Modern Aquascaping

A Seminar by George and Karla Booth

Part 1 - Introduction: Slides 1..11

Part 2 - Planted Aquarium Basics: Slides 12..46

Part 3 - Aquascaping and Plants: Slides 47..80

Slide 47  OK, now let's discuss some of the artistic aspects of planted tanks - underwater flower arranging. For a professional view of this art, we would suggest browsing some of the books by Takashi Amano entitled "Nature Aquarium World". He is a professional artist and photographer and does some incredible stuff with aquatic plants. But for the time being, you'll have to make do with our humble efforts. We will show arrangements and discuss some of the plants we use.
Slide 48  This is a nice scene in our 90 gallon tank. It has a nice variety of contrasts of both color and shape and has a good composition that flows from lower left to the middle right and back to the upper left. The center piece plant is a Barclaya longifolia.
Slide 49  Another feature of the open-top tank is a chance to see aquatic plants bloom . This is the flower of the Barclaya shown in the last slide. Note that this a is 24" deep tank, so that plant really had to work to get a flower to the surface.
Slide 50  The larger pink plant is Ammannia senegalensis. This makes a wonderful center piece and does well in warmer water. To the left is an Echinodorus osiris. Notice the bubbles collecting under the leaves - with strong light and proper nutrients, the plants are able to supersaturate the water with oxygen. The plant with pink leaves and white veins on the right is the "Sunset" variety of Hygrophila polysperma - a very fast growing and undemanding plant.
Slide 51  Here is a study in contrasts. To the far left is Elocharis acicularis (Hairgrass). Below it is Anubias coffeeafolia, a very attractive and rare form of Anubias (note the white flower spike). To the right is Lysimachia nummularia (Money Penny). Each of these can be used effectively as accent plants.
Slide 52  Here is a close-up of an Anubias flower. We find that all the varieties of Anubias that we have tried flower under water.
Slide 53  This is a good example of shape and texture contrasts. The Madagascar Lace plant is a gorgeous centerpiece and is set off wonderfully by the Hydrocotyle leucocephala behind it and the grassy Sagitarria pusilla the foreground.
Slide 54  Texture, shape and color balance. The Alternanthera reineckii will grow taller and bushier with time. The Bacopa caroliniana on the right lends interesting shape and leaf pattern while the Armoracia aquatica provides offsetting color and texture. To break up too much "leafiness", grass-like Sagitarria pusilla is used in the right foreground.
Slide 55  Here is a close-up of Bacopa caroliniana. It's bright green fleshy leaves make this a great stem plant for either background use or as an accent plant. It's a fast grower and is able to thrive with under gravel filtration.
Slide 56  The Barclaya longifolia in the center is just going into a rapid growth phase after sprouting from a bulb. With good conditions, you can expect a new leaf and flower stem every couple of days. The Mayaca fluviatilis behind it provides a great texture and color contrast.
    Two wild-type discus are shown: a "Green" on the left and a "Heckel" on the right. The bottom half of a "Brilliant Turquoise" is seen at the upper left.
Slide 57  Cryptocoryne species are very popular and do well in tanks with less than optimal lighting. They grow well in tanks with a soil substrate as well as the less troublesome gravel/laterite substrate. This is a variant of the common C. wendtii.
Slide 58  An Amazon sword plant, Echinodorus bleheri, in full health. This magnificent plant is perfect for a larger tank. In this case, the plant "owns" 1/3 of a 100 gallon discus tank. What started as a single plant has split into four separate plants at the base and has produced large quantities of plantlets on flower stalks. This is a true "Mother Plant".
Slide 59  This is a red variant of Echinodorus horemanii. New leaves forming in the center are a brilliant rust red. Older leaves become blue-green. This plant can become huge given the proper conditions and will form a long rhizome. As the plant grows, new leaves form at the leading edge of the rhizome, causing it to "move" in the tank. This specimen started in the left rear corner and is now midway to the front center of the tank.
    We remove it when it gets too big (or moves to the wrong location). You can cut sections off the older part of the rhizome, partially submerge them in the gravel and multiple new plants will form from the bumps on the rhizome.
Slide 60  This is a nice example of an Echinodorus osiris. It too can get very large and may start to grow emersed. This plant produced 13" long submersed leaves for quite a while. One day, it produced what looked like a flower stalk that headed for the surface. The stalk turned out to be an emersed leaf and all leaves thereafter grew above the surface.
    Just behind the osiris are some leaves from a E. major. It grows long and thin like the E. horemanii but is a much brighter green.
Slide 61  There are quite a few plants that are suitable for foreground use. Echinodorus quadricostatus makes a nice mat at the front of the tank. Depending on light and nutrients, it can stay small (under 2") or grow to 8" tall. It quickly spreads via runners. When the patch gets too thick, we pull the whole mass up, vacuum the surface layer of the gravel, pick out 8 or 10 robust "mother plants" and replant them.
