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Building a Terrace Within Your Aquarium
Published by TheDragonLord on 21/01/2008 (53560 reads)
A pictoral guide on how an aquatic planting terrace is put in place.

This article is a step by step as to how I created my own terraced planted aquarium and will be added to as it grows in etc over time.

First of all you will need an empty tank, like below. This is my old rekord 120 that was used until a few days before for Tanganyikan fish and some shell dwellers, the media was kept mature in a separate tank that the fish were put in.

Secondly, we need to see where we want to place the terraces, you can build your own, or do it the easy way and buy some of these plastic Juwel terraces which are great IMO as you don?t have to put up with filter floss showing through eventually. Many terraces that are created by building a wall from rock or slate and then lined with filter floss to prevent the terraces substrate seeping through the gaps into the foreground, but after a period of time the top rim of filter floss tends to show through as the substrate moves and it lifts up.

As can be seen on this close up, I siliconed them into place with aquarium silicone as I didn?t want gravel falling out of the gap between them and the glass.

Next you can start adding your substrate. I have opted for sand at the front since it?s visually more pleasing to me, plus some fish prefer sand. I am planting the terraces and prefer to do this in a very fine pea gravel, so I have filled them to the brim with this substrate. Fertilisation is provided by a pond fertiliser stick in the middle of each (the LFS had none of the tank sticks that last 12 months, just 3 month tablets that I dislike personally) so should last for at least 18 months IMO. You can add things like Laterite, potting soil without chemicals added (John Innes no.2 is very good) but as this is a low tech tank these types of fertilisation would be a bit much for my plants, so just wasn?t worth the cost of buying/getting them.

Next add some water to begin the planting of the lower level, or if you wish cover the terraces in java moss, as I have done to hopefully cover it to give a moss wall effect which should look cool once its grown and attached.

As you can see this is the layout from above.

Next fill the water level higher and plant out the terrace (s) whilst it?s ¾ full in my case so as to allow you to move about without splashing out water everywhere.

Unfortunately I couldn?t plant it out as my LFS hadn?t had their plant delivery in due to the holiday period so I had to wait a day, but got it filled and running to clear it, get the water heated up more, filter media in and the 8 adult amano shrimp I had retained for this tank.

So the next day I got my first fish to keep the filter going, 12 dwarf neon rainbows at about an inch long. All settled in fine and shoal really well, which is encouraging to see. The following day I got my plants and my final stock for now (which were floating in this picture) so here it is 4 days after I began (thanks to holiday delays) all planted up and stocked on the 4th of January 2008. The final stock that I added was a baby Ancistrus and a brown ghost/African knife fish. The plants that are currently in the tank are comprised of Vallis as a background plant and Amazon swords within the terraces as they do best with root fertilisation IME and will provide lots of cover for the fish. There is an Anubias attached to a pebble from the previous tank that I just couldn?t throw away so I placed it in the tank around the area that the knife fish will hide (centre of tank). There is also java moss as mentioned and little bits of java fern attached to the pieces of bogwood in the tank, one also has pieces of moss ball growing over it, but that was more accidental than deliberate to be honest. I am contemplating adding some low growing foreground plants such as dwarf chain sword, but I shall wait to see how well the tank does without it as I have quite low lighting levels. Some corydoras may be added such as panda, adolfoi or sterbai to help keep the substrate turned over.

2nd March 2008

The tank stock is now:

21 Dwarf Neon Rainbows (Melanotaenia praecox)

11 Pygmy Corydora (Corydoras habrosus)

5 Cherry Barbs (Puntius titteya)

8 Amano Shrimp (Caridina multidentata)

1 African Knifefish (Xenomystus nigri)

1 Unknown Loach

The Plant stock is as follows:

lots of vallis

4 tiger lotus'

a lot of java moss that needs more attention when i get time so it grows as i want


Java fern

i shall hopefully get a picture of the set-up tonight when its dark, before i start messing around with a water change and feeding

update 15th February 2009

I have given up keeping plants other than two tiger lotus (gave others away) as i'm only home every half term (ever 6-8 weeks) for one week at a time so the plants just over grow then die off due to not being pruned. The fish stock has also taken a change and is now very west african minded. The current stock is:

1 x unknown loach (it is actually a darter tetra)
2 x cherry barbs
1 x bulldog plec
1 x Apistogramma veija
4-5 x pygmy corydora
6 x kribensis
1 x ropefish
1 x delhezi bichir
1 x senegal bichir
2 x butterfly fsh
1 x African knifefish
1 x elephant-nose
1 x african leaf fish (Polycentropsis abbreviata) other 4 died one by one for unknown reasons over the last 8 months

over stocked? probably, will it be? with the kribs, definately, 2 males and 4 females. Best looking ones i've seen as well so i think once they have gotten bigger they will find there way to another fish tank whom takes most of my fish that i dont want The elephant nose was added today after i swaped it for the RTBS (who was gorgeous) as it was suspected of taking chunks out of the 2 polypterus (both were bought at trade price, but i paid nearly ?8 for the delhezi and it's tail is in bad shape now so i'm sorting that out
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  • Just can't stay away

 Re: Building a Terrace Within Your Aquarium

Fantastic Aquarium and great article.

