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By King of DIY on

00:00 Speaker 1: Today we're setting up and planting a 120-gallon tank. If you guys don't remember, this tank is four feet long, two feet wide, two feet tall, containing approximately 120 gallons. You'll notice right off the bat, it's a bare tank, but we already have an background installed into it, and hands down, these are the most gorgeous realistic backgrounds I've ever seen in person. But it kinda throws a wrench in to the plans. You see, I don't have a blank canvas. I have to kind of match that background. Pay attention to the way the wood is going and the color of the rocks. I kind of need to match that for this to make sense. So I started off with some manzanita, just randomly placed. I knew that based off where the wood in the background started, I knew that I wanted to do that as well, but I didn't know for sure if this was gonna turn out. However, as we progress, you're gonna see that this absolutely turned out gorgeous. These rocks, full disclosure, are scrap rocks from the cylinder tank that we scaped. That was just a hard scape with rocks I found outside and a few chunks of Java Fern, but I did have some left, so I decided I'm gonna use those up because they do kinda match the background, and they kinda do look realistic, and I'm gonna start off in the back left, creating a bit of a cylindrical pattern, making it look like all the wood, including the background and the wood that I'm gonna be placed is coming out of that wood.

01:20 S1: This wasn't initially the plan. What I really wanted to do was make sure that I had rocks and wood, but I really wanted a lawn of grass. I wanted a lot of open swimming space, and I wanted this to be very green 'cause it is a very dark background, it is a very dark scape, but as we progress, you'll see that this gets better and better. If you're gonna do these rocks, any type of rocks, you need to bust some up though, like I've shown you before, and create some rock rubble. This really finishes it off, really makes it look far more natural. When placing your wood, even though we had a plan beforehand or a rough idea of where the wood was gonna go, I took pictures, I took a quick video, I tried to remember. It's never going to be identical. I don't know why I can never replicate it, but as the scape progressed, I realized that I don't care what it was before. I loved to just place the wood, move it around, do what I thought looked good and just go freehand with it, and I think that this turned out absolutely phenomenal. Of course, days later the wood started to float and I ran into some issues that I had to fix, but you guys won't see that in this video. This will just be a perfect representation of me setting up this tank. We'll include all the other stuff that happened.

02:30 S1: But as you can see, if you pay attention to the way the wood's going in, it doesn't end up like that. As I'm scaping it from above, I gotta get off the ladder, look at it again, and I realized let's flip some pieces, let's put this there, let's put this there. 'Cause all this time I'm trying to make it look like it's coming... It's a part of that background you see. This is the best thing that I could've done for the scape, was make it look like one of these pieces of wood was coming out and growing over the rocks. Such a simple little adjustment can really make a scape even so much better. But the thing we really need to focus on is just make it look good for what you wanna do, have an idea of the outcome. I'm gonna be giving you guys some examples because this scape doesn't look great once we start planting it, but we've done this before, and I'm gonna be able to give you exact examples on aquariums I've already set up that have had these plants on and give you an end result. You'll see in the background though, empty spot. That's because I want big plants that shoot a lot of roots down, but I'm not filling that big gap up with expensive planted tank soil, I'm gonna use some cheaper aquarium gravel just to build it up a little bit back there, and then we can go ahead and drop in some planted tank substrate. But I do wanna brush this between all the cracks and crevices, I think that that kind of fills it out.

03:50 S1: Downside with this, is that when you start adding substrate, a lot of the times if you don't plant or if you don't scape on top of the substrate, you're going to lose a little bit of your scape. And that's what happened here, 'cause I need two, three inches of substrate in this tank, and that rock pile might only be six or eight inches tall. In retrospect, I could have went a little taller, but once you guys see the end result, I was spot on. This looks great. For the planted tank substrate, because I have rocks and because I used a gravel, taking up 25% of this tank, I only used about 50 pounds planted tank substrate, and a lot of people tell you a pound per gallon or whatever the case might be. I think that that's never the case for me. I'm using 70 pounds total of substrate. I've got two to three inches of planted tank substrate, and that's all I've ever used, and I've had fantastic results, and you're gonna see some examples here shortly. But as you can see, this is looking pretty natural, it is kind of on cue with the background. I think it all looks pretty uniform. I love it, actually. Onto the plants.

