Archive for 2012|Yearly archive page
Takashi Amano Layout Seminar A | 180cm Cube Garden No.4
Fluval C2 | First Impressions Review
Takashi Amano Layout Seminar A | 180cm Cube Garden No.2
Takashi Amano Layout Seminar A | 90cm Cube Garden
Starpet Riccia Base S
Ecoxotic LED Aluminium Arm
Approx Measurements: 10 inches long | 3 inches wide | 4.5 inches tall
Total Watts: 9 watts, will be increased to 27 watts.
Light Spectrum: 12,000K White
The Ecoxotic LED arm is for aquariums that are around 30cm in size. LED arms for such nano tanks exist, but as LEDs are still not as cheap to produce as the common fluorescent light, some companies have decided to use vastly inferior LEDs in order to price their products cheaply. This has created quite a fair deal of discontentment with aquarists who have used these inferior products, as they expect LEDs to last the usual 50,000 hours and not to lose lighting intensity after 500 hours. The LEDs found in the Ecoxotic are of good quality, able to output optimal lighting intensity for 50,000 hours. With a photoperiod of 8 hours a day, that works out to slightly more than 17 years!
The LED arm comes with one LED strip, and every LED strip is 9 watts of light. Ecoxotic smartly engineered the LED arm to have space for another 2 strips, allowing a total of 27 watts of light. Some aquarists have gone even further and have proven that it is possible to squeeze another 2 strips at the edges for a grand total of 5 strips or 45 watts of light. At the start of Nano I, I mentioned that it will be a low-tech aquascape, however, a high-tech aquascape will do all the equipment better justice. I have thus decided to go that route and have ordered two more LED strips which will boost it to 27 watts of light.
The Ecoxotic LED arm’s main strength is its design. With today’s popularity of rimless aquariums that emphasises a minimalistic and clean look, aided by unobtrusive equipment, a lighting unit which takes the conspicuous spot on top of the aquarium requires an appropriate design to fit into that minimalistic concept.
Some aquatic companies have also hopped unto the LED bandwagon, but they seem to be happy to house them in housings that will hold a compact fluorescent tube. In contrast, the Ecoxotic LED arm is sleek and metal sheet thin, with the advantage of the minute size of LEDs played fully.
When using the Ecoxotic LED arm with the Mini S, the combination works perfectly. The structure and thickness of the LED arm flows with the similar structure of an aquarium and the choice of a curvature, rather than a right angle, takes away the tension in design that is critical as it occupies a conscious space.
At the legs of the LED arm, where the arm grips the tank, Ecoxotic has used good quality rubber to prevent the aluminum legs from damaging your tank wall. The black rubber matches the LED arm perfectly and I didn’t realised the use of rubber till I inspected that area. As, rubber is waterproof there will not be any degradation of the material over time. This is unlike other light units which utlise plastic to hold their light units to the tank wall, as the paint on the plastic often comes off because of its constant contact with the aquarium’s waters. The width of the rubberize aluminum legs have been designed to fit aquarium walls of thickness 6mm or less. On the Mini S which is just 5mm thick, the arm fitted nicer, there is no need to use the provided screw arm.
The intensity emitted by the LED arm is good and it does look brighter than 9 watts from a compact fluorescent tube, partly due to the pinpoint nature of LEDs. When I get my hands on the extra 18 watts of LEDs, it’s going to be dazzling. The combination of a top end LED light unit, coupled with a masterly crafted tank is just spectacular. I can’t wait for the tank to be filled and to have the aquascape shimmering!
Aquarium: ADA Mini S
Specifications: 31cm x 18cm x 24cm
Materials: Low Iron Glass
Capacity: 13 litres
ADA tanks are no strangers to any of us. They are well known for their quality, but more than being the benchmark of aquarium tanks, they are more famous for their seemingly outrageous asking price.
And it’s little wonder. For the price of a Mini S, you can get at least 5 tanks of the same measurements. So why do some of us still willingly pay such a premium for their tanks? It’s a difficult rational to explain if you have never owned an ADA tank before, but I will do my best.
Throughout the year, because of the work I do, I come into contact with numerous nano tanks in every price bracket. Some tanks are decently made, reasonably priced while others are horrible in quality and priced beyond what they are worth.
Purchasing a tank with good qualities is more important to an aquascaper, than it is to the fish keeper. We spend time, effort and finance on our aquascapes and we want them to be viewed in the best way possible. If the aquascape is housed in a tank that causes the aquascape to be visually compromised in any manner, than that tank is less than ideal.
Here are 5 qualities that I feel are essential for a nano tank housing an aquascape.
- Squared edges.
- Neat and minimal clear silicon work.
- Low iron or crystal glass.
- As thin as possible glass walls.
- Ideal tank measurements.
1. Rounded edge tanks sell well because they appeal more to the general consumer than square edge tanks. Because they are good for the bottom line, companies that mass produce aquarium tanks have made them to be available in many sizes. If you’re on the look out for a squared edge tank, they exist, just in a smaller volumes and sizes. I have noticed that rounded edge tanks are usually better in construction and one particular brand has very neat silicon work. However, rounded edge tanks should be avoided as they distort the view of the aquascape when it is viewed through the edges. Also, rounded edges makes it difficult for the aquascape to be framed within the tank, which is important for visual impact.
2. Neat and minimal silicon work are more essential in a nano tank than in a larger tank. In a nano aquascape, space is so limited that a strong attention to details is needed to create a good aquascape. Clear silicon, applied in a sloppy manner will cause a distraction to the nano aquascape. A tank’s most visible lines are the edges of the tank walls, excellent silicon application will ensure that the walls stay as inconspicuous as possible.
