Best Live Aquarium Plants

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Designing a Fish Tank with Live Giant Hairgrass

Eleocharis montevidensis or giant hairgrass is a gorgeous edition to most tanks. For those who like to keep a tank that looks simplistic and modern, a great edition to a Fluval design will do well in implementing a planting of hairgrass.

Hairgrass should be grown in tanks with fish that are smaller than one inch. I like it in my neon tetra and zebra danios tank. It also looks way more attractive planted in longer rather than taller tanks. To pull off the short and tall look one needs a large center piece like a twisting and crooked driftwood piece that starts from the bottom and goes to the top.

The best photos of hairgrass are deceptive. Typically a 5-10 gallon tank will have 15-20 of these planted to give the field of grass look. This is the most desirable look. One or two plants looks kind of out of place and does not provide the desired look of giving the fish a natural location for protection and breeding.

Eleocharis montevidensis also pairs well with mosses. Because it makes such a showy scene, reminisient of a Japanese garden only one or two companions should be choosen. Less is more as far as variety is concerned. Stick with a moss because it will make the foreground look much larger and the difference in size between the moss and the hairgrass will be more pronounced.

Besides a strong and tall piece of driftwood in tall tanks, longer shorter tanks would be well to include several smaller rocks. Focus on dark, metallic, gray looking rocks with rough edges, and natural dark spots. The dull elements in the dark crevices of the rock will really couple with the drama you are building.

As usual, this scene is set up nicely with Fluval Stratum. Here's my guide to choosing a substrate for your aquarium.

Monday, November 28, 2016

What are the Pros and Cons of Buying Fluval Aquariums Over Cheap Tetra Tanks?

This is a question I get a lot: "what makes Fluval tanks so expensive?" Or better yet: "why should I buy any other tank other than a Fluval aquarium?" The two are related because the Fluval brand is one of the most expensive on the market. Usually more than one hundred dollars for a modest 10 gallon or less tank. Whereas for less than $50 you could go to your local market and get a 50 gallon tank for under $50.

Here's what you should consider before buying a Fluval tank and why I think they might be the right fit for you.

First of all, I have upgraded all of my tanks to Fluval. That's the full disclosure. I know the pros and cons and can live with them.

Fluval Tanks are a Pain in the Butt to Clean

And just to be honest, here's the biggest con associated with the Fluval brand: they are really hard to clean. The attractive square design and the look of an infinity pool at the top leaves little space for the dilligent fish keeper to clean. If you are like me you prefer to get in there with a brush or even a magnet algae cleaner on a regular basis, often a few times a month.

What I have learned from this is to be really diligent about filling the tank with what I want, cleaning it prior and introducing the right living material in the tank so as not to make it a real pain in the butt when I absolutely have to clean.

For starters, anything you put in the tank has to come from a great source. If you are going to your local pond or lake and pulling pond scum, plants, frogs and turtles, Fluval is not for you. Go for Tetra. You will need to diligently clean the tank and you will need to constantly rearrange the space to accommodate the needs of the living species in there as they adapt to their new environment.

Don't buy fish at just any big box store. If you are buying a Fluval tank order your fish from a specialist. This might be in town, probably not anymore though. Online orders are actually a great idea. Choose same or next day shipping.

Finally fill the tank with the right species to keep it clean. I choose live plants that are not going to be constantly falling apart or decomposing in the aquarium that I have to fish them out. If you don't get an algae-eater fish, go for snails. In my Fluval's I have two snails for each, sometimes many more when they reproduce. This is a necessity even in a five gallon tank.

Fluval Tanks are Sexy

That chic square design that feels like something out of Europe or better yet, IKEA is pretty slick. It actually looks really sexy in a modern home design. Even in a cozy, shabby chic home Fluval tanks look like they belong.

You might be thinking this is no big deal but it really is the biggest deal. How long are you planning on keeping a fish tank in the house? Realistically, it's not going to sit there for a year or less. Most people buy a tank, fill it up, and forget about it except for a couple of times a year over the next decade or two. If your tank is going to be in your house for 10+ why not get something that's going to look great?

