Here on this page, you will find the galleries of the creative creations of Filipino Aquascapers featured on this website. You will also find the timeline photos of some aquascapes from the beginning to the current state. To start off with, here is the Evolution of my Planted Aquarium which showcases all the events that happened with my tank, some of the insights that I learned along the way, and all my ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ in keeping this planted aquarium at my terrace.
I Was a Beginner Too and Still Is
My Beginner’s Planted 35 Gallons Aquarium using the same filter, filter media, gravel, decorations from my old 15 gallons fish only tank. Using the same items from your established tank coupled with live plants is the fastest way to cycle your tank.
I am still a beginner, even the pros or seniors still encounter problems from time to time and learn something new every day. When you claim to know everything, that is when your learning stops. As I said before, every planted aquarium is unique, what works for you may or may not work for others. There are just too many variables that solving a problem or finding the balance should be on a tank-to-tank basis.
I Am Into DIY-ing
Started Off Using a DIY 5050 LED lighting that I can change colors via a remote (this is just a temporary light that I have lying around). I also started with an Overhead Filter. As you can see, the top of my tank prevents me from doing easy maintenance, and I will eventually fix this.
Trying to Make it All Natural
I planned on removing the plastic plants, shells, and ceramic decorations to make it all-natural. This is my Hardscape Diorama Style Bonsai created for me by Jeremy Navarro here in the Philippines. The Bonsai was made from Tweety woods and was built using unused cigarette filters and cyanoacrylate super glue to increase the surface area between contacts.
Before adding the Bonsai driftwood, I did a temporary rescape to accommodate it and add additional Aquasoil. I did the rescape with the water still in my tank. My Amazon Swords and Crypts were uprooted and were held temporarily in basins with deep well water.
Bonsai Driftwood Added and Additional Aquasoil
My new aquasoil made my water cloudy for a few days, and I wouldn’t say I like the different colors (brown) compared to my Ista Aquasoil (black), so I am having reservations and planning to rescape again. I planted the Amazon Swords and Crypts and glued the Anubias and Bucephalandras on the rocks. Java Moss was glued between the driftwood branches.
Checking If I Like the Natural Look
After a few days, my water cleared with the filter running, but still, I’m not too fond of the new aquasoil (brown), plus it’s hard to plant in this aquasoil. I decided to do a major rescape using only Ista aquasoil, x4 8L bags, and remove the gravel but retain the rocks.
The new Ista Aquasoil arrived, and I ordered new plants. I got lazy with the Monte Carlo Carpet and just weighted them in patches. One of my Bonsai branches broke off, so I just put it in the left weighted by a rock. I used the same water before the rescape.
New DIY LED Lighting System
After the rescape, I DIYed a new LED Lighting System comprised of Warm White, Cool White, Red, and Blue LED strips.
New DIY LED Lighting System in Action
New DIY LED Lighting in action. As you can see on the right outside the tank, I started experimenting with using a DIY CO2 system (Citric Acid + Baking Soda Mixture).
Always Use a Dimmer for your Lighting System
I DIY-ed a Dimmer for my DIY LED Lighting just in case I started to see algae beginning to show its fangs.
Replanted the Monte Carlo Carpet the Right Way
I replanted the Monte Carlo the right way by segregating and planting them in the aquasoil in 2-3 bunches. You can see the CO2 diffuser, and I was still finding ways to make the pressure and bubbles per second stable. A new problem arose! My Gold Barbs were wreaking havoc with my plants, most especially the Mosses, shredding them. In the process of catching/netting them, I ruined the aquascape and need to rescape again. I DIYed a PVC valve in the outtake of my pump to decrease the water pressure.
My 3rd and Final Rescape
I gave away my Gold Barbs and started my 3rd and final rescape. Re-arrange the rocks to give more space at the front
I got substantial growth here, and plants are transitioning. I am still experimenting with the position and direction of my submersible pump’s outtake so that there will be good CO2 distribution across the whole tank. The CO2 diffuser is on the right. DIY LED Light is at full intensity. I didn’t know there was a menace lurking already.