3. Low iron or crystal glass should be embraced by every aquascaper. When such glass tanks are teamed with lights of the right colour temperature and good filters, the tank walls seem invisible and the aquascape shines. Even in nano tanks with thin glass walls, the greenish tinge found in normal glass is visible. Another reason to use such glass are for aquascapers who are keen on aquascape photography.
4. The thinner the glass walls, the more optically accurate your aquascape will be. Yet, the walls have to be strong enough to withstand pressure from the allocated water volume. Although 4mm to 5mm thick glass is safe enough for 13 litres of water, local nano tanks are usually found with 6mm to 8mm thick glass because it is easier to manufacture and cut thicker glass.
5. The length of a tank is well established. With usual sizes ranging from 30cm, 45cm, 60cm, 75cm, 90cm and 120cm sizes for aquascapes. However, what is not well establish is the depth and height of such tanks. Tanks that are made for aquascaping need to have measurements that are well suited for housing an aquascape. Only in such tanks can an aquascape truly stand out.
Till date, I have only found one tank that excels in all these qualities, and it’s tanks that are made by ADA. My nano aquascapes usually last for about 1.5 years before I rescape or upgrade them. In that time period, they are placed in areas of visible prominence. The tanks holding the aquascapes need to be strong, of quality and yet be as invisible as possible.
Because of these reasons, some of us have paid, and will continue to pay the premium for an ADA’s tank. Not every LFS carries ADA’s tanks and for those that do, most will only bring them in when you place an order. This is understandable as demand is low as compared to other tanks and stocking ADA products are expensive. But because of this arrangement, some LFS charge an even higher price than what is usual, so don’t fall for that trap. It’s important to shop around and not pay any more than what you have to.
ADA’s philosophy of ensuring that a tank be as transparent as possible and that nothing blocks the aquascapes have made rimless tanks popular for aquascaping and theirs, the benchmark. The true beauty of the Mini S can be seen when light shines through and brightens up the tank from within. The Mini S simply sparkles.
In this close up shot, the care and skill required to construct the Mini S is visibly apparent. The silicon work is of course, not perfect when viewed this up close. But when you take into consideration that those tank walls are only 5mm thick and the size of that ADA sticker, the silicon is as invisible as it gets.
An issue I have noticed that occurs from time to time in our locally made tanks is when a tank’s glass walls are not aligned perfectly together. With the Mini S, all the walls are joined together very nicely. Besides having nicely formed walls, the glass is perfectly cut as well. The quality control at ADA must be extremely strict to ensure that every single tank they produce, meets this degree of standard.
When ADA chose to use low iron glass as the new standard in all their tanks a year or two ago, Takashi Amano did mention that low iron glass scratches easier than normal glass because of its material composition. But after saying that, he confirmed that these scratches are extremely small in nature and invisible to the naked eye. I can attest to this fact because I have a 30cm cube ADA tank in my possession for a year now, no matter how hard I try, I cannot spot a scratch. Of course, this will be true if there has not been any accidents that has occurred to the tank.
Here is another shot of the tank from the top left edge.
We feel good when we partake in the use of premium and masterly crafted items and the Mini S is no exception. Being in procession of such a fine tank to hold the aquascape adds a healthy does of pressure to ensure that it turns out as best as it can be. Even if one is new to the hobby, good equipment is always worthwhile investment. Properly taken care of, the Mini S should last years. With the beauty it imparts on a daily basis, I feel that it is a small price to pay for something that is fundamental to the aquascape.
Besides having all the qualities necessary to hold an aquascape, the Mini S is truly a work of art, and a beauty to behold.
[TAG] has been quiet for the last two months and now you’re about to find out why. I have been planning and laying the groundwork for a major new project and the time has now come for me to reveal it to you. I’m pleased to present, Project Nanos.
So, what is Project Nanos?
It will be a journal of several nano tanks that I will aquascape and showcase over the coming months. My best efforts in equipment, photography and information will be placed into the setting up of each of these tanks. Once matured, the tanks will move on and new ones will be featured. I’m committed to a minimum of three different nanos, but I’m challenging myself to see how far I can go.
I’m tempted to give you more details on the set ups right now but I’ll wait till they each come along. That way, there will be more for you to look forward to. But what I can show you right now is a picture of the first set up, Nano I. My next post will give you more information on the equipment I chose for Nano I, the aquascape and my justifications behind all those choices.
As usual, I welcome any comments and questions. I hope that this journal will benefit you more, than it will do for me.
Another 180cm aquarium that was aquascaped by Takashi Amano during the recent Medaka No Gakkou Layout Seminar takes a different twist as it was a rescape instead. The hardscape was kept in its original position but all the flora was removed. We suspect that ADA changed a great deal of Aquasoil as well.
It is interesting to note that the aquascape ADA chose to rescape was one of our least favourite among all their aquascapes. This is not to say that ADA was lacking in any way in their previous aquascape, but that the hardscape is not conventional and challenging to work with.
In big aquariums that are 120cm or 180cm in size, aquascaping in a sense, is easier than a nano aquarium of 30cm. In such a limited space, details are highly important and the entire aquascape has to be worked out carefully in advance. In a big aquarium, there are more space allowances and leeway in the aquascape’s design. In this film, Takashi Amano speaks of paying attention to detail even in such a big aquarium, such details are what lift the aquascape to a higher level.
credit: Aqua Design Amano | ADA View
Every month, we introduce a wallpaper that we think is noteworthy. To download these wallpaper in full resolution, just click on the pictures below. Enjoy!
