Planted Aquarium Galleries

by May 8, 202010 comments

Planted Aquarium Galleries - Timeline

Here on this page, you will find the planted aquarium 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 Vivariums which showcases all the events that happened with my tanks, some of the insights that I learned along the way, and all my ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ in keeping these Vivariums at my terrace.

As you can see from this series about the evolution of my tanks, as your plants grow, the look of your planted tank changes, it changes the aquascape, 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

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.

Temporary Rescape

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.

Rescaped Again

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

Substantial Growth

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.

Evolution of my Planted Aquarium – Continuation

Welcome to the Jungle

I got busy, and I don’t have the time to trim.

Another Upgrade

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.

Experiment Successful

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.

Hardscape Layout

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.

Evolution of my Planted Aquarium – Continuation

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.

Not Happy

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.

Some Improvements

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.

Evolution of my Planted Aquarium – Continuation

My Tripartita Minis

This is the close-up of my Hydrocotyle Tripartita Minis and they are pearling, providing dissolved oxygen to the ecosystem. You can also see the flowering Bucephalandra.

My Bucephalandra Sp Just Arrived

My Bucephalandra Species just arrived from my good friend Ian Garrido, Philippines. I soak them in 3:1 water and Hydrogen Peroxide solution to disinfect them for about 10 minutes then rinse. I then put them in a water basin with old water from my tank to acclimate them.

Added Back One of my Favorite Plants

I purchased some Cryptocoryne species from my good friend Farrell Oliveros, Philippines. These are Cryptocoryne Parvas, Lucens, Ferrugineas, and Pygmaeas. I put them in the far right portion of my tank. They don’t grow too big. Crypt Lucens and Parvas can be used as carpeting plants too.

Freed up some Spaces in my tank for the Bucephalandra species

I just couldn’t get rid of my Hydrocotyle Tripartitas so I left some. They are one of my favorites too. They can fill, creep anywhere, follows the contours of your hardscape, and sometimes, can get invasive though. You have to love trimming them from time to time.

Glued the Bucephalandras on Red Lava Rocks

One of the techniques I used to attach Epiphyte plants to the hardscape is to stick them using Cyanoacrylate glue in gel form before putting them in the tank. No run-offs and will not stress your plants too much. Regular Cyanoacrylate glues generate heat due to rapid exothermic reactions to organic or natural materials. That can cause serious burns to the Rhizomes and even you.

Also Glued Anubias Sp to Black Lava Rocks

They may de-stick in the future but Epiphyte plants will grow roots quickly to attach them naturally into hardscapes. Gel format Cyanoacrylate glues will dry like whitish patches when underwater but as you can see here, it is not noticeable. They are now ready to be put in the tank.

Planted MC as Carpet Again

So I decided to try Micranthemum Monte Carlo as carpet again. As you can see, I also remove the Moss from the Bonsai tree. They are floating again and I want to try different Moss species.

Done Planting the MCs

I planted them very close to each other in 6-8 individual plants per group. This way, they will fill my foreground in just a week.

Some Small Leaf Bucephalandra Sp at the Base of the Bonsai

I glued small leaf Bucephalandra species to Black Lava Rocks at the base of my bonsai for small details. The Bucephalandra Baby Tears were just inserted into the bonsai crevices.

New Mosses Glued to the Bonsai Tree Branches

Finally, my mosses arrived and were glued to the bonsai branches. They are a combination of Java Moss, Christmas Moss, and a different Moss that looks like Java but not quite.

This time around, I tied some small leaf Bucephalandra into Lava Rocks

It is much faster and easier than using glue gel but tying epiphytes plants into hardscape using black sewing thread is also feasible since I ran out of glue at this time. Plus, the plants cannot be easily detached once you submerged them. The glue won’t block the rhizome from rooting faster.

I decided to get rid most of the Hygrophila Pinnatifidas

They are getting invasive already and a bit uncontrollable and overtakes the rhizomes of some of my epiphyte plants.

Again, Small Details at the Front

Again, the Bucephalandra species are tied into small black lava rocks. The Amano shrimp is always the curious one. You can also see that the MC carpet is filling in nicely.

Filled up all Spaces with Epiphyte Plants

My planted tank consists of mainly epiphyte plants at this state. While the MCs, Pinnatifidas and Tripartitas aren’t, they sure behave like one sometimes.

Still, some Hygrophila Pinnatifidas remained and getting invasive

So some Hygrophila Pinnatifidas still found a way and this time around, I got rid of them for good. I started a Pinnatifida farm in a separate enclosure to propagate all of my previous trimmings in the hope that I can sell them for extra income.