We're now looking at ways to incorporate a similar planted terrace to our tank as we have sand for our catfish and currently potting our plants in gravel.

  • Plants  Adviser

 Re: Building a Terrace Within Your Aquarium

Nice article and a good looking tank.

Those juwel terrace pieces are fairly new aren't they?

  • Coldwater Moderator

 Re: Building a Terrace Within Your Aquarium

That's nice. I haven't seen those juwel bits before either.

  • Pond  Adviser

 Re: Building a Terrace Within Your Aquarium

yea i first saw them at christmas when i was going to re-do my tank and thought that would be a nice thing to try, although if i could do anything different it would be to have added the juwel rock background as well for a big more depth to the tank as they dont do a smaller sized terrace for multiple levels with i wanted really, the middle one would have been a half height one if they did one like that, but i dont know if enough people would email them to put the idea into their heads

thanks for the kind words people, i'll have an update to add onto this once i get round to taking a picture

  • Home away from home

 Re: Building a Terrace Within Your Aquarium

The tank looks really nice I'd wanted to do something like that in my new tank I should be getting in the next few weeks.
Quick question. Are the terrace peices easy to get hold of or are they something that would need to be ordered off the net?

  • Pond  Adviser

 Re: Building a Terrace Within Your Aquarium

my LFS (one i work at) always has them in and they have started to appear in many other shops recently as well

i've added a little update to this as well now all i need to do is ID one fish and get a full tank shot

  • Home away from home

 Re: Building a Terrace Within Your Aquarium

This might be nothing, but dosen't the substrate in the terraces get drawn int the lower end of the juwel filter?

  • Pond  Adviser

 Re: Building a Terrace Within Your Aquarium

nah, it's just a tiny bit too big to go through, it does get stuck in the grill though, just means all the flow has no choice but to go through the sponges but i did think about that at first myself, but stubbornness just made me not bother too much about it, if it did i'd have just got a sump system fitted, so the secret hoping was there

  • Home away from home

 Re: Building a Terrace Within Your Aquarium

just wondering what is that really long thin plant called?

  • Home away from home

 Re: Building a Terrace Within Your Aquarium

kcon it is vallis, most fish stores will have it for sale.


 Re: Building a Terrace Within Your Aquarium

Hi, I'm fairly new to the fish thing. I moved into a new house and the previous tenants had kindly left a little fantail goldfish in a filthy plastic bowl behind. I managed to get a larger tank for him thank goodness!!! and some friends and my husband and I are now very into our tank. its not massive 2 foot half hexagon with a filter. I have just today managed to murder my 2 weather loaches during a water change - don't really understand how to be honest but i assume it was either stress or me messing too much with the bacteria etc. you live and learn.

Anyway my question is.....

is it safe to put sand in a goldfish aquarium. I have stones at the moment but i was considering sand as an alternative because it looks better with the other decorations i have ie greek archway and broken pot. I also will be looking at the terrace idea. I have to say it looks lovely xxx

  • Coldwater Moderator

 Re: Building a Terrace Within Your Aquarium

Hi nookybear - welcome to FK Sorry for the delay in replying to this! Well done for helping out your unexpected guest Some people can be so mean Anyway, yes you can use sand in an aquarium for goldies although some people say it can irritate their gills where they are forever rootling around in it. I've got very fine quartz gravel in mine, it's almost sand but not quite that fine. It's mixed with some small pea gravel but only because I had tonnes of the stuff already!

HTH - feel free to start a thread in the forum if you have any questions, you are much more likely to get a better response there as more people will see it

  • Just popping in

 Re: Building a Terrace Within Your Aquarium

Thanks for the demo, it inspired me.
I noticed the last update is in '09... Any updates?

Either way, the tank looks very nice... Hope your able to keep it up.

  • Just popping in

 Thanks Note.

Thank you, my problem for having no aquarium for my dev tech fishes in my home is now solved.

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