Wallpaper of the Month
We will be splitting our review of the Fluval C2 hang-on filter into two articles. In this first article, we will talk about our first impressions, accompanied with a slew of pictures of the C2. In our second article, we will discuss the C2′s operational effectiveness and efficiency.
Our first impressions of the C2 were highly positive. Even before opening the box, we were intrigued about the numerous filtration chambers and excited about how technical the filter was in comparison to the other hang-ons in the market. Needless to say, we are passionate about filtration and the way we gushed over the C2′s box at the store was a little embarrassing.
We got to the office as quickly as we could and eagerly opened up the box like kids on Boxing Day, we were not disappointed. The plastics used for the C2 are very solid, although still not at the same quality as Eheim’s Liberty series. We suspect the reason why the Liberty series has a better build auqlity is because it uses a plastic that is opaque while most other hang-ons, including the C2, uses plastics that are transparent. Although the plastics are a tad lower in quality when compared to the Liberty series, we were easily satisfied with the C2.
The box is well designed, eye catching and full of details. It clearly explains all the filtration chambers, the path of water flow and the provided filter media. With just a quick glance, we knew that the C2 was a serious piece of equipment if all diagrams and claims on the box were accurate. For the first time, a hang-on filter instilled in us a faith that this filter would be on par with the effectiveness of a cannister filter.
The Hagen AquaClear and the Fluval C2 are in many ways similar, and not surprisingly since Hagen is the parent company of Fluval. The effective guidance of water flow through the various filtration media and the control of flow rate are the same in both filters. Also alike are how the filters are packaged and that they come with mechanical, biological and chemical filtration media. The C2 can generally be described as the upgrade of the AquaClear, having better filtration media compartments, better build quality and more up to date technologies.
The C2 boasts a 5 stage filtration process while Hagen’s AquaClear comes has a 3 stage filtration process. Eheim’s Liberty comes stock with a 2 stage and many other hang-ons struggle to effectively implement a proper single stage. Looking at the industry’s track record when it comes to hang-on filters, Fluval’s claim is most impressive.
Taking a closer look at the C2′s 5 stage process reveals that filtration is still carried out by the three main stages of mechanical, biological and chemical, but separated into 5 different sub-stages. Stages 1 and 2 is mechanical, stage 3 is chemical and stages 4 and 5 is biological.
Stage 4 is most interesting. All hang-on filters are constructed in such a way that the front walls of the filter body are lower than the back walls. This is so that as filter media clogs up over time and water inflow is higher than its outflow, excess water will simply wash down the front of the filter and into the aquarium. This design of the deliberate design of the filter body prevents the accidental emptying of the aquarium.
Fluval must be credited here for coming up with an ingenious way to use this flow of water as part of the filtration process. Unlike other filters in which water simply overflow back into the aquarium, the C2 uses this overflow to feed a trickle compartment in which biological media is placed. We were pretty impressed by this innovation.
With the filter body empty of its compartments, one can tell that high quality plastics have been used simply by looking at a picture of it. Instead of the normal transparent body found in almost all hang-ons, Fluval has tastefully used matt plastics for the back of the filter body. There are almost no sharp corners to be found on the body and all corners are stylishly rounded off. Also, Fluval has imprinted its brand name at the back of the filter, all these lend the filter body a touch of class, unknown in the vast majority of hang-ons.
With all the media compartments removed, a plastic plate with holes can be seen. This plate is responsible for the C2′s effective water flow, it blocks water from entering the biological and chemical media prematurely, without first passing through the mechanical media. Most hang-ons do not properly guide the flow of water through the proper sequence of filtration media, thus, filtration effectiveness suffers by a large margin. This guidance is what makes the C2 a proper filter, which cannot be said for other hang-ons without it.
As with all hang-ons, the C2 comes with flow rate control that allows for the strength of water output. Unlike most other hang-ons which depend on a water gate within the inlet pipe, the C2 controls its flow rate by maximizing or reducing the amount of water drawn into the inlet pipe, by its placement over the impeller. The AquaClear uses the same mechanism, but the C2′s feels smoother and better implemented.
The first stage of filtration found in the C2 is the mechanical media stage. The C2 mechanical media was very well thought out, water that flows into the filter is first met by a porous, sponge like material and when it flows through this material, it is then met by a dense foam. The porous sponge filters out the larger solids and particles while allowing the smaller ones to pass, the dense foam then traps these smaller solids and particles and at the same time, polishes the water. A two stage mechanical filtration allows for optimal water flow that last for a longer period of time, as compared to a mechanical filter media which consist of just one type of material.
One major issue in all hang-ons is the way the mechanical filtration media is implemented and this is important as this filtration media is the one the requires the most maintenance. Most hang-ons either do not provide for a effective mechanical media or implement it in such a way that it is troublesome to maintain. Of all our experience with hang-ons, Eheim’s Liberty was the easiest to remove for maintenance but now with the C2, it shares the crown with the Liberty.
With other hang-ons, the need to clean out the mechanical media is judged from the amount of water flow from the filter. A good strong flow will mean that the media is clean, while a slow and sluggish flow will mean that the media is clogged and requires cleaning. In the C2, Fluval removes the need for this observation and adds a visual cue to when your mechanical media requires maintenance. Working on the same fact that a clogged media will decrease water flow, the C2′s visual cue will rise and emerge from the filter body as a slower water flow means an increase of water levels within the filter, resulting in the cue’s rising.
After water flows pass the mechanical media, it then goes into the chemical media if used according to Fluval’s recommendations. However, we will not be using any chemical media as such media will require constant change and is costly over the long run. If a good biological media is used in its place, the filter will have no issues with maintaining an aquarium’s water quality.
