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Riparium Supply Review

October 29th, 2009

About two months ago, Riparium Supply (http://www.ripariumsupply.com) sent me a sample pack of their product line so that I could try them out and talk about my experience. I also received some plants to help get me started in the right direction. Fortunately, I had an empty 20G high aquarium and canister filter sitting around for me to use in this experiment. I’m going to go through my experience, but first let me introduce the Riparium Supply product line.

Large Hanging Planter

The core piece of equipment in a Riparium are these plastic hanging planters. They are designed to hold substrate and plants in place while adhering to the glass in your aquarium. Simply add some of their clay pebbles in the container, followed by your substrate of choice, plant the plant, and fill the rest of the way with substrate.

Smaller Hanging Planter

There are two sizes of hanging planters; smaller ones for medium sized plants, and larger ones for plants with heftier root systems. Both planters also have Velcro-like strips on them, called mushroom-head fasteners, which are used to connect to the floating trellis product.

Trellis Raft

The floating trellises are pieces of foam designed with an insert in the middle. The concept is to position a number of emersed stem plants in the hole, then insert the middle part to lock them in place. The smaller foam pieces attach to the ends of the trellis to add extra buoyancy for large mats of plants. The mushroom-head-fasteners on the trellis lock into the hanging planters so that they don’t float around. Now, let me go through my setup of the past two months…

Riparium

I started by adding a little bit of hardscape that would be totally submersed. The difference between a paludarium and a Riparium is that “the terrestrial portions of paludariums are built up with rocks, driftwood or synthetic materials. In ripariums, on the other hand, the land area is only implied: the above water portion is rendered solely with live plants.” To comply with the concept, I made sure that none of the rocks would come out of the water.

Riparium

I had to alter the outflow of my filter using some extra tubing that I had lying around so that it would reach further down into the aquarium. I ended up using an Eheim spray bay positioned vertically to spray out both above and below the water surface. I also built out an area in the back left which had less substrate in it so that the filter intake would reach low into the aquarium for best filtration and circulation.

Riparium

I planted the plants I had in the hanging planters, and used the floating trellises to suspend a few stem plants that I had. The planters were fabulous to work with, with great instructions on how to fill them to properly secure the plants. The suction cups have held without any issues for the two months they’ve been attached. I suspect that over time, I may need to replace those cups, but that’s not a big deal. The floating trellises, on the other hand, were somewhat difficult to work with. I found it hard to hold several stems in place without them shifting around before being able to lock them in place with the foam insert. I think if it were up to me, I would continue to use the hanging planters, but just plant the stem plants into the substrate of the Riparium, and let them grow emersed naturally.

Riparium

After two months, my Riparium is shown above. I’ve found that I’m not as good scaping a Riparium as a regular aquarium, but I’m sure I would improve with more practice. Also, I’ve been running the tank with a light sitting on the top of the tank. I think you really need to suspend the light so that the plants have room to grow up and out of the tank. I currently have zebra danios and some rainbow darters in this tank, and they’re doing quite well. The foreground still needs to fill in, but that’ll take time since it’s a fairly low-light environment.

In conclusion, I definitely recommend the Riparium Supply Hanging Planters. Both sizes are fantastic, and I think they could even be used creatively in a traditional aquascape. For the Riparium, they work great. As mentioned, I recognize the purpose of the trellis, and they do work as designed, but it takes some work to configure them initially. The owner,  Hydrophyte, has been very responsive to any questions I’ve had, and so I’m sure he would provide similar service to any of his customers. Pricing for each item is reasonable at under $15, with a recommended setup for my 20H costing about $50 to get started. At that price, I think it’s well worth the money to try something different in one of your aquariums. Give them a try!