Very Nice Growth But Menaces Started to Show Its Fangs
Having nice growth here, but Black Beard Algae (BBA) and Staghorn Algae started to show on plants leaves. I am still fighting with the inconsistencies of the DIY CO2 pressure and differing bubbles per second rate throughout the day. I learned that BBA and Staghorn Algae are primarily caused by fluctuating CO2 levels, which I am dealing with.
Still Battling with the Most Stubborn Algae
Still having nice growth here, I am still battling two of the most stubborn algae (BBA and Staghorn). I learned how to use the magnetic ball in my DIY CO2, which made the pressure and the rate more consistent. I also adjust my DIY LED light lower to 80 % intensity and then observed this for 2 weeks. BBA and Staghorn algae are not multiplying anymore, and what’s left of them, I spot dosed with a Liquid Carbon product. They turned red/purplish in color after a day, which means they are dying, then turned into gray and disappeared in a few days.
After Dealing With Those Stubborn Algae
I am still using the DIY CO2 here but changed the diffuser into the bazooka type, which has finer CO2 bubbles. I also upgraded my overhead filter into the Sun Sun 303B Canister filter. I honestly admit the DIY Blue PVC pipe that I used was an eyesore inside the tank. The canister filter has more room for filter media, and I could free up any objects obstructing the top of my tank. I added an aquarium fan (clipped on the backglass) to cool the water via evaporative cooling.
Upgrading my Equipment
Once I overcome the war with BBA and Staghorn Algae. I upgraded my overhead filter to a Canister Filter. I also ordered a 10 lbs pressurized Industrial CO2 tank and still waiting for my CO2 regulator’s shipment and inline CO2 diffuser from CO2Art. As you can see, I DIY-ed a PVC holder for my U-glass because I have a Euro braced aquarium.
Upgraded my DIY Light to Chihiros A601 Plus
I also upgraded my DIY Light (It served me well. We were able to defeat those stubborn algae by just lowering its intensity along with the DIY CO2 fix). But it’s time to move on as some of the LEDs are not lighting anymore, could be due to the water evaporation. It had no diffuser cover. The new Chihiros LED Light is still set to 80 % intensity. You can also see the AquaZonic Fan that I am using, giving good gaseous exchange with the atmosphere, and cooling the water temperature via evaporative cooling. I have to top-up the water every day, though.
From DIY CO2 to Pressurized
My CO2 regulator, inline diffuser, and accessories from CO2Art arrived, and my 10 lbs tank is ready to be setup. I initially set it to 1 bubble per second (bps), but I am not getting green on the drop checker. I experimented with this for weeks. I tried 3 bps, I am getting green on the drop checker, but I have to trim plants every week. I finally settled to 2 bps. I don’t have to trim too frequently and to enjoy my tank. BBA and Staghorn have yet to come back.
I also employed automation on my lighting, submersible pumps, CO2 regulator solenoid using smart plugs and extensions, which you can control by setting a timer and through voice commands. I am also using an automatic timer and dimmer (S2-Pro) for my LED Light to simulate dusk and dawn. These automation devices can help you just to enjoy looking at your aquariums. We will discuss these automation devices in an upcoming article coming soon.
Welcome to the Jungle
I got busy, and I don’t have the time to trim.
I upgraded my AquaZonic 6 Fans into x2 dual CPU fans with custom acrylic housing made by Ahmed Cruz in the Philippines. My previous fans were a nightmare to clean and maintain, plus the horrible noise that I cannot figure out where it was coming from. I was using one here in the first quarter of 2020, but I have to use two of these when summer arrived. And my plants and faunas were able to endure the scorching summer heat here in the Philippines.
Changed the Plants Position
I did a major trim of the Hygrophila Angustifolia and replanted them at the back-left. Limnophila Hippuridoides (Violet) claiming the center stage. There is a little Staghorn lurking in the Hygrophila Pinnatifidas.