All the media compartments in the C2 are top notch in design and in quality. The red basket that was designed to hold the C2′s chemical media was used instead to hold our biological media, Seachem’s Matrix. When we needed to remove the Matrix for cleaning, it was a joy to simply pull it out, no fussing around with nets, or trying to squeeze the netting filled with filter media back into a rigid filter body.
With the mechanical media and the chemical media compartments in place, the trickle biological compartment goes on top of them. This trickle compartment is fed by a sprout from the filter’s inflow pipe as well as any overflows when the mechanical media clogs up.
The top of the trickle biological compartment is covered by a thin mechanical media made out of soft foam. This will prevent solids and particles from falling into the biological media in the compartment and impeding water flow, which is highly vital in the up-keeping of a healthy biological colony.
This mechanical media is placed in a highly accessible location, which is advantageous as it will require the most maintenance as compared to any other filter media in the C2, due to its small size and thin nature. However, clogging of this media will not be much of an issue as the biological media compartment below it is also fed by another source. Such attention to design is a tribute to Fluval.
The trickle biological compartment is too small for our liking as the biological media is the heart of a filter system and space should be prioritised for it. As mentioned earlier, we replaced the ample chemical media basket with our biological media. In this trickle compartment, we placed the same biological media as well.
When looking at the space allocation difference between the chemical media and biological media, it is easy to see that the C2′s main filtration capabilities will largely be chemical. This is not a bad thing as chemical media are far more effective than mechanical or biological media. But as mentioned, the only issue we have with chemical media is its short lifespan, requiring a monthly change to be kept at peak performance. If the C2′s chemical media is constantly renewed, we have no doubts that its filtration capabilities will be better than other hang-ons in the same class.
As with the AquaClear, the C2 comes with a separate box within its packaging that holds its inlet tube, inlet guard, chemical and biological media. It’s nice when such attention is paid into packaging, and reinforce the image of a quality product.
The inlet tube and inlet guard deserves special mention as the plastic used were of an even better quality than the filter body itself. The quality and construction is so good that it surpasses Eheim’s. We were pleased as the inlet tube and guard is a component of a hang-on filter that requires frequent cleaning. Such great quality gives the assurance that this vital part will be long lasting.
Last but not least are the instruction manuals. There were clear and easy to read, with diagrams and information that were designed attractively and easily understood.
All in all, our first impressions of the Fluval C2 are overwhelmingly positive. Look forward to the second part of our review in which we discuss its operational effectiveness.
The recent Medaka No Gakkou Layout Seminar by ADA has resulted in a slew of short films of Takashi Amano aquascaping. Before the introduction of ADA View and the filming of such seminars, the only films of Takashi Amano aquascaping was during special events and trade shows. We bet many aquascapers are highly appreciative of such short films, every one a small nugget of inspiration.
In this film, Takashi Amano aquascapes a massive iwagumi using wabi-kusa. Instead of the traditional method of planting individual plantlets of foreground flora, the speed of aquascaping using wabi-kusa is simply amazing. In Japan, ADA’s home country, wabi-kusa is available for purchase in various local fish shops, but this is not so in many other countries. If our local fish shops will take the initiative to make these wabi-kusa available, we predict sales will be brisk and how we aquascape will change. Planting by wabi-kusa will also mean that planting heavily from the onset is possible for everyone and flora will grow well as there is no danger of them not rooting in the early stages of an aquascape.
We sometimes wonder if ADA goes through the same problems we encounter when aquascaping. Their aquascapes always seem flawless and not plague with algae or the other issues that we face. We deduce that experience plays a major role in avoiding any potential problems and in the film, Takashi Amano dispenses some of his experience. He mentions that effort should be taken to create a substrate that is as level as possible, this will ensure that flora would put out roots quickly and spread evenly, instead of growing densely without spreading.
The films in this layout Seminar have been most inspiring, we hope that such films will continue to be released.
credit: Aqua Design Amano | ADA View
Here is another layout that Takashi Amano aquascaped recently. In the same layout seminar as our previous film featuring a 180cm aquarium, here he deals with the more popular size of 90cm
This film is interesting because he is aquascaping with driftwood that is less than ideal. Cable tie and lots of rocks were used to ensure the hardscape works. The depth of field on this aquascape was also worth mentioning and it will be something we will be personally trying to achieve for our future aquascapes.
As usual, he engages the audience and speaks about his thoughts behind this design. Enjoy this film!
credit: Aqua Design Amano | ADA View
Ricca is a popular flora due to its ability to hold bubbles of oxygen within its leaves when photosynthesising, giving the look of many beautiful pearls. Riccia in nature is a floating weed, it was made popular by Takashi Amano when he ingeniously thought of using it as a foreground plant by tying it down to a piece of rock with thread.
Since those many years ago, the aquascaping scene has been populated with Riccia filled aquascapes and from our experience, it is the flora that most impress our non-aquascaping friends.
Most of the Riccia used in aquascapes today are tied by thread or wire mesh to rocks or driftwood. The process is somewhat challenging for a newcomer and numerous practices are needed to bring about better results. As such, some of the more aquascaping-inclined local fish shops have made a tidy sum of profits selling ready tied Riccia to rocks or stainless steel wire mesh. Although the prices they charge are exorbitant, sales are still brisk as many local aquascapers do not wish to fuss over it.
With this Riccia base by Starpet, aquascapers that do not want to tie their own Riccia now have another option. With the Riccia base, all aquascapers have to do, is to place their Riccia within the caged base and clasp it close. Easy and straightforward.
