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Paludarium One Day Build – Creating a Custom Aquarium

By Tank Tested on

Alex: Hi, I'm Alex and this is Tank Tested. Today, I've got something really special for you, we're following aquascaper, Chris Teem, as he builds a custom paludarium in just one day. This is a one day build. The tank is set up in a Custom Aquariums paludarium. Chris is such a talented aquascaper, I'm going to leave a link to his contacts in the description of this video. Now, here's Chris, I hope you enjoy.

Chris Teem: Hey guys, my name is Chris Teem and I'm the owner of Aquadariums.

I'm here at AGA 2019 about to escape this amazing aquarium that Custom Aquariums did for us, it is one of their paludarium aquariums. It's 36 by 18 by 42 inches tall. It features their Seamless Sump filter as well. What we have up here on the table is just a little bit of what I'm going to use to do the hardscaping and planning. We're going to be using pool filter sand. I really like to use pool filter sand because it is a nice texture in the granulars.

Then we're going to be using some of this locally collected lava rock here in Seattle, on this aquascape. Then for the terrestrial, what we're going to be using is-- This is kind of what it looks like as it's getting ready to be mixed up. This is actually a potter's clay, this is sodium bentonite. We're going to be using this to adhere to this virgin cork bark. We're going to be using some bright colorful plants so I have these bromeliads right here. These are going to be some of the bright colorful plants that creates a nice contrast.

Then we also have some of these terrestrial vines that have been growing. Aquatic plants, I've got some crypts, I've got some Dwarf Sagittaria, I've got Red Tiger Lotus, I have some Bucephalandra, Anubias. All right, so the tank we're gonna be escaping today, this is Custom Aquariums amphibious tank or what I like to refer to as a paludarium, meaning that is half land half water. As you can see, the aquatic side glass is up nice and high to where it can hold our actual total aquatic water height of 24 inches.

Step one is going to be hardscaping so we're going to be working on the terrestrial and aquatic hardscaping. Ordinarily, you would adhere your background with silicone or something like that. Today, we are actually using sodium bentonite which is just a very common clay that is used for pottery. What you do is you just mix it in with water. I've already got some water in here and then you just have to get your hands dirty, who doesn't like to get dirty while you build the tank, right? You can see it's just mixing it with the water.

It's going to absorb it really well. You're going to have to really get in there and work that water in there. There are some little tricks to using this clay. I've worked with it for five years and learned but basically what we're looking for is to where all this gray powder disappears. It's light gray and we get this nice dark gray concentration. This is what we're looking for. You see how it was powder gray before and now we're getting this nice color.

This is what you're looking to achieve to where when you squeeze it through, it's still staying in big clumps but not where it's actually falling apart. This right here, the tackiness is what we're actually looking for. This will adhere very easily to the background of the tank and to the cork we're going to be using today. The virgin cork bark looks really cool because it's just natural. This is what it looks like grown off of the trees here so it gives a lot of nice texture.

I'm a hoarder, I like to have too much stuff versus too little stuff so I'm going to play around until I find the right fit that I think looks visually and aesthetically pleasing. Once I have that achieved, I'll come back grab some clay and adhere it to the background. When you're escaping a paludarium is all about texture and depth and dimensions. This makes a great background to achieve that look. All right, so I think I like the way this looks. I'm going to set this down here at the bottom of the aquarium and then we're going to grab some clay and adhere it.

I'm going to go ahead and just cut corners and bring this right over here closer to where I can work. I like to just start off with a big ball. It's a little bit of a waste of space but I'll show you how we're going to redeem that. The easiest way is you just take out your big ball and you look at where are the contact points are on this cork and we're going to put the clay there. That way when I press it up against the background, it's going to adhere to those spots.

As you can see, I am just strictly forming the clay onto these contact points where it hits the aquarium. Here in just a second, you're going to see just how well this will work. At least we hope so. I've actually used clay where it will hold up Malaysian driftwood into the background of your tank. It all just depends on how thick and the amount of clay applied to around the edges. Now, if you already look-- See this is why I like to adhere the clay directly because you can see where I was trying to show you the depth how well this clay quickly marks up and it's not the easiest to clean.

It takes literally five or six times with a razor blade and vinegar water every get it look like the glass was before. Then we'll just apply some pressure and you can see we got the clay, it kind of bulging out which is what we want. If you feel like it's starting to slip away, all you're going to try to do is grab some more clay and have it touch the back of the glass and to where these contact points are to help hold it up.

