4.12 Gallon – Self Critique and Rescape

ImageSo I wasn’t super happy with how my 4.12 gallon tank came out. Aesthetically the tank seemed off balance and missing something. Even worse, the plants and shrimp were not thriving the way those in my other tanks were. There wasn’t nearly as much new growth, and sections of the tank were accumulating detritus and causing plants to rot. Somehow this tank wasn’t healthy. Here’s a shot from before this rescape for perspective:


Here is a rundown of the main issues facing my tank, and how I fixed them:

1. Plants rotting, detritus buildup —> Increase water flow, trim/move plants, vacuum

  • Stagnant water and areas of low flow within a tank can inhibit plant growth or cause decay in weakened plants.
  • Plants reach the water surface can greatly impede water flow. Trimming plants to give a few inches of clearance can make a large difference to the tank circulation.
  • Moving plants away from the tank walls and corners can reduce low flow zones and allow circulation around plant clusters. Decaying plant matter often collects in corners, and is far easier to monitor and vacuum if plainly visible.
  • Vacuuming often as part of a small water change. After each mini vacuuming, pour the the fresh water into the tank such that it flushes out planted/low flow areas and stirs up detritus. Sometimes an immediate second vacuuming can be used as well. It is important not to remove too much water or disturb the substrate during this process, else the tank could endure a mini-cycle with spiking ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates.


2. Tank lacks balance, crowded, no focal point —> Return to simplicity, increase open space

  • Simplify – reduce the different types of hardscape, plants, and substrate. I chose to remove the wood, leaving only rocks with similar coloring, texture, and cleavage. The tank feels much more spacious now, and the rocks form a clear focal point, contrasting the plants.
  • Space – I trimmed down the plants and bunched them more tightly, away from the walls of the tank. This helped the water flow greatly, and it also melded the previous chaotic mess of plants into a condensed bush. Suddenly the plants were united into one element, offsetting the substrate and hardscape nicely. The open space above the plants makes the tank look far larger than it is.






Hopefully this helps! I’ll update again in a few weeks once the tank has stabilized again.

4.12 Gallon Aquatop Tank – Week 1

Here is one of my newer creations in its beginning stages. I plan on moving around some of the plants once they’ve developed root systems and could take being replanted while maintaining their health. I also will be adding a baffle in front of the filter. I have a small Azoo filter with variable flow on the tank right now. I want to keep it at higher flow in preparation for when I add the blue berry shrimp for which the tank was planned. That will be another post in the near future!

Anyway, here is the tank in its initial stages. I’m still not sure if I want to remove the rocks entirely. I found these in my backyard, but it was difficult to find stones with enough detail and similar color, texture, cleavage, etc. I plan on having the front be a carpet of HC in the middle with grass on the far sides. Once everything has grown in (which will take a few months) I might add a valley of sorts filled with gravel or smaller stones to help create depth within the tank. Separating the gravel/small stones by size, then using the smallest near the back and largest near the front can really make the tank look much deeper than it really is.

Here’s a more complete rundown of the tank right now:

Tank – Aquatop 4.12 Gallon Cube, Low-Iron High-Clarity Glass, available here

Filter – Azoo Mignon Filter 60, rated for up to 3.5 gallons, available here

  • Note: I added extra filter media, and the tank will be heavily planted, so this filter should be fine. It is in place mostly to add water flow to the tank.

Substrate – Fluval Shrimp Stratum, available here

  • This is my first tank using this substrate. I’ll keep you posted on how it works. So far my initial reaction is similar to most reviews you will find of this product. It’s very light weight, so planting is difficult. It’s also pricey for the amount compared to other substrates. I love it’s texture though, and it seems to be working well with the plants so far.

Lighting – Dolphin Curve Pure White 6500k LED, available here . I really like the light so far, and will be adding a full post with a review of it soon since I can’t seem to find any thorough reviews for this particular light fixture.

Heater – Aquatop Nano Aquarium Heater with Thermostat, NH-15W, available here

Plants – see the diagram below with labels on each plant type. (Click to make full size, same goes with all pics on this site)

Plant Labels

The background rotala indica and watersprite are actually much more full and dense than the picture shows due to the filter. Note to self: for future tank shots, shut off the filter flow for a few minutes! I’m big on making low maintenance tanks though, so instead I plan on adding a plastic baffle that will direct the water current toward the front of the tank, rather than sideways along the background plants.

I also keep floating plants in all of my tanks. It began after I tried my first Walstad tank. Diana Walstad’s Ecology of the Planted Aquarium was an enormous help in how I have designed all of my new tanks. She stresses the importance of variety in tanks to create balance. Floating plants are great at removing toxins and excess nutrients from the water column. They also help diffuse light that might be too strong for some plants, and provide a great home for beneficial bacteria and microoranisms that keep tanks healthy and balanced. In this tank, I have duckweed and salvinia spangles. Right now, without the baffle, many of them keep getting pushed down into the tank and caught in the background plants. Can’t wait to fix my water flow problem…

Review of Truaqua’s Aquatop High Clarity, Low Iron Rimless Cube Tanks

I  recently bought four rimless cube tanks from TruAqua under the label of Aquatop. I couldn’t really find any reviews or comments on the quality of these tanks other than on their own website. Yet after a few days of searching high and low amid holiday sales, I couldn’t find rimless nano tanks that came anywhere near close to these Aquatop ones in price or quality. So I cut the cord and ordered FOUR of the following sizes: 2.11, 4.12, 7.13, and 11.33 gallons.

These tanks came with free shipping and were just generally dirt cheap compared to other similar tanks I’d been considering. Here are some shots of the initial unwrapping:

I’ve got to say, I love these tanks. Granted, I’ve never bothered to spend as much as would be needed to get an ADA or other such gold standard tank, but these Aquatop tanks are wonderful. Maybe one day I’ll be picky enough to really appreciate having some of the more expensive low-iron, high clarity rimless tanks, but, for now, these are phenomenal. 🙂

Update! 4/4/2014

This post gets almost daily traffic these days from people wanting to know more about the Aquatop rimless cube tanks. As this was one of my earlier posts, some of the pictures weren’t great. If you want to see more shots of how these tanks look in action or to get an idea of their size compared to certain fish, scaping materials, filters, etc, then check out some of my posts on the development of these tanks.

The tanks themselves have held up really well! All four are going strong. No leaks. No defects. Not easily scratched. Still super clear. Easy to use, easy to setup, sturdy, easy to clean. I’d probably buy more of them if I wasn’t running low on space and money at the moment. I’d like to hear if anyone has had any issues with them that I haven’t, and I’m also really curious about what the more expensive/prestigious versions of rimless, low-iron glass tanks could be doing better! So I guess this is my blog-style request that someone who has had both one of these and a pricey rimless cube let me know which they would get if they were to buy another/recommend one.