The build quality of the Ricca base is very good. The metal mesh is of heavy quality metal and the base is of similar high quality plastic. Everything feels reassuringly solid and both parts clasp together nicely and smoothly. There is no flex in any of the parts.
Although Starpet’s Riccia base is still pricey in comparison to buying rocks and tying Riccia on it with thread, we would purchase this for a nano tank. Its ease of use and high quality components make it deserving for a try.
ADA View, Aqua Design Amano’s film unit has been most prolific in its videos. Although most of their film are updates on their aquariums, once in a while, a gem shows up and this is one of them.
In the film, Takashi Amano aquascapes a 180cm aquarium and talks about the rational behind his aquascape. If you do not have the time to watch through the entire film, he starts to share his thoughts at the 5 minute 10 seconds mark.
credit: Aqua Design Amano | ADA View
Nanyang Sea View is the last of its kind in Singapore. It’s more fish farm and warehouse than fish shop, the variety of fauna, flora and equipment that it carries is staggering. Located off a sleepy road at Jalan Kayu, Sea View has been around for a long time. When walking down the small road to the shop, it felt like we were in a different time period as we enjoyed our idyllic settings, far removed from the usual concrete jungle that is our nation. As such serene locations become increasing rare, so is Sea View. By the end of 2012, they will be relocating to another town, as the government takes back the land for urban development.
It is possible to spend hours lost in Sea View, overwhelmed by choice as almost every desire of our hobby can be met. Our 80 pictures are a testimony to the vastness of the shop, and we only took pictures of the more famous brands. On top of its splendid selection, the retail prices of Sea View are hard to beat. A store wide discount applies for all equipment and numerous individual discounts can be found on most fauna. Some equipment also spot individual discounts and when the store wide discount comes into effect on top of that, we were amazed at how much we save when we paid for our purchases. And unlike other fish shops that mark up their products before giving discounts, the original price at Sea View is consistent with what the market prices. For example, we were shopping for a small aquarium for our Betta Tank set-up. Comparing prices from Sea View and a few other fish shops, the aquarium at Sea View was on average 40% cheaper because of stacked discounts.
Customer service at Sea View was good, with staff treating you as a valued customer. We have seen the service standard improve over the years and we are impressed by the effort. In the woods around here, it is not uncommon to be treated rudely by staff. We have had our manhood called into question once, as we politely bargained for a $2 discount at another fish shop. The staff are generally knowledgeable and friendly, listening and dispensing advice on any problems you may have.
We can write much more about our visit but lets allow the abundance of pictures to do the talking. Enjoy your pictorial visit, to one of the last of its kind.
Riusuke Fukahori has developed a unique and most beautiful skill of painting extremely lifelike, 3 dimensional goldfishes in traditional Japanese vessels. His goldfishes come to life because they are painted layer by layer in liquid resin, each layer adding more depth and dimensional perspective, the end result is simply breath taking. We even find ourselves half expecting the goldfishes to burst into life just by looking at these pictures. We would have loved to be given the chance to see these works of art in person.
Enjoy this visual treat.
image credits: Dominic Alves
Seachem’s Excel, Prime and Purigen are three products that have been very well received within the community, being established as standards in their areas of expertise. For an aquarium company to have these many standards, is a remarkable achievement. Today, we are going to review Seachem’s biological filtration media and see if its up to par.
Co2 injection, high output lights, chillers or corals are all different areas of our hobby. Depending on which aspect of the hobby is embraced, these areas will then be applicable. Filtration however, is the foundation of the hobby. There is no self sustaining aquarium and filtration is the life support system that keeps everything going.
Within filtration, the biological aspect of it is perhaps the most important. The biological media hosts Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter bacteria, these bacteria breakdown ammonia and nitrite into less harmful substances that are then physically removed by regular water changes. An effective biological media will ensure that the bacteria is of sufficient quantity to maintain a negligible level of ammonia and nitrite.
The choice of biological filtration media is a passionate topic for most aquarists. Most of us have our favourites and there are well-established ones, such as Eheim’s Substrat Pro, ADA’s Bio Rio, Biotech’s Biohome, Fluval’s Bio-Max, Sera Siporax and of course, Seachem’s Matrix.
At [TAG], we have been using Eheim’s Substrat Pro and ADA’s Bio Rio to good effect. Although ADA’s Bio Rio has no scientific data as compared to most other brands and some have compared it to simply being very expensive lava rocks, we had good experience with it.
For this review, we replaced the filter media of our Eheim Aquaball with Matrix. This Aquaball is our Ranchu tub’s filter and the constant waste generated by our heavy and regular feeding of our Ranchus has been the perfect test bed.
Graphs and data are fantastic ways to delve deeply into products and judge with exact precision how effective they are. But here at [TAG], we have used enough products to recognise that observation and experience are sufficient to judge, and they do not dampen the joy of the hobby as meticulously pouring over data sometimes does.
Visually, the Matrix does not seem as impressive to look as when compared to Substrat Pro or Bio Rio. Substrat Pro has that splinted glass look that conveys a impression of a highly advanced media that has been created in the laboratory. Bio Rio on the other hand seems to be a media taken directly from nature, harnessing the same power that keeps streams and rivers crystal clear.
Matrix in comparison, looks ordinary. And if we were not already convinced by Seachem’s reputation in creating great products, we would have simply written off most of its claims just because it does not look as capable its competitors. We were somewhat surprised that we derived that thought simply based on appearances alone. It seems that even in our hobby, packaging and appearances give off the same visual feed back on a product’s perceived value and effectiveness, the same way as other products outside the hobby would. The ability of ADA to retail some of its commonplace goods at premium prices, the recent dressing-up of Ocean Free to differentiate itself, Seachem’s launching of its premium line, Vitro, all convey the importance of visual feed back in impacting a company’s bottom line.