As you can see, no hands and just that little bit that we've already used, this cork bark which probably weighs about two pounds is adhere into just that little bit of clay that we put on. All right, so what I'm going to do is we got these three main points. I already put on this piece of cork and what you're going to see me do is after this is up, I won't be adhering because as you can see right now, the cork is sliding off the background. Here towards the top to make it hold.

It's just a matter of finding where you like the layout and where it hits glass for you to adhere more clay to. It's okay if you got some clay visible like this because what will happen is we'll have some plants inside that but to it's a very natural realistic. I mean, you can look at it, nothing quickly stands out to the eye, it blends in very nicely to the cork background. We're going to keep on just adhering a little bit more clay, just to make sure as we're escaping the rest of this that nothing else will slide down.

I'm thinking that maybe this piece right here might work well since that the text the way it's laid out to where your overflow will be up here and then the rest of the tank, this can even go partly in the water and still be A-Okay. One of the coolest features that I love about Custom Aquariums too is their overflow box. This is actually a very low profile overflow box but yet extremely quiet too where you don't have that cycling, gurgling noises like most overflows. This is a very cool feature.

As you can see right here we're just the way I got this cork laid out, we've already got three-quarters of this covered up. This is where I'm now going to use the clay again to adhere it to the background so we can keep on with our escaping. Now obviously, a key crucial part is going to be right here at the very end where I've got that big glob and then we're going to put some more right here on this part. Again, a little bit of clay goes a long way. I'm using more just because of the timeframe of us trying to escape this in a day.

Personally, I like to take my time. It's like anything if you rush a job, you're never going to get your best work. However, at the same time, if you've got that creative flow going, I don't stop. Sometimes when I'm escaping the tank, I'll be doing it for 12 hours straight because my creative juices, I got that vision I want to achieve and I'll just keep on chasing it. All right, so now I've got some clay just to help us get it up to the background.

Again, you're just going to kind of lightly press that clay and then we're going to use this extra that I put on here to help it mold to the glass in the cork bark itself. One thing I'm having to also consider with on this one here, this particular piece is where the water level is going to be because again, as the water level hits the clay, that clay is going to absorb the moisture and it's going to create a big murky mess in the bottom of the aquarium and your background is going to be in the water before you know it.

I ordinarily would use gloves just because of how hard this is to get off of clothes or carpet or anything else. It's not impossible, it just takes literally five minutes to wash your hands to get off so gloves make it quick easy where you can just pull it off. The nice thing is you'll have some nice exfoliated skin at the end of it if you don't use gloves. We've got these two pieces in and one thing about escaping a paludarium is all about trial and error.

You may have this vision in your head and as you're going along in the process, it may not work out. One thing I'm looking at is I had this one piece that I really wanted to use in the scape because I loved its texture and the way it looked. It's a nice large piece, but it's got a lot of deep veins in it, which would look really cool for when you start adding your terrestrial plants like your vines or mosses. I really wanted to use this piece so I want to see if this will still fit even though there's other two pieces that are in there.

Here we are, and here's our dilemma. It will fit in some areas and it just won't quite fit in the others as you can see. Now, I have to take a step back and decide, okay, do I really want to use this piece or do I want to use some of the other pieces? What I want to do first is since we already have these two pieces in place is I'm going to set this down right here close to the tank, but I'm going go look at these other cork pieces I have. Let's see if we can make something work to create what we're looking for with the other pieces selected.

Here is a nice long skinny piece that should work pretty well. Already from the distance, I see that this is wider and we have a nice wide open spot over here to the right. We're going to try to bring this over here and instantly already looks pretty good. One thing that we can even do, which we may even do here today is all this open space here we may leave open or what I may even just come up and do is just a adhere more clay to the background to where it makes this nice open area where it just blends in where you don't see any of that background.

Now, I like to have some open spaces in my paludariums to where it has a lot of depth and texture, where it's not all just one solid surface that will quickly get blended in. Two, what makes it really cool when you use the cork with this clay in between, if you fill it in, it creates a very nice large area for your mosses or ferns, stuff like that to grow in, where six months to a year from now, you get this extremely natural look that you could never achieve without using clay. We may just go ahead and do that, but I'm really liking the way this is looking right now.

