Whilst it’s not normally our cup of tea, I love this short YouTube clip by Aquarium Design Group. This tank I find is totally inspiring – partly because goldfish were the first fish I ever kept and I remember watching them for hours on end. They’re always so busy – unlike some tropical fish.
What do you think? Want a goldfish tank like this?
It’s that time of year again so this is a fantastic opportunity to get hold of some quality potted plants at a discounted rate. Of course, these prices won’t last long but if you were thinking about getting your tank looking in tip top condition so all your relatives and friends could see, maybe now is a good opportunity.
We’re always looking for feedback from our customers and would like to hear your thoughts on this matter:
Would you like us to stock Tropica plants again?
It would be great to hear your opinion if you would like Aqua Essentials to stock their plants again. As you well know Tropica are a premium product and attached to that is a premium price tag. We love to sell quality but would you pay more for them?
We currently sell Aquafleur, and have no intentions of stopping their range, but we are certainly interested in your thoughts on the matter.
So Aquatics Live took place over the weekend and by all accounts is was a success. Sadly I was not able to attend but have been interested to hear the thoughts of other hobbyists, what they thought of it and why they enjoyed it.
I also noticed a few negative comments which I was very surprised to read, in the respect that some felt shops should either display their stand from an aquascaping point of view or sell products (not both). My thoughts of this is that you can’t please everyone…
So what did you go to Aquatics Live for? Was is for meeting up with fellow hobbyists or maybe you just fancied seeing what was going on and what other shops had to offer? What would you like to see next year that wasn’t available this year? And more importantly, if you went last year would you go again next year?
Were there enough plants for sale, and what about the aquascaping contest – did you have a go?
This is a tasty looking foreground plant that I thought you might like. Foreground types are always the most popular for reasons I’ve mentioned in previous posts. However, they can be rather tricky sometimes but this one won’t cause any problems.
Sagittaria Subulata is a small yet elegant plant that has a lovely vivid green colour to it. It reproduces easily via runners (see the picture below) and will grow in medium to high light. Like most plants it does better with pressurised CO2, but will be fine is a low tech planted tank (i.e. one without CO2) – it just grows slower that’s all.
Each pot can be split into 6 different plantlets and place them into a nutrient rich substrate for the best effect (try Colombo Flora Base). Position them about 25mm apart from each other (use tweesers for this) and in no time you’ll see new runners. Don’t forget if you start to see your plant going yellow, then you need more nutrients! Add AE Design Aqua Nourish.
Lastly with all our Aquafleur plants we offer deals for multiple purchases so if you invest in 5 or more, we offer it to you for £3.59 per plant.
Always on the look out for some different plants, we’ve got a couple of Echinodorus’ that I think you will like. Definitely not new to the market, but certainly new to us. So what are they?
Aquafleur Echinodorus Ozelot Red – stunning shaped oval leaves make this plant a real beauty. Similar in appearance and size to Ozelot Green, it’s not a demanding plant and looks great in medium sized plant. When established this plant will grow quickly and will become a real focal point.
Aquafleur Echinodorus Rubra – a rather neat and tidy plant, its leaves are slightly larger than the Ozelot Red. It flourishes in a wide range of conditions and is unlikely to cause you any problems in your planted aquarium. Young leaves start off a pinky colour and as they mature, turn green. Suitable for mid to background you will be very happy with this plant.
What’s the easiest, what’s the best, what’s the quickest, what’s the nicest…?
We get asked all sorts of things regarding foreground plants and the answer is always the same “it depends!!”….
it depends on what you are trying to achieve, what your skills as a hobbyists are, if you’re using CO2, what your lighting levels are etc etc. So there’s no easy answer but here’s my personal top 3:
Pogostemon Helferi – probably the easiest foreground plant to grow as it will happily flourish in CO2 and non CO2 tanks. Lighting wise it’s not too fussy either and again likes low and high light. Great for beginners and upwards.
Eleocharis Acicularis – a long term favourite amongst planted aquarium hobbyists you can see why this plant became so popular so quickly. Relatively easy to grow, it looks great and reproduces quickly by throwing out runners pretty much everywhere. In a CO2 infused aquarium, it really motors and you will have a lushous carpet in no time.
