Article reprinted from
Building a Terrace Within Your Aquarium
Category : Beginners Articles
Published by TheDragonLord on 21/01/2008
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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