Seachem has claimed, after carrying out research and BET surface area measurements, that Matrix has 10 times the specific surface area of Substrat Pro. But this does not mean Matrix is 10 times better than Substrat Pro because not all surface area are usable by biological bacteria, some of Matrix’s pores are reserved for physical and chemical filtration due to its size. But even so, Matrix has 4 times more biological active surface area to Substrat Pro.
4 times more biological bacteria is a lot. If Seachem is right in its analysis, it would mean that a filter filled with Matrix will be equivalent to four similar filters filled with Substrat Pro. Although we may never really know Matrix’s true surface area lacking the availability of scientific equipment, we can attest that Matrix is the best biological media we have ever used.
We have had extensive experience with Substrat Pro and Bio Rio prior to using Matrix. So we will be comparing Matrix with both of them. The first positive impression we had of Matrix was how quickly it cycled. In our new planted tank with ADA Aquasoil, we achieved zero levels of free ammonia from day 5. When using Substrat Pro, we averaged about 14 days and with Bio Rio, about 10 days.
It should be noted that we utilise Seachem’s Stability on a daily basis for all our cycling tanks. Although Matrix took only 5 days to cycle, we continued using Stability up to the 2 weeks mark just to play it safe, as we do with all other media. The amazingly fast cycling by Matrix do lend credence to their claims that it has the ability to hold much more biological bacteria than Substrat Pro.
Besides a faster rate of cycling, Matrix also seems to be able to handle waste better than its competitors. When using Matrix in our highly polluting Ranchu tub, it trashes the performance of Eheim’s regular sponge. When compared to Substrat Pro, it ensure that water parameters stayed safe, longer. We were really impressed by its capabilities as we feed our Ranchus very heavily and no non-chemical filter media could keep up with it like how Matrix does.
Besides using it in a cannister filter, Bio Rio presents challengers as its minute size requires filter bags. It is not easy to find small enough filter bags to fit properly into internal power filters or hang-on filters. Substrat Pro fits nicely into some of these filters without the use of bags, however we never had quite good results when we use them outside a cannister filter. Matrix however, was surprising versatile in all our filters. It works best in cannisters and well-designed internal power filters, but does a most admirable job in hang-ons as well. In fact, Matrix is now our filter media of choice in all our hang-ons. When comparing it to all other available hang-on filtration media, there is really no comparison.
In hang-on filters, Matrix’s physical size becomes a great strength. It is easy to use it with a coarse filtration bag and the wide gaps between pieces translates to a higher flow of water. One issue with hang-ons when using third party filter media, especially those designed for cannister filters, is that they usually impede the flow in hang-ons by quite a substantial amount due to their closely packed nature. And it’s not an issue that hang-on filters can avoid, as insufficient flow rates are one of their weakest attributes. With Matrix, we discovered that flow rates were even faster than when using the stock biological media of the hang-on filters.
Matrix also seems to clog less frequently than Substrat Pro or Bio Rio. Bio Rio clogs the fastest but that can be easily explained by its dense and packed nature. However, an advantage is that Bio Rio polishes water to a level unmatched by Substrat Pro or Matrix. If you intend to use Bio Rio, we highly recommend using Eheim’s Classic cannister series, its ability to back-flush without removing Bio Rio from the cannister body is always very much appreciated and allows for easy regular maintenance. Even when Matrix is fully covered with detritus, its filtration performance do not diminish. With regular maintenance, Matrix would have no issues with earning its keep.
In a nutshell, Matrix really surprised us. It has proved to be able to take punishing aquarium conditions and yet have more to give. Its physical size is perfect for hang-on filters and the wide gaps between the pieces allows for better flow and reduce clogging tendencies. Used with Seachem’s Stability, we felt like we were running an engine that was fed fuel specially designed for it, cycling a new aquarium was a dream and free ammonia was not an issue.
In light of all our favourable experiences with it, Seachem’s Matrix has become [TAG]‘s biological filtration media of choice.
If you live in Poland and you are an aquascaper, then you are pretty lucky when compared to the rest of us.
Nature Aquarium Academy is a local fish shop that is just awesome for aquascapers. As its name suggest, they carry the whole range of Aqua Design Amano goods and the shop’s aquascapes are clearly inspired by the Nature Aquarium style.
The compact shop reeks of great character, we can just imagine spending much time there pouring over each aquascape, chatting with fellow aquascapers or just soaking in the atmosphere. It really reminds us of a cosy cafe to spend a lazy afternoon at.
Check out the films of the shop that were shot by Definite Aquascape. We need a shop like this locally!
credit: Nature Aquarium Academy | Definite Aquascape TV
Hang-on filters are popular because of their ease of use and relatively low cost. However, they are only suitable for small aquariums as their filter capacities are far beneath other filters, such as cannister filters. Even among such aquariums which are suitable for hang on filters, the majority will still struggle to provide efficient filtration over the long haul.
How great a hang-on filter performs, is dependent on two fundamentals;
1. How the flow of water is guided
2. How well the filter media performs
In our review on the Eheim Liberty hang-on filter, we mentioned if Eheim does a rethink and redesign of their Liberty filtration media, they will secure the crown of hang-on filters comfortably. The Liberty filters are by far, the best constructed and quality-assured, hang-on filters available today.