I'm going to leave it just like this. I'm going adhere to the background. Just kind of lightly mash it on there. Again, when you mash it, you want to kind of press firmly up against the glass to where it smears out like in my hand where I just squeezed that comes out of the gaps. That way we can help get as much surface area to the glass in the background as possible. I'm using big globs today just because of the timeframe that we're shooting this film. Doesn't necessarily need this much, but it just makes it a lot easier for us today as we're filming.

Then we're going put some right here, nice big old dab. That's great news too is if you don't use all this as you press it up and it smears out, you can always wipe some away. See if I can't get it off my hands though first. All right. We got this. Look at the angle again before I press it up. Then again, just a slight pressure will get all this exactly where I want it. It'll come in with my thumb, kind of form it up against the cork. One thing I've really wanted to do next is we got these cool cork rounds, where it's completely solid round with a hollow inside.

I really want to add some depth to this tank to really just make it pop. Also, the reason why I've picked the left side is I want when you look at the tank, your eyes will be pulled towards the depth of the terrestrial side that I'm about to do with this cork round. It kind of takes your eyes off center of the overflow in return. What we're going to do is we're going do a cork bark where we go from the side of this glass all the way to the background. All right, so this is this piece of the cork round I was talking about.

As you can see, I can see straight through you all, to you all through the cork. Yes, it's a nice little cork round, depending on how we spin it. You get some cool textures.

With this piece, when I set it up there, I've got this look. I love the way this looks up to the background, but I'm not too crazy yet about this. What you'd ordinarily do is this stuff cuts pretty easily. You just could take a razor blade or a knife, or sometimes you can even break it by hand. This piece is being a little bit stubborn.

I'm actually going to get someone with some cleans hands to cut this a little bit of this corner off so I can get that flush look for me real quick. All right, so now that we've got this cork cut in place, let's just go ahead and do a quick dry fit to see if we like the look that we're trying to achieve. What I'm looking at right here is it gives me this depth where it pulls stuff forward, but already I'm looking in my head of where I'm going to do some of the plants, put the plants.

I liked some of the crevices and the gaps that are going to allow me to mount some of these plants to the background. I really liked this position. We're going to go ahead and adhere the cork to the background. We're again just doing a nice big ball. Then we're going to do another big ball right here. Let's see what it looks like once we get it up against the glass. Another cool thing is with this clay on these cork rounds, is you can actually create a nice little substrated area where you could actually even plant a terrestrial plant in these hollows, which is one thing I'm actually the thinking about doing.

It creates a nice substrated area for your terrestrial plants to grow its roots in, but yet can also help add that depth that we're looking for. It's a win-win situation. It's important thing too, as you're going along with this process is you got to look at this from multiple angles. Because when you look at one thing, you see this depth, but when you come to another thing, you may see something that you don't like. I'm giving you all a chance to look at what I've been seeing, I'm looking at what you all been seeing.

I really love the depth and the gap behind some of these backgrounds and how it's coming forward. Because from here on the side look, I can see that the piece that we're trying to bring forward is it coming too far forward to where it may create an issue with the sliding glass doors in the front. It also helps me visualize where again, where these plants are going be going, where I may need to fill in some of these backgrounds to help pop with some greenery, things of this nature. What we have next is I've got these pieces of driftwood.

This is Malaysian driftwood that I picked out that might possibly work. I have some pacific wood that's got a really cool lot of texture to help bring some stuff forward. Then I also have some cypress. I'm going to be looking at these pieces to help add some depth to this tank to create that more 3D realistic looking background. Kind of helps it also separate all the cork from just being one big muddy mess. One thing that is important to consider when doing this is you can't think of the now. You have to think of the later.

Every one of my tanks that I've done, now I do use terrestrial animals such as tree frogs, poison dart frogs, geckos. As you get moss started to grow, these animals as they're running across are spreading those spores, and it's going to help spread the moss. To me is not a huge concern that you have different colors now because once everything is wet, and in its environment, and it's starting to grow, have plants growing, it's all going to blend in. I've never had, per se, a piece of wood that stays bright red like Malaysian. Eventually it kind of gets like a nice brownish color.

It doesn't stay as red as this Malaysian wood is. Another important thing to consider while doing this too is what animals you are going to be putting in such as geckos, they need basking areas away from all the plants. Therefore, you're going to be looking for pieces of driftwood, things of this nature that are going to stick out to give that animal area for him to bask at or maybe you've got this really cool plant that you just really want to have pop. You want to separate from the background, where all these other greeneries are.

