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This week's aquascaper in focus is Xema!

Location: Spain
Carlos: How did you become interested in the planted aquarium hobby? How long have you been in the hobby?

Xema: I have been interested in this hobby since 6 years ago, but I have been interested in aquatic life and plants since I was 9 or 10 years old. Fresh water aquaria and planted tanks are not very popular hobby in my country. But I became interested in planted aquaria and especially in natural aquaria simply for the aquatic plants genus, Cryptocorynes. I love Cryptocorynes.

Carlos: Could you please describe your the fertilization and maintenance routines you use on your various aquaria? What liquid and base fertilizer brands gives you the best results? How often are water changes performed, and how much?

Xema: I am not an obssesed about the fertilization and maintenance. I use in all my tanks my own mix of nutritive substrate. I add some traza elements when I consider it necesaary. I use a very popular non-aquatic traza ferts in Spain named Kelamix Complex. And another macro-ferts like Potassium sulfate and Potassium nitrate. I never have used a comercial brand of base ferts. I have gotten my best result with my own substrate --red and sepilite (kitty sand) clay 40%, earthworm compost (or how you say... earthworm castings) 10%, vermiculite 20% and regular gravel 30%. I recently use akadama, a kind of japanese clay used for bonsai growners. Water changes are very important for me. I used to change 10% every 2 or 3 days. This frequently changes help to me to add traces and to favour the ion exchange between water and substrate.

Carlos: Most of the layouts you present seem reminescent of some of Takashi Amano's first works, yet with a clear goal of trying to look like southeast Asian habitats. Is this true? From where do you draw your inspiration?

Xema: Yes, I recently acquired the 3 books of T. Amano "Nature aquarium World" in English version, and I noticed some similarity between his old layouts and mine. Really, I think that all us are influenced by Amano, he is a great master and a figure to imitate. But, on the other hand, I was growning bonsais since I was a child. The Oriental and Japanese influence is very heavy in me. I am a lover of Japanese culture since my childhood. My inspiration come from images in my mind. I imagine a beautifull aquatic place, and I try to make it. Crypt biotopes are a great influence for me, too.

Carlos: What are you usually trying to recreate in your aquascapes? A natural or idealized landscape like a mountain range? A biotopic underwater scene like from a lake? Do you incorporate any particular aquascaping techniques frequently in your layouts to achieve the emotion or idea you are trying to convey?

Xema: I allways try to get a beautifull scene from a real lake or river. I recreate scenes from crypt biotopes which I will probably never see in person. Really,I create my scapes for my own enjoyment. If people feel what I am trying to express, I feel realized.

Carlos: What are your main goals when setting up a new tank?

Xema: Enjoy it.

Carlos: Are there any tactics or techniques you use to make arrangement decisions in your designs? Do you use any guidelines or rules for wood or rock placement? How about the use of colored plants? Do you place any special consideration on choosing the right fish for your layout?

Xema: My main obsession is to get a natural look --imitate rivers banks, crypt pools, etc. I don´t use any special techniques. However, I am obsessed with getting a good combination between fishes and plants. Crypts only can combine wth barbs and rasboras for me. Tetras in a cryptocoryne tank make a horrible image.

Carlos: How did you manage to create the paludarium? What is the material used in creating the island of emersed growth?

Xema: My paludarium setting was born because of my chocolate gouramis. I was trying to get a pure enviroment for them. A paludarium is the best biological filter that there will ever be --a thin film of water running through the roots is similar to a wet dry filter. I created the emersed island with rocks or wood, then I covered it with java moss, creating a wonderful bed for other plants.

Carlos: What do you enjoy most about designing and creating aquariums in this hobby?

Xema: Without doubt, I enjoy most when I can see what I imagined in my mind become a real scene.

Carlos: What is in the horizon for you in terms of aquascaping? Are there any particular ideas you look forward to implementing in future arrangements? Do you feel that you have anything left to learn?

Xema: My objectives for the future are to get the planted tank hobby more popular in my country. I have a few layouts which I would like to recreate in the future.

Carlos: Finally, is there any particular advice you would give to a hobbyist creating his first planted aquarium layout?

Xema: Imitate the nature, and read about plants and biotopes.

Dimensions: 60x25x60
Volume: 60 liter air side and 60 liter water side
Substrate: regular gravel 2-3mm
Lighting : 36w PL 4500ºK, 18 w FL 6000ºK
Fish: various
Plants: Microsorum pteropus regular and windelov, vesicularia dubyana, hydrocotyle verticiliata, Cryptcoryne wendtii 'green', Hygrophila polysperma, Ficus repens, Anubias nana, Sagitaria subulata, Salvinia natans and Pistia stratoides

Dimensions: 100x30x40
Volume: 120 liters
Substrate: undergravel nutritive sustrate (peat, clay, etc) and blons sand 1-2mm
Lighting: 2x30w FL Aquastar, 1x18w FL 4500ºK
Fish: Rasbora heteromorpha, R. espei and khuli loaches
Plants: Riccia fluitans, Cryptocoryne sp., Vallisneria sp., Limnophila sessiliflora, Vesicularia dubyana

Dimensions: 60x50x55
Volume: 160 liters
Substrate: undergravel nutritive sustrate (peat, clay, etc) and blond gravel 1-2mm
Lighting: 70 w Metal Halide 5500ª K, and 2x36, 6000º K
Fish: Sphaerychtis osphromenoides, Eirmotus hexazona, Oryzias javanicus, Acanthophthalmus javanicus, Acanthophthalmus semicictus, Acanthophthalmus myersi, Caridina japonica, Neocaridina sp. "skunk shrimp", Neocaridina serrata "bee shrimp", Atyopsis moluccensis
Plants: Cryptocoryne crispatula var. balansae, Cryptocoryne wendtii var., Vesicularia dubyana, Eichhornia azurea, Rotala indica, Cryptocoryne affinis


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Great looking tanks Xema, I especially like the lush growth over the paludarium. Thank you for sharing and talking with us.


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Tetras in a cryptocoryne tank make a horrible image.
I couldn't agree more, Xema. :) I've never seen your paludarium before--it looks great! Love hearing updates on your chocos (still biding my time before I can start keeping them again, and hopefully I can successfully breed them next go around).
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