Many hang-on filters today have sacrificed filtration capabilities to design requirements. It is always nice to have a sleeker, slimmer filter, but physics will always dictate that such filters will not be as effective as their bigger counterparts when using the same filter media setup. The AquaClear is of the traditional hang-on design, providing more filtering space as compared to slimmer filters such as the GEX Slim Filters.
When it comes to filtration capability however, the AquaClear is the best that we have experienced from a hang-on. The reason why it filters better than the rest of the competition can be greatly attributed to the way its filter compartment is designed. The AquaClear’s filter compartment takes a page from canister filters and follows the same mechanical, biological and chemical filtration stages.
The AquaClear comes complete with its own filter media that allows for three stage filtration and it is easy to substitute it with third party media, unlike Eheim’s Liberty, which requires modifications to do so. Such flexibility is most welcomed and makes a good filter, superb. The ability to use filtration media like Seachem’s Matrix, Purigen and Eheim’s Substrat Pro greatly increase the filtration capabilities of the AquaClear.
The water flow within the AquaClear is genius. No other hang-on filter that we know of directs the flow of water like it. Because of the position of the impeller found in hang-on filters, most will direct the flow of water into the filter compartment close to the halfway mark, which in our view handicaps filtration as there is no clear flow from the bottom to the top, ensuring filtration is flawed by bypassing some of the filtration media.
The AquaClear’s impeller is found at the same location as other hang-on filters. How it achieves a clean flow of water from the bottom of the filter compartment to the top is through the ingenious use of a plastic barrier which prevents water from flowing directly into the compartment and forcing it to flow from the bottom instead. As such, setting up the filtration media in a mechanical, biological and chemical filtration actually works.
Another great attribute that the AquaClear posses is that it runs silently and this is an important aspect. Small tanks which the AquaClear was designed to operate on will most likely be found on desks, bedrooms and offices. More often than not, these areas will require or benefit from an aquarium that is silent.
The only area that the AquaClear that is not perfect, is its build quality. Although it uses high quality plastics that easily best or equal the majority of hang-on filters in the market, it is not Eheim’s quality. Handling Eheim’s Liberty and its filter cartridges are always a joy, with the quality of plastics being the very best.
With our AquaClear, we didn’t use the chemical and biological media provided and in their place, used Seachem’s Matrix, which is fast becoming our biological media of choice. In this setup, our AquaClear 20, the smallest of the AquaClear series, easily filtered [TAG]‘s 15 litres betta tank.
When comparing all other hang-on filters to the AquaClear, the AquaClear filters better because of its ability to move water in a fashion similar to cannister filters. The ability to also use third party filter media just sweetens the deal. We can already imagine using Purigen in these filters and get a filtration ability that far exceeds anything else.
If you are in the market for a hang-on filter, the AquaClear is the best there is now.
The International Aquatic Plants Layout Contest (IAPLC) is the Olympic games equivalent for all aquascapers worldwide. Last year, aquascapers pit their talents against 1,603 competitors and the winner of the competition went home with USD13,034 or SGD16,255.
Just like the Olympic games, the entries for the IAPLC are categorised into countries and although rankings are based on the individual, there is quite a bit of national level organising from countries who have a strong aquascaping community.
The IAPLC has done much to further the development of the aquascaping hobby. This international competition, coupled with an attractive prize has been an effective catalyst for the hobby. Aquascaping forums see a surge of activity around early December as the majority of aquascapers plan for the competition while the professionals start much earlier. All this activity bring a buzz and excitement to the hobby. New comers are often taken up with all that is going on and it is a great way to get started in the hobby.
The superb aquascaping works by the top aquascapers will continue to have the same effect on the community as Takashi Amano’s initial works. Numerous aquascapers started the hobby after getting inspired by his works, the hobby today is constantly enriched because of the top aquascapes that are released annually due to the IAPLC.
Contesting in the IAPLC has been a great way to improve the art as it adds the necessary pressure and required planning that spurs improvement. Entry to the IAPLC is free and the 2012 contest has a deadline of May 31st. If you have never took part in this competition, we highly encourage it! Here are the top 27 aquascapes of IAPLC 2011 to get you inspired.
Here is the link for application into the IAPLC 2012: http://en.iaplc.com/about/application.html
credit: The International Aquatic Plants Layout Contest | Aqua Design Amano
ADA View, Aqua Design Amano’s film unit has published so many films in such a short period of time, that we have stopped trying to put them all up on [TAG] unless they are especially interesting. The vast majority of such films has been to catalogue changes in their aquarium growth and to put them all on [TAG] would not have been practical.
But once in a while, a film appears that is worth highlighting. This aquascape with Unzan Stone and Wabi-kusa is such a film. The ADA aquarium used for this aquascape is an uncommon type that is only found at the ADA gallery and it’s not for sale. Also, because of its massive size, it uses a sump filter instead of ADA’s Super Jet filters.
Takashi Amano uses the new Unzan rock for this aquascape. And there are new techniques for adding moss to your hardscape that can be found in the second film that we will not spoil it for you here. We will also inspired by the way he used driftwood in this aquascape that really accentuates their beauty.
For us, this is one of the best aquascapes in recent times. New hardscape, unconventional aquascaping techniques and the constant aquascaping innovation by ADA shows why they are still the foremost aquascaping company today.
Film credits: ADA View | Aqua Design Amano
In the month of January, we have not published much articles. [TAG] has been quiet except for the continual polishing of our new front page and news updates. We thus owe you an explanation.