This would be another good way to do it like that as well. Again, it's just all a matter of playing around, trying to find the right position, the angle. I really like this piece here because up against that background with the clay, this makes almost like a natural pot for like a Begonia or Philodendron or even if you want to get started with a vine. It'd be a great spot for it to get really well established and rooted, so they can actually start beginning to grow and you can trim it the way you want to. This is where we're just trying to play with it.

I really like the way it's looking in that one spot. I'm just trying out a couple of different things. Okay, I really liked it like this. We're going go ahead and spin it around. Try to find its perfect home. Again, this clay should be strong enough to support this light of wood. Right here, if I can just get to stay wedged in long enough for me just a step back before I add more clay. Maybe. Nothing is permanently in place so if I don't like something, I can easily remove it, take it off as far as the cork that we've adhere and replace it with driftwood too which works out great.

Again, looking at this, I'm not sold on it yet. One key thing to remember when you're scaping a paludarium is patience. A lot of times, you find this perfect piece and you've got just quite right but it just doesn't look once you get it actually on paper, per se. Again like this piece, I really like the way it's looking, I like the way its piece is coming. It's just a matter of just finding the right spot, the right angle so sometimes you just literally have to try it in 15 different spots, spin it 20 different ways but once you finally achieve what you're looking for, it looks great.

You put clay just to form a ball around the points on the driftwood to where it's going to be touching. I'm using a little too much but it'll be okay. Great news is too with all this clay, once you get moss, tropical mosses things like this that you introduce like I love to use wool of moss, flame moss in the terrariums or if you really get into paludariums or terrestrial plants, there's a lot of cool terrestrial mosses from Ecuador that are out there in the Hobby, but this will be great surface area for them to grow and help get that attached to your wood.

We are in place and then again, all it is just taking your thumb, helping it as much contact to the glass, and the driftwood as you can to achieve this look that we're trying to go for. Whether it be a driftwood, it's going to be a little bit heavier. You may have to come back like this, it's starting to fall away. What I'll do is hold this up in place and go grab some more clay to attach to this one piece. Cool. I actually like that a lot. I'm going to keep on playing with some of this other driftwood to achieve these desired effects.

Maybe it'll be too much, maybe it won't be. You'll never really know until you experiment. Again, like we discussed, you got to look at for multiple angles, make sure we're achieving that look that we're trying to go for. All right, while we were offset, I went ahead and finished doing the hardscaping for the terrestrial side. The next crucial thing when building a paludarium is going to be doing your aquatic hardscaping and first things first is substrate.

Over here, we're going to be using that pool filter sand like I showed earlier, but I went ahead and eliminated this process first because one thing with pool filter sand is it can create a very cloudy water. I went ahead and pre-rinsed it several times to try to help out on this murkiness once we put it in the aquarium. We're going to go ahead and add it to the aquarium next. [pouring sound] All right, next, we're going to use this native lava rock that someone collected it in the local Seattle Club. As you can see, it's very poor. It's just got some different coloration.

Again, just like the sand, it's always important that you rinse everything to eliminate as much murkiness in the water when you're setting up a new setup. What I'm going to go ahead and do is step with my base. I'm going to go ahead and take this tub with the larger rocks and we're going to go ahead and put that in the aquarium. My goal here is to achieve a larger island to the right with a smaller island to the left. Again, playing with the rules a third. Like I said, I'm just going to start trying to scape and create this nice little rock mound.

Now, as I go along with this, I would like to try to incorporate some driftwood to even help it look more naturalistic, but for right now, I'm just going to show you all how I'm building up the mound. Then we'll play around with more of that here in just a minute. I really like this rock a lot. The reason why is it's very porous so some of my favorite plants like the Bucephalandra and Anubias to use in paludariums. They're going to love growing their roots in this and getting really well and established. All right, almost to this desired height that I want to do.

Before I go any further, I'm going to go ahead and do next is grab some of this driftwood and take a look to see how it looks like. It is called tiger wood. As you can see, it's very light like your spider wood but it's got a little bit more that ruddy feel with the fine branches underneath. What I'm going to do is try to incorporate this into this rock mound where it looks like the roots are growing in with the rocks as best as possible.

