Steveâ€™s Aqua Journal 23rd May â€“ 25th May 2008 A rescape based on a scene from nature which I have called â€œFallen Wildernessâ€ Here is a picture of what my tank looked like before the rescape, So why would I want to change it? a. Because I needed a new challenge b. Because I couldn't get an idea out of my head c. It was time for a change Here's why I did it, when and how I did it. A few months back early on a Sunday morning in March I was out walking with my wife Gaby in North Wales. We walked from the Woollen Mill in Trefirw near Llanwrst in North Wales up to Llyn Geirionydd and Llyn Crafnant. On route to Llyn Geirionydd we passed uphill through a wooded area with lots of trees and rocks covered in moss and lichens. There were fallen trees and branches overhanging some of the rocks with ferns growing in between. It all looked very wild and natural. Also at the waters edge of Llyn Geirionydd there was a natural beach of ash coloured sand with smaller pebbles of various shades of grey and black and brown. When all of a sudden an idea occurred to meâ€¦..what if? :idea: Inspired by these wonderful scenes from nature I took some photographs and slowly I my made my mind up that maybe I could have a go at reproducing something like this as an aquascape in my aquarium. This was the effect that I wanted to try and re-create coupled with the scape from the woods. That was it, the seed was planted and it grew and grew until I could not stop thinking about it. I went asleep thinking and dreaming about how I would do it. I planned it in my head until I was sure I knew exactly what I was going to do. I wanted to reproduce the scape that I had seen in the woods and the lakeside of Llyn Geirionydd. Before undertaking a task of this level it is preferable that the other half is out of the house for the weekend or even better if she is out of the country for a week or so. This gives you plenty of time for drying out carpets and any other furniture that accidentally gets soaked. (Only joking.....not) Whit weekend was a good time to start. My better half, my wife Gaby was going to Germany for two weeks visiting family and friends. This was going to be my opportunity. I had already set up a spare tank in the garage and had it running for two weeks so that I could store the fish and Amano shrimps in it without having to rush the new aquascape. In the preceding week before Gaby went to Germany I had everything ready. Gravel graded, washed and boiled, roots soaked for two weeks before they sank, a rough plan in my head of how the main rocks were going to be positioned. During the two weeks prior to the Whit weekend I started doing some preparations like, Sieving, grading and washing the gravel, The wire mesh magazine rack from IKEA makes a great sieve Preparing a spare tank in the garage to store the fish while I worked on the new aquascape, Soaking the roots so that they would sink properly, I needed to get the rocks and gravel sorted and source the wooden roots that I was going to use as the fallen trees. I collected the gravel from a natural quarry. It had to be a greyish ash colour with different grades from very fine to quite large. The rocks I decided would be petrified wood similar to the rocks I had seen at the Green Machine a few weeks before. I was also going to follow the lessons that I had learnt from Andy and Elaine after watching their planted tank demo at the Green Machine recently. I bought the roots and rocks from Jim and Mark and set about grading the gravel into four sizes. I used a large size normal garden sieve to filter out the largish pebbles first of all. Then I used a cheap garden bird feeder to grade the next size of gravel. I did all the sieving and grading under slowly running water this helped speed up the process and helped wash out most of the muck. After all the sieving, lastly with a fine wire mesh to filter the sand from what was left. The idea being that I would have four grades of gravel to play around with. Once it was all graded I washed and boiled each grade until I was completely happy with it. I finally finished up with a beautiful coloured natural sandy gravel of all shades of grey, black and brown. I also had to soak some plants in a 5g to 1 litre of water mixture of Potassium Permangamate to get rid of some snails, eggs and any potential nasties, soak for 1 hour, I started at 8:30 pm on 23rd May after seeing Gaby off to the airport and carried on until 1:40 am before going to bed with most of the hard work done. All plants out, substrate and gravel out, fish relocated in spare tank, table in dining room covered in towels and plastic sheeting, coffee table covered, towels on the floor, kettle on blood pressure monitor at the ready. Sandwiches in fridge. It was going to be a long night. The plan was to do all the dirty work and get everything ready for the creative bit in the morning. Covering areas to be used for storing wet things, spare towels at the ready, (you can never have too many