I finally got an idea on what I wanted to do with a 29 biocube that I got from a friend for Christmas (very cheap too...only $10 for the tank, stand, pump and heater) and I think I'm happy with the direction the tank is going in. The first idea for the tank was a saltwater tank (as what most biocubes are), but with my limited college budget and little time that I am really around the tank a saltwater tank was not working. The air in my dorm is very dry and I had to top off the tank almost daily with a gallon of RODI and it got expensive fast. So, I sold off a large chunk of my saltwater supplies and the tank sat empty for a few weeks and let me tell you starting at an empty tank is not a fun thing to come home to after class. In my Streams & Rivers class we have a predator tank with some young pike and gar as well as a tank of young perch, bass and shiners. Both of these tanks got me inspired to possibly setup a native fish tank again and this time on a larger scale which I was excited about.
I had a few Ideas in my head on possible scaping layouts, the first was a pseudopaludarium where I would get some substrate balls and wedge them in the nooks of wood to allow me to plant terrestrial plants just above the water line. I also thought of doing a straight up pauludarium with a drip wall, but I wanted something a bit lower maintenance. I was thinking of making a bank that ended with and area to hold around 1-2" of water to allow me to plant some spike rushes/sedges and create a very realistic pond bank tank, but I ultimately went with the basic aquarium full of water approach. I feel like I made the right choice and I really do love the way the tank looks, it has great depth and the tannins are almost at the perfect level.
When I scaped the tank I did however make the bank system for my tank, when thinking of ways to make my bank I thought about using foam boards to build up the back. This could've worked but would have taken a lot of time (which I didn't really have) and it could have made my dorm a huge mess from carving. I chose to try using filter floss to make my banks and I would say it worked out perfectly. I like using filter floss as it is easy to "mold", cheap and can work as bio-filtration under the substrate (or it will go anaerobic and kill my tank). I did weight it down with Aqua soil, this worked great and allows me to plant up with whole bank if I want to in the future, along with a few accent rocks for good measure.
Here is how the scape looked in the early stages:
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The real showstopper or centerpiece of the tank has to be the piece of tigerwood that I got from Modern Aquatics, its the perfect size and I love how it looks like a root ball which is perfect for the stream like habitat that I will be replicating. The piece is roughly 14-16" wide and 15" tall or so. I love how dark it got after it was submerged and it did not even float which is good because I forgot to soak it beforehand!
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The aqua soil was covered in some sand I got from a lake this past summer and I mixed in 2 grades of gravel (one smaller more tan and a larger redder tone), some crushed oak leaves and twigs and a few pieces of sphagnum moss. On top of the sand substrate a layer of Oak leaves and birch cones were added to get a more natural look. I did talk to the owner of Tannin Aquatics and are working out a US botanical pack that would contain seed pods and leaves from the US, I also picked up some Bur oak caps and KJE Aquatics had some alder cones.
Here is how big the Bur oak caps are, almost like a mini coconut hut!
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The biocube is great due to the AIO chamber that allows all the filtration to be hid and if needed a heater to keep stable temps as my water is in the high 60s to low 70s. These temps might be okay for the fish I want, but I am unsure how well they will do in the long run.