UPDATE: I initially focused solely on the difficult usability of using the floating trellises to secure stems in a Riparium. In addition, they can provide support for stems planted in the hanging planter that would not otherwise stand upright on their own. Using the trellises in this manner eliminates the problem I described, as the stems purely creep along the trellis. The trellises also help to obscure the hanging planters, especially once plants have grown in, and provide a planting medium for plants whose roots cannot be planted because they require the extra oxygen present when sitting in open aquarium water. Therefore, used in these ways, the trellises can be an integral part of creating a successful Riparium.




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Zebra Danio: Oldie But Goodie

October 27th, 2009

The Zebra Danio is one of the fish that has been in the hobby forever. They are commercially bred and are available for sale in virtually every pet store, commonly being one of the first fish people keep when entering the hobby. For this reason, they are easily overlooked by more seasoned hobbyists when choosing inhabitants for their aquarium. This spring, the temperatures outside were still chilly, but I was beginning to see mosquito larvae outside in my pond. I went to my favorite fish store, and asked the owner what he suggested for a reasonably cold-tolerant fish that would provide mosquito protection, and he suggested the Zebra Danio.

Zebra Danio

For all of the reasons I mentioned above, I was hesitant, but the price was right (less than $.99/fish) so I came home with a dozen fish. They cleared out the mosquito larvae problem nearly overnight, and were quite active in the pond. Also, outside in the full sun, I noticed far more colors than their typical brown and tan zebra stripes. Flashes of blue or green iridescence showed up, as well as, yellow on the tops of their fins. Before long, I noticed lots of small fry swimming outside in the pond. My dozen fish had easily tripled, if not more.

Zebra Danio

When fall came, and the nighttime temperatures began to decline again, I brought the danios inside and placed them in a riparium/terrarium setup that I have going. I thought they would like the extra water flow I have in that particular aquarium, and so far they don’t seem to have any complaints. They are probably the best schoolers and most active fish I’ve kept in a planted aquarium. They might stress more calm/docile tank mates, but they are fun to watch as they never stop schooling from one side of the tank to the other. If you’re looking for an inexpensive schooling fish for your planted aquarium, you really can’t go wrong with the Zebra Danio.

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Aquafest 2009 – Aquascaping Challenge!

October 19th, 2009

I haven’t posted in a long time, largely because I’ve been incredibly busy preparing for Aquafest 2009 in Laurel, MD. As president of GWAPA, one of the three clubs hosting the convention, there was plenty to do, but after a blur of a weekend, I think the convention was a success. Thanks to all of the sponsors, attendees, and volunteers who helped us pull it off! The main event that I was responsible for was the aquascaping challenge between Jason Baliban, our speaker, and Jeff Ucciardo, GWAPA’s vice president.

Aquascaping Challenge

We spent the hour prior to the event sorting a mass of materials into two equal piles so that Jeff and Jason would start on a completely level playing field. Above is some of the manzanita wood that we got from Manzanita.com to use in the scapes. Jason got off to a quick start, putting in the white pool filter sand, developing a hardscape, and topping it off with some Aquasoil.

Aquascaping Challenge

Jeff took a little bit of time to plan his scape, but was right behind Jason once he got his hardscape placed. Jason chose to extend the white sand all the way from front to back, while Jeff kept the sand confined to the foreground. Both competitors divided the tank into two mounds, one larger than the other.

Aquascaping Challenge

In the end, both Jason and Jeff finished before the hour was up, which is quite impressive given the amount of time I usually spend working on an aquascape. Below is Jason’s finished scape from the side. The judges liked the rockwork in his scape, as well as the use of manzanita to provide flow to the layout.

Jason Baliban's Scape

However, the judges thought he could have filled in the scape with more plants than he did, but recognized that it should fill in nicely once it grows in. The tanks themselves are very nice, being a first look at Aquarium Design Group’s own line of rimless aquariums. They are 24″x16″x16″ and Catalina Aquarium donated a pair of HO-T5 lights to go with them.

Jason Baliban's Scape

Jeff’s finished aquascape is below, and as you can see, he did a very nice job filling in the scape with plants from the get-go. The judges took off points for his hardscape saying that it got lost in the plants.

