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33G: New Tank, New Aquascape

August 31st, 2010

A few weeks ago, I posted some pictures of the new aquarium stand I had built for my GLA 33G rimless aquarium. Well, I finally got around to actually setting up and aquascaping this tank. One of my goals was to keep this aquascape fairly minimalistic. Therefore, I originally planted the entire tank with only one plant, Ranalisma rostrata. Then, after looking at it a few days, I decided to add Staurogyne repens around the base of the rock.

IMG_3328.jpg

After another few days, I thought the background needed some taller grass sloping up to the large rock, so I added some Blyxa japonica. Then, I went too far, and planted some Myriophyllum mattogrossense to the right of the rock. I’m going to pull out this plant, as I think the aquascape will be more striking with clean rock lines there. I may stick a little bit of Blyxa japonica there so that just a few grassy tips are visible, but I will need to experiment with how that looks.

IMG_3331.jpg

Now, I’m just waiting for all of the plants to fill in and bush out. I really like the dimensions (25″x18″x18″) of this particular aquarium, as it’s basically like aquascaping half of a 75G. I have always complained how it’s easy to get one side of a larger tank looking great, but it’s hard to design an equally awesome second half to complement the first. Well, with this tank, I can simply worry about one side. What do you think of the aquascape so far? Comments/critiques welcome!




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Eastern Shore Trip

August 25th, 2010

Last weekend, I spent some time on the Eastern Shore (to Marylanders that is east of the Chesapeake Bay), and took the opportunity to do a little bit of collecting while there. We drove around a little bit, and found a promising looking location (below) outside of Salisbury. This stream had several different plants in it, including Lindernia dubia, Ludwigia palustris, Eleocharis sp., and others. While it looks muddy, the substrate was actually pretty solid, so you wouldn’t sink in too much.

Collecting on the Eastern Shore

These are the types of habitats that are often interesting to plant collectors; roadside ditches, open streams, and muddy pond banks. There’s lots of native plants that will look spectacular in your aquarium!

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33G Rimless Aquarium Stand Built

August 13th, 2010

Over the past week, I finally built an aquarium stand for the Green Leaf Aquariums 33G rimless aquarium that I bought several months ago. The aquarium was just sitting in the box while I tried to decide whether or not to purchase a custom made stand, or build one myself. Eventually, I decided that it would be more enjoyable to build it myself.

GLA Rimless Aquarium and Custom Stand

In an effort to match what I did to pretty-up the metal stand my 75G sits on, I decided against wooden paneling for the facade; instead I sewed and velcro’d a 100% polyester sheet of fabric to give the museum exhibit look to the piece. The fabric exterior also allowed me to build the structural support fully to the outside edge of the aquarium so that vertically the transition from stand to tank was very much in-line. I’m still not 100% decided on whether this aquarium will go in my fish room or living room, so I needed something aesthetically appealing enough for living room use.

Velcro to hang skirt

The aquarium stand itself is built completely out of 2x4s, and completely over-engineered to hold several times the weight the 33G tank. Rimless aquariums need to be supported equally across the entire surface of their bottom panel, so I layed 2x4s across the top for support, tacking a piece of hardboard on top of that for a smooth surface. With extra scraps, I fastened a simple shelf inside of the stand for the filter and CO2 bottle to set on.

Aquarium Stand - Frame

On top of the hardboard, I cut-to-size a piece of green yoga mat to provide additional padding for the aquarium to rest. With rimless tanks, any minor difference of pressure could potentially lead to a stress fracture along one of the seams. By padding the bottom, you mitigate that risk significantly. I ran the velcro backing strip along the rim of the stand, making sure to cover up the yoga mat so that the bright green foam was not visible.

Yoga Mat for Padding

I spray painted most of the stand black to minimize the possibility of the yellowish wood color showing through the polyester sheet in bright light. I also applied a polyurethane  sealant to the wood since water drips are inevitable. The aquarium itself is beautiful, with extremely clear glass and good workmanship where the panes of glass meet.

Clean Edge on Aquarium

I’ve already had my 12G rimless aquarium from GLA setup for several months, and am very impressed with that tank. I’m looking forward to setting up this one, which will give me a little bit more room to aquascape than I have in the 12G. My current plan (subject to change) is to retire my 20H aquarium, and put this aquarium in its place. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to do that in the coming week or two.

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Raised Brick Pond – It’s a Jungle!

August 12th, 2010

The pond is doing fanastic this year. I finally deviated from my previous use of a solar powered pump in favor of a Mag pump and pond filter. The circulation is much improved, and the plants have gone crazy. Back in May, I have a single Penthorum sedoides survive the winter and sprout from one of my containers. Now, nearly all of the green mass of plant matter is the bush that the single plant has become.

Raised Brick Pond - Overgrown!

The only other plant that may be even more prolific is the Hyptis lorentziana. This is a beast of a plant that has spread in every direction from its original planting, creeping horizontally, reaching for sunlight vertically, and everything in-between. Fortunately, the purplish green leaves are very attractive.

Raised Brick Pond - Overgrown!

Left to compete for sunlight and space are a Ranunculus species, Bacopa monnieri, Limnophila sp. ‘Sulawesi’, Hygrophila odora, some frogbite, and Salvinia. Of course the Crinum americana plants are still doing well, but they seemed dwarfed by the other plants this year.

Raised Brick Pond - Top Down

My regular garden plants are also creeping into the pond’s normal space. A huge stand of okra is beginning to block a lot of light to the pond (it’s about 7 feet tall now and growing), and my thyme and tarragon are invading from the other side. I kind of like the jungle look, however, as do our frogs, which we rarely see anymore as they are taking cover in the jungle. Comments welcome!

