by TFH Magazine on April 7, 2010 at 8:04 am
By Mark Denaro
When I was asked to write a brief series of articles for the Adventures In Aquascaping column, I immediately knew that I wanted to create a Leiden style aquarium. I have always found these tanks to be the most esthetically appealing planted aquariums and find it unfortunate that they have fallen somewhat out of favor with aquarists in the US. Actually, I’m not sure that they’ve really fallen out of favor so much as gone unknown by folks who have entered the hobby in the last 12-15 years, as the Nature Aquarium designs have become so popular.
My approach to planted tanks has always been that of a fishkeeper rather than a planted tank purist. While I believe that it is critical to the tank’s success to create a great aquascape with the plants along with driftwood and rocks, I always want to keep a full complement of fish as well. As an example, I’ll tell you a bit about the tank pictured in the May issue, which had been set up for about 2 years when the picture was taken.
It is a 75-gallon acrylic tank (60 x 18 x 16 inches) that was lit by a 40 watt 10000K bulb, a 40 watt actinic bulb, four 27 watt 6700K CF bulbs, and 2 55 watt 10000K CF bulbs. Obviously, that is a lot of light, especially for a tank that is only 16 inches tall. The Egeria najas in that tank grew a minimum of 4 inches a day so the tank required pruning at least every other day. The fitration was accomplished via an internal power filter that turned approximately 160 gallons per hour.
The fish community included large schools of cardinal tetras and narrow wedge rasboras Trigonostigma espei and smaller schools of marble hatchets, red phantom tetras, and checkerboard barbs. There were also four marble angels, a pair of kribensis, three L177 plecos, two whiptails, and two farlowellas and I’m probably forgetting something. All in all, there were approximately 125 fish in the tank. In addition to the fish, there were about 30 Amano shrimp in the tank. Now, that’s a very heavy bioload and a very small filter. The key to making it work is the tremendous growth rate of the plants (the plants are the primary filter) combined with extremely careful feeding.
A tank set up at that stocking level is definitely not suitable for the beginning or intermediate hobbyist. I’d been keeping planted tanks for around 25 years when I set that one up. A few other things you should know about that tank are that it had laterite mixed with the gravel and that liquid plant fertilizers were added daily and plant tablets were added regularly. I was living in Dayton at that time and the tank was set up with Dayton tap water, which is essentially liquid rock with a pH of around 8.4 and very high hardness. CO2 was never used in that tank. The hard water really adds a lot of minerals that the plants can utilize and makes a big difference. There are very few plants that will not do well in hard water. Just because a plant has evolved and grows in soft water doesn’t mean that it can’t take advantage of the extra minerals in harder water. I did not use a substrate heater in that tank as the gravel was not deeper than 2 inches in any area so I didn’t think I needed one to keep it from going anaerobic.