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Old 09-03-2013, 09:51 PM   #1
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Turn this into a more natural looking aquarium

I've seen many pictures here on AA and other sites of absolutely beautiful natural looking tanks with lots of plants, nice substrate, and things like rocks, driftwood, and little cave rock things. I didn't really plan ahead much on how I wanted my recent 20 gallon tank setup to look. I had a old castle decor, a few small fake plants and I got some blue gravel. I later added some taller fake plants and a background. Here is what it looks like now-

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I know the castle and maybe the blue gravels makes it look unnatural, I've found a driftwood with plants decor at PetSmart for a hefty $35 that I like and am planning to get to replace the castle. I also would like to add more plants (maybe live ones? ) and some rocks and cave things. Any suggestions on what I could do to make it look more natural? Now I kinda wish I had used some kind of sand or a natural colored gravel when I got it. Is it possible to change substrate after the aquarium is fully established? If so, then how? Does the background look good?

Any suggestions would be appriceated!

Thanks!
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Old 09-03-2013, 10:10 PM   #2
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Amazon sword , horn wart and moss wall or carpet
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Old 09-03-2013, 11:03 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Fishforlife View Post
Amazon sword , horn wart and moss wall or carpet
I'll look into them. Thanks!
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Old 09-03-2013, 11:11 PM   #4
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Look into getting real driftwood verse the petsmart one. It looks cool. But real drifteood can be very beneficial to some fish. Plus it won't hurt the wallet. And for your backdrop, you could look into rocks for your tank. I think it would look nice. If you plan to change substrate. Look for eco complete if you are going for a heavily planted tank. Or just pfs for a lightly planted one. I love the look of pfs even though I never have used it. Can't wait to see it. Heres my tank.
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Old 09-03-2013, 11:17 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Fishforlife View Post
Amazon sword , horn wart and moss wall or carpet
Like the amazon sword. I don't really like the hornwort. And by moss wall or carpet you mean like having moss on the back wall of the tank or covering the bottom?
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Old 09-03-2013, 11:22 PM   #6
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Look into getting real driftwood verse the petsmart one. It looks cool. But real drifteood can be very beneficial to some fish. Plus it won't hurt the wallet. And for your backdrop, you could look into rocks for your tank. I think it would look nice. If you plan to change substrate. Look for eco complete if you are going for a heavily planted tank. Or just pfs for a lightly planted one. I love the look of pfs even though I never have used it. Can't wait to see it. Heres my tank.
I would love to get real driftwood vs the fake. Where would I get some? I was down at my creek today and found a driftwood piece that MIGHT work, I would rather get one that didn't come out of the creek though. I'd like to put some rocks, but I was thinking some kinds of plants (I'm not sure about live or fake yet, I'm thinking live) for the back of the tank, and putting rocks and stuff in the front. What is PFS you spoke of?

I like your tank! What substrate do you use in it?

I'm getting so excited thinking about all this stuff!
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Old 09-03-2013, 11:49 PM   #7
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I just found this picture of Khuligirl93's planted tank. This is the kind of setup I think I'd like.


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I don't think my current background would go well with the black substrate and stuff. It took me 5 hrs to apply it with ClearView solution properly, and I really don't wanna go through that again. But if I find a really good looking background I might just have to redo it.
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Old 09-03-2013, 11:54 PM   #8
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Oops! I just did a double post. Sorry about that.
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Old 09-04-2013, 12:34 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Dubs1281 View Post
Look into getting real driftwood verse the petsmart one. It looks cool. But real drifteood can be very beneficial to some fish. Plus it won't hurt the wallet. And for your backdrop, you could look into rocks for your tank. I think it would look nice. If you plan to change substrate. Look for eco complete if you are going for a heavily planted tank. Or just pfs for a lightly planted one. I love the look of pfs even though I never have used it. Can't wait to see it. Heres my tank.
That's a nice tank dubs.
Very natural looking. I love black substrate.

Most local aquariums sell driftwood. If you get it from creek, you would really need to make sure it wont ruin your tank water.

I actually use fake plants in my tank. But I use a real rock called 'red strat rock'. Not sure if my rock buffers anything.
Pics are in my album. Not sure how natural it looks though.
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Old 09-04-2013, 12:36 AM   #10
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Here are mine. Good choice. Natural looking aquariums look amazing if done right.
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Edit: wrong pic of the first one, sorry.

