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Starting a fifty liters (~ 50 l), “panorama” planted tank, just for the fun of it … - I

by Andreas I. Iliopoulos

When I sold the equipment of the lfs I was keeping in Hermoupolis at Syros island, I was left with a small “panorama” tank, measuring sixty centimeters (60 cm) of length, with all its supporting units. All in all, a glass aquarium manufactured by RENA, which I received, within an order of aquatic goods, with its bottom glass broken. Although I visited the director of the shipping company, I had no success and when I realized that I would never take any compensatory for this damage, I knew I had two only options: either I should keep the fine quality equipment of the tank (an excellent manufactured plastic hood with water proof lighting system attached, an internal canister sponge filter and one completely submersible aquarium thermostat), which I could sell or give for serving some customer with the same tank and malfunctioning equipment and get rid of the rest (glass tank) – as an attempt to repair it would be financially out of any question – or else try to fix the glass tank with a “far out” method and keep the system for myself.

Of course I decided to take the second option. The particularity of the trapezoid cast of this tank caused me some unexpected problems. After careful measurements of all the dimensions of the bottom part, both inside and outside the tank, I prepared a sketch of the two pieces of glass I should order for this repair, as I planned to glue one glass plate on the outer side and another in the inside of the bottom glass, to eliminate any licking. This rough drawing included the exact dimensions of every single of the six (6) sides on both the pieces. I took this piece of paper and I went to a glass store to order the four millimeter (4 mm) thick glass pieces. The owner could not understand what I needed and he made me to construct one hardboard pattern for each piece. I prepared him the pattern and after three days – tank god – I went back to take my glass pieces, as the day before he had cut them, but incorrectly. Instead of trapezoid cast he managed to cut two nice and beautiful glass triangles. I still am not able to explain the reasons of his incapability to understand what I wanted then.

As long as I ensured myself for the accuracy of the dimensions of these two pieces, I cleaned the broken bottom glass thoroughly with pure alcohol and using a lot of aquarium silicon I glued the inner glass plate inside the tank. Afterwards I glued the outer glass, on the external side, with the same way. I left silicone to dry and loose its strong smell, and I set a micro-tank in which I kept for about one year and a half – till I sold the business – a juvenile pair of Altolamprologus compressiceps and six (6) also juvenile Paracyprichromis nigripinnis “Blue neon” originated from Zambia. Of course I had managed to set the essential natural artificial environment, constructing a rocky complex, made of rocky calcareous plates. I put these plates vertically, based on a hard styrofoam plate of ten millimeters (10 mm) thick, which I had glued on the bottom glass. The rest of the aquascaping was plain sand, of course. This rocky complex was very convenient as it was nice to see and a good way to keep filter and thermostat out of site, as it was like a rocky cage with the equipment inside it and opened on the upper side, so when someone wanted to work with these items, simply could “uncup” the suckers, make anything needed and then put them back at place.

This basic equipment that the particular system comes with, is one internal sponge filter RENA Filstar FiV2, with a turnover of five hundred eighty liters per hour (580 l/h), height of one hundred and ten centimeters (110 cm) and consumption of five Watts (5 W) only. Additionally there is a fifty Watts (50 W) thermostat and a fluorescent Daylight bulb T8, SYLVANIA with an output of fifteen Watts (15 W), installed in its waterproof construction that it is attached on the plastic hood. With these means it was attainable to keep this small bioload healthy, acting out partial water changes every other week, of ten to fifteen percent (10% - 15%/15d) of the total water volume. My tap water then, had eleven degrees of GH (11° dGH), eight degrees of KH (8° dΚH), pH = 7,3. So I had to use sodium bicarbonate to increase the GH to 17° dGH, ΚΗ to 16° dΚH and to maintain a pH between 8,8 and 9,3. I was also keeping the temperature at a constant of 23 °C to 25° C. With a narrow piece of black thick plastic I was forcing light to be driven on the back side of the tank than go straight and dense to the bottom of the system, thus I managed to have the lights dimmed a lot, which provided shades and shelters to the shy A. compressiceps and even shier P. nigripinnis. I kept eight hours of light daily with a timer. Unfortunately I had no camera and I wasn’t taking any photos at all then, so I do not have any evidences of this particular season, but the remaining fact is that this was the fist time I saw P. nigripinnis with all their colors (it took them about three months to gain them) and I witnessed the true behavior of the A. compressiceps, which they were moving gently among the crevices looking for Artemia salina and spirulina flakes. The life of this system continued till the day I decided to sell the business. So I had to sell my completely conditioned fishes, but I managed to keep the tank, so I would have something to “play” with on the times will come. This tank kept out of function and dry till I moved to my new house. 

Within the corridor that drives from the living room to the kitchen and the rooms are placed on the one and on the other side of it, there is a cavity with the same exactly length and width with this particular tank, so this small system had found its place in my new home.

The cavity in the corridor was the perfect and functional place for this installation.

As long as I would use this cavity to install the tank I left with the stand. I supposed that the stand was the ideal place to put my video player and I did so.

During unpacking at my new house I found out one really dark piece of asian driftwood, measuring about twenty five centimeters (25 cm) and another larger piece of African bogwood of more than thirty centimeters (30 cm +), shaped like a wide “V” with an angle of at least one hundred and fifty degrees (150°); items I had kept stored in my stuff after I broke up a community tank I was keeping while I was living in Athens.

The piece of bogwood, measuring at least 25cm, put almost in the meddle of the set up.

This piece of dark driftwood is put standing, so its one side reaches the water level. When someone observes the tank from downwards has the strong sense that it is much larger. On both photos it is obvious that the water is relevantly clear. Photos: Andreas I. Iliopoulos/MCH

In the planted system I described, I was keeping Rasbora pauciperflorata, Melanotaenia praecox, Acanthophthalmus myersi and one (1) Ancistrus sp.. I was using several species of the genus Cryptocoryne, Echinodorus sp. and other species I cannot recall right now as there are about seven years passed from that time. Among the aquascaping items in this system were these pieces of roots, which I had managed to keep, just in case. I put these two pieces in a bucket filled with tap water, with which I was watering my voucamvilia plants every afternoon. Then I was refilling the bucket with fresh water and I was keeping on doing that for about two and a half months, so the roots were “cured”, although I did not achieved to get rid of all Vandyke brown coloration they are releasing, giving a tea-like color at the water. This way the look of the tank had started taking “flesh and blood”. The aquascape would include roots for sure

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