towels :? , Not just any old towels though, Draining the tank and saving 50% of the tank water, Storing the plants that I wanted to keep in preserved tank water, I had also already prepared the Riccia and roots, when doing this make sure you are comfy, Make sure the kettle is on and have a nice cup of tea, Scissors and monofilament fishing line and loads of patience, Check your stress levels this bit takes a while, Make sure there is something really good on the telly, Check time, Get all the hard work done before going to bed, Like draining the tank and saving 50% of the water, Getting the base substrate in, And the first layer of sand, Gently does it, Almost time to go to bed, (1:35 am) Get the water in and the main feature rocks, filters going and heater on, "Its a bit cloudy Rick. Oh look my bi......" Night night....Zzzzzzzzzzzz 7:00 am Saturday 24th May. Up bright and early and breakfast by 7:30 and work began at 08:30 am and went on and on and on and on until 08:30 pm Saturday night. Then I got my self a curry take out and drank two bottles of Tiger Beer with one eye watching Britainâ€™s got Talent and the other eye watching and waiting for the water to show some signs of clearing. Iâ€™d used 50% of the original tank water and 25% each of RO and prepared tap water. For the base substrate Iâ€™d used 7.5 litres of Tropica clay mineral substrate and kept my fingers crossed. Unless you try it you never know if it is going to work or not do you Iâ€™d added the fine Ash coloured sand over the whole base Tropica substrate and then added handfuls of different size gravel in various places. Positioned and fiddled, positioned and fiddled and the fiddled and positioned some more until I was reasonably happy with the final look of where the rocks were going to be and then planted around the rocks. I had prepared the roots using Riccia and Willow Moss tied on with monofilament fishing line. Itâ€™s a tricky task this so make sure you are comfortable and relaxed prior to starting the job. The smaller rocks had already been covered in Riccia using James Flextonâ€™s techniques with hairnets. Thanks to his brilliant article on UKAPS I had plenty of Riccia for the job. Once everything was in and the tank refilled I got the heater and the filters running and left it until Sunday 25th May before doing a final bit of tweaking and adding some Undulata ferns amongst the rocks and roots to soften things up a bit. Pictures from Sunday and Sunday Night, Close ups gravel and substrate. Its a bit spooky looking at first, Getting better, Now that the water has cleared I can get a better idea of whether or not I have achieved what I set out to do. Fine sand 3 to 4 cms on top of Tropica Substrate, More substrate, The Amano shrimps seem happy, Experimenting with wild red aquatic grass, A bit more gravel, Although I have had a good crack at it I am not 100% convinced that I have achieved the effect I was looking for. But it is early days yet and I need to be patient and allow time for it to evolve and the foreground plants to establish themselves. I have tried to take some close up photographs of the Tropica substrate and the gravel effect of very fine shale and sand. So far I have not found a use for the larger grade of gravel that I sieved out with the pebbles. Here is a list of some techy details for those interested. Tank is a Trigon 190 bow fronted tank. Lighting: 2 x 18 watt Sera Tubes in the centre, 1 x 15 watt Sera tube at the rear and a 24-watt T5 right at the front. I added the extra lights by attaching them to the lift up lids at the front and rear with reflectors All lights are on separate timers with the 15-watt coming on at 10:30 am and going off at 8:30pm The 2 x 24 Sera tubes come on at 11 am and go off at 6pm The 24 watt T5 comes on at 12:30 pm and goes off at 5:30 pm Water parameters: Temp 26 degrees KH 4.0, GH 6.0, PH 6.5 Water driven CO2 Injection with Dupla diffuser 2 bubbles per second through bubble counter I am using the EI Dosing method adding 100mls of KPN every other day and adding 5mls of Tropica Plant Nutrition plus each day. I also use Sera KH buffer and Iron when I do the 50% water change on the seventh day. Fish / live stock: 4 x Flying Fox, 10 x Ottocinclus, 4 x Serpai Tetras, 10 x Lemon Tetras and 10 x White tipped Tetras, and 12 Amano shrimp. I keep the fish stocks fairly low - ish so that I donâ€™t have to feed too much. This is in an attempt to avoid polluting the tank (I always tend to overfeed otherwise) I would love to hear of any suggestions of fish that might be better suited to this aquatic biotope so please post a message here or PM me to let me know. I am going to leave it for a while before taking any more pictures until the tank has settled and the foreground plants have established themselves a bit. I will post an update a week or two. Cheers, Steve, I'm off for a cup of tea and to watch an episode of Britains got talent that I taped earlier, can't wait for the final on Saturday, How sad is that!! :?