Echinodorus Tenellus – a cracking plant that has been in the hobby since the mid 80s. A plant with lovely shaped leaves which when submersed become slimline and grass like so it sways in the current (very relaxing to watch). Suitable for non CO2 tanks, however if you’re looking to create a carpet effect (which most are with foreground plants) then CO2 would be necessary along with a decent fertiliser such as AE Design Aqua Nourish and Aqua Nourish+.
Algae is a pain, we all know this and we all try and deal with it in a variety of ways. Some people try and starve algae, others physically remove it. The real answer is to ensure you have good CO2 levels, good nutrients and good water movement. But we also know this is easier said than done.
However, sometimes the balance in a planted aquarium is changed or upset and algae grows. This is both unsightly and frustrating and whilst a quick fix is not the answer (you have to get to the root of the problem), sometimes it needs to be done. Introducing Easy Life AlgExit. I’ve not seen anything on the market before quite like it and it’s made by Easy Life who already have a fantastic range of fertilisers that are very effective. AlgExit eradicates:
BBA (black beard algae)
It’s quite an impressive line up I think you’ll agree!! I’m sure everyone of you out there have struggled with one of the above algae at some time, and I bet you would have found a bottle of AlgExit rather handy, even if it was using it for occasionally 😉
We’ve managed to source some more aquascaping rocks which are perfect for planted aquariums and wanted to introduce them to your immediately. Like all the rocks that we sell, they look great, easy to work with and you can create a great looking set up in no time.
Canyon Rock is fantastic looking and will create immediate impact and you’ll be surprised how easy it is to work with these rocks. Take a look at it below:
You can see by the colour that the red and white flecs look amazing and under water there’s a slight glimmer to them. The contrast with green plants makes them look even more enticing and if you look at them up close you see this:
the detail is superb as I am sure you will agree. Imagine it in your aquarium and at only £3.50 per kg, you don’t have to spend much either. But we’ve got another rock we want to share with you which is equally as nice…it’s called Maple Leaf Rock. A lot lighter in comparison to Canyon Rock – when you pick a piece up it feels a little like Lava Rock (i.e. porous). Here’s a picture of 5kgs below:
The texture is as detailed as some other rock we have, but the resemblance to its name is what makes it so special. Here’s a close up:
I’ve never seen anything quite like it before either. Just imagine this in your planted aquarium with the green leaves swaying behind it in the CO2 enriched current. Pretty special heh? At £3.50 per kg, you get a lot of rock for your money…
This is the sort of tool that we like to see here at Aqua Essentials, something that does more than one job at a time. With planted aquariums, water changes are an absolute must and they need to be done in reasonably large volume too (especially if you are running CO2 where weekly 50% water changes are not unusual). Most of you will be using all sorts of devices to remove water from your tank but have you seen one that cleans glass at the same time?
Introducing you the Superfish Gravel and Glass Cleaner. So how does it work? The gravel cleaner itself is no different from the standard type but it’s the fitting on the end which is unique. It has a flat edge to it which means that you can scrape any algae off your glass at the same time as performing a water change. This will really save you time as you will be doing 2 jobs at the same time. Not only that but the sieve on the cleaner means that if you do suck any gravel or substrate up by mistake, it won’t go very far. Soon as the water pressure if released, so will be the gravel.
This piece of equipment can be used on any sized aquarium from 50L and up and once you’ve tried it, you’ll wonder why it hadn’t been invented before!
This has got to be one of my all time favourite plants, particularly now as it’s always in flower due to our new hydroponics set up. This plant really seems to be loving the conditions and what most hobbyists miss is the smell!! It’s absolutely lovely but sadly all this is lost once submerged 🙁 In Vietnam the leaves are actually used as a spice and if you infuse it in hot water you can make yourself some rather tasty tea. If you purchase it from us, make sure you have a good smell first.
You can clearly see from the picture above the type of flowers that come out when this plant is grown immersed. But as hobbyist grow this plant submersed, lets get onto some finer details about this plant and how to keep it.
Limnophilia Aromatica is not a difficult plant to keep but it does have a few pre-requisites that you must follow. It loves nutrients so plenty of macros (nitrates and phosphates), it’s also rather fond of CO2 so make sure you give plenty. If you plant in a decent substrate expect it to put down lots of roots and of course if it grows to the top of your aquarium, expect flowers. In order to keep this plant from becoming leggy, trim hard and then replant the trimmings into your substrate being careful that you don’t plant too close to each other. It won’t appreciate any shadows and this is main reason why it prefers bright lighting.