Again, if I had more time, it would be easier to make it look really more naturalistic, we're on a time limit, so I'm going to do the best I can for the escape for the weekend. I'm going to try to connect it into the upper as much as I can. Again, my goal is to where everything seems natural and it just flows in and out where it's not just a solid land-water and there's no mice blending in. I'm trying to use this wood to help blend it in where it looks like some of the roots or something like that would be coming in, part of the wood would also be above the water as well.

Again, putting some of these rocks on top of the wood helps create that feel that the roots are actually coming through it. This is just a simple easy way to make this artificial look like the rocks if the roots have pushed through these rocks. I'm liking this space so what I'm about to do offset is just fill in some of these holes real quick and fill in the gap and then we'll go on take a look at to see if we need anything else.

Maybe some extra pieces of driftwood or maybe again with these rule of thirds just a simple medium-sized rock out here in the middle of the sand might be the right eye-catcher we're seeing. Let me finish offset, fill and patch it in some of these holes and we'll see what we can do after that. Now, we're done doing the aquatic hardscaping, so next is my favorite part where we're going to begin planting. As you can see, we try to break up some of the visual walls, make it look a little bit more naturalistic like with the stones would naturally fall.

It's not going to be a perfectly straight line. We try to incorporate the rocks inside with the tigerwood to make it look like naturalistic roots. Next part is going to be filling this up with water and begin planting the aquatic side. First thing, we're going to do is-- This is a Brazilian sort or a piece of leek and the area I have that I thought would look really cool is going to be right tucked in in this corner here.

To help out with the scape where the slopes in the front, I'm just going to take some of the sand and pour on top of the roots while also getting way of some of this flat sand look in the aquarium to help create a more naturalistic and eye-appealing slope. As that fills up with water, a lot of that sand is going to be pushed out and down around the roots. These are all a mixture of all the different aquatic plants that we have. I've got some Anubias Nana, I've got some Anubias Congensis, I have some Bucephalandra, some crypts, some different grasses that we're going to try to achieve a nicely scaped tank.

Here's where we have some Anubias Nana and just like I said, we're going to try to tuck it in some of these crevices where it just looks like it's growing out of the rocks. What I'll probably end up doing is just planting a few plants, taking a step back see if I like it. If I don't like it, I'll come back and change things up but just getting the feel for what works and what doesn't work and where some things are needed. This is one of my Anubias I've been growing. This is an Anubias Congensis.

I just love the way that you can see the veins in the back of the plant. It's got a perfect medium-sized leaf so it just adds for a lot more texture than say like the Anubias Nana that we just planted it has a smaller leaf. This is where we can help create this bushy or fuller effect using multiple different species of Anubias. Here's some Nana Petite. Again, this is a different Anubias. You can see by looking and compared to the Anubias Nana. This is some stuff that I've been growing from my own personal collection. Very, very small leaves.

This is about mature as the leaves will get on this. Again, creating these little crevices where it looks like new plants necessarily growing even though it's not a new plant but to achieve that naturalistic look. A lot of different species have a lot of different textures for a reason. Looking for just a few different plants so I'm looking forward to go after achievement that I'm trying to achieve, let's go ahead and do this one. This is some more Anubias that I've been growing on lava rock, just some different species.

As I can say, the reason why I like lava rock for Anubias, you can see how the roots just easily grow through it and you get a nice solid life structure as far as the plant goes. We can incorporate this into our mounds to make it look for amazing naturalistic look. In this case here, we are trying to achieve a fuller look because obviously we don't have the time to let this thing grow in. I am going to do nice tight clusters to make it look like a larger more mature plant for the scape. Nothing wrong if you do that at home either.

It's just going to be you're going to have a harder time achieving your look as far as what you're trying to do with some of your plants. They may be fighting for competition because of how tightly growing they are, because again looking at these roots, you can see how the Anubias are just going through them like Swiss cheese. Using these, we can build on to our escape using some different sized stones to really get that full look that we're going for. All right, let's see here. The next thing I'm going to try to achieve is the Bucephalandra growing on the roots.

I was wanting to do before I get too far more advanced into the planting. These are some of the mats that I've been raising. This is all one solid Bucephalandra mat that has been farm-raised here from possibly a while I've collected. Source, not really sure. I bought it from larger aquatic nurseries in Florida but anyways we can see we got nice rhizomes coming all over the place off of this particular kind of Bucephalandra. Same thing with this species here, but some of them are getting ready even bloomed.

