The Arrangement of Indoor Aquariums

Although an indoor aquarium can be designed and maintained for any of several purposes, it should always be attractive. The design and planting should not only suit the needs of the plants and fish but should also be as perfect as possible esthetically.

Clean, washed sand, rather coarse in texture, is the most suitable substrate material for the aquarium. The surface of the bottom material should not be flat, but should slope down toward the front, terrace-like, with some irregular indentations. It should be reinforced and decorated with rocks of various sizes. The only suitable rocks are those made of hard and insoluble materials which will not change the quality of the water. Limestone and sandstone are quite unsuitable. The most commonly used rocks are those composed of silica, quartz, granite, slate, and other similarly stable materials. In order to present a natural impression the rocks should be of a uniform type; if they vary in color the aquarium will appear unnatural.

In addition to rocks, such items as old branches, parts of tree trunks, and stumps are all useful decorative material in the aquarium. Any wood placed in the tank should be neither fresh nor rotten. Old pieces of trees which have lain for years in a pond and are impregnated with mineral substances from the water are best. These will usually be very hard and dark. Old jagged roots dug from peat bogs are especially good.

The aquarium is not a copy of nature. We do not usually choose plants according to their geographical distribution, but instead try to build up a collection of plants which will thrive in the aquarium conditions we are able to give them. Thus the temperature, light, available space, available nutrients, pH, and similar factors determine to a great extent which plants can be kept in a specific aquarium.

Marsilea, greatly resembling the ordinary four-leaf clover, can enhance the beauty of the fore part of the tank with a low layer of green growth. Photo by Dr. D. Sculthorpe.

It also goes without saying that the density and kind of growth is chosen according to whether or not the aquarium will be inhabited by fish and the kinds and number of fish kept. In accordance with this, the types of plantings for aquariums can be divided into several groups.

1) The aquarium as a decoration, without fish. This aquarium is a tasteful ornament which, in conjunction with suitably chosen floral decorations, will create a pleasant appearance in the home. Such an aquarium requires less care than ordinary indoor pot-plants and should be a part of the decor of every home that has central heating, as it helps reduce moisture lost to the heating system. An indoor aquarium often enables one to cultivate those plants which cannot stand dry air and which do not thrive in a room with central heating.

The beauty of a planted tank can be maintained by the regular removal of excess growth. Some species grow at a much faster rate than others depending on the light and nutrient conditions In the tank.

This type of aquarium is usually planted with the least exacting plants, mainly those that propagate vegetatively. Often only a single species is used; Vallisneria with spirally coiled leaves (V. americana) is recommended. This plant grows abundantly over the whole aquarium and produces fine visual effects with an underwater light source.

In addition it is possible to furnish the bottom with low-growing plants to cover the whole floor of the aquarium and create a lower layer of vegetation. Here Sagittaria subulata, Marsilea browni, Eckinodorus quadricostatus, or E. tenellus is suitable. The green carpet on the bottom is complemented by plants with long floating and densely leaved stems (Myriophyllum, Anacharis, Elo-dea, Egeria, Lagarosiphon) or with 2 or 3 tufts of a large-leaved plant whose leaves reach the water surface and do not develop from rhizomes or root runners (Aponogeton, Eckinodorus).

Some plants can be ruined by freshwater snails such as Planorbis. Photo by M. Chvojka.

Aquariums planted in this manner require very little maintenance. In order to prevent them from becoming overgrown by algae, a few snails may be added. Water should be added every 2 to 4 weeks to replace that lost through evaporation. These decorative aquariums can be placed in a flower corner with potted plants or separately; potted plants grow very well in the vicinity of aquar-

2) An aquarium with fish and plants, serving exclusively as a decoration. This type of tank should meet the same basic conditions as the first type: it should be decorative, increase the humidity, and require little attention. In order for not only the plants but also the fish to be conspicuous, the aquarium should not be planted with any species that grows over-abundantly, because this would mean frequent disturbing of the aquarium in order to thin excess plantlife, Tall plants are not used except for those which do not reproduce vegetatively. This is so the aquarium remains permanently in the condition in which it was first arranged.

The senior author's planted indoor tank complemented by various species of house plants.

Shown is an aquarium installed as an integral part of the wall and room decor. Determining the right position for an aquarium requires some thought and advance planning. Photo by J. Elias.

Shown is an aquarium installed as an integral part of the wall and room decor. Determining the right position for an aquarium requires some thought and advance planning. Photo by J. Elias.

Geophagus jurupari, a popular aquarium fish from South America, digs in the substrate often in search of food resulting in the uprooting of plants. Photo by H. Hansen.

