Ramblings on reef aquarium aquascaping...

uniquecorals

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Well, it’s Friday…The week’s almost over, looks like a nice weekend throughout most of the country, grass is growing, flowers are blooming…

Yesterday’s discussion was quite interesting, and revealing! Not only did we discuss a topic which apparently brings out the passions in people, we had devisiveness, name-calling, inaccurate accusations, watery arguments…and even an underlying note of intrigue and "evidence" of conspiracy, as indicated by some of the PM’s I received “tipping me off†about some stuff….Dang, how do you follow up on that?

Well, since the point of my (as was accurately and eloquently stated yesterday) “moronic†ramblings here is to provoke thought and discussion about topics that intrigue me- I thought we’d work with a more benign topic today. In fact, one of my favorite topics: Aquascaping!

As a reef geek who is more than just casually interested in creating great looking aquariums, I’ve made it my personal mission over the past few years to rid the reef aquarium world of dull and mediocre aquascaping. Okay, to at least pontificate (ohh, the word again) about ideas that can help you create more cool designs.

To this end, I’ve decided to wax poetic on just a few of the many lessons I have learned during years of failure (and some success, too!) with the subject. I share with you a few thoughts on things that helped myself and others create unique displays, in no particular order.


1) TEAR DOWN THE WALL!: OMG, there are SO many other rock configurations that you can use: Islands of rock, small aggregations scattered throughout the tank, a single mound of rock away from the aquarium walls, a peninsula of rock, a rock structure offset to one side, etc. Look at some marine biology web sites for inspiration. Think about natural rock structures and how corals grow on them. Rather than just filling your tank with an end-to-end wall of rock, or emulating last month’s “Tank of The Monthâ€, use your creativity and try something altogether different! And, yes- I will NEVER shut up about this (unless you are doing a steep reef wall on purpose and with style)!


rock-wall-texture.jpg

Good walls make for good neighbors- but dull reef tanks, IMHO!

2) RESPECT THE WHITE SPACE: I stole this concept from graphic design. Essentially, leave some open, or negative space in your aquarium. Rather than fill every available square inch of your tank with rock, leave a little open area. Not only does it create a more aesthetically pleasing look, but also it’s a lot easier to get into the aquarium for routine maintenance duties, etc. Just because you HAVE room for lots of rock does not mean you HAVE to fill your tank with lots of rock! That’s part of the mindset that spawned the wretched rock wall back in the day, so please do your part to make it go AWAY!!!



3) USE CABLE TIES: Wanna create rock structures that seem to defy gravity? Tired of trying to secure rockwork with those aquatic epoxy putties that have the holding power of old waterlogged Scotch tape? Use cable ties. You know, those plastic ties that your electrician uses to hold electrical cables together, and that the Marines use to hog-tie those captured Al Queda idiots? (“OMG, he called terrorists “idiots!†That’s “borderline slander!â€) *They work awesome for rockwork, too. They are available in a wide variety of widths and lengths, and thicknesses (Tip- get the black ones, or “Mil Specâ€, as they are allegedly more UV- resistant.). You can either exploit the natural holes in your rock to slip the ties through, or you can use a slow drill with a masonry bit and make a few of your own. Then, you just work the ties through the holes to secure your rocks together. You can create some really cool arches, overhangs, and other cool structures by using cable ties.

20131226-cableties2.jpg

The ties that bind...literally.


4) GO GREEN -AND RED, AND BROWN: Why not break up the endless monotony of coral-dominated aquariums by utilizing macroalgae or seagrasses in your next system? I’m not talking about Caulerpa here, either. There are literally dozens of different macroalgae available in the hobby, with new species being introduced all the time. Check out Ochtodes, Halymenia, etc. if you need more proof about how cool macroalgae can be! Remember, just because it doesn’t have polyps does not mean that it’s not interesting, attractive, or cool. Having a healthy reef system with a nice growth of say, Halophila seagrass, will put you on par with just about anyone’s awesome SPS-dominated reef tank in my book. Free your mind from the preconceived notions that we seem to have about “noxious macroalgae" taking over your tank and smothering your precious corals. Macroalgae and seagrasses ROCK!!!

P1010009-43.jpg

Macroalgae give a new meaning to the term "garden reef."


5) RETHINK THE BOTTOM: It seems like almost every reef aquarium that I see has the usual rock, corals, and fine white oolithic aragonite substrate. That’s all well and good- but YOU want something more unique! Trust me, there are lots of other substrate materials out there, of different sizes, textures, and colors. I’ve actually written on this before, because I’m obsessed with obscure things like substrate materials. (Actually, I’m obsessed with inspiring and motivating you to try different ideas) I’m particularly enamored with darker substrate materials of late. There are a number of interesting darker substrate products available from manufacturer’s like Carib-Sea, Nature’s Ocean, and Seachem, all of which can add a new dimension of color and texture to an otherwise “pedestrianâ€, white-bottomed reef tank. Not only are different substrates aesthetically pleasing- they can be very functional, as well, providing your fishes interesting foraging opportunities, protection, and, as in the case of Jawfishes-building materials.


6) BECOME A “SOFTYâ€: OMG!!! How many times am I going to have to geek out over soft corals? Not as much as I used to, apparently, the corals of our “reef childhood†are coming back into vogue! I’ve seen a bunch of really cool soft coral-dominated tanks starting to emerge over the past year or so, and it’s really cool to see. Beautiful, more colorful- and healthy- soft corals are coming into the hobby with greater regularity than ever before. Thanks to careful propagation and selection, higher quality, low-reef-impact soft corals abound. Sarcophyton, Sinularia, Capnella, and all of the “old standbysâ€- as well as some newer, more exotic soft corals (yes- there are “exotic†soft corals, you wise guys) make for amazing displays, complete with color and motion (yeah- really- they MOVE!!) Does your Chalice do that? I think NOT! And there are actually “LE†soft corals, so now you name-dropping trend-mongers out there have no excuses. So, join “The Movement†and set up a modern soft coral system today!


reef-tank.jpg

There's just something cool about soft coral-dominated reefs, isn't there?