Place Limnophilia Aromatica at the background of your aquarium as it grows fast and tall – expect 50cm easily but you can of course reduce this by heavy trimming. Like most stem plants they always look better together so when investing in this plant choose 3 pots or more for the most dramatic of effects. Planting it behind rocks is often a clever way to give real impact, especially with the colour transformation this plant will go through when it’s happy growing underwater.
If you’re running a high tech CO2 tank, this means you already have pressurised gas. Your choice so far has been excellent because the merits of running CO2 far outweigh the negatives, particularly if you are after lushous plant growth. Plants really need CO2 in order to flourish.
But not everyone who runs CO2 actually has a solenoid valve.This always puzzles me because of the amount of gas wasted in money could easily be retrieved by investing in a solenoid.
If you’re wondering what a solenoid valve does, it allows gas to flow, or not to flow through it. A fairly straight forward piece of equipment that can be used with any CO2 system. When using a solenoid valve, the most common way of using it is plugging it into the timer which your lights use. The reason for this is quite simple:
your plants don’t use CO2 when the lighting is off…
So why waste it? Some hobbyists will run it 24/7 to avoid certain plants from melting like crytps but I’ve never encountered these sort of problems and as a result can’t see the reasoning for it. In addition running CO2 all day and all night can cause fish severe problems if your plants are not producing enough O2 during daylight hours. The excess CO2 can make your fish suffocate (I have seen this before).
How to fit: A solenoid valve fits inline so the set up would be simple if you were considering improving your system. CO2 tubing which currently comes from your regulator would fit into your new solenoid and be secured safely. Then, attach a new piece of tubing to the opposite side of your solenoid attach a non return valve and then further down the line, your CO2 diffuser. The solenoid has a plug attached to that and when the power is on, gas is allowed to freely pass through the solenoid and when it’s turned off (at night) the valve shuts and gas cannot pass though (therefore saving your fish and saving wasted gas).
That’s all there is to it. A very simple and effective improvement to any existing CO2 system. We have a wide range of solenoids on the website.
These shrimp are a little more unusual to the typical red shrimp that you may have seen in shops or our website and a little bit more attractive as I am sure you will agree. They’re a bit like Cherry Shrimp but just much redder (see below).
Making sure that you know what grade shrimp you are buying is paramount and this post is to give you the knowledge. So you know the shrimp is redder than a typical cherry, but by how much? Well, there are actually a few different grades of Cherry shrimp – did you know that?! Here’s a run down:
Cherry Shrimp – Mostly transparent with spots of red. Legs are always colourless.
Sakura – The whole body remains fairly red, except the lower part of its body which tend to be striped.
High Grade Sakura – Almost red with only a few cracks on its body and legs. Some can appear slightly orange.
Fire Red– Entirely red with no obvious cracks on the body or legs. The key to this shrimp is the legs are all red.
We only grade our red shrimp at the moment as Cherry Shrimp or Fire Red Shrimp. I don’t believe the market is ready for other grades of cherries at the moment so we’ve just broken it down into two which avoids confusion – this means some of you when purchasing Cherry Shrimp from us may receive High Grade Sakura.
Fire Red Shrimp need the same care as the other shrimp we stock. They prefer slightly acidic water and a temperature of 22C. Give them high quality shrimp food from Genchem and you will find that given time, they will breed. Best to keep them on their own as they are part of the food chain.
We used to stock Crystal Red Grade A’s a long time ago but demand just wasn’t really there. Since then, the hobby has come on some what and now I believe the demand is beginning to grow and hobbyists are prepared to invest in quality live stock. It’s always exciting to see shrimp arrive, packed in their little bags all clinging onto the filter floss, waiting for their new home.