From the first everything is done that will contribute to the stability of the aquarium s appearance. The bottom is arranged in an irregular fashion and a big rock or tree root is placed in the aquarium to create the basic decoration. All stones are allowed to become covered with aquatic mosses, and the tree roots are covered with decorative ferns. The taller plants should be mostly Apo-nogeton, Echmodonis, and the larger species of Anubias and Lage-nandra. They may be complemented by the smaller Cryptocoryne nevittii, Sagittaria, or Marsilea. We can also create within the tank a dark, densely overgrown corner with common species of such genera as Hygrophila or Bacopa. If we want to have greenery just below the surface of the water, use a tuft of Elodea, Heteranthera, or Myriophyllum,

In an aquarium of this type there should be only a few species of fish. Pterophyllum (angelfish), Paracheirodrm innesi (neons),

Brachydanio (danios), and a few pairs of red platies or swordtails are good.

3) An aquarium for the fish specialist. Here the plants are of secondary importance because they are there only to fulfill the relatively minor decorative and biological purposes expected of them. Their maintenance should occupy the time of the aquarist as little as possible. Of the species whose vegetative propagation is rapid, the small plants forming a green lawn over the bottom prove most useful. Of the taller plants, only those that do not reproduce vegetatively (or do so very slowly) can be kept; otherwise they would soon overgrow the aquarium and have to be thinned. Plants must also be chosen that will thrive in the water conditions given to the fish. Thus if mainly tetras are kept, the plants must require or at least tolerate an acid medium (Cryptocoryne). If live-bearers are the aquarist's main interest, Echinodorus, Sagittaria,

This male Macropodus cupanus has built its bubbtenest using some branches of Riccia. The plant keeps the nest from breaking up easily.

This beautiful display tank with tiger barbs (Capoeta tetrazona) is greatly enhanced by the inclusion of actively growing water plants, A good lighting system ensures the growth of the plants. Photo by Dr. D. Terver, Nancy Aquarium, France.

It is also possible to keep plants In a home tank as long as the plants receive the required amount of light and nutrients. Photo by Dr. Herbert R Axelrod.

Olean water, a rich bottom, and accessibility to sunlight ensure the survival of aquatic plants In this area of Lake Malawi, Africa. Photo by Dr. Herbert R. Axelrod,

Bacopa moniera is one of many aquarium plants cultivated commercially

Vallisneria, and Anacharis are among the best choices. Mosses do well in tanks with killifishes and are useful in spawning the fish. Cichlids require robust and broad-leaved plants with firm leaves (such as Echinodorus and some varieties of Vallisneila); the roots of these plants should be protected by stones around the base of the stem so they cannot be dug out by the fish. These and other factors greatly limit the number of really satisfactory plants for each specialized aquarium, and the number is further reduced if the aquar-ist wishes to keep South American fish with South American plants, African fish with African plants, etc.

4) An aquarium for the plant specialist. Little can be said about this type of aquarium. The preference is usually confined to certain plant groups (such as Aponogeton, Echinodorus, Cryptocoryne, etc.), so the aquarist usually has a fairly good knowledge of the requirements of the plants and how they limit his arrangement of the aquarium. These aquariums are planted with a large number of species and, if the subject matter concerns the species of a single family, it is always necessary to complement these with other plants of a different structure. Otherwise such an aquarium is certainly valuable but has little decorative effect.

5) Biotic aquariums. These are aquariums which represent as accurately as possible a section of aquatic life in a particular area. The plants are therefore chosen not according to their overall appearance in the aquarium, but strictly on how they fit into the geographic area being reproduced in the tank. The aquarium is planted to resemble a tropical Asian jungle, an African lake, or a lagoon in the Amazon basin of Brazil, among many other possibilities. The esthetic appearance of the finished aquarium must of course be given some consideration. It is also natural that the fish should conform to the area from which the plants were obtained. Some plants typical of the main geographic areas are:

Wide-leaved plants are Ideal spawning substrates for armorel catfish like Corydoras aeneus.

Anubias congensis is a well known plant from the African continent

South America: Echinodorus (except E. cordifolius and E. berteroi), Heteranthera, Myriophyllum aquaticum, M. elatinoi-des. Ahernanthera, Hydrocleis, and Cabomba, among others.

Central America: Bacopa amplexicaulis, Cabomba, Elodea, Ludwigia, Echinodorus cordifolius, E. berteroi, E. tenellus, Myriophyllum hippuroides, M. pinnatum, Sagittaria graminea, and S. subulata.

Africa: here is the smallest choice of plants, and one can mention only Anubias, Lagarosiphon, Baldellia, and Ranalisma.

Tropical Asia (including Indonesia): Cryptocoryne spp., Apo-nogeton natans, A. undulatus, A. crisprn, Barcktya, Blyxa, Hygro-phila, Lagenandra, Limnophila, and Vallisneria gigantea.

Tropical Australia: Aponogeton elongatm and Marsilea brownii.

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Aquarium and Fish Care Tactics

Aquarium and Fish Care Tactics

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