7) SHALLOW, RIMLESS AND OPEN- No, I’m not talking about my home town of Los Angeles- I’m referring to some of the great trends in aquarium design that are coming to the forefront. You can now get high quality rimless aquariums in a variety of sizes and configurations. Shallow, rimless tanks give you tons of new aquascaping possibilities, and a chance to take in a “top down†view of your beautiful coral collection. And options for ultra clear glass and high quality acrylic work, these tanks ROCK! With the amazing number of suspended lighting systems coming out, it’s easier than ever before to set up a totally unique aquarium that is not only beautiful inside- it compliments your home’s decor as well! Consider a shallow, wide rimless, open-topped aquarium for your next build.

4c3b13793463d.jpg

"My name is Scott, and I'm looking for "shallow."

Ok, enough for now. I've given us enough topics to start a little dialogue on this subject, if we care. The ideas expressed here just scratch the surface of what you can do to create unique displays. I literally have notebooks full of ideas- some great, some absurd, and some entirely impractical. Some are so geeky, that even I won’t try them (I know that’s hard to believe, but I’m serious!)! l’ll bet that you have some cool ideas, too- some that you have tried, or some that you have just dreamed about. I'd like to see examples of your work that incorporated some of the ideas discussed here, and others that we didn't even touch on...Have at it!

The beauty of Reef2Reef is that you can share these ideas with the cutting edge reef community- and maybe inspire someone else out there to build the next great reef tank!

Or, you ould just write more “moronic†posts and get people’s blood pressure up…Hmm. that’s kind of an attractive choice for me, actually!

Till next time…

Stay Wet

Scott Fellman
Unique Corals



 

two guys corals

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Man! #7 is such a love/hate relationship for me. Love the look, but absolutely hate the idea of an open top for four reasons:

1 - fish jump!
2 - i have cats
3 - i have a toddler
4 - i have a toddler

cheers!
ben (meant to post this from my personal account - sorry!)
 
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uniquecorals

uniquecorals

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Man! #7 is such a love/hate relationship for me. Love the look, but absolutely hate the idea of an open top for four reasons:

1 - fish jump!
2 - i have cats
3 - i have a toddler
4 - i have a toddler


cheers!
ben (meant to post this from my personal account - sorry!)

Valid reasons! And of course, evaporation...But still such a cool way to run a reef, IMHO!
 

pgravis

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I don't know why, but this cherryscape from marco rocks has been my inspiration for a couple months now! Still gathering equipment for the build, but I hope to be able to recreate something similar. I would love to see this covered with coral and some fish swimming about in it.


CS6a__82820.1384358753.1280.1280.jpg
 

Legendary Corals

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Love the shallow tanks! Only thing I'm considering if it's too shallow, not sure how to scape it so it'll give enough ample room for SPS to grow tall with such tall pieces of rock. Or what would be even cooler... If the tank is so shallow that you can actually have the rock tall enough to come OUT of the water! And then have SPS grow on the sides of those rocks and make it almost like a lagoon! Ehh??? And then ricordea sand bed. *dream come true*
 
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uniquecorals

uniquecorals

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I don't know why, but this cherryscape from marco rocks has been my inspiration for a couple months now! Still gathering equipment for the build, but I hope to be able to recreate something similar. I would love to see this covered with coral and some fish swimming about in it.


CS6a__82820.1384358753.1280.1280.jpg

I really like the balance of that scape, It's a sort of "classic" mound shaped composition, and it really works nicely! I could envision that shape of composition with some really nice stags or maybe even a bunch of Capnella or Sinularia...Cool Stuff!
 
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uniquecorals

uniquecorals

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Love the shallow tanks! Only thing I'm considering if it's too shallow, not sure how to scape it so it'll give enough ample room for SPS to grow tall with such tall pieces of rock. Or what would be even cooler... If the tank is so shallow that you can actually have the rock tall enough to come OUT of the water! And then have SPS grow on the sides of those rocks and make it almost like a lagoon! Ehh??? And then ricordea sand bed. *dream come true*

The whole "marine paludarium" idea is amazing, IMHO. I've been planning one for some time; just never seem to get the time to build it. Would mimic the little coral islands off of Palau...terrestrial plants on top, and a reef underneath...Crazy!

DO IT!

Scott
 

stylaster

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I attended one of your aquascape meetings a long time ago in Portland Oregon. With that i came away with great ideas and applied a 5 rock island approach on my 312 gallon cube (5'x5'x 20"), thanks to your suggestions it turned out great!
 
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uniquecorals

uniquecorals

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I attended one of your aquascape meetings a long time ago in Portland Oregon. With that i came away with great ideas and applied a 5 rock island approach on my 312 gallon cube (5'x5'x 20"), thanks to your suggestions it turned out great!

Pics! Pics!

I would love it if someone really does get around to the paludarium thing...Would be SO COOL!

-Scott
 

spspirate

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Great right up Scott. Im about to start thinking about aquascaping my new 150, Im an addict to the patch reef look.
 

Eienna

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Some people like the fancy coral skeletons...I prefer more formless chunks of live rock, because the shapely skeletons remind me of death. I like nice live corals and fish to add the interest.

I have heard it said that there's no point in having caves and holes in the rockwork because it will be covered by corals anyway. I think it's crock...unless your tank is basically coral and only coral...
 

Would you ever consider setting up a "dropoff" reef aquarium?

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