Experimentation with Stem Plants on Driftwood
I experimented with Ludwigia Super Red Mini, and Alternanthera Reineckii Mini tied into a Driftwood to see if they will grow.
Testing Stem Plants on Driftwood
Ludwigia Super Red Mini and Alternanthera Reineckii Mini tied into a Driftwood inside the tank and observed it for a few weeks. Only to find out it was already done when I watched a similar video on Youtube. I am dosing fertilizers in the water column, and they will get their nutrients from the water column.
Ludwigia Super Red Mini and Alternanthera Reineckii Mini tied into a Driftwood was successful. They grow roots from their nodes and getting their nutrients need from the water column. As you can also see, I deployed mini submersible pumps to distribute the nutrients and dissolved CO2 in the water column.
Large Scale Trimming and Overstocking
Those red fish are Mickey Mouse Platies, and they breed uncontrollably in my tank, made my tank overstocked but there is still minimal to no visible algae. My nitrate level is very high though (40-80 ppm). To resolve this I have to do something natural. I don’t want to give away my Platies and I don’t have the time to do frequent water changes.
My Pothos Plant Epipremnum Aureum
According to my research, the Pothos Plant (Epipremnum Aureum), commonly known as Devil’s Ivy can suck-up large amounts of nitrates from the water column. Just submerge its roots under the water and indeed, with just my regular weekly water change of 25 %, my nitrate levels came down to just 10 to 20 ppm and stayed that way. I put a couple of my wife’s Pothos in my aquarium. But I know there will come a time that while my Platies are breeding profusely, that my filter and my Pothos could not keep up anymore and I have to eventually give them to my co-hobbyists.
I transferred the Ludwigia Super Red Mini, and Alternanthera Reineckii tied on the Bonsai to the substrate. Little did I know there is another menace lurking deep in the substrate. But it was not an alga.
Removed the Carpet
As you can see here, I removed the Monte Carlo carpet. There was a new menace, and it wasn’t algae, it is Cyanobacteria commonly known as Blue-Green Algae. It is lurking underneath my substrate at the front and right side glass and trying to get out under my carpet.
I removed most of the bacteria under the substrate using a toothbrush. The cause could be a dirty substrate as my Monte Carlo carpet cannot be siphoned efficiently due to its thickness and not allowing water flow in the substrate. Another cause that I can think of was elevated temperatures due to the Philippines’ scorching summer heat, and my tank is on our terrace.
I Have to Re-scape
When I removed the Cyanobacteria under the substrate using a toothbrush, some of the smallest/non-visible patches flew and attached to other plants and my bonsai. And the bacteria multiplied very fast that I grew tired of trimming the leaves of my plants that have them. So I decided to re-scape. I had plans of changing it to an open scape anyway because I cannot see the back part anymore, and I cannot clean/siphon it. I retained the Bonsai and cleared it with the bacteria.
As you can also clearly see, the slope does not look good.
Reversed the Slope and Siphoned the Substrate
I thoroughly siphoned the substrate to clear it with all the remaining detritus, bacteria, etc. I also re-arrange the substrate’s slope, getting higher towards the base of the bonsai and getting higher from the front and towards the back. This will give the scape a 3D effect.
Added Another Driftwood Branch in the Substrate
This was the old driftwood branch that detached before, and I tied some Anubias and Bucephalandras using black sewing thread. I will carefully mold the hardscape around this branch and at the base of the bonsai.
Ordered About 10 Kilos of Black Lava Rocks
I thoroughly cleaned the Black Lava rocks using running water and a toothbrush, then baked them under the sun for two days. This is to make sure there will be no hitchhikers coming into my tank (organisms, parasites, algae, etc.)
Selected Black Lava Rocks Ready for Hardscaping
This was after cooking the rocks under the sun for two days. I selected the rocks based on their size to not detract from the scale that I am trying to portray relative to the bonsai. I also selected them base on their textures.
