# Aquascaping Layout & The Golden Ratio

Some of you may have heard of this and some of you may have not and its called ‘The Golden Ratio’ which is widely used in planning the layout and perspective of an aquascape.  We have put together a simple ‘Aquascaping Layout  & The Golden Ratio’ guide on how to create a scape that is pleasing on the eye and has the right composition and design in mind.

## The Golden Ratio

Firstly we will look at the The Golden Ratio which will guide you in creating perspective in your aquarium. This ‘Aquascaping Layout  & The Golden Ratio’ guide is used when wanting to acheive the perfect balance when placing objects in a space.  So let’s begin and these 3 steps explain what the Golden Ratio is.

1. Stand back and look at the front of your tank. Imagine there are four lines going across the front of the glass, two vertical and two horizontal, giving you now nine sections.

2. Where the lines cross are the Golden points where you should consider placing your key features to the tank i.e. rock, wood or prominant plants such as reds or plants that stand out.

3. You can use the Golden Ratio to plan the height layout of your plants too.

### Symmetry

Basically symmetry does not work in a planted aquarium. It is too formal, structured and unnatural. Think about it would you see symmetry in the wild? No, so lets not make it neat and symetrical in the aquarium.  The focal point (as we mentioned earlier your key feature so wood, rock, red plant etc) should be slightly off to the center. 1 : 1.62 was calculated long ago as the point which is the most pleasing on the eye.  This is where you could consider having a slope on one side too, like a riverbed.

#### Shape

Please don’t have all your ‘tall’ plants lined up along the back and try and create a ‘hedge’ or ‘wall’ of plants to cover up the background! It is not needed and only looks dated. Try replicating a mountain look by trimming your plants to be taller on the sides and slightly shorter in the center.  You could also add some rocks either side (not symetrical remember to add to your mountain look).

##### Positioning of the plants

Depending on the scape you are looking to achieve, I like to keep my rocks or wood positioned amongst the midground plants as the stems can easily be hidden amongst the rocks plus you can carpet foreground plants around the base of the rocks to create a really natural look.

###### Creating depth

Creating depth is not the easiest task however keeping the golden ration in mind it can be done.  The first thing to remember is to avoid positioning the rocks from left to right across the middle in a straight line which just looks two-dimentional and very unnatural looking.  So I recommend planting and positioning in layers starting from the front to the back leaving a small gap in between and from low to high. With time and experience you will become more bold and challenging with your aquascaping and start creating some amazing looking scapes.

Another element to consider when planting your scape is to take note of the estimated growth guides that come with the plants or you can use the guide we use on our plant product page. Obviously you dont want to have to be trimming your plant all the time as it grows quicker than the one behind it so it really plays off to carefully plan your scape and even put pencil to paper first and sketch it out.

With all the above considered when putting a scape together, you should be impressed with the results. If however you need further advice we are only a phone call away on 01363 774787.

# Aquarium plants dying

If you go onto Google and type aquariums plants one of the first things that comes up is the question

Why are my plants dying?

There are a lot of different responses to this questions, and most of them are wrong! so I am here to set you straight and tell you why your plants are dying and how to stop it from happening over and over again!

Firstly before you buy your plants you need to do research on what substrate you need….NO you cannot just use gravel..No you cannot just use sand! Most people believe that they can just chuck a bag of sand in the bottom of there tank and everything will grow, well i can tell you now it will not. Substrates provide your plants with nutrients, food. Can you imagine waking up in the morning and eating paper for breakfast? your body will struggle to survive the day. You want to wake up and have a big bowl of porridge or even a full English, SO DO YOUR PLANTS. Get the substrate right from the start and that will eliminate most of problems.

So you have a substrate, you buy your plants, stick them in your tank and immediately they struggle, Why? think about a time when you have gone on holiday, the first day in a nice hot country, whats happens? you get burnt. your body isn’t used to this change in environment and neither are your plants. you may well get leaves going brown and dying but that doesn’t mean your plant is dead….you need to wait to see the new growth that will come through. The growth that is used to your tank environment. As long as your root structure is healthy you will get new growth.

So your plant has taken to your tank and you have seen new growth but after a month the plant starts to die off, Why? Your not feeding it right. your plants need to eat right. Almost all tanks need Liquid CO2,  the liquid CO2 will encourage growth and keep algae down. To go along with the liquid CO2 your plants need macro and micro nutrients. With out all of these your plants will wither and die off, which will then encourage algae to your tank.