Because of the square and elevated designs of the Fluval tanks viewing is much easier. This can be a huge advantage for someone who really appreciates showing off their tank and species within it. I like to enjoy the shrimp crawling over and out of the mosses that I have attached to driftwood. It is relaxing and totally therapeutic.

Overall everything just looks natural. The lack of plastic barriers between the sides of the glass gives the impression that the tank is just part of the landscape of the house. You almost forget the fish are in a tank.

Bottom Line: You're going to have a tank for a long time. Decide what you want. Tetra tanks are much easier to manually clean and are significantly cheaper. Fluval tanks are gorgeous looking, but difficult to manually clean and a lot more expensive. What fits your lifestyle?

Sunday, June 12, 2016

What Size Aquarium or Fish tank do I Need to Grow Live Plants?

This was a topic I was going to write about a couple of years ago actually when the idea for developing this blog first came about. I like most people started filling my first tank (10 gallon Tetra kit) with plastic neon plants. I never realized as a youth that I could be afforded the chance to replace those with way better live plants that I could buy at my local Meijer or Walmart. Of course, later I would buy them online or reputable hobby aquarium shops. One thing that took a long time to understand though, was what size of tank I needed in order to grow my live plants. Here's my simple guide.

If you are going to be putting live plants in the Tetra 3 Gallon like the one pictured to the right, which I don't recommend you buy if you are serious about this hobby, you are going to be limited to 2-3 plants max! This is mostly due to the size, though the awkward entry point from the LED light at the top makes maintaining and planting in these cube tanks tough.

Planting live plants in anything smaller than a 3 gallon is just irresponsible and stupid. I've seen pictures all the time of fancy home designs in magazines or on Pinterest that have tiny fish tanks all around with one betta or guppie each, and some with a huge plant. All of us hobby aquarium keepers know that that is immoral and no fun for the fish or the hobbyist. Three gallon is the minimum with the only exception being moss balls.

Once we get a little higher than three gallon it starts to open up some doors for more elaborate live plantings. It also allows for some really cool dedicated aquascaping which is really what our eventual goal is. In a five gallon tank consider the placement of the plants and the focal point you want to create. Starting at that size, a lot of aquarium owners love to make a piece of driftwood or lava rock the center piece with the plants surrounding it but not overbearing it.

When you get to a ten gallon or more tank you are able to take advantage of beautiful lush landscapes of live plants like you never imagined. Though you will have to keep in mind, limiting natural light because it will cause algae outbreaks, and the use of C02 since you will have so many plants in there working so hard to thrive.

In the bigger tanks I've always enjoyed creating a full background. Instead of buying those neon colored backgrounds with photographs of someone else's tank, why not fill your own? Look for tall and full plants for the back. In the mid ground leave pockets of space open so that you can view your fish and create more natural focal points. I love placing smaller river stones in those locations, giving my snails a place to hide. And finally in the foreground place the smaller mosses and java ferns that are short and stubby. You don't want to hide your beautiful designs with plants that grow way to tall and bushy.

So what's the rule? There really is no rule. Just consider the space your fishes need to swim in to be comfortable and enjoyable for both you and them. Stuffing a bunch of live plants in a one gallon or less tank is really not a good idea. Three gallon is your minimum for planting and should be limited to just a couple of breath-taking or forgettable plants, depending on what your centerpiece is. After you get past five gallons the sky is the limit. Just remember it's more maintenance for you then.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Moving and New Gear - Aquarium Plans for 2016

It's been a long time since I've posted on here and just wanted to stop by and touch base. I'm still in the aquarium hobby, but I moved just after my last post in 2014 and just moved more recently a couple of months ago. During that two year period I was without aquariums completely. It was hard and actually quite brutal.

Thankfully, I'm back to civilization at a place where I can have my own tanks again. Hopefully over the next couple of months I can share some more reviews with you as I have some new Fluval tanks, some new gear, new substrate to review, and some different plants to write about.

Stay tuned!