I started to layout the rocks carefully around the driftwood branch and at the base of the Mother Bonsai tree creating pathways and flow to the scape. I also noticed some of the lava rocks are not really black as light shines on them.
Epiphyte Plants Tied to a Black Lava Rock
Assorted kinds of Bucephalandras were tied to a Black Lava Rock, using green sewing threads to provide small details to the scape.
Done with the Hardscape
I was done with the hardscape layout, but this is still subjected to modifications in the future. If you can notice too, there are still Anubias and Bucephalandras growing on the Mother Bonsai, and I was planning to transfer them to the rocks below, so they are not near the light source. They are prone to catch algae such as Green Spot Algae as they are slow growers. The Hygrophila Pinnatifidas will remain growing on the Bonsai.
Bought Three Tubs of Dwarf Hairgrass
It requires a lot of patience, just segmenting these grasses before planting.
Segmenting the DHG
Those bunches of DHG still contain about 8 to 12 individual plants, so I still have to segment them thoroughly.
Started Planting the DHG
I planted 5-6 plants per bunch here. Line them up, then trimmed the roots before planting but be careful not to cut the bulbs (base) of the individual plants (just the roots). As you can also notice, I didn’t trim the flowers yet.
Done Planting the Dwarf Hairgrass
I should have trimmed the blades before planting. But, oh well, my back was aching already.
Hardscape Layout Modifications - Rocks and Bonsai
When I was removing the remaining Anubias and Bucephalandras from the Mother Tree, one of the main branches snapped off, so I fixed it first by lowering the water level below the branch’s joint where it was supposed to be glued. Then I tied Christmas Moss to the detached branch before gluing it. I use unused cigarette filters as well to increase the surface area of the glued joint. I also modified and replaced one of the rocks at the back, replaced it with a large one.
Added Some Tripartita Minis and First Trim of the DHG
I planted the Tripartita Minis at the base of the Mother Tree and trimmed the DHG.
Added a Surface Skimmer
Added a Surface Skimmer near the intake of my Canister Filter. This is to filter out the surface oils and dust from the water surface. If you can also notice, Diatoms and Hair Algae are starting to develop on the Hardscape and DHG. The Christmas Moss was adjusting to my water parameters and turned brown. It will bounce back eventually, don’t worry.
From a heavily planted scape to less planted, I have yet to rebalance my lights, CO2, fertilizer dosing, and this was the result. Diatoms and Hair Algae are getting worse, and even BBA started to thrive in my DHG and Mosses. So I performed a 50 % water change immediately then lowered the intensity of my Chihiros A Plus from 80 % to 60 %. I also changed my dosing to 1/3 EI due to the undemanding plants that I currently have. I observed this for two weeks.
Bought Some Black Mollies
And I bought six Black Mollies and indeed, they did a short work with the Green Hair Algae.
After two weeks, the algae situation improved after my light intensity change and reduced fertilizer dosing. It is not getting worse, but it still looks bad. The Christmas Moss is bouncing back. I also removed the Tripartita Mini due to they are not looking healthy when I first planted them in the first place. I forgot that I left them overnight in a water basin with Hydrogen Peroxide (I always disinfect newly bought plants with a 1:3 mix ratio of H2O2 and water respectively before planting but only within 10 minutes of soaking, not overnight). So I decided to repurchase new DHG and Tripartita Minis and redo the planting.
Experimentation with Growlights
I got really long delays. Before the DHG and Tripartita Mini arrived, I experimented with a grow light along with my Chihiros. My Chihiros is set to 50 % intensity, and the grow light is set to full 30 watts. This is just temporary. I want to see what will be the effect on my plants. I don’t even have a plant in my tank that can go red, well, except the Hygrophila Pinnatifidas that can. I want to see if it will accelerate the plants’ growth with added blue and red lights. My Chihiros claims to be full-spectrum white.