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Old 09-04-2013, 12:38 AM   #11
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I would have to agree real driftwood looks better, but with fake you don't have to worry about water contaminants and altering ph (not sure about that, maybe just certain types) I too like a natural looking tank and have tried to find deco that looks real. There are pics on my prof.
Oh, I like your background, it's different.. maybe some white substrate with natural pond stone to go with..
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Old 09-04-2013, 12:40 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by wyatt_o View Post
Oops! I just did a double post. Sorry about that.
No prob. Did that earlier today!
The DW in khuligirl93s tank looks like Malaysian. I've seen it at local pet stores (not Petco/Petsmart). I have seen Mopani DW at Petco on occasion.
PFS is pool filter sand. It differs from regular play sand; I think it may be more uniform in grain size and settles faster (less cloudy) and takes less prep work (rinsing).
You could try black sand from Petco to get the dark substrate look. I would hold off on removing the background until you see what the tank looks like with a different colored substrate.
Good luck with this.
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Old 09-04-2013, 01:20 AM   #13
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To give you an idea, I got white sand, real driftwood from the beach, and bought live plants. Also I really like black backgrounds with white sand. Here are my tanks.
The second one is a rock I found on a hike and some natural looking gravel from petsmart.

If you get real driftwood it's fine, but you have to clean it with a brush really well, boil it, soak it for a couple weeks or until it sinks, then boil it again and it will be safe for your tank.
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Old 09-04-2013, 01:59 AM   #14
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If you get real driftwood it's fine, but you have to clean it with a brush really well, boil it, soak it for a couple weeks or until it sinks, then boil it again and it will be safe for your tank.
Is it really necessary to boil twice and soak for a few weeks? The driftwood I bought was scrubbed a bit to get debris off, then boiled for two hours a piece, then rinsed and cooled, and put right into the tank and it sank. Could my driftwood have been already treated since it sank? It was dry when I bought it, too. now you have me worried that my driftwood is going to eventually poison my fish.
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Old 09-04-2013, 03:29 AM   #15
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Here is my low tech ten gal from a year or so ago (it looks much different now). This was my first real attempt at a natural looking aquarium and there was not a lot of overall maintenance that went into it on a daily basis. Nothing regarding this tank was particularly expensive, but it did take a little research (which in itself was a lot of fun ).





If you want to go the nature aquarium route I'd suggest reeeally going natural. No fake driftwood and no fake plants. Ditch the bright gravel and go with something more natural like sand or EcoComplete (great for live plants and my recommendation for sure). The truth is, live plants can be pretty easy as long as you go with plants that are appropriate to your lighting. Once you go live you can potentially go oh-so-far into a crazy world of high lighting, CO2, ferts, ridiculously expensive plants, and so forth. It's incredibly addictive, but the beauty is that you can also have wonderfully beautiful tanks with really hardy and low maintenance plants too without worrying about all the other complicated stuff too much. In regards to the fake driftwood if you're really feeling the pull of a natural aquarium the artificiality of something plastic or not real wood in your tank will eventually bug the hell out of you, especially when you begin to discover the truly one-of-a-kind pieces of real driftwood that make our tanks unique. Malaysian, mopani, and manzanita (as in my 10g) can often be found cheaply (relatively) online or at certainly other places if you look hard enough (craft stores, thrift stores, garden/landscape stores, etc). Ebay is a great source for WYSIWYG items.

Finally... I know you put a lot of work into putting that background on but I'd definitely recommend replacing it with a solid color like black or maybe even like a frosted tint like Bill's TOTM from a few months back. Backgrounds with patterns just pull attention away from the actual aquascape you're creating and do not aid in creating negative space, which is very important in nature aquariums in regards to perspective.

Just a few friendly suggestions.
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Old 09-04-2013, 03:55 AM   #16
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Great setup. Did you go to aquscapes for some of the materials
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Old 09-04-2013, 04:28 AM   #17
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I went there and looked but their hardscape stuff was way out of my budget. I got almost everything online and the manzanita I got from saveoncrafts.com I think. Got some great fish at Aquascapes though with their recent 30% off sale.
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Old 09-04-2013, 07:04 AM   #18
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I got a nice piece of manzanita DW for $5 at Marshall's (they don't always carry it ). Petco was selling 20# EcoComplete for $9. Plants I got online, however, the plants in gel from Petsmart are fine. Oh, the background on one of my tanks is a black trash bag. DIY CO2.
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Old 09-04-2013, 08:13 AM   #19
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That's a nice tank dubs.
Very natural looking. I love black substrate.

Most local aquariums sell driftwood. If you get it from creek, you would really need to make sure it wont ruin your tank water.

I actually use fake plants in my tank. But I use a real rock called 'red strat rock'. Not sure if my rock buffers anything.
Pics are in my album. Not sure how natural it looks though.
I haven't seen live driftwood at PetSmart or PetCo. I have a local pet shop called World of Pets that might have it. I won't get the piece from my creek. Your fake plants look very beautiful! So does the rest of you tank.
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Old 09-04-2013, 08:18 AM   #20
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I would have to agree real driftwood looks better, but with fake you don't have to worry about water contaminants and altering ph (not sure about that, maybe just certain types) I too like a natural looking tank and have tried to find deco that looks real. There are pics on my prof.
Oh, I like your background, it's different.. maybe some white substrate with natural pond stone to go with..
I definitely will get real driftwood if I can find some. I like black substrate, but I like the white/yellow substrate too. I think white/yellow would go better with my background. Some pond stones would go very well with this background!
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