Slide 62  Heteranthera zosteraefolia is a beautiful bunch plant that can grow very quickly and can fill a corner of the tank. It is a sensitive plant, however, and will develop black spots and bad leaves if conditions aren't right.
Slide 63  When H. zosteraefolia is happy, it will reach the top and produce delicate little pale purple flowers. Views like this make a open top tank very worthwhile.
Slide 64  Hydrocotyle leucocephala makes a great background plant or an impressive centerpiece. We plant one end and let the other end trail up to and across the surface. Roots quickly develop at each leaf node and provide excellent places for Rainbowfish to scatter eggs.
Slide 65  Here is a top view of L. leucocephala growing among a group of emersed E. osiris leaves. All we need now are some tiny frogs to sit atop the "lily pads"!
Slide 66  Another excellent background or centerpiece plant is Hygrophila corymbosa or Temple Plant. It is a very fast grower that also will do well with an undergravel filter.
Slide 67  Here is an overall shot of a 90 gallon tank with a very nice arrangement. Background, foreground and center elements nicely balance each other with a harmonious range of color, texture and height.
Slide 68  This is a beautiful water lily, Nymphea stellata, used as a center piece. The contrast between it's huge round leaves and the other plants around it is striking.
Slide 69  The lily surprised us one day and produced a single, perfect flower. It's too bad this tank had a full hood.
Slide 70  A very popular stem plant, for obvious reasons, is the Rotala macrandra. With good light and nutrients, it is a fast growing and colorful plant. The leaves towards the top will take on a brilliant pink-orange color. We have found that cutting off the upper 1/3 and replanting just the top is the best way to maintain a healthy stock. If you leave the lower 2/3 planted, it will form multiple top shoots but the lower part will become less robust. However, itís a good way to increase your population.
Slide 71  A smaller species of Rotala is the R. rotundifolia. It also tends towards pink at the top and can self-propagate. It has the characteristic of forming horizontal stems that quickly form roots and produce new vertical stems. Left unchecked, it becomes a weed!
Slide 72  Another nice foreground plant is Samolus parviflorus or Water Cabbage. The main plant stays fairly low and has a nice pale green color. Although some references say it won't propagate in the aquarium, we have had no problem with it. A stem will form in the middle of the rosette and new baby plants will form on the stem (seen here on the middle plant). The stem can get to 12" high and will produce teeny round flowers.
Slide 73  Java Fern, Microsorium pteropus, is a very popular and undemanding plant. We like to put it in darker corners on pieces of rock or driftwood. It needs massive pruning every six months or it will form a compacted mass. We will lop off large pieces of the rhizome and reattach the best looking part.
Slide 74  Hygrophila difformis, Water Sprite, is a fast growing plant that can be used effectively as a background or centerpiece plant.
Slide 75  This is the emersed form of Hygrophila corymbosa. Once it becomes emersed, the underwater part becomes mostly stems (much like mangrove roots). It blooms continuously with pretty purple flowers.
Slide 76  Another view of the Rainbowfish tank with an undergravel filter. Stem plants do very well in this tank. Notice the Samolus parviflorus in the left center with the tall stems supporting baby plants. Hygrophila corymbosa is behind it with a small E. horemanii just of the left of center.
Slide 77  Here are emersed E. osiris leaves in front of emersed H. corymbosa. Houseplants are on a shelf behind the tank. Is that a jaguar peering out of the jungle?
Slide 78  This is one of Takashi Amano's "paintings" using aquatic plants. He strives to create scenes from nature using aquascaping elements. Using just rocks and Glossostigma elatinoides, he has beautifully represented a mountain scene.
Slide 79  If your aquascaped aquarium is like a piece of art, it makes sense to frame it appropriately. We had some oak stands and hoods custom built to match other furniture in the house. Surprisingly, they weren't that much more expensive than standard high quality stands found at aquarium stores. We located a local woodworking shop and worked with them to develop the design.
    The hood is a bit different than you find in aquarium shops. It is split in the middle so that the front half swings up and over the back half. This gives us easy access to the tank for feeding, cleaning and maintenance. The whole hood slides back 4" to the wall, allowing full access without removing it completely. Fluorescent lights and an on/off switch are mounted in the hood.
Slide 80  As a final note, we would like to slip in a reference to the Aquatic Gardeners Association. This is a hobbyist association devoted to aquatic plants. They publish a newsletter roughly six times per year with loads of information on the aquatic plant hobby. See the handout for information about joining.
    Another worthwhile reference is the Aquatic Plants Digest, available via