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Discussion Starter #1
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Please comment on the rock/wood positioning. The two groups of rocks are a bit too similar as they are now.

--Nikolay
 

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The garnet is completely inert so it doesn't release anything in the water
Common (almandite) garnet is Fe3Al2(SiO4)3. Garnet is formed in metamorphic and some igneous rocks under conditions of high heat and relatively high pressure. While completely stable in these conditions of high heat and pressure below the Earth's surface, it is not completely stable in the conditions prevalent at the Earth's surface. If you are apt to spend time in the North Eastern USA, New England area, you will find them in the various metamorphic rocks that outcrop here. Rocks in streams etc often contain remains of these garnets and they are broken down. How long they will stay stable in an aquarium is an interesting thought. Keep us updated. The substrate looks very nice. As usual, Nikolay is innovating.

The layout has potential - depends on the plants. What is the rock you are using? It looks fine grained, slightly weathered rounding of edges etc. The rocks seem to be a foundation on which the wood is anchored.

With a narrow (side-to-side width) aquarium, it is hard not to centre designs. Sometimes, adding elevation to the substrate on one side or other helps to alleviate the feeling of being in a narrow confine.

Andrew Cribb
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Pinneapple,

Thanks for the comments!

In the course of about 10 days I've been checking how garnet affects TDS. I filled 1/2 cup with the garnet, rinsed about 5-7 times with RO water, and then filled the cup with 100% RO water. The TDS of the RO was 10 ppm, and the garnet increased it immediately to 16. Over the course of the next days the reading went up to about 26.

Edward told me that RO water left exposed to air gradually increases its TDS up to 50.

Indeed my short experiment is not a proof that nothing is going to be released in the water. But the garnet sand TDS reading of 26 is way below the readings of six or so other substrates that I tested. Ironically the second best is the $10 per 50 bag TexBlast pool filter sand (TDS=100). Fluorite had 178 from the get go and it was the third choice. I do hope that the Fe and Al in the garnet are not going to cause any problems in the long run.

The rocks that I use - you can find them around railroad tracks. They are very heavy and seem to be a popular choice for combating erosion in man made hills. Those rocks passed the fizz test but other than that I can't say how inert they are.

--Nikolay
 

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I guess, but am not sure, that the rocks are a fine-grained basalt. Basalt seems useful in aquariums since it has a dark colour and the plants look good alongside it.

As you say, the garnet sounds fairly inert according to the tests.

Andrew Cribb
 

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The garnet sand is beautiful. Where did you get it?

I have panned for gold only to come up with pans full of garnet. The mineral is hard and quite stable and is usually among the last minerals to break down under near-surface conditions. It is perhaps not as stable as quartz, but then little else is.

I can't really guess at what the stones are, but basalt would not be my first guess.

How do you intend to plant the tank?


Roger Miller
 

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The problem with your layout is innate to the dimensions of the tank and not to the actual woodworking. Some things that could do to alleviate this problem is to slope the sand from back to the front. In my 55g, for example, the substrate is only 1" deep in the front and 4-5" deep in the back. Another tactic you can use is the use of strong vertical lines and/or the use of small to fine leaved plants.

For strong vertical lines:

Eleocharis montevidensis
Eleocharis vivipara
Isoetes sp.

For small/fine leaved plants:

Bacopa australis
Cabomba aquatica
Hemianthus micranthemoides
Juncus repens
Mayaca fluviatilis
Micranthemum umbrosum
Rotala sp. Nanjenshan
Rotala rotundifolia "Green"
Rotala wallichii
...and many more.

The initial hardscape is important but not absolutely critical to the success of a layout. A hardscape may seem balanced and visually attractive without the plants, but once the plants are added and allowed to grow in, the layout can change significantly.

Carlos
 

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I would use a different approach to planting. The wood and stone arrangement is very striking and dramatic. To preserve that effect I would probably plant the tank very simply with no red plants and perhaps two or at most three plant varieties. Nothing would be nearly as tall as the wood. Something like a glosso foreground and a slightly higher hemianthus background. I would probably try to limit the foreground growth so that the color of the garnet substrate would show through at the front.


Roger Miller
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Roger,

Garnet sand is a very common sandblasting media. Call any sandblastin supplier in your area and they probably have it. Mine is 16 mesh if I'm not mistaken, I couldn't find coarser one. 100 lbs. bag is about $37.

I tried to find quartz but that seems impossible, especially in dark colors. Dennerle has 6 different colors of pure quartz but as we all know they don't sell many items in the US, especially gravel.

One may be interested in using glass beads, which are another common sandblasting media. But Edward told me that the light that penetrates the beads leads to algae growth in the substrate. How's that for weird :) So seems that glass beads are ruled out, unless one can find cheap colored ones. Some craft websites have all kinds of colors but they sell the beads by the ounce...

Planting the tank:
My first intent was to do what Carlos suggested - make the scape appear higher by using tall "skinny" leafed plants. Then I thought the opposite - jsut like you suggest - what about keeping it low? But the height of that tank almost requires a tall plant arrangement. I have not decided yet, plus I don't have all the plants I wish I had :). Carlos is right about the Eleocharis vivipara, I hadn't taught about it, I wish I had it!

In any case this time I want to keep more of the rock/wood exposed. Glosso will be the ground cover for sure, but not as a "cover all" mat. The garnet does seem very beautiful upon close examination, but from 2 feet away it doesn't look that clear and exotic. At least it doesn't look like purple crystals, something I was concerned about.

The previous layout in this tank, which you can see here , taught me what Carlos mentions - the original layout may be great (or not that great) but the plants can make the difference. I personally don't see a point of having a precise, elaborate rock/wood arrangement only to have it burried and hidden later with lush plant growth. I still can't understand why Amano has done exactly that in more than a few occasions.

Carlos,
I did some sloping but not as aggresive as yours - I'd say 2 inches on the back, 1/2 inch on the front. You can somewhat see the thickness in the back here but unfortunatelly I've blacked out the line of the bottom glass.

How tall does E. vivipara get?

--Nikolay
 

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May I suggest a species of Marsilea instead of Glossostigma? I think the Marsilea will be more suited to applications where the plant isn't supposed to invade and cover the foreground entirely.

You could try some narrow leaved java ferns planted around the rocks or wood. The rather horizontal, elongate foliage could further accent and enhance this wood arrangement.

Eleocharis vivipara can get pretty tall -- at least 16".

Carlos
 

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How about Blyxa sp. Vietnam and/or Blyxa japonica.

Rocks that small will get lost even with a small amount of ground cover. It's hard to get rocks to display in a well-grown planted aquarium unless they are 'exaggerated' in stature to start with. With an 18 USG high you have height to play with. Enjoy the height, use it. Wood is easier to use in this dimension. Tall rocks usually have wide bases which restricts planting, unless you can get hold of some 'pinnacles'.

As for your last version:

* Active carbon on the bottom.
*Peat/pumice/laterite/lava rock as a second layer.
Why did you take that down? Was it just design considerations or something to do with the substrate? Why did you change the substrate? Just testing?

I am curious because I have been thinking about substrate for a new aquarium recently and have been considering components such as peat, pumice, Flora Base, etc.

Andrew Cribb
 
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