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Oriole

Courtneybst

Member
Joined
5 Sep 2016
Messages
1,392
Location
London
All my scapes are dead, push them to the edge

In the whirlwind that was 2023, the first half was filled with aquarium joy; from shop visits to aquarium events, wholesale tours and more! The latter half however was quite the opposite. As I prepared to move to Canada, all my aquariums needed to be broken down and sold off. Did I do it gradually over 6 months? Don't be silly. They were all broken down within the last 4 weeks of the year lol. Normally I'd put that down to my olympic-worthy procrastination, but a bout of depression can do wonders to your motivation. Surprise surprise!

As a result, all of my previously active journals are concluded.

Into 2024, I've now been here for 6 weeks and am thankfully not depressed at all! Aside from all the new experiences, one of the things I've been looking forward to is setting up a new tank. It's been a while since I set up a completely new tank from scratch, and my itch is only increasing!

One thing I've learnt in my short time here is that good hardscape is NOT easy to come by. It's made me realise how good we have it in the UK for this hobby, not only for the access to materials but the price too! Those who know me will know I'm pretty obsessed with manzanita wood and for the most part, you can forget about it in Canada. So you can imagine my surprise when I spotted a cluster of it hidden in a corner of a reptile/fish shop on my way out. I obviously had to u-turn and rummage through, and found a piece exactly like what I had envisioned. I asked the cashier how much, with baited breath. When she replied 'CA$49.99', I acted pained but knew this was a bloody bargain!!! The rest was history...

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I had also been searching for a stand for a while, only finding either boring ones, expensive ones or boring expensive ones. I thought about trying to thrift one in a junk furniture shop, hoping to find a random gem but I ended up having access to one in the apartment I moved into. It fits the vision very well and is pretty much perfect, dimensionally. The only hiccup is that it isn't mine and I still haven't worked out how I'm going to hang the lights since the protruding hardscape means I can't use the on-tank brackets (and neither do I want to). A bump in the road for sure...

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The aim of this tank is simplicity. Low tech, no soil, bold and wood-only hardscape and a few species of easy plants. Since I'll be a one tank man until further notice, I can give this tank maximum TLC and hopefully it will flourish!
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Tank: UNS 60U (60 x 36 x 36)
Filter: Oase Biomaster Thermo 350
Lights: Chihiros Wrgb II 60cm (maybe lol)
Misc: Lightground Lightscreen, Liti Aquaria Pipes
 
Welcome to North America! I'm not super familiar with the situation in Canada, but I'm in the US and very envious of the availability, pricing, and quality of hobby stuff in Europe and Asia. I pay so much in shipping to get the stuff I want. 😭

I know you just bought a great piece, but if you need more manzanita in the future you might consider Blooms & Branches. They mostly sell wedding centerpieces, but their natural and sandblasted wood is aquarium safe, and they are fairly inexpensive even with shipping. You can't pick the exact pieces you want, but their descriptions and photos are pretty spot on in my experience. It looks like they do ship to Canada.

Looking forward to the aquarium!
 
Welcome to North America! I'm not super familiar with the situation in Canada, but I'm in the US and very envious of the availability, pricing, and quality of hobby stuff in Europe and Asia. I pay so much in shipping to get the stuff I want. 😭

I know you just bought a great piece, but if you need more manzanita in the future you might consider Blooms & Branches. They mostly sell wedding centerpieces, but their natural and sandblasted wood is aquarium safe, and they are fairly inexpensive even with shipping. You can't pick the exact pieces you want, but their descriptions and photos are pretty spot on in my experience. It looks like they do ship to Canada.

Looking forward to the aquarium!
Thanks Elle!!

Yes, I'm feeling your pain on the shipping. Some of the things I've looked at have honestly made my eyes water...

I'm so used to getting 'a bit of this' and 'a bit of that' from eBay when needed, but eBay is pretty much useless for this hobby in Canada. Facebook Marketplace and Kijiji is the nearest thing but still pales in comparison.

That's great to know about Blooms and Branches though! I actually got some pieces off Ryan Noel (the_aquascaping_ryno) which was delivered last week. The pieces are perfect to build a base for the centerpiece up sit on. But it's always good to have options.
Everyone loves a blank canvas. Cool piece of furniture, what's the plan with the filter?
It's so so nice to look at a blank tank and think of all the possibilities. I like that the UNS 60U is just slightly deeper than a standard 60P. You get the extra 10L volume and 6cm depth but the same front viewing aspect - just subtly bigger.

