by Håvard Støre Andresen, uploaded December 09, 2008
The more expensive a species of fish is the more basic or even industrial the aquascaping becomes. There are some very good reasons for this. We want our precious fish to be safe, productive and in an environment that promotes healthy growth over several years. Furnishing should be easy to dismantle in a few minutes to remove fish for sale or reshuffling, and it should be equally easy to reassemble.
The geology of the Rio Xingu around Altamira where Hypancistrus zebra lives comprises of dark volcanic rock formations and typically yellow-ochre colored finely grained sand. Volcanic rocks have large and small tunnels and caves the fish uses as shelter, general housing and reproduction. The geology of this particular area of the Amazon together with the continuous flow of warm, clear water creates habitats for some of the most beautiful loricariid species in existence. Hypancistrus zebra is just one of them.
All three 200 liter setups were made in all glass tanks measuring 1000x500x400mm. Depths of the tanks are 100mm more than the height of the tanks. This gives a higher surface/bottom area, which is generally recommended for almost all species of fish. It is especially important for bottom and surface dwellers. Some people say that you can`t have too much water movement for Hypancistrus zebra and similar species. This is partly true, because the fish are highly adapted to cling to rocks in fast currents. On the other hand a lot of currents make it impossible for food items to settle on the bottom, making feeding difficult. Personally I feel that current/tank volume should be around 10/1 in most circumstances. In tanks without fry or juveniles circulation can be increased to around 15/1 as feeding with small food items becomes less crucial. Biological filtration in each of the three tanks presented in this article is done with a single 1000lph canister filter. The inlets are covered by a blue filter sleeve. Circulation and additional mechanical filtration is done with a single power head with a blue sponge. All outlets have diffusers to maximize dissolved oxygen in the warm water. Diffusers are more reliable and efficient than air pump driven air stones. The visual effects of diffusers are also very nice. For photography sessions the air is turned off temporarily to optimize visibility.
There are no volcanic rocks where I live, but I have found a relatively good substitute. The rocks are blackish in color and they are somewhat pitted on the surface. I collect them from a secret location along the western coast of Norway. I am sure there are thousands of locations around the world where blackish rocks with some of the same character can be found. Each tank has a single purpose built breeding cave. Breeding caves were made by splitting suitable rocks in two pieces with a hammer and chisel. The two parts were hollowed out with a diamond wheel on a grinder and glued together with black silicone. My recommendation is to fabricate or buy suitable caves, and place them in the shadow of more naturally looking rocks. Producing caves from natural rocks is very laborious. In several of my other catfish tanks I simply hide slate caves beneath or behind rocks.
Every time I empty the tank to pull out fish for sale or for changing the composition of the groups the rocks are placed differently. The rocks are placed intuitively and rapidly during the 2-3 minutes the setup takes. This is basic aquascaping without special tools or techniques. Gathering of suitable materials is of course crucial to get the desired result.
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