the scape:
20210224_090908.jpg

Left view from top
20210224_090929.jpg

Rear profile with Ludwigia hi red and rotala hra
20210224_090941.jpg

There is still some real estate under the rock..planning to either have some crypts or low light epiphytes prior to flooding the tank
 

Whitebeard

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Hi All,

Posting a fifth week update. Still running on dry start.

Growth in the tank is much slower than what I expected. Not sure whether this is because of the rising heat or some other factors.

Here is the front view. The Monte Carlos still have not taken off as much as expected, but are still rooting. Added another chihiros wrgb 2, with both lights running at 70% for about 7 hours. Also increased the humidity this week.
20210309_085908.jpg

Got my hands on some in vitro Crypt Pink Panther / Flamingo from ada
20210309_091923.jpg

Planted some Ludwigia sp. Vietnam in the background. Rotala h'ra (bottom left) are still where they were from the last two weeks. Ludwigia hi-red have started to have some growth.
20210309_091959.jpg

Real estate in between the dragons filled with Staurogyne Repens.
20210309_092017.jpg

Also planted some Crypt Axelrodi (no pic yet).

Any idea on how to move the needle on the growth speed in DSM? Let me know please.

Was planning to flood the tank next week, but due to slow growth and new plant addition, will wait for another 3 to 4 weeks more.
 

Virtex

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27 Jul 2020
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With a dry start you can use a much longer photo period (>12 hours). You can also run your lights at full intensity.

Anyway, I think your tank is ready to flood now that the monte carlo is well rooted. In my experience plants grow much faster under water in high tech conditions compared to emersed.
 

Nick potts

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25 Sep 2014
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625
Location
Torbay
Looking good @Whitebeard

I ended up doing around 2 months dry start on my last scape, the MC was a little slow in the beginning but once it took off it really exploded in growth.

What temps are you getting in the tank? I had a dry start hitting 34c.

I would also agree with the above, run the lights longer, 12 hours would be fine.
 

Deano3

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8 Feb 2012
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Just seen this, great introduction and love the scape, will be watching this one

Sent from my SM-G970F using Tapatalk
 

Whitebeard

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With a dry start you can use a much longer photo period (>12 hours). You can also run your lights at full intensity.

Anyway, I think your tank is ready to flood now that the monte carlo is well rooted. In my experience plants grow much faster under water in high tech conditions compared to emersed.
Thanks @Virtex
Upped the duration to 12 hrs. And intensity of both the lights to 100%.
I will wait on flooding, since some of the plants were just added this week

Looking good @Whitebeard

I ended up doing around 2 months dry start on my last scape, the MC was a little slow in the beginning but once it took off it really exploded in growth.

What temps are you getting in the tank? I had a dry start hitting 34c.

I would also agree with the above, run the lights longer, 12 hours would be fine.
Thanks @Nick potts
The ambient temp. Outside the tank is about 35C peak now. Have not measured the temp. Inside the tank. However in the morning there is a lot of moisture build up in the tank which starts to condense and flow down as we hit afternoon. So I assume that the temp inside will be more than the ambient temp. Will measure and post updates.

Upped the duration and intensity for now..

Just seen this, great introduction and love the scape, will be watching this one

Sent from my SM-G970F using Tapatalk
@Deano3 - Thank You!. I hope the scape won't disappoint as it (hopefully) matures.

What a story! Consider me entranced.
@Courtneybst Thank You for the kind words. Planning for more chapters, but shorter ones!
 

Whitebeard

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Looking good @Whitebeard

I ended up doing around 2 months dry start on my last scape, the MC was a little slow in the beginning but once it took off it really exploded in growth.

What temps are you getting in the tank? I had a dry start hitting 34c.

I would also agree with the above, run the lights longer, 12 hours would be fine.
Hi Nick,
Checked the temp. In the tank about 35-36 C during peak ambient temp today with both chihiros blasting at full power...
 

Whitebeard

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Hi All,

Apologies for the long pause on this.. last three weeks were pretty hectic and I was not able to focus on the scape.

Posting the 8th week update on this scape. I flooded the tank with RO water and it has been about a week since the flooding. The workflow for this and next week is as follows:
  • Lights 7 hours, with 30 minute ramp up and ramp down each. Both the Chihiros running at 60% power, 6500K
  • CO2 - full steam for till end of next week, post which I will be dialling the Co2 down every two weeks
  • Filter - Eheim 2217 with 2 liters of ADA bio Rio and the Eheim coarse sponge
  • Given I use RO, did not go for 50% daily water change.. so far so good.. the first 50% water change will be tomorrow, and will continue on a weekly basis - unless i get some issues
  • Sun Sun skimmer to skim the surface, as well as to provide extra water and Co2 circulation on the other side of the tank
  • For now, using ADA Brighty K and ADA Brighty Mineral daily.. will switch to dry salts in the next 4 weeks, or when the bottles are empty...
So far things are good. A hint of Green algae as well as BGA, which I will address tomorrow during the water change. I added some H. Pinnatifida, crypt Wenditii brown and some surviving H.C Cuba from a cup that i got.

Front Tank Pic
20210402_084335.jpg

For some reason the Monte Carlo is growing better in the back than the front - Light? Co2? height of the substrate? OR I may not have distributed the Amazonia 2 fertilizer inserts uniformly...No idea at this point. Also I am not sure how the Ludwigia Palustris H-Red settled itself on the wrong side of the tank!!
20210402_084404.jpg

Ludwigia Palustris in its right place in the tank
20210402_084413.jpg

Rotala Vietnam H'Ra
20210402_084431.jpg

and Finally the S. Repens in between the Dragons
20210402_084416.jpg

Overall growth is slow, but steady. Not much of leaf rotting, Algae etc. But this is just the first week underwater...

More to come!

Cheers!!!
 

Whitebeard

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Algae!
10th week update (2 weeks since flooding).

Fuzzy thread like algae is covering the hardscape and plants, with brown algae especially in the front left of the tank. Algae is just all over the place.
Full tank view of the thread algae everywhere
20210411_083621.jpg

Some close ups
20210411_083631.jpg

20210411_083712.jpg

While I understand that these are some settling in problems, I still feel that my lights are very the top at this stage. The reason is that hardscape that has shadows or low light has no algae attached. So going to clean up the algae, reduce to one chihiros light and do alternate day ADA brighter and mineral dosing and see how it goes. Also will reduce the photoperiod by an hour.

Status of the plants
Montecarlo for some reason are growing well towards the back and poorly in the front. Not able to figure out what is needed to be done here.
Green Vietnam and rotala hra are growing at a steady pace. Hra are not as intense colored now, and hoping that as they grow they will color up.
Ludwigia palustris is the only plant that is exceeding expectations..color, growth, everything is good with this plant
Crypt Pink Panther is a hopelessly slow grower.
Crypt axelrodi is getting established and has medium growth
Crypt wenditii has settled and is growing well.
H.pinnatifida have stuck to the hardscape and have shed majority of the older leaves. Waiting for these to go from green to brown.
Glossy has poor growth or has melted.
S. Repens some grow upwards while some grow sideways.
Overall satisfied with plant growth..now have to wait for the tank to stabilize and algae to disappear!
 
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