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75G – Photo Update

August 11th, 2010

My 75G aquascape has finally matured. I spent some time over the weekend trimming back the Trident Java Fern, removing old leaves from the Cryptocoryne and Anubias plants, and thinning out some of the moss on the wood. Below is the result of that effort, with what will probably be the final picture of this aquascape before I rescape the tank.

75G Aquarium

75G - Click for Larger Image

The angelfish continue to grow quickly, and remain as beautiful to me as the day I got them. For my money, there are not many other fish that are more majestic than wild-colored angelfish. The Nannacara anomala are still doing well, breeding several times, but never raising up any of the babies. I added some small Ancistrus sp. ‘L279′ awhile back which are also enjoying all of the hiding places this aquascape provides. I’m looking for ideas for the next scape I do in this tank. Please leave your thoughts in the comments area…

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Bookshelf Tank Update

August 10th, 2010

I wanted to share an updated photo of my 12G bookshelf aquarium. The aquascape is largely unchanged since the last photo, but the hairgrass has grown in a little bit. I also went to the trouble of removing the equipment for this particular shot. Notice the pleco in the back left. I put those guys in this tank when they were only a few millimeters long.

Bookshelf Aquarium

Rimless Bookshelf Aquarium - Click for larger image

I’m fairly pleased with this aquascape, although I’m not very happy with this Eleocharis sp. ‘Japan’ hairgrass. It just grows WAY too slow. Because of that and some beard algae on the rocks, I’m kind of getting the itch to rescape it. What do you guys think? Comments/critiques welcome!

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Alaskan Flowers and Berries

August 6th, 2010

I’ve finally been able to process a few more of our photographs from our trip to Juneau. It was amazing to go there during their spring when so many flowers and berries were abundant. Every trail we hiked on had a near unlimited supply of wild berries, be it salmon berries (below), nagoon berries, blueberries, or even watermelon berries to snack on. Ferns like alum abounded, as did the prickly medicinal plant, devil’s club, which had spines you definitely wanted to avoid. Fireweed fields made fantastic foregrounds to glacier mountain backdrops, while spruce and alder cones were also in no shortage. Huge stands of skunk cabbage had impressive flower stalks, while smaller sundews in the higher elevations proved varying habitats in the area. My favorite wild-flower there was the columbine flower, with a very unique and intricate construction. There are several thumbnails below that I cannot ID, so if there are any Alaskan plant experts out there, please leave a comment on this post or on the corresponding Flickr page.

Salmon Berries

Salmon Berries. (Mouse over thumbnails for titles)

IMG_2639.jpg Columbine Alum Fern Flower IMG_2630.jpg Watermelon Berries Skunk Cabbage Fireweed IMG_2372.jpg Ferns! Sundew Flower from Bog Wild Blueberries Devil's Club IMG_2156.jpg Alder Cones Spruce Cones Lupine IMG_2628.jpg

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Praying Mantis Pictures

August 4th, 2010

I was out in the garden with the camera this evening and a small praying mantis was crawling over some of the bolting lettuce plants that I still haven’t dug up. I decided to take the opportunity to practice some of my macro photography. I caught the critter cleaning its legs in its mouth, much like my dogs do. I had never noticed the dark eye spot (or perhaps their actual eye) before. The spikes on their forearms look like something straight out of an Alien movie. All shots were using a Canon MP-E 65mm lens.

Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis Praying Mantis

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Moving Around the Fishroom

August 4th, 2010

On Monday, I spent a very long overdue 7.5 hours working in my fish-room. The problem is that I have neglected my tanks for too long that duckweed and algae had taken them over. In addition to cleaning them up, I also decided to swap the stands the my 40G and 50G aquariums were sitting on to provide better light to my aquascaping tank (the 50G).

40G and 50G Side-by-side

As you can see above, the two tanks sit side-by-side. That doesn’t mean it’s an easy job to swap their positions. I still had to drain the water, remove the plants, remove the rocks, remove the fish, remove the driftwood, and finally get help to physically move them. In other words, it was nearly the same amount of work as if I were moving to another house.

50G Hardscape

After getting the aquariums into their new resting places, I decided that it was time to re-aquascape the 50G. I didn’t want to change too much from how it was before, but I definitely needed to make some changes. So, I repositioned the wood countless times until I came up with what you see above.

50G Rescape

Then, I replanted the Blyxa aubertii on the back left and added Hygrophila sp. ‘Guinea’ to the back right. Hopefully with some time, everything will fill in and look a lot better than it did previously. I’m still toying with the idea of adding the branches back into the scape to give the feel of a riverbank, but I’ll let the plants grow in a bit before doing that. Comments welcome!

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Gunpowder Falls State Park, Jerusalem Road

August 2nd, 2010

On Saturday, we took our dogs on a hike at Gunpowder Falls State Park (Jerusalem Road) where we explored the trails there for a few hours. Little Gunpowder Falls river is a very pretty river, meandering across a large rock bed. Despite the name, we never came across any significant falls, however. Along the trail, one of our dogs discovered a toad in an unfortunate position; its back-end was fully engulfed by the unhinged mouth of a snake (see picture below). Elsewhere, the trail opened off to a large grove of poplar trees, which provided an impressive area of shade to everything beneath them. We also found a few fallen trees with basketball-sized fungus growing on them. All in all, it was a nice hike with the dogs at a location we had never explored before.

River

Little Gunpowder Falls (Click thumbnails for larger view)

Poplars Rock Formation Huge Fungus! River Snake Digesting Toad The Trail

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