Upgraded my Lights to Ledstar D60

I decided to upgrade my old Chihiros A Plus to RGBW Ledstar D60. The individual colors cannot be adjusted, though, but at least I now have a full-spectrum light with emphasis on the red and blue and a better CRI/color accuracy to my eyes. It is currently set to only 65 % at midday. It is also compatible with my S2-Pro timer and dimmer in one. My old Chihiros will be eventually installed in my Riparium and set aside for now.

Starting to ran out of CO2 here

I am running out of CO2 here (less than 500 psi) and the latest quarantine protocols due to the pandemic made it worse. I cannot refill my tank in time to my only trustworthy pet shop due to distance. It’s time to find a new trustworthy shop nearby.

And Here is the Result of no CO2 Injection for Over a Month

As you can see here, lots of deformed and dirty leaves in my Bucephalandra species, small leaves developed in my MC and Tripartita Minis. The mosses were not doing well either. Overall, the balance was out of whack and the colors are not good.

Result After CO2 Injection for Over a Month

Once I was able to refill my CO2 tank, here is the result after over a month of injecting CO2 again. I first trimmed the dirty and deformed leaves. Everything is back to normal and they grow new and healthy leaves. The only plants that didn’t seem to get affected were my Cryptocoryne species.

My Planted Aquarium August 2021

I replaced the affected Tripartitas. The Monte Carlo carpet, Bucephalandra sp., Anubias, and mosses continually bounced back after a few months of injecting CO2 again. I find the Monte Carlo hard to trim and messy to clean up so I am planning to replace them. I will be giving them away to my co-hobbyists friends.

My Planted Aquarium May 2022

Approaching the Philippines summer of 2022, my mosses started to deteriorate due to the scorching summer heat. They started to harvest hair algae too. My aquarium fans just managed to bring the water temperature down to 28-29 C. So I decided to replace them with Tripartita Minis. I just tied them over the mosses.

I also replaced the Monte Carlo carpet with Cryptocoryne Parvas.

My Planted Aquarium June 2022

It started raining – the dawn of the rainy season. But there are still consecutive days of no rain. Tripartita Minis are still messy to trim and clean up so I decided to replace them with Anubias coin leaves. I tied them to the driftwood.

I also added some Java Fern Mini Narrows and more Cryptocoryne Parvas for the carpet. The Crypt Tonkinensis, Pygmaea, Lucens, and Ferruginea at the back and sides still found a way for its runners to other locations of the tank with all that lava rocks on their way.

Evolution of my Planted Aquarium – Continuation

Against All Odds

This Cryptocoryne runner, against all odds, still managed to find a location in my tank to emerge from its unfavorable condition. Nature is patient, resilient, and works in mysterious ways.

My Planted Aquarium August 2022

I added beads of Osmocote to the substrate for the Cryptocoryne Parva carpet. The Anubias Coin leaves took over the driftwood. Overall, the plants are very happy especially when raining as the water temperature goes down to 25~24 °C. 

My Riparium’s Evolution

This is my Hygrophila Pinnatifida Farm in a Storage Box

Remember the Hygrophila Pinnatifida that I get rid of from my main tank? I bought a 35 gallons black storage box to farm them. I have a 7 watts submersible pump lying around to provide filtration and water agitation. This is to prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs. I also put some leftover ceramic rings as filter media.

Trying to Grow Them Emerged

Then I decided to grow them emerged for better access to atmospheric CO2. They are submerged on my previous setup with no CO2 injection. I used red lava rocks to provide varying shallow levels. You can also see that I am trying to experiment with grow lights as well.

Not Successful with the Farm so I Decided to try Something New

After about 3-4 months, the farm did not go so well and I had the idea back then to transform the enclosure into a shallow pond so the stray cats won’t reach them when trying to drink. My wife had a long due trim of her Pothos plants and I had to adopt them. I almost sold my old Chihiros lighting and it was hanging by a thread here.

Early Stages of my Riparium

I was surprised in my research that there is a name for this specific kind of enclosed ecosystem. Simulating shallow environments where water meets land like banks of rivers, streams, lakes, marshes, swamps, bogs, etc. but still have minimal to no land parts. This is called a Riparium. I also deploy a mist maker for some effects. Pothos can tolerate some of its leaves submerged but no more than an inch.

Why not Try it with Other Terrestrial Plants

I experimented with terrestrial stem, rhizomatic, and tuberous plants. As you can also see here, I also have plants submerged like Anubias sp, Bucephalandra sp from the main tank, and some MC and Tripartita for experimentations. You can also see that I planted Philodendron Xanadu and Begonia using Aquaponics net pots with pea-sized lava rocks as substrate.

