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The 3-ft tank themed 'Wind, Forest, Fire, and Mountain', even though smaller in scale when compared to the previous 4-footer, is nevertheless a tried-and-true, time-consuming learning tank. From the start that began with the idea, theme selection, material gathering, to tank set up, maintenance, photography, and later modifications; every step has taken an immense amount of time and dedication, using what I thought would be the best way to approach things, in order to attain what I had imagined in my heart!!

Ever since the ever so popular Japanese 'Zen' aquascaping methodology, people have been trying to imitate the nature; bringing a piece of it home. Oftentimes, however, they missed out on the many great images and textures around them. Simply add a small dose of imagination and a larger dose of observation, even the drab and uninteresting can become evermore so vivacious. The idea for this aquascape comes from the Victoria dock, with the many surrounding skyscrapers shining their never ending night-lights. Thus born the 'Wind, Forest, Fire, and Mountain'!! If everyone could picture all the buildings replaced by rocks, all the lights replaced by thin-stemmed plants, an entire layout has appeared!!


Equipments and materials needed prior to the beginning!!

ADA heating plate

The under-gravel heating plate/heating line is not a new technology or new device. Its main usage is to provide a circulation between the different temperatures of the tank bottom and the tank surface, thereby bringing out the still water and bringing in the active water. This helps to lessen the blackness due to the anaerobic activities of the bacteria and the substrate, as well as providing the roots with oxygen which would allow for a more robust development. The aforementioned pointers all come from theories in the book. Whether or not they are true await further experiments. (Note: I've been keeping plants for three years without using such products, and the plants have all been very healthy. Still it is worth a try to follow the books)

Light Rock

Its main purpose is to circulate the water, in order to prevent it from being still. This helps the bacteria to increase as well as slowing down the aging of the substrate. Even though I have always used this approach, I still have this one question; wondering if anyone has ever thought of it. Even after I added the light rocks, the substrate was still too dense for the water to circulate properly. I therefore believe that if I use the heating plate I could better aid in the exchange of still and fresh water, thereby brings out the effect of the light rocks.

***Take caution that light rocks will increase the pH.
Bottom Fertilizations

When I first used the ADA substrate I never thought about using any substrate fertilizers. ADA substrates contain enough nutrients coupled with periodic liquid fertilizers, which could support the plants for a period of time. However, the matter of the fact is, ADA substrates will not be able to provide the plants with enough nutrition after it has been used for more than six months. Plants can only survive, but will have lost their liveliness. Because of this reason, it is best to fatten up the substrate now so as to prevent later regrets…..

penacW need not further introductions. Its use has already been explained from previous setups (usage is to vivify the substrates).


In actuality, OHKO stones have unnatural textures coupled with vertical and horizontal linings. During the designing stage, therefore, there must be conformities among the stones. As a result of this, it seems the difficulty level has been raised. But because OHKO stones belong to warm type of rocks, their formations will be more acceptable upon completion. This time the OHKO stone is the main theme in terms of rock works so that's why I chose larger sized pieces (the largest being about 1 foot long).

Setting up the tank

Starting from nothing, first add the heating plate.

Spread the gravels that will cover about 5/6 of the surface area, toward the back to prevent them from flowing to the edge of the tank.

Use a sieve to sprinkle penacW over the substrate in order to distribute it more evenly.

Top off with a small amount of substrate fertilizer, plus old substrate (For no particular reason, the old substrate is already there so it remains on the bottom while the new substrate is on top).

Thereafter, add a little more substrate fertilizer to the old substrate. Then finish off with new substrate!!(***Substrate here is probably ADA Amazonia just in case anyone is confused about substrate and gravel here)

Arranging the rocks is considered one of the time consuming parts in aquascaping. Plants can be easily removed and rearranged, however, the rocks aren't so easy. So it is imperative that care must be exercised. In the end a total of three hours time was spent, half of which was pure gazing at the formation possibilities. As mentioned before, even with a basic layout already in mind, the rocks' patterns and linings make it extremely difficult to figure out just what a proper arrangement should look like (Wondering if anyone noticed that the background changed from being day time to night time).

Take notice that when setting up the rocks, it is important to arrange them in such a way that all the smaller, surrounding rocks are pointing toward the biggest one. This arrangement places the focus on the main rock piece. I utilized a method which I discussed more in depth in my previous aquscape. Looking at my watch, I realized it was time to sleep. Tomorrow we shall continue…..

October the first, the second day, water was still…..obviously murky with very low visibility! Small amount of older plants were added nevertheless to prevent any casualties.

October the second, visibility has increased dramatically.

October the thirteenth, all the plants have been acclimatized to the new environment. An especially strong plant is the glosso, growing at two nodes per day. At this point I had a thought that in less than one month the front part of the tank will be fully covered. One another note, the 'Wind' part of the theme can started to be seen as in the movement of the black neon tetras.

November the first, sigh…..wondering why the water continues to turn yellow, while the plants have been shedding leaves, as well as moss growing in abundance. Even the most robust glosso has slowly turned yellow. Should the project be discontinued, even though it had such a great outlook? Thinking about all the possible causes, I plugged in the pH meter, and the reading turned out to be…..7.8……….I didn't even realize; the 'Wind, Forest, Fire, and Mountain' is slowly headed toward the salt water tank field.

After that I had help from Eric that, using ADA Plam Net would decrease the pH. So now the pH is between 6.4-6.8!! Awesome, indeed!!

December the nineteenth, happiness made one forget about the time (Actually it was due to business). No photographs were taken for an entire month. Glosso continues to be a strong survivor after the pH has been adjusted back to normal. It is growing at several nodes per day, turning into a complete carpet. I won't prune anything; replanting certain areas is faster and better!!

January the second, now is the time to savor the good memories. Camera was picked up and many pictures were taken. Click, click, click………………..even though it doesn't look its final goal, this opportunity can not be missed.


I believe that, if everyone remembers, I have discussed in detail in 2004, about reviving and its procedures on the web. There was a great response, and it wasn't only in Hong Kong and Taiwan and other areas where Chinese people live. The discussion even extended as far as USA and other famous plant forums. I do believe aquascaping has no known boundaries. The most important lesson is in learning how to share!! Hope everyone likes to share!!

P.S. Thank you very much for Paul Higashikawa as the translator.

2,069 Posts
TNguyen said:
you can send the rock to me.


We have that same rock here in SF now FYI.
I like it.

We also have some very nice looking basalt similar to what Amano uses.

I certainly agree finding a group of rocks that match and blend is extremely important and had to find!!

I can say:
Penac and heat plates are of no use.
Substrate aging is dealt with but uprooting and vacuuming once every 1-2 years.

It is due to mulm accumulation and too much organic material, once removed there is enougn circulation and O2, and polant roots also add lots of O2, more than the circulation from a heat plate or cables would add.

Also, why use a plate on the inside of a tank? Add a reptile pad on the outside, the only arguement against that was a convection current that George Booth claimed and Dupla claimed worked.

I used cables and pads for nearly a decade on 8 tanks, I'll never use them ever again.

If you live where it is warm, they do not get used at all.

Tom Barr

2,069 Posts
A point about OHKO rock:

I noticed is was fairly soft, so with some gloves and alittle tapping and water, I was somewhat easily able to break off parts of the rock, or reduce the size to have it fit the tank's size and layout better.

This is still quite stable ofr the rock display and the edges that are freshly broken are not garrish or mismatched.

I really like this rock for that reason.
It was been fun trying it on my smaller nano tanks and some of the 20's.
It's dirty, has lots of clay and sediment, so wash well prior to use.

Tom Barr

256 Posts
Yep to bad the pictures are all gone.
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