One thing that is very important is that we do not over-collect the wild source, so we force it to a plant that comes critically endangered or possibly we wipe it out just due to a poor management of the plant. A lot of hobbyists are trying to get away from wild-collected plants into growing more tissue cultured or farm-raised here in the US. That way, we limit the stress on these plants in the wild. I don't know how long that's going to stick once we get in water.

I can't visualize with it's still underwater but really liking the way it's growing that look of the mature with it being so heavily planted. Again over here, we've got a lot of different textures of the Bucephalandra between three different species on the driftwood and on the rock walls which easily quickly blends into the four different species of Anubias being used as well to create that texture of different plants, different leaf textures. Is that bucket ready?

Speaker 1: Yes, just filled it.

Chris: All right. Thank you, sir. All right, now we are done with a finishing aquascaping. As you can see, we have formed to where it looks naturalistic fully grown in for the show. It's fully full of water. If you don't mind before we start talking about this, I was just going to go ahead and showcase. Custom Aquariums also has these amazing Seamless Sumps and so he has this very silent overflow that goes down over here and then it goes through the biological and the mechanical filtration to where it will be pumped back up to the returned.

I love their sumps, very well. Even though they're being plastic, you don't have to worry about them getting burnt by like your titanium heaters, things of this nature. It makes it really well if you're had like let's say [unintelligible 00:37:07] something like that. It needs something 82 degrees, you don't have to worry about your 800 watt Phoenix titanium heat or something like that like I use burning a hole in them, but we're done with the aquascaping. As this goes through the filtration, this water will get clearer and clearer.

Next step in this process, I'm going to go ahead and fill in all these areas on the background where you see black with some clay. Then we're going to go ahead and begin to plant the terrestrial side. Again, I'm not doing anything major. I'm just putting a thin layer on just for the purposes of the show. If you were decided to do a whole entire clay background at your house, it's up to you on how much thickness you want but keep in mind if you're not trying to support anything, you don't need like a three-inch-thick wall of clay on the background.

I like to say around half-inch to an inch. If you're just trying to put some vines and there's things of this nature. If you think about your Pothos, your Marcgravias, your Philodendron, plants like those Monsteras, these are your vining plants that you just want enough to where the roots can grow into it but not enough to where it's just waste. Let's go ahead and talk about that. Over here, you notice as I'm spreading out this clay, I'm getting little clay markings on the side of the glass, like what you can see right here. It's not a big deal.

The best thing that you can do is just let it get really good, dry and hard. The fact that it's thin, it shouldn't take too long for that to happen. Then I like to use a plastic razor blade or you can actually use a real razor blade but just be very cautious that you're not going to actually scratch the glass. Then you can just wipe it off or another route you can do is with some vinegar water about ¼ vinegar water to 3/4 regular water, you can actually go in there and wipe off the glass that way to get rid of all these remnants of clay on the glass that you may not want.

All right, now I'm done with the clay on the background and next is going to be planting this to rest really. I'm going to start with the Bromeliads because they're a little bit of a bigger plant but they have a lot of coloration and patterns and then that make them very unique. What I'm going to do is go ahead and place my Bromeliads and then I'll finish plant in the terrestrial side around the Bromeliads. One thing with the Bromeliads that is key is for it to be successful, you do not want to pot this or put this all the way in dirt because it will rot.

For instance, a lot of our characteristics, like you remember, within the driftwood, they create these perfect little cubbyholes for our plants just to sit up in. Bromeliads are commonly found in South America, growing up in the canopies of the trees. These are like some of our, say, crypts, things of this nature, that have been hybridized and crossed to create unique patterns, things of this nature. These are not necessarily something that you would actually find in the wild. However, they are a representation of what you would.

All I'm doing is trying to find nice little cubbyholes where we can make accents for these plants to really pop. Bromeliads will grow in low light or high light. However, if you'd like to retain the reds like you're seeing right here in the Neo Madrid, it is crucial that you have a high light, whether it be a high-output T5 or a stronger LED, that is what's going to help you keep these reds. If you just do it over a simple T8 light fixture, or somewhere around that nature, it's going to quickly lose its color.

Speaker 1: Got you. How big do they get?

Chris: Each species is different. Take, for instance, this is Neo Zoe and it's non-light high light form, this is just a green plant with white variegation. As it gets more color, it gets this pinkish-red color with the more sunlight it would receive. This is about fully grown. It will open up a little bit more, but there are certain Bromeliads that only stay around six to eight inches as to where at my own personal greenhouse, I have some Bromeliads that get four-foot wide.