Crystal Red Shrimp (CRS) are growing in popularity due to their lovely colouration. The red and white banding on them is what makes them so very different to other shrimp and more importantly they really stand out in a planted aquarium. If you have ever seen Grade A or higher CRS you will know exactly what I mean. Today there are lots of different variants on the market of Grade A shrimps so the message I want to get across is what grade A represents and how you know if you are getting the ‘real macoy’. The best way to describe the banding on Grade A CRS is that you get a fairly decent white banding. By decent I mean, pretty good, far from perfect but the white stands out from the red and it looks reasonably solid. The higher the grade, the better the banding. Have a look at the picture below:
This is a Grade A CRS. If you invest in this type of shrimp from us this is what you will receive. You see how the white is fairly solid but not quite there. But don’t despair if you are looking to improve the white banding, then you can do so with Genchem White Pellet. We’ve been using this product on our CRS for 2 months now and the improvement is noticeable.
So are there any special requirements of CRS? Not especially but you have to make sure you treat them with a bit of caution. They are more sensitive than other shrimp because their gene pool is so much smaller than other shrimp such as Cherry or Tiger Shrimp. However we treat all of our shrimp the same way so don’t let it deter you. We feed them a broad range of foods and use the Genchem range of shrimp conditioners to get the best out of them. So if you’re thinking, maybe I should treat yourself today as you won’t regret it.You can see our CRS Grade A by clicking on this link.
If you’re looking for more information on grading and shrimp in general, I recommend having a look at Plantet Inverts.
Watching aquascaping on YouTube can be very relaxing, especially when you see living art being created in front of your very eyes. Once in a while you see an exceptional aquascaper (normally well known) producing something that really catches your eye and makes you look at things from a slightly different perspective. Aquarium Design Group are no stranger to producing world class aquascapes and more and more I am seeing them designing hard scapes which I think are actually more difficult than aquascapes with plants. Once the scape is in place, you really have to be confident that the placement is right as there is no escaping! ADG nail this in the short clip below:
The clever placement of the wood and rock looks perfect and finishing it off with the discus truly creates a magical effect. If you would like to create a similar effect I recommend Manzanita Wood and Mini Landscape Rock.
I’d also love to hear your thoughts on the YouTube clip above 🙂
If you’re a serious hobbyist and you use pressurised CO2, then you’re already heading in the right direction. Providing your plants with CO2 is a must if you want your plants to grow as nature intended – and if you want to grow foreground plants then it’s an absolute must.
In the past, it was difficult getting CO2 bottles refilled as businesses would only refill their own bottles for health and safety reasons. Frustrating but understandable. But like most things in life you can find solutions to problems and the answer was to use pub style CO2 bottles or fire extinguishers. These can be refilled easily and you can buy/rent them for very little money. So what sort of regulator should you use on a fire extinguisher? The answer is:
This regulator is terrific value for money as not only is it well made but also has two gauges, a non return valve and a solenoid valve which means you won’t be wasting any gas either. I do not believe in running gas 24/7 – I see little point in it and I have never found certain plants to melt (such as crypts) because of this. What I have seen is fish die due to a CO2 concentration being too high for the fish to be able to breath properly – if the CO2 had been turned off when the lights were off, this wouldn’t have happened. Regardless, the fact this regulator has a solenoid valve is simply a bonus. The key feature is that it fits any CO2 bottle with a connection size DIN 477 – this is the UK standard thread size.
So if you’re wondering if this is the right regulator for you, ask yourself these 3 questions:
Do I want to use a fire extinguisher or pub style CO2 bottle
Do I want a solenoid valve attached to save gas (and money)
Do I want a quality regulator that won’t let me down
This really is a cracking plant and new to the scene too, having only arrived about 6 months ago, and never seen before in the hobby. New plants are always exciting as it opens doors to new aquascapes…
Pogostemon Erectus is a fine leafed stem plant which has conifer likes stems (very unusual) which are bright green and vivid. Extremely eye catching, it becomes an instant focal point and one of the reasons it has shot to fame. Like all stem plants if you keep the lighting bright it ensures the plant stays low and compact making it a great plant if you’re looking for something on the foreground. Of course, you can still grow it as a background plant if your lighting is less powerful; expect it to grow up to 40cm in that case.
It’s a fairly easy easy plant to grow, but you need to make sure you have decent fertilisers and of course CO2 is always beneficial if you want to get the best from this plant. Failure to do this always results on algae taking hold and settling quickly of the leaves. Temperature wise, 22-28° C is recommended so this won’t cause problems for most of you. Always plant Pogostemon Erectus in a group of 3 pots or more as it will look best that way, and what is even more wonderful is watching it sway in the current – it’s quite mesmerising…
This is one of my all time favourite aquatic plants and I’m so pleased that some stock arrived today. Rotala Wallichii is an amazingly versatile plant and I know you will love it as much as me. Originating from South East Asia, it’s a well know plant in the hobby and comes from the Lythraceae family.