Another Try with the DHG
My DHG and Tripartitas arrived. I started by planting the DHG. This time around, I tried smaller bunches of 3-4 plants only. I trimmed the roots and trimmed the blades (flowers) as well before planting. Diatoms and BBA subsided already once I found the balance, but there are still a few Hair algae but manageable and not noticeable unless you look too closely. I got free Pogostemon Helferis too.
Getting There and Pogostemon Helferi
Almost there with the DHG, and I also got some free Pogostemon Helferis.
What a Relief
Backaches again! As you can see, the Mosses are exploding now. The slope of the substrate, along with the DHG, makes for a 3D effect.
New and Healthy Tripartita Minis
What more can I say?
Planted the Tripartita Minis
Planted the Tripartita Minis too thick, and now I am waiting for them to adjust in my tank.
My Tripartita Minis Adjusting Well
My Tripartita Minis adjusted well in my tank. I also imagined the potential look once they filled every space occupied by the DHG so I decided to buy more Tripartita Minis and propagate them.
Removed the DHGs
I removed the DHGs and propagated the Tripartita Minis in its place. I also begin to noticed potential problems with my Christmas Moss. They are floating and loose. They didn’t attach to the driftwood. If you all remember, I used black or green sewing thread to keep them in place while waiting for them to attach naturally to the driftwood, but alas, that didn’t happen.
Christmas Moss Issue
As you can see here, I removed the Christmas Moss. As it turned out, the moss underneath died, so it didn’t attach to the driftwood. I planned to trim the Java moss on the right side to re-fill the bare parts of the Bonsai. This time around, I will glue them. But how, underwater?
Java Moss Refill
I was about to start refilling here the bare parts of the bonsai with Java Moss. As you can see, I drained the water below the level of the bonsai. This was so I can use a super glue gel to attach the Java moss on it. Using a Cyanoacrylate glue in gel format will prevent rundowns. A small amount goes a long way.
Java Moss Already Glued to Driftwood
Despite using just small amounts of superglue gel, it still showed some white patches as it dried underwater. The Java moss will cover them over time as they grow lush just like the moss on the right side.
My Tripartita Minis Thriving
The Tripartita Minis was getting uncontrollable and due for a trim. I was planning to remove some in the far-right and also the ones underneath the Bonsai. The Tripartita’s below the bonsai is not as lush compared to those getting plenty of light. So I am planning to replace them with some more varieties of Anubias and Bucephalandra’s. They work well in low-light (being shaded) with CO2 injection.
Hygrophila Pinnatifidas Getting Invasive
I didn’t notice before that some of my Hygrophila Pinnatifidas detached from my Bonsai and landed somewhere with the Bucephalandras and Anubias. They formed a symbiotic relationship in which both species benefit from each other. I actually liked the look, and now they are getting invasive. The Anubias and Bucephalandras don’t mind, though.
Due Trimming of the Tripartitas
They cover the hardscape already and get invasive, so I trimmed them for the first time and preserved the slope. They were even starting to cover the tall Pogostemon Helferi at the right. You can also notice a white stripe on the left side. Those are duct tapes cut to length to cover the substrate from the outside ambient light from all sides (since my tank is outside, on our terrace). This is hopefully to prevent Cyanobacteria from ever coming back underneath my substrate. So they cannot photosynthesize.
Current State For Now
I freed the right side of the Tripartita Minis, also at the back underneath the Bonsai. I am still waiting for the Anubias and Bucephalandras from my co-hobbyist friend. They will be attached to the Black Lava Rocks I have lying around.
As you can see from this series about the evolution of my tank, as your plants grow, the look of your planted tank changes, it changes the scape, and with these changes, variables also change.
From the water parameters, lighting, CO2 injection, nutrients, heavily planted or sparsely planted, filtration, stocking of faunas, etc., you must find the balance of all the factors that make your planted tank a success.
Evolution of my Planted Aquarium