Since [TAG]‘s inception, our desire has always been to be a free and enriching resource to you, the aquarist. As such, we have refused to sell products, review products favourably for benefits or accept donations. The only exception is our little shop, in which we retail our complete aquariums at below cost. Although implementing all of the above will greatly help our finances, we have long decided not to, so that your experience with us as an independent gazette is always preserved.
The direction we took to finance [TAG] was to invite aquatic companies to partner us by establishing a presence on our well-read front page. And even then, our priority was not to ‘milk’ the companies, but to ensure that they have a platform to make themselves known to you. We therefore kept the partnership very affordable and only approached companies that have a good track record of genuine care and respect for their customers. To date, only one of these companies have partnered with us. However in their defence, a vast majority of them are small, family-owned and passionate start ups, every cent counts for them. But what they can’t help us in sustenance, they have given in knowledge, advice and encouragement. For that, we are extremely grateful.
At the end of the day, finance is still needed to keep [TAG] going. To reduce the bleeding that we have experienced since April 2011, we decided to take a sabbatical for January while continuing to brainstorm on how we could raise the needed finance. Then about a week ago, WordPress contacted us to give the happy news that [TAG] has been identified as a good fit for their new WordAds initiative. It is no exaggeration to say that we felt like we were given a golden ticket, just like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Once WordPress approves [TAG] for WordAds, we will be able to generate the required finances to keep the filters, lights and laptops going. We won’t even need to seek out corporate partnerships and our front page can be used as a bridge between exemplary aquatic companies and you, at no cost. The community will then have the potential to be stronger and the full spectrum of the hobby will benefit.
So like any new aquarium, we think that [TAG] is finally coming out of the intial algae infestation stage. As we stabilise and mature, look forward to video reviews, walkabouts in our local fish shops and contests with fantastic prizes. Thank you for your patience with us, we are finally going to be out of the weeds!
Much Love, [TAG]
Fluval by Hagen has released a unique product. Phosphate removers are nothing new, but to have thought to incorporate it within an artificial moss ball, brings a smile to our faces.
The Marimo ball or Cladophora algae, holds a special place in many of our hearts because of its spherical shape and sponge-like properties. Fauna such as shrimps adore it as a feeding ground because their fine hairs trap food and detritus. So instead of placing phosphate removers in your filter, you now have the option of placing one of these artificial Marimo balls in your aquarium.
The only drawback to these Marimo balls, is the fact that chemical filtration usually have a very short effective life cycle within the aquarium before they need to be replaced or recharged. The phosphate remover within these Marimo balls cannot be replaced and they last about 2 months. That would mean that you will need to get new Marimo balls every 2 months to ensure optimal phosphate remover levels.
These artificial Marimo balls appear in a much lighter shade of green as compared to the real Marimo balls, but once placed in water, they quickly resemble a similar dark shade of green. A more apparent difference between the two would be the hairs that form the Marimo. On the artificial one, the hairs are soft and wool-like. While on the real one, the hairs are more spiky and firm.
We are glad that Fluval went out of the box for a chemical filtration product. And although some may not be happy with it not being rechargeable, we agree with the approach for it would have not been possible to create an artificial Marimo ball that looks this realistic and stay that way over a long period of time. Its soft, wool-like hairs that mimics the real Marimo ball would not take kindly to multiple washings.
If for some reason you cannot get a Marimo ball in your area, have difficulty keeping the real ones alive, or just want to save filter space while adding more green to your aquarium, give Fluval’s Marimo ball a go. For those who have one of these in your aquarium, do comment and let us know what you think of it!
pictorial credit: Fluval
Ecoxotic is quickly establishing themselves as a top choice in LED aquarium lighting with numerous innovative products that have been launched in quick succession. Their latest offering is a LED module that allows you to choose between 16 different colour spectrums in varying brightness and intensity.
Although planted tank users will not have much use for such a module, it should be quite appealing to marine users as their corals can now interact with the different colour spectrums.
First seen in this film, ADA has released the Unzan Stone. In a nutshell, it is a processed volcanic stone with indented rough surfaces. The stone is available in small, medium and large sizes and is recommended for use in an iwagumi aquascape.
Another use of the stone is to implement ADA’s recent trend in growing wabi kusa in the hollows of their stones. Unzan is an ideal candidate for this use.
One of the highlights for us for this film was the chopping of moss to reduce them to a small enough form to be placed naturally on the Unzan rock. The end effect of having moss grow outwards over the rocks is simply tranquil, giving the rocks an aged look.
Continual support in accessories and upgrades to existing products are always signs that the product is doing well enough to warrant such attention. Fluval Chi seems to be selling well as Hagen has now added a cover that is made from translucent perspex. The cover is described as being formed to rest perfectly on the aquarium and has a cutout that allows it to fit around the filter attachment.
Other benefits of adding on the cover is a reduction in evaporation and the prevention of fauna jumping out of the aquarium.
Arcadia has released a new LED lighting unit that is not typical of the usual LED units in the market today. The Eco Aqua LED Spotlight has been designed to replace metal halide lighting by replicating the spot lighting characteristic of such lights.
By using CREE XPE LEDs, Arcadia is claiming 40% more PAR with 80% less electricity used when compared to a 150w metal halide unit. If these claims are accurate, many a reef aquarist will be very interested in the Eco Aqua LED Spotlight.
Practical Fishkeeping has done a short review and it can be found here: http://www.practicalfishkeeping.co.uk/content.php?sid=4650&utm_source=PFK_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=December_30_2011&utm_term=Arcadia_Eco-Aqua_LED_lighting_review&utm_content=html
Madison Square Garden can seat 20,000 people for a concert. This blog was viewed about 62,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Madison Square Garden, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.