Hey all, I am relatively new to planted tanks. I have experience with turtle tanks and recently finished a backyard pond (to house the growing turtles) but I wanted to build more of a show tank for our living room. I have been really inspired by all of the amazing planted tanks and figured what I currently lack in aquatic gardening knowledge, I would try to make up for with a showy hardscape in a paludarium style build. I am posting what I have of my build pics. There are points where my hands were too mucked up with silicone or expanding foam and/or I was too lost in the build to document with pics so I apologize in advance for any gaps in the construction journal. All criticism and suggestions are most welcome, especially for planting ideas for the aquatic portion! I could use your help.
My hope is to create the appearance of a cliff with land mass jutting out above and beach area below. My thought was to create a bonsai forest on top of the cliff on the land portion. I am not sure of options for any species that can interact with the land section without escaping and would love your input on this...
Tank dimensions- 90 gallon- 47" x 22" D x 19.5" H
Light- Medium-high LEDs though I have not measured PAR levels- about 12" above water level
Substrate- Medium Sand on the bottom with some Microbe-Lift Aquatic Plant Media. I used some spare Fluval Stratum and top soil for the land area
Pressurized CO2 injection
Filtration is via a 45g diy sump with separate refugium
I am also using a MistKing misting system for the emersed plants/bonsai
Background- These are real rocks that are foamed together with black expanding foam to create a nice stable cliff-like appearance (no worry of falling rocks here). I got these from AB Bonsai in City of Industry sold under the name Gray Yin stone...much cheaper than Seiryu stone but looks identical to my eye. I'm sure I heard about them from one of the threads here, so thanks! One advantage of this build style is that you don't need large heavy rocks that can stand on their own as in Iwagumi layouts because, as you will see, I attached all of the rocks together with expanding foam to make the cliff.
Rocks were chosen to fit together and then foamed. One or two large rocks are used as the focal rocks and thinner rocks are used surrounding these to 'bind' them together. Sand is piled up initially and pressed into foam before it fully sets to give a more natural appearance. I like the way this has turned out so far. Will let you know how it stands up over time.
I used styrofoam to support the rocks while the foam cured and then removed it. The styrofoam was replaced with a PVC and egg crate false bottom to support the land area.
Immediately after initial cliff build
A couple of pics showing how thin the cliff face is, leaving more room for swimming.
View from behind showing the foam 'seams' that completely separate the land section.
Outlet plumbing was carried via tubing behind the cliff wall, plumbed through a couple of small holes created in the cliff, and sealed around with foam.
The land portion was built over an egg crate/PVC false bottom. I first used a layer of landscape weed barrier fabric for the portion of the submerged cliff on which I wanted to plant submerged/emersed plants to allow for flow in this area. For the areas I wanted to keep dry, I lined with rubber EPDM pond liner and siliconed this to the back of the rock and to the shelf and back/side walls. This was first layered with gravel for overflow drainage followed by Fluval Stratum and topsoil. I'm sorry I wish I had taken pics of this part but my hands were black with foam and I was a little too immersed in the build and neglected the camera.
Here is a pic of the pond liner and gravel/soil in place and water fill test. You can see exposed liner in the background.
Finally, rocks are filled in on top to fill out the cliff/water transition. Initial planting with HC at the water line. I experimented with some moss to make sure I could keep it sufficiently moist and not waterlogged with the MistKing mister before investing in a selection of mosses for the land portion.
I have 2 standard MistKing nozzles plumbed through the shelf above the tank. They give a really nice wide and fine spray pattern but 2 are not quite enough to cover the 4ft length of the tank. I may need another one before this build is through...
First Attempt at Planting the Land Area. My plan is to extend the bonsai 'forest' with several more group bonsai plantings. The bonsai is a Trident Maple forest which is technically not appropriate for indoor use and, as a supposedly responsible hobbyist, I will faithfully have to relocate it outside for the winter most likely. I am looking for a better indoor species to use for this layout (ficus, umbrella plant maybe). The remaining plantings are a variety of mosses that enjoy bright light. So far, the mister has been working beautifully to keep the mosses looking fresh. I plan to fill out the land area as it matures and I can see what does well here.
Some close up views
And close up views of the aquatic section
Here is what is under the hood.
E. tenellus, microsword, a nice little crypt, anubias nana petite. I am looking for some suggestions for what will maintain the feel of a coastal shrub/grassy look so thinking I will avoid stems and broad leafed plants. Maybe some mosses and a slow growing carpeting foreground species.
Current Fauna- some colored danios and skirt tetras (I know, I know...I'm a horrible human being. My kids picked them out before I knew what I was really getting), a couple of yellow lab cichlids, some Endler's.
The land plants have started to grow out even after a week. The Maple is starting to bud with some new growth after a pruning last week.
Mosses are starting to thicken and gain some height
And the emersed HC is starting to fill in
Well, that's where it stands so far. I have just placed a handful of Seachem root tabs. I will have to hit you guys up for some the diy tabs since I am too lazy to be a mixologist myself. Anyways, thanks for checking out the build and I would welcome your input.