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The Finished Aquascape

We would like to thank Robert Hudson for his great advice and the impressive 15-gallon shrimp tank he has created. As he said in the beginning, this is the perfect type of tank for those of you who have a smaller space or just want to experience keeping freshwater invertebrates. It is also a good tank for beginners who are hoping to start small but get all the good looks of a larger tank.

The finished 15-gallon shrimp tank.

Next month please join us as our newest adventurer, Mark Denaro, owner of Anubias Design, embarks on his own quest to create a 65-gallon Dutch-style tank!

Posted February 24th, 2010.

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The Shrimp Have Arrived

As time goes on, the plants are generally growing in nicely and beginning to fill out the aquascape. My water parameters have stabilized, and I feel the time has come to introduce the stars of the show.

Choosing the right shrimp for your tank is largely based on the water conditions that you have. For example, my water is on the softer, more acidic side and Caridina species do better with that type of water. Once I chose what shrimp to order I had to figure out how many of each should be purchased. Keep in mind that, when kept under optimal conditions, shrimp will reproduce prolifically so you do not want to order too many at the outset and wind up with an overcrowded tank in the near future (unless, of course, you want an excuse to get another tank!). My TFH March 2010 column has more information about how to select the right shrimp for your own aquascaping project as well as the shrimp I chose.

Given that I ordered them during the winter months—something you may not want to try depending on how cold it gets where you live—my first priority was to warm the shrimp up as soon as they arrived. Shrimp are known to be extremely sensitive animals and must be carefully acclimated before being transferred to different water conditions. Only after I allowed the shrimp to warm up did I begin the acclimation process, otherwise I would have run the risk of shocking the shrimp with too much change at once.

As I mentioned last time, shrimp are also very sensitive to nitrogenous wastes and dissolved organic compounds. Before I ordered them I did a major water change so the water would be as clean as possible for the shrimp. However, keep in mind that shrimp feed on the biofilm and algae present in a tank, so sterilizing the tank isn’t the idea.

Although the shrimp hid for a while when first introduced, a female eventually came out and posed right in front of my camera, which brings me to a side note. Originally I used a dark blue paper background that is made for use on aquaria, but I realized that it reflected light and images, and it had water marks on it. I decided to go to a fabric store and I bought the thickest, heaviest, solid black material I could find and had it cut to match the size of the paper background. Unfortunately, once I brought it home I discovered that there were a few small spots where the material was thinner and light could pass through. Using some leftover material I had, I made a second layer of the backdrop and used binder clips to attach it to the aquarium frame. Light is no longer reflected and photographing my new arrivals is much easier.

I have also had to start trimming some of the aquatic plants and I unfortunately lost my battle with the subwassertang. As soon as I get some new subwassertang in I will clean it as thoroughly as possible (I don’t want a repeat performance) and attach it to the driftwood. Remember, preparation, persistence and patience (plus a bit of luck) all help make the aquascape come together.

The aquascape in progress.

Posted January 21st, 2010.

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The Pests Invade

My shrimp tank is coming along well (though at this early stage it still doesn’t have any shrimp in it). Since the last installment I have set up my CO2 system, which has considerably improved the growth of the plants. The Anubias, in particular, has filled out considerably and I imagine it will be a favorite place for the shrimp, since its broad leaves will offer them a sense of security. Despite the Riccia exhibiting decent growth, it is not covering the steel mesh; in fact, none of the plants completely covered the rocks or wood they were attached to (not that I expected them to yet).

I have had some difficulty with various aquarium pests that experienced hobbyists likely know well: duckweed, bladderwort, and snails. Duckweed is an interesting “pest,” since some people choose to add it to their aquarium. It reproduces so prolifically that it can cover the entire surface of the water, blocking out light from the plants below. Every time I conduct a water change I simply skim off the duckweed to keep the amount of it in check, keeping in mind that some floating plants do help make the shrimp feel secure. With duckweed, balance is essential.

Bladderwort is a rather difficult pest to conquer, given its small size. I am still working on removing it, largely by physical removal whenever I see it. Stay tuned to my column to find out who wins—the bladderwort or the subwassertang.

Snails can be gotten rid of by depriving them of their food source, which I did by eventually getting rid of the fungus on the Tambora wood (for how that happened, please see my TFH February 2009 column). Remember that the less organic waste in the tank—uneaten food, decaying plant matter, and fish waste—the more difficult it will be for the snails to survive.

Another important consideration, before I add the shrimp, is to keep the water quality high. If too many dissolved organic compounds (DOCs) are allowed to accumulate it is likely that an algae plague will take over and blue green algae (cyanobacteria) will grow. Although shrimp are algae eaters, it is better to prevent the algae plagues than rely on shrimp to clean it up; they are small animals that can only eat so much! Also, shrimp tend to be sensitive to DOCs and can be killed if there is there are too much DOCs when the shrimp are introduced.

Currently I change 30 percent of the water every five days. In planted tanks, with their many tangled roots in the substrate, gravel vacuuming is done rarely because the chance of damaging the plants is very high. Even when siphoning around plants you need to be very careful to avoid, for example, sucking up the Riccia into the siphon. Sometimes I stretch a filter bag or cheesecloth over the siphon to prevent the shrimp or plants from being taken in; it also helps prevent the siphon itself from clogging.

Once I begin to fertilize the tank I will reduce my water change schedule to once every seven days, so the plants have time to absorb the nutrients from the fertilizer. However, during that time especially, I plan to remove as much algae as possible from the Anubias. In my experience Anubias is an incredible algae magnet.

The aquascape in progress.

The aquascape in progress.

Posted December 23rd, 2009.

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