It’s not the easiest plant to grow but don’t let that deter you as the plus side to this plant by far out weigh the negative. However I must say that whenever I have grown this plant, I have never found it to be particularly taxing. Rotala Wallichii has very delicate stems and in order for it to stand up right it does need the support of water. The delicate leaves are very attractive and will sway in the current. Give this plant enough light and watch it turn a stunning red colour (in particular the tips). In fact this is probably why some hobbyists find this plant a bit tricky because they use very high lighting in order to change the colour, but then forget to increase their CO2 and fertilisers to suit.
In terms of size, Rotala Wallichii will grow up to about 30cm but I prefer to see it much shorter than this, and treat it like a foreground plant for the best effect. When you trim, you can use cut stems and replant so in no time you will have multiplied this plant. However, I still recommend that you invest in a few pots of this plant at a time to create the desired effect. To make sure this plant really flies (so to speak!) provide CO2 and you will be amazed at the plant growth. The CO2 will also provide the softer water which this plant prefers.
This is a really lovely plant which I wanted to introduce to you. It’s a relatively new plant to us so it felt right to make a short blog post, detailing it so you know a little more about it.
Like all Microsoriums they come from the same family (Polypodiaceae) and all require fairly similar care – this is great news as it’s a straight forward plant to keep. Plant farms don’t need to do very much to grow this plant, and like us, we keep it emerged from water so that only the pot is 3/4 deep in a nutrient rich solution. Lighting is kept to a minimum and if you browse the web (or look at the clip below) you’ll notice that most of the ferns are kept in white tents which let some light through but not a lot. These plants, and many others too like a very humid environment and this helps to keep their leaves nice and green.
Microsorium Pteropus Trident is easy to reproduce – if you split the horizontal rhizome, you’ll create another plant. Incidentally because of the rhizome, this plant must only be tied to wood or rock – if you try and plant it in your substrate you’ll notice it rot quite quickly. The easiest way to tie it to wood or rock is by using Aqua Fine Line. Make sure when you tie it that it’s nice and tight so that it doesn’t float away. As this plant begins to grow you will find black spots under the leaves (you see this in garden ferns too). Don’t be alarmed though, your plant is not ill, what you are seeing are the reproductive organs called sporangia.
The leaf shape makes this plant a very attractive looking specimen. The leaves are elongated and fork off making it similar to the narrow leaf version (but a little nicer in my opinion). Compared to some potted plants, Trident is always a very very full pot so you know you’ll receive plenty of plant for your money 🙂
In terms of pH, it’s happy in almost anything (5-8) so this is another reason why it should do well in most planted aquariums. If you have fish which enjoy consuming plant matter, they will leave this plant alone (it’s a bit too tough for them…)
There’s little else to say about this plant apart from that it comes with our full recommendation and once you have it in your tank, you’ll love it.
For all our other potted plants, please visit our potted plant section and if you have any questions about this plant or maybe others, ask a question below.
Manzanita is the most popular wood at the moment and makes for creating the perfect planted aquarium in terms of aquascaping. The reason for this is simple, Manzanita is stylish, creative and steeped in history and every nook and cranny looks incredible. When you look at the wood in close detail, the colours are amazing along with the textures and there’s really nothing quite like it. Aquascaping with it is a breeze and you can transform a new scape into something that looks mature in no time whatsoever.
But one of the hardest aspects of aquascaping is the physical placement of wood and rock. In fact it’s probably harder than growing certain plants themselves as so much technique needs to be used to really ‘nail it’. But don’t dispair as we have an excellent solution…As an online business, he have to take pictures of all the wood we have on the site, otherwise how would you know what you are buying? So it make simply sense for us to take it a step further and actally take a picture of a group of manzanita wood, and we’re calling them bundles. We have carefully selected pieces that work together and would look great in a planted aquarium. We provide dimensions of the shortest and the largest pieces so you get the idea of what the other sizes are like. Manzanita bundles have been really popular so far so now is your chance to take a look at them in a bit more detail – maybe one might catch your eye 🙂
If you’re looking to be a little more creative,you could always try placing a few pieces of mini landscape rocks at the bottom of the wood. Not only does this improve the transition between the two, but is also helps to anchor down any pieces that want to float.