NEUTRO have three Fertilisers all of which provide your tank with everything that your plants need

Neutro CO2, Neutro T and Neutro +

Check our other post on fertilisers here

# What is so good about Neutro’s?

you have heard that your plants need food right? but what is the best food to give your plants, what would they like?

I’m here to tell you whats so good about Neutro’s and why you need to give it to your plants.

Firstly you need to know that there are three different Neutro fertilisers, you need to make sure you know what they are about and which ones are right for you.

To start with there is Neutro CO2. This is a liquid carbon fertiliser that is about a third of the strength of Pressurised CO2. Almost all tanks need liquid carbon, the only exception are and tanks that have plants that don’t like liquid carbon, such as Valliseria. Liquid carbon is a very important source of growth for plants. if you have plants in your tank that are living but aren’t growing and flourishing then you need to add liquid carbon.

Secondly there is Neutro T. Neutro T provides your plants with the Trace elements that need to really flourish. Trace elements included are Boron, Copper, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum and Zinc. These micro nutrients are key for plant growth.

Lastly there is Neutro + now it is key that you use Neutro + if you have pressurised CO2 set up in your aquarium. It is important that you use Neutro + because this fertiliser not only has the Trace elements that plants need it also has the macro nutrients that pressurised CO2 removes from your tank. The macro nutrients are Potassium, Phosphorus and Nitrogen.

When using Neutro fertilisers it is important that you dose correctly. over or under dosing can cause algae issues in your tank.

CO2 = 5ml per 100L daily

T and + = 10ml per 100L daily

What are your thoughts about Neutro fertilisers? have you found them to be beneficial?

starvation hurts doesn’t it? There’s nothing worse than seeing a plant go downhill and wondering why…

Common emails to me are customer sending in pictures of their plants and wondering what is wrong with them. It’s very clear in most cases that it’s a nutrient deficiency and I often wonder why hobbyists limit food for plants and then wonder what’s wrong with them. We all know by now that excess nutrients DO NOT cause algae, so it begs the question, why would you ever limit their food? This problem stems from years of incorrect advice floating around the web and forums. If you want a successful planted tank (and I know you do), give your plants plenty of food.

If you see algae in your tank, the answer is not to limit the nutrients. Algae can thrive in a tank with zero nutrients so quite why some hobbyists think limiting nutrients is the answer when they’re doing just fine without!  If you see any leaves that are shaped a bit odd, or they have holes in them or they’re not growing quite right it’s because they need more food! Simple as that. There are lots of different brands available (email me if you want one I recommend), and some are much more simple to dose than others but which ever brand you choose, give it plenty. And don’t forget the dosage on the bottle is the starting point and you only ever go up. As your plants grow and become larger, their food uptake has to be increased. Failure to change their dosage always results in plant deterioration.

So my message is short and sweet. Do not limit the amount of food that you offer your plants. If you are running a non CO2 tank, you only need to provide Micro Nutrients (trace elements) and if you are running a CO2 infused tank you need to offer Micro and Macro Nutrients (Macro being nitrates, phosphates and potassium).

# Plants can only absorb WHAT through their roots?!!!

I stumbled across a commercial website today which sells aquarium plants and other planted tank accessories. Some of the information they were providing was total garbage and they were giving their customers incorrect information:

certain nutrients especially iron and potassium can only be absorbed by the root of the plant

It’s SO disappointing to read information like that, particularly as it’s not true!! Plants can of course absorb nutrients like iron and potassium through their leaves and their roots – why else can these nutrients be dosed in liquid format if this wasn’t the case?

There’s so much incorrect information on the internet, I urge you to take caution with what you read and who from. Some websites are good, some are pants. I regularly talk to customers about information they have read that is totally incorrect and have to set them on the straight and narrow. So when you are looking for advice, make sure you get it from the horses mouth, i.e. Aqua Essentials or other genuine specialists and not just those who think they are, and live in the dark ages.

and please don’t tell me that excess nutrients causes algae.

rant over

p.s. if you want to share any ridiculous old wives tales about dos and do nots in planted aquariums, why not share them now.