Experimentation with Some Ornamental Plants

Here is the list of the Marginal plants that I was experimenting with shown in the image: Philodendron Xanadu and Temptations, Pothos, Coleus, Begonia, Calathea, Wandering Jew, Syngoniums, etc.

Most of Them are Working

The types of marginal plants that have a higher chance of success are creeping, rhizomatic, tuberous, bulbous terrestrial plants with only their roots submerged from my experience. Stem plants with woody stems mostly will not work but stem plants with succulent stems may work but once you trim them, they may slowly rot in the lower part. You can replace the lower part with the upper trimmings though.

After About 1 Month of my Riparium

The Syngonium was already reaching my light. I replaced the Calathea Medallion (due to very big leaves while in the foreground) with Dwarf Peace Lily and Calathea Setosa. At the right, I also added an Alocasia Cucullata and Monarch Ferns. I also experimented with Asparagus Fern but in planters. For the submerged plants, I added some Cryptocoryne species in the hopes that they will emerge from the water.

I added Some More Plants to Experiment

More plants to experiment with. I added a Persian Shield, Gotu Kola, Alocasia varieties, and some varieties of Coleus.

After About 2 Months

Most plants are thriving with only their roots underwater. The Philodendron Xanadu, Alocasia, and Begonia are a little slow though to produce new leaves. I also noticed some melting on the Spiderwort’s (Wandering Jew’s) lower stems submerged in water but growing new roots and branching on upper nodes.

After About 3 Months

The Coleus varieties are exploding. The Begonia produced more flowers but I had to trim them to sprout new leaves. The submerged Gotu Kolas are emerging from the water.

Maybe I Need to Raise the Lights

The Syngonium and Coleus are loving the environment and surpassing the height of my light. I also noticed that Syngoniums also has a creeping habit. I devised a plan to raise the light by hanging it.

Aquaponics and Riparium

A Riparium can act as a small-scale Aquaponics system wherein the plants (submerge, emerging, and marginal) and faunas give off and balance each other’s needs. The plants can help with the filtration of the water and in turn, the fish can provide their nutrients.

So I Raised My Light and Hanged It

I hung my light with 3 layers of fishing line about 17 inches from the top of the box. Eventually, the Syngonium will still reach it after several weeks. My Chihiros light is also on a timer and dimmer to simulate dusk and dawn.

Getting Uncontrollable

One of the concerns here is that the low level and submerge plants will not get enough light. We have to do some trimmings here. That is when I discovered that some stem plants don’t like to be trimmed in this kind of environment.

This applies to the Wandering Jew, any Coleus varieties, and Persian shield. The remaining lower part may slowly melt, rot, and die. You can replace the lower part with the upper trimmings though.

After About 4 Months

I added some Umbrella Palms, Fittonias, Alocasia Amazonica, and Philodendron Burle Marx to experiment more. They are of the rhizomatic, creeping, bulbous, tuberous types except for the Fittonia. The Coleus and Syngonium are slowly reaching the light again.

Replaced Some Plants

So I replaced all the remaining stem and colorful plants with Cyperus Isocladus, more Syngonium, Umbrella Palms, Horsetail, Boston Fern, and Alocasia Cucullata to make it more look like a pond or a river bank.

Some Plants Won't Work

The remaining plants here are the tuberous, bulbous, creeping, and rhizomatic types in which you have a greater chance of success.

Like I said before, most stem terrestrial plants don’t like to be trimmed in this environment, that is when only their roots are submerged in water. You can replace the lower part with the higher trimmings if you still want to use stem plants.

My Riparium January 2022

The tallest Umbrella Palms quintupled in height and overall, every plant thrived. It made a forest-like canopy and I have to trim frequently. Unfortunately, my Begonia died due to it fell including its planter into the water overnight and could not save all the leaves, they melted underwater.

My Riparium May 2022

Again due to the scorching summer heat of 2022 here in the Philippines, all submerged plants are not doing good and melting. 1 by 1, faunas died. The mist maker does not help either. It added to the water temperature sometimes in excess of 32 C and I cannot install fans here.

So I removed the mist maker and added deep well water ice to bring down the water temp to 28 C every day. I transitioned all submerge epiphyte plants to emerge and monitored. 

My Riparium June 2022

All the epiphyte plants (Bucephalandras, Anubias, etc.) that were previously submerged transitioned well to emerging. I just keep them wet all the time by spraying water for several days. I added Java Fern Minis, Lagenandra Meeboldii, Crypt Albida, Echinodorus Ozelot, and Tripartita Minis as emerged as well.

I also added Hydrilla, Jungle Vals, and Cryptocoryne varieties submerged, but this time around, they are in net pots with aquasoil as substrate.