Jeff Ucciardo's Scape

They also wondered why he didn’t extend the white sand front to back between the two mounds. Ultimately, we ended up being able to exhibit two very nice scapes, especially considering that they were completed in an hours’ time frame. The judges gave a slight nod to Jason’s scape, but explained to the audience what they liked and disliked about each.

Jeff Ucciardo's Scape

Also, during the whole hour, I gave a mini presentation about Aquascaping in general. We wanted to avoid folks from getting bored while the planting was going on, so I fielded a number of questions keeping the competitors from having to. Our A/V team also did a great job projecting the two tanks live onto two large screens so that everyone could see what was going on. Overall, the event was a success!

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Raised Brick Pond – Ready for Winter

October 4th, 2009

Yesterday, I spent a large part of the afternoon preparing my raised brick pond for winter. Below is a picture of what it looked like right before I began. To prepare the pond for winter, I sorted through all of the plants, composting the extras, and bringing a few inside to overwinter in an emersed setup. I also had to drain the water down to about 2 inches in order to fish out all of the zebra danios, which would definitely not survive the declining temperatures.

Raised Brick Pond - October 2009

In the spring I added a dozen danios, and yesterday I pulled out about 4 dozen fish of all sizes from fry to adult. They’re going to overwinter in a terrarium setup inside, which they should love due to the waterfall current I have in there. Hopefully they won’t continue to breed in there because I really was only hoping to use them as mosquito control — not as a fish I really wanted to keep in large numbers.

Hyptis sp.

Hyptis sp. Growing Emersed

One of the goals I had at the beginning of the summer was to flower as many plants as I could outside. In that respect, I had a number of successes including: Ludwigia repens x arcuata, Bacopa sp. ‘Araguaia’, Rotala sp. ‘Sunset’, Staurogyne sp. ‘Bihar’, Bacopa monnieri, Limnophila sp. ‘Wavy’, and a few others I’m sure I’m forgetting. There were a few that I wasn’t able to flower, but hopefully they’ll send up flowers in the emersed setup over the winter.

Limnophila sp. Flower

Limnophila sp. 'Wavy' Flower

Finally, I closed the season with four frogs making my pond their home. They weren’t happy about me draining the pond, but hopefully they still have a few weeks to go down the street to the runoff pond where they can overwinter in the mud. My pond is almost entirely above ground, so if they stayed in there, they would surely freeze solid, which wouldn’t be good. Next time I build a pond, I’ll definitely dig deep down to keep a refuge place for fish so that I can keep some natives out there year round.

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Nannacara anomala Babies!

October 1st, 2009

I went to feed the fish in my 75G this evening, and to my delight, one of my three Nannacara anomala females (I have a male and 3 females) were guarding a swarm of fry in the front right of the tank. Fortunately, this is the perfect place to take pictures, despite the dirty glass.

Nannacara anomala mom & fry!

I’m wondering if the other females are also holding fry because the male was staying in another territory with another female, and wouldn’t come out in the open for a picture. Two of the three females are in breeding coloration, which is a predominantly black body with yellow highlights. Their normal coloration is mostly a drab yellow.

Nannacara anomala fry!

The fry were grazing on tiny micro-particles in the beard algae. (Yes I have a little bit of beard algae.) I dissolved a small amount of frozen brine shrimp, which floated down toward them. Being frozen, there were plenty of other smaller particles that the fry were able to fit in their tiny mouths. The female (and other fish) took care of the larger brine shrimp.

Nannacara anomala mom & fry!

These Nannacara anomala are incredibly entertaining fish to watch. The females all have their territories, and the male glides back and forth between them without any commotion. If a female strays too far from her territory, a bordering female makes sure to chase her away, flaring fins and nipping. Fortunately, there’s plenty of room in the 75G for them to occupy without any major damage. Now, I need to focus on rising up these fry!

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