# Water Changes In A Planted Aquarium

Getting water changed right saves you big time – in fact it’s so important I often wonder why hobbyists don’t pay more attention to it and look to see how water changes really help. Rather than reach for a bottle which helps get rid of algae, I advise

reach for you bucket…

Organics build up very quickly in an enclosed aquarium and when you put your plants through their paces (i.e. make them grow quick) just like anything that is alive and doing a lot, they get rid of waste. This waste needs to be removed with water changes and if it’s not tends to help algae to grow. So a simple solution right? Do water changes but the big question how much. Some of you may be quite surprised at the amount that you need to do and I’ll start off by saying 25% once a week is not enough no matter how big your tank is, that is unless you want algae. Assuming you don’t, here’s the routine:

Week 1 – 40% daily (yes every day for the full 7 days)

Week 2 – 40% every other day

Week 3 – 40% every three days

Week 4 – 40% every four days

You can probably see a theme developing here and this regime will provide great results for you no matter what. When you get to week 7 your regime will stick at 40% every 7 days and that won’t change. If you do find yourself with less than desirable algae in your tank then increase your water changes again. Don’t forget you’ll need to dose your ferts daily with these water changes and another good reason why we recommend Neutro Fertilisers for your plants.

It’s worth noting that this is only for CO2 infused tanks (that’s pressurised CO2 and not liquid carbon tanks). This is a tried and tested method and for those of you who are thinking, ‘I might just try and get away with doing less, or that’s a lot of water to throw down the drain’ then good luck! You can change your routine if you want but it’s not the answer – this routine hasn’t been plucked out of the air, unlike some hobbyists thinking around the subject…

It takes dedication, hard work and plenty of elbow grease to make a high tech CO2 tank work and it’s more than feasible too. The big question is whether you are up to it.

For changing water quickly and easily I recommend the Superfish Aqua Syphon Set.

# Gravels and Substrates in a Planted Aquarium

So what are they all about? Nearly all plants need a type of gravel or substrate to grow in. It’s required to anchor plants down and in some cases to provide nutrients to the roots of plants. It’s also used aesthetically so when we look at our aquarium – it looks nice! Below I summerise what the difference between the two are and how they are used.

Gravel. There are hundreds of different types of gravels available to hobbyists and similarly the same with substrates but what is the difference between the two? Gravels are very much what you expect them to be. Rock particles which have a diameter of 3-25mm – if you’re wanting to use it for your planted aquarium, the ideal size is 3-5mm. Any smaller than this (i.e. if you use sand) and you can get pockets of anaerobic areas where there’s insufﬁcient water ﬂow.

Gravels come in all sorts of shapes and sizes but contain no nutrients; some need washing and some will only need rinsing depending on the instructions. Some will effect your water parameters (such as pH). On the whole I recommend you opt for natural gravels – one which hasn’t been dyed in any way. Unipac do a great selection of natural gravels. Be careful with gravels that look natural but are in fact coloured glass. Whilst they are safe for use within planted aquariums, ﬁsh which burrow or that skim along the gravel like corydoras will ware their barbels down. Natural gravels will not have that sort of effect. You can see our range of gravels here.

Substrates. A substrate is very similar to a gravel but there is one fundamental difference and that is the nutrient content. Substrates have minerals and nutrients embedded in them thereby providing plants with all the goodness they need from day one. This is the major advantage over gravels.  Substrates are produced in different colours and each will have a different effect on the water. On the whole most tend to lower the pH levels, along with KH (carbonate hardness) and GH (general hardness). This makes them ideal for using in planted aquariums as plants prefer slightly acidic water conditions where the pH is just under 7 (6.8 is perfect). Substrates rarely require topping which means that once you place them in your aquarium, you won’t need anything else on the base – typical examples of this are Eco Complete, Seachem Flourite and Naturesoil. Plants can be planted directly into the substrate with relative ease. The picture above demonstrates this perfectly – the dark coloured substrate (Naturesoil in this instance) has been used and plants become established quickly, grow rapidly, healthily with no algae.  As technology improves more and more manufacturers are realising the importance of substrates. The most popular type that is currently available is called NatureSoil by world famous Aquascaper Oliver Knott. If you want your plants to have the best start, this substrate comes highly recommended. Not only that but it’s perfect for beginners to experts and requires no topping and sets your water parameters to the ideal levels. However if you do have a particular gravel that you want to use, opt for Tropica Plant Substrate. Place this on the bottom of your aquarium and simply top with your chosen gravel.