My Riparium’s Evolution – Continuation

My Riparium August 2022

I have no problems anymore with regard to water temperature since I removed the mist maker. Rains are more frequent. On hot days, I still have to put ice in it to maintain the water temperature to 27~28 C. The Guppies are breeding profusely. I still have some problems with slugs eating some of the leaves. I just pick them as I see them taking a stroll in my Riparium. 

Epiphyte Plants in Emerged State

The emerged Bucephalandras and Anubias are also doing good as well. They are being kept wet by the constant water splashing. I still have to spray them with deep-well water on hot days. No problems as well on the submerged Cryptocorynes, Jungle Vallisnerias, and Hrydrillas. I added more Horsetails as well.


  1. Chas

    Hi Lemuel,
    I am fascinated indeed with all your aquariums. The all look very beautiful. How many are you keeping at one time?

    I noticed that some get very overgrown when you don’t trim back the plants. How often do you need to trim those plants?

    Many years ago I had a fish aquarium with a few rocks and mostly gravel. I must be honest I did not test the water or take the time to make them look anything like yours! Yours look great!

    • Lemuel Sacop

      Hello Chas,

      Thank you for visiting my website and appreciating my Vivariums. They are all actually on our terrace and I am just keeping 2 at the most, one 35 gallons planted tank and the one in the black storage box. I am planning to add more tanks with other different styles once I clear additional spaces on our terrace.

      I usually have to trim them once a week when my 35g was still somewhat ‘Dutchy’. It depends on your setup on how often you have to trim them. Back then my lighting was at 80 %, CO2 injection at 2 bubbles per sec (bps), 2/3 EI fertz dosing twice a week.

      Nowadays, I mostly keep undemanding epiphyte plants and Cryptocoryne’s so I only have to trim them every 3-4 weeks. My lighting is only 50 % intensity, 1/3 EI dosing twice a week, and the CO2 injection is at 2 bps.

  2. Barbara DiLucchio


    This is really interesting and very scientific! You have really up a lot of effort into learning about aquariums and the effects on the plant life when changing your settings! I really admire the effort you have put into this project and find it very interesting.

    Great job!

    • Lemuel Sacop

      Hello Barbara,

      Thank you for visiting my website and appreciating my vivariums. I hope in some way or two, I was able to help you in your decision to keep a planted aquarium in your very own home. I can’t wait to hear about your experiences and what you can come up with.

  3. Julia

    Your planted aquariums are beautiful,
    Each one is a work of art,
    The plants are so lush and green,
    The fish are so healthy and vibrant,
    It’s like a little slice of paradise,
    I could stare at it all day long,
    It’s the perfect way to relax,
    And forget all of life’s troubles.

    Thank you for sharing them and all that useful information about how you grew them!

    • Lemuel Sacop

      Hello Julia,

      Wow! You made a poem for my Vivariums. I really appreciate it. Thank you for visiting my website and appreciating my vivariums. I hope in some way or two, I was able to help you in your decision to keep a planted aquarium in your very own home. I can’t wait to hear about your experiences and what you can come up with.

  4. Julia Flourentzou

    Hi Lemuel, this is such a lovely site. I love the background effect you have across your pages, it kind of prepares one for the journey of Aquatic planters and Aquariums!

    It is really interesting to see your experiments and how your handled each project. I am not into Aquariums as such, more into cold water fish, like gold fish, but very interesting read and for any one who has Aquariums or hoby in this field.
    I love your image carousel, making it easy to follow your examples, tests and results too.

    All in all, a great article and read and good luck in finding the best ever solution, that will help others.
    Thanks you for sharing.

    • Lemuel Sacop

      Hello Julia,

      Thank you for visiting my website and appreciating the evolutions of my Vivariums. You see planted aquariums are all about the small details so I have to incorporate that too on the website design. I really appreciate how you notice the small details and nuances. I hope in some ways or two, I was able to help you in your decision to keep a planted aquarium in your very own home. I can’t wait to hear about your experiences and what design you can come up with.

  5. Shalisha Alston

    Wow. What a marvelous creation. Are you an artist? You experiment so well with your creativity. You give great attention to detail which is really important in your particular undertaking. I love that the plants are lush and green., and the fish look colorfully vibrant.

    • Lemuel Sacop

      Hello Shalisha,

      Thank you for visiting my site and appreciating this article. Can I see myself as an artist? Maybe someday. I just do things with rationality, naturality, and practicality in mind, and somehow, it turned out to look good to myself and maybe to others. The goal is to replicate how Mother Nature does it and learn from it.

      I hope, in some way or two, I was able to help you in your decision to keep a planted aquarium in your very own home. I can’t wait to hear about your experiences and what style you can come up with.


Leave a Reply to Lemuel Sacop Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This