An aquarium tribute to a master ’scaper.
This lovely Nature Aquarium style layout was set up to honour aquascaping legend Takashi Amano — and despite the appearance, it’s surprisingly low maintenance. Here’s how it all came together...
Most of my aquascapes at home tend to be on the smaller side, usually ranging from 25 l nano tanks to around 100 l. I rely on creating new aquascapes frequently, so I can test creative ideas, hardware, plants, and also as a source of material for PFK magazine and other media outlets. Large aquariums cost too much to regularly strip down and start afresh, and they generally take a lot longer to maintain.
But I’ve been craving a larger tank for ages, with a view to running it long-term and fairly low maintenance. So, I decided to set up one of the new Evolution Aqua aquariums — an Aquascaper 1200, measuring 120 x 60 x 45cm/48 x 24 x 18in. With a total volume of 324 l, it’s the largest aquarium I’ve had in my current home. The tank was built at Evolution Aqua’s factory in Wigan, so I went to collect it personally. I took the aquarium home, somehow managing to lift it alone into my house (not recommended). The cabinets usually come pre-built but I had to take it flat-packed due to lack of space in my car.
I spent the next few weeks with the empty tank in its final location, pondering on what I would do with it. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the Nature Aquarium style that was pioneered by the late, great Takashi Amano. So, I decided to create a layout in his honour and pay respect to the master that started me off on my aquascaping journey.
I had been hoarding a load of decent large-sized hardscape materials for over a year, hoping that one day I’d be setting up a bigger tank. My favourite style of aquascape incorporates both wood and rocks and I had
two beautiful large pieces of Redmoor roots ready to go. They had already been soaking for several months so were guaranteed to sink.
I chose mini landscape rocks to serve as a base that would span the length of the aquarium. I knew I wanted something relatively low maintenance so decided against a carpeting plant. Instead I opted to use a cosmetic open foreground consisting of an off-white quartz fine gravel from Dennerle. The rocks would serve as the ideal barrier between the gravel and the soil that would be home to the rooted plants.
I deliberately avoided ordering the plants for a while so I could create the best hardscape layout I could without rushing. I even filled up the aquarium with water so I could see exactly how it would look long-term (your visual perspective changes significantly when viewing the aquarium empty or full of water). Eventually I ordered my plants from Tropica — a mix of ferns,
Anubias, Crypts, and fast growing stems. Later on in the aquascape’s life I added a variety of Bucephalandra and I removed the stem plants as they were proving to be too high maintenance.
Movement and colour
Around five weeks after planting I added the first fish — 30 White Cloud Mountain minnows. As beautiful as these are, they were swallowed up by the large aquascape. I was kindly given a shoal of Rasbora
borapetensis from a local shop that was stripping down one of its displays. I wanted something large so went for a dozen Scissortail rasboras to add a sense of movement. A final splash of colour was provided by a shoal of Harlequin rasboras.
After a huge infestation of snails I was recommended six Dwarf chain loach that
Such a large footprint requires some investment in filtration to ensure sufficient circulation, allowing the plants to have access to CO2 and nutrients. This is supplied by two JBL 1501e filters that have a great flow rate, especially considering their low power consumption. I fitted the filters with clear hosing and glass inlets and outlets to minimise any distraction on the aquascape.
Lighting is a big investment in a set-up like this, with two Kessil A360we Tuna Sun LED lamps from Evolution Aqua. I had never used these before but am seriously impressed with their ability to grow plants. The glitter lines they produce due to their point source LED looks very natural. A Kessil Spectral Controller allows me to control their intensity and colour. Rated at 90W each, running them at 50% is more than enough for my chosen plants and I suspect much more would give me algae issues.
Pressurised CO2 is always my preference for planted tanks. In this case I’m using a Green Leaf Aquarium CO2 regulator from the US and a 5kg CO2 fire extinguisher.
An external inline diffuser and a Hydor external inline heater both help to keep equipment out of the tank, minimising any distraction from the aquascape.
Evolution Aqua (tank, cabinet, lighting) JBL (filters, substrate) Aquarium Gardens, Tropica and Dennerle (plants and quartz gravel) Maidenhead Aquatics @ Huntingdon (fish) Green Leaf Aquarium (CO2 regulator and aquascaping tools)
Iain Sutherland (assistance with cabinet, planting and maintenance).
This aquascape uses easy, undemanding plants combined with Redmoor root and mini landscape rocks. See George’s set-up on PFK’S Youtube channel by clicking HERE!
The tank was plant free for some time, so that George could get the hardscape exactly how he wanted it.
Shrimp were added as an algae control.