If you have a large aquarium you may find it difficult to source decent pieces of driftwood to create that special aquascape. It’s hard finding pieces that fit your particular tank, maybe because most pieces just don’t look very nice.
We are now stocking very large pieces that we are calling Supersized because they are ideal for large tanks – those which are 200L and over. The pieces are very special with wonderful shapes. Many have pockets in which you could place aquatic soil such as Florabase and then put a plant straight in. You can also tie moss to it very easily.
We recommend with all large pieces of wood that you soak them in a large bucket for at least a week. The reason for this is because of the tannins that will come from it. Now if you don’t mind water that turns a tea colour, then no need to soak, but if you do prefer a tank that is clear, then stick the wood outside soaking for as long as you can. Tannins will only come out for so long, and then it’s fine to put it into your aquarium. Saying that, there’s no harm in putting it straight into your tank and all our wood has been cleaned and is safe for immediate use.
The benefits of using driftwood in a planted aquarium are that it creates immediate impact – something that a plant only tank often misses. it also provides a centre point and your eye will naturally be drawn to it. Fish and shrimp seem to appreciate it too and in no time will shrimp be crawling all over it eating and cleaning as they go.
Since Fluval finally embraced the world of CO2, things are definitely looking up and customers have never had such a wide range of products to choose from. Sometimes too much maybe!! Either way, it is great to have choice but at the same time with such selection you can miss products so thought I should mention one you may be interested in called the Fluval CO2 Bubble Counter.
This counter is neatly designed, made of solid plastic and like all the latest Fluval products comes in delightful packaging that is very eye catching. It’s very easy to use and by filling your bubble counter with ordinary tap water you can soon check and easily read how many bubbles per minute your CO2 is flowing at.
The connection pieces are at the top of the bubble counter which are easily secured on which means that even under high pressure, your CO2 tubing won’t pop off. You can use this bubble counter with any type of CO2 system which makes it rather versatile and the added benefit is that being made of durable plastic, you won’t break it.
If you’re a serious hobbyist who appreciates quality products for your planted aquarium then the Giesemann T5 Powerchrome range of lamps are just the ticket for you. Giesemann, for those of you not familiar with the brand are German with a phenomenal reputation for quality and these lights will not disappoint. We supply two different types which emit different lights colours – this is the primary difference between the two.
Aquaflora – a perfect lamp for increasing plant growth in your aquarium. These lamps emit colours which not only highlight the colours of your fish but also the plants. The brightness of these lamps is incredible and as soon as you place them in your aquarium, you will notice a big difference immediately. Plants which haven’t pearled before may suddenly pearl if you are using CO2.
Midday – A stunning 6000k lamp which produces a very natural light. Easy on the eye, this lamp is specifically designed for plant growth and similar to the Aquaflora, once installed you will be amazed at how bright the lamp in.
Should I mix the lamps? We recommend if you have 2 T5s lamps you should use 1 x Midday and 1 x Aquaflora for the best effect in bringing out colours of your fish and plants, along with incredible plant growth.
How often should I replace them? Like all lamps their output decreases from the minute you turn them on. A typical life span of a T5 lamp for a planted aquarium is 12 months – you may think that there is no difference in the output but there is. Without a light meter you would never know this. To the naked eye, you wouldn’t notice any difference either particularly as you look at your aquarium every day so any light decrease happens very gradually and is subtle. The difference is your plants will notice a big difference and if you looked at a new tube compared to one which is 12 months old, then you would see how one has aged. So if you change every 12 months, your plants remain happy and continue to grow as expected. Slow plant growth can be attributed to limited light output.
I’ve heard I shouldn’t change all my lamps together – is this true? Absolutely, and for the reasons mentioned above, lights deteriorate over time. If you replace all your lamps together the new lamps will be much brighter than the old one’s and this can stimulate algae growth as your plants will have adjusted to the old light levels over time. So when it comes to changing them, replace them one month apart to avoid mjaor disruption and algae outbreaks.
Can I use these T5s on my set up? Providing you are already using T5s then yes. Make sure you use lamps of the same length and you’ll be fine.