Do you mean the position of the filter? I had planned to just perch it up next to the tank. It would be nice to hide it away but I'm also not too bothered. I'm not used to having so much space around my aquariums, it's weird! Having it out might even encourage me to clean the pre-filter more too lol.
 
The hardscape is officially done.

I had this concept brewing in my mind for months before my move (even got the plants and sand already), only to get to this point and get a new idea. 😅

I put some houseplants in the tank under the lights because the tank is empty right now and then I thought... this would make a great terrarium. I put it to the community on Instagram and the consensus is a paludarium is the most logical third option.

I don't think a paludarium quite fits my vision but I'm not opposed to it either. Could be my biggest U-turn in the hobby lol.

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Have you tried Amazon and changing your country settings? This will show up all products available for shipping to you.
Usually it’s cheaper as it’s shipped through Amazon.
Just search on Amazon “Amazon UK, US, or whatever country” and shop around.
It’s worked for me when wanting stuff that’s only available in the states.
 
Have you tried Amazon and changing your country settings? This will show up all products available for shipping to you.
Usually it’s cheaper as it’s shipped through Amazon.
Just search on Amazon “Amazon UK, US, or whatever country” and shop around.
It’s worked for me when wanting stuff that’s only available in the states.
I have not! But I'll give it a go next time I'm in need.

Thanks for the heads up.
 
The wood looks really good and the cupboard underneath too,if it's low tech shouldn't be a problem hiding equipment
 
Nice! That looks great. Looking forward to the next step

The wood looks really good and the cupboard underneath too,if it's low tech shouldn't be a problem hiding equipment

Looking great @Courtneybst. And all the best in your new country. Hope you settle in okay.
Thanks everyone!

I'm still conflicted on whether or not it'll be an aquarium or a terrarium. I have to wait at least a week before I can get hold of tubing either way, so that'll give me more time to think.

These are the proposed ideas below;
The first is a terrarium with predominantly Utricularia graminifolia on the front, peppered with other Utricularia species that flower better, moss and other suitable plants.

The second one is the original idea. Thin sand foreground, predominantly Bolbitis, with some Anubias and Buce. Was also thinking to try growing Nymphaea zenkeri on the hardscape again. Couldn't work out how to draw bolbitis so it's just scribbles.😅

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I would really like layout 1 but have you thought about it as a full aquarium still. Very low planting (no stems) then some type of miniature moss on the branches like coral moss. Just a passing thought.
 
I would really like layout 1 but have you thought about it as a full aquarium still. Very low planting (no stems) then some type of miniature moss on the branches like coral moss. Just a passing thought.
That could be cool! If it was a full aquarium it would be low tech and so a carpet of Utricularia graminifolia would likely end up straggly. Also for me, as beautiful as they are, mosses feel too high maintenance underwater. I would consider Suswassertang though...
As an epiphyte? Didn’t know that’s possible.
I've only done it once but it did work! I was dosing much higher then than I would now, so it'll be interesting to see if it would work again.
 
Small update...

I finally got round to covering up the glue joints with aquasoil to complete the hardscape. I ended up buying a mini blender since I couldn't be assed using a mortar and pestle, and the blender will come in handy for other things lol. It did a great job of turning the aquasoil into powder, but christ it's loud!

I'm also having to use the on-tank brackets with the light for now since I don't have the bits to jerry-rig the Liti Aquaria stand, and neither do I know how well it'll work. I actually don't hate the look. I think because the light is slim and white, it doesn't take away from the hardscape as much as I thought it would. It will just be annoying that I can't keep the tank illuminated when doing maintenance.

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I also decided that I'm sticking to the original plan and making this an aquarium. I know deep down I'll miss the fish too much and watching their daily activities. I'll use my terrarium ideas for a smaller, desktop sized project later. Having decided that, I added the sand today.

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Things are a lot harder to come by in Canada so you just kinda take what you can, when your can. I knew I wanted a specific colour temperature of sand but couldn't find one that matched. Planted Aquaria then recently got in UNS' new Contrasand. I went for the 'Extra Fine Bora' which is similar to ADA La Plata but not quite as warm. On its own I found it a little cool, so I made a custom mix using a warm, cheap off-brand sand until I got the colour I liked. The sand layer is fairly thin, an inch at most. This is for maintenance and aesthetic reasons...