04:55 S1: You guys knew it, some of you guessed it, definitely going with dwarf hairgrass. This needs a lot of CO2 and high lighting. This video is just the scape. I'm going to come back eventually and show you guys how I do all this, how I run the CO2, how I measure, etcetera, etcetera. I'll show you exactly what I do. But this, again, video is just a tutorial on how I set it up to give you guys some ideas, maybe a little inspiration. But I'm cheap, I'm not buying 100 of these cups, they're like 10 bucks a piece. This is a tissue culture, free of pests, snails, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, so I chop it up into about six pieces. I just cut the roots and pull it apart. This will make it a little messier. Some of these, you will lose some of the grass and it'll float in the tank, but man, it gives you such higher success rate, I've found, than just planting it all at once. Plus, who likes those cylinder disks? It looks super weird and fake. I can make it look a lot faker. [chuckle] This plant here, I forget what it was called, some sort of a dwarf plant, it's gonna go in the back left corner, and it's gonna grow and be a little bushy, but when planting it, I want to make sure that it's not just planted on top because that's just too unnatural. Once we get to it, I'll show you that I put it throughout the rocks and whatnot as well so it looks a little bit more natural.

06:08 S1: The hairgrass, the key to success with this, I've found, is just start where you want the hairgrass to definitely be at. So I started from the left 'cause I didn't know if I'd have enough to cover the entire tank, and I just kind of went out from there, putting it every two to three inches apart. What will happen here is it's gonna propagate and set out runners, and it's gonna fill up. The key to success with this though is fill the tank up a little bit and push that hairgrass halfway in, or it's gonna come floating back up when you do fill the tank up, with some success. Look at this. Isn't that gorgeous? Remember that? I planted it the exact same way, the exact same substrate. Everything that I just told you is what I did to accomplish that. Now, these plants are a little different, I don't have to push them in as hard. They are a relatively heavy plant that will almost sink on its own, but you definitely need to push it in by half an inch or so. And again, I kind of placed it not all in the same spot, kind of with the hairgrass around the edges, just to make it look a little bit more sporadic instead of planned and whatnot.

07:08 S1: Because I got all those wood in there, I didn't want to take it all out and tie my moss on to it. I wanted to keep it in there, do the scape properly, and then add the moss. And because of this, if I would have used sewing thread to tie it on, I probably would have ruined it, so I used some super glue gel, a few strips here and there, and then just dabbed the moss on there. However, you should be wearing gloves. I'm not, and I got this glue all over me. It's been on my hands for... Well, I filmed this two weeks ago, and I still have a little bit on my fingernails and whatnot, still picking it off. It hardens into this plastic on your finger, but good thing is, within minutes this hardens, and it's good to be filled up with water. Downside is, is you can see the glue 'cause it turns white in the tank, but as the moss grows, it'll look a lot better. How do you like that? So when you see me sparsely planting wood, I know what the outcome is. And that's why I keep showing you these flashbacks, because although it doesn't look fantastic right now, let's give it a couple of months, let it mature, and we're really gonna get into what we envisioned. I think this looks absolutely gorgeous.

08:12 S1: This was at one point, my favorite... I just loved it, it was so simple but elegant. And it was just beautiful. I loved it, loved it, loved it. And I know a lot of you guys did as well. So when I look at this scape, I see the base of it fully planted with a carpet of grass. That wood coming out, absolutely covered in moss, and the far left corner with that bushy plant, whatever that was called, dwarf something, that's gonna be nice a bush. It's gonna look... I just can't wait for this tank to mature. And I know many of you guys can't as well, and I hope that showing you these flashbacks and ideas of what this might look like one day helped, because I know a lot of you can't afford a ton of plants, and we see a lot of scapers start out with 400 plants and set up these absolutely gorgeous aquariums, $800 worth of plants in it. And it's just discouraging, especially for me. I've seen it 100 times over. So for me, it's a little bit more like this. The outside is, is, I don't know what I wanna stock it with. I got a wide open place. I'm gonna let your guys' imaginations run wild. Let me know in the comments section below what you think we should stock this aquarium with for fish. I'll see you guys in the next video.

About King of DIY

Joey is THE King of DIY, and when he built his gallery of aquariums he chose the Custom Aquariums rack system with 120-gallon tanks...a lot of them!

Joey Mullen is also known as the king of DIY, uarujoey or the DIY fishkeeper on social media. Providing education and inspiration for aquarium enthusiasts on YouTube, he is also the author of The Ultimate DIY Handbook; for the DIY Aquarist. His channel is about educating all levels of fish tank hobbyists who are passionate about caring for fish and keeping an aquarium of their own. Joey's aquarium rack systems were custom made by our professional fish tank engineers, here at Custom Aquariums.

Please watch the King of DIY's videos for some helpful information and great tips on diy aquarium keeping.

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