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The sand will also play a functional role as I have a species of fish in mind that I think will appreciate it;

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Pelvicachromis taeniatus 'Nigerian Red' - Photo by Frank Schäfer

I've always wanted to keep 'Kribs' and after listening to a podcast episode all about them, I thought that now is the perfect time. As much as I want to see the interaction between a pair, I really can't be dealing with breeding right now lmao. From what I understand, they can and will breed and are very good parents, so even if I neglected them the fry are likely to survive. Additionally, I hear that they can turn into savage beasts at breeding time (worse than apistogramma), which I really don't want as I'd like to keep some additional mid
-water swimmers. Even if I don't go for the Pelvicachromis, I'm pretty sure there'll be some kind of cichlid involved lol.

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Photo from aquariumzen.ca

The Ambastaia sidthimunki (Dwarf Chain Loach) was a second option, instead of the Pelvicachromis, until I found out they are critically endangered. I wouldn't have the heart to keep a CE species if I had no plans to breed them. It's such a shame because they look so beautiful and full of character!

If I go for a single male Pelvicachromis, that would allow me to keep another small group of fish. I was thinking about Barbus fasciolatus (African Banded Barbs), to keep the West African theme going.

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Photo from Aquadicton

I'm still painfully waiting for my tubing to come into my LFS so I can get the tank cycled. Until then, I must sit and wait.
 
I'll miss the fish
It's funny, first year of scaping I got into spending so much time looking at plants and hardscape that I almost forgot that I do actually like the fish. When I visited Monterey Bay Aquarium and found a massive smile on my face, I suddenly realized I got distracted from them and whilst I can't describe exactly why, I really enjoy fish too
 
The Ambastaia sidthimunki (Dwarf Chain Loach) was a second option, instead of the Pelvicachromis, until I found out they are critically endangered. I wouldn't have the heart to keep a CE species if I had no plans to breed them. It's such a shame because they look so beautiful and full of character!
They’ll be tank bred, no danger of them being wild caught.
 
Pelvicachromis taeniatus 'Nigerian Red' are my absolute favourite fish.
With regards to substrate colour, their colours will be less intense on a light substrate and more intense on a dark substrate. I actually changed to a dark substance after seeing one of your journals and it was a happy coincidence that they coloured up more. Pics below for example of difference. I don't have a pic of the male on a light substrate.
Light substrate
female krib.jpg

female krib 2.jpg

Dark substrate
male krib 2.jpg

As far as breeding is concerned, they're definitely not as easy as the standard pulcher kribensis (or whatever name they're currently going by).
Also the pair I had was more peaceful than the standard kribs I've had. Even when they had fry the female wouldn't bother other fish. I had to separate the male to get a successful spawn as he'd start harassing the female straight after spawning. The other thing to note is that the sex ratio of the fry is strongly dependent on pH supposedly, though I think it's actually Gh or Kh that affects it. I ended up with 67 males and 3 females at a pH of 6.8, which should've resulted in a nearly even sex ratio but my Gh was 5 and Kh 4, so maybe softer or harder (I can't remember which) would've been better.
 
Awesome so far mate. You’re right about missing the fish.
I started a viv, and I’m already missing fish.
Thank you! Yeah it's what got me into the hobby and I think ultimately what keeps me in it. As much as I love plants, I can't ignore that!
I visited Monterey Bay Aquarium and found a massive smile on my face
I'm not surprised you had a massive smile on your face!!! Monterey Bay Aquarium is a bucket list destination for me, the place looks incredible.

When did you go?

I guess in a slightly abstract, poetic way, the hardscape is the body, the plants are the flesh but the fish are the soul! Without them...
They’ll be tank bred, no danger of them being wild caught.
Ok that's good to know. Although now it's made the decision hard again 😂 I don't think I could comfortably fit a group of chain loaches and the taeniatus in the same tank, mostly because of the areas of the tank they utilise. Happy to be proved wrong though 👀😅
Pics below for example of difference. I don't have a pic of the male on a light substrate.
WOW. The colours on those guys!!! That male in particular is stunning.

Do you think it's still worth keeping them even though I have light sand? I know a lot of fish bleach out on pale sand but hoped that because they're so colourful that it wouldn't be as noticeable.

That's good to know about the aggression and more difficultly breeding too. Maybe I can have a pair. I'm sure the behaviours and colours would be even better then.

or whatever name they're currently going by
Lol, this is accurate. Seems to be changing all the time!
 
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