Just like a lot of your aquatic plants, swords, things of this nature-- If you're doing a nano tank, maybe some of your larger swords would not be a good choice, such as the Brazilian Sword we use her in the nano scape. Similar thing with these Bromeliads. You have to know which ones are going to work, which ones aren't. All right. Next step is going to be, in this process, is we're going to plant a few of these terrestrial vines, plants like this.

Now, unfortunately, because they are so small, they're not going to look as fully grown in, but over time, these plants would grow in and could easily take over the background of the tank.

Speaker 1: Great.

Chris: This is a Monstera vine. You can see, it was just rooted in sphagnum moss to get established, but then as we put them in-- This is what works so cool for these vines is literally, you can just press this into the clay and these roots that you see right here are going to easily grow into the clay and also attach into the cork bark. Now, say, right here on this cork bark, you didn't have something like clay or something to root in, another simple thing you can do is I like to take a paper clip, unfold it all the way out. You can actually break that paper clip into two or three pieces and create like a V.

Then, you can press that into the cork, and then that will also help hold vine in there. Then, the vine will grow its roots inside the cork. Again, one thing the way the vines work with terrestrial vines, think of it like your aquatic stems. As this vine grows and I want to cut it because it's getting too tall or going the wrong place, I cut it, and then it takes off into a Y. You keep that in mind, once you reach that designation point that you're looking to achieve, it's going to split off that way. It's not going to keep on growing vertically, it's going to go two different ways.

Then, you can use that cutting and create a fuller density. Some people like having multiple different kinds of vines in the background. Me, personally, I like to have two or three vines and just let them have their own corners or just have one taking over the background, but it takes a long time for that to achieve. Otherwise, you can buy multiple cuttings, which is very expensive. For instance, this vine here sells for $15 on my website. If you really wanted to cover this whole entire background, you could buy six or eight cuttings of it to try to achieve that look.

In no time within a year, you can easily get it to take up a quarter, and as the time goes on, it'll take up more and more space. Next, this is a [unintelligible 00:44:38]. Pardon my pronunciation. I'm not the perfect ones pronouncing certain names. This is more like a creeping. I'm trying to think of what a good aquatic reference would be plant to this. Think of it like your baby's tears or something like that. It's not necessarily going to grow up vertically. It's going to grow more horizontally like this once it gets good and established.

It will grow up like as you're seeing right now on the pot towards the light. I'm going to go ahead and just pot this with the dirt and all, just knock out some of this dirt. Then all we have to do is I can easily just tuck it back here behind this and allow that to grow. That will grow just fine, just like as you're seeing right there. Actually, I think it'll look better when it doesn't blend in with the green Bromeliad up top here. This is a unique plant, this is Pilea. Some people call them the-- I'm trying to think of the nickname for this plant off the top of my head.

Pilea species grow like little lily pads, our nymphaea-- nymforties is what I like to call them because they grow just like that, they just grow up with small, round leaves. They come in different colors. This one right here is just a green one, nothing too spectacular about it. It's just a nice little again textured plant. A lot of your terrestrial plants have long leaves as to where this one provides nice, soft, round leaves.

Again, it's all about texture. You don't want to have the same leaf structure in your scapes. Let's see here.

The Bromeliads take up a lot of space. I'm trying to figure out-- I might actually put this one right there for the weekend, just somewhere to give it a little bit more growth. All right, this last plant I'm going to be putting in here for right now, this is Philodendron Pincushion. This is what it looks like. It just gets a real nice round ball that's very full. If you think about pincushion that maybe your grandma or your mother sews and she's got all of her pins in her ball, it's going to look like that. It's just going to get a nice brown ball, but it's got a beautiful red stem.

I don't know if your camera can pick that up or not, but it's got some beautiful under lights underneath with the lights where it looks sparkling. It's a gorgeous plant. It will grow maybe about six, eight inches tall. I highly recommend it for any tank. It's just something unique and different compared to the other Philodendrons that are going to be more like vines like this Monstera that we planted earlier. Ordinarily, you give this tank six months from now, and it will look completely different. It is amazing.

You feel like your tank never is growing, and then one day, you just look at your tank and, all of a sudden, it's like it grew overnight. This next phase, which unfortunately we won't get to see since this is just a weekend tank is my favorite phase because it's really just getting to watch the plants grow and mature and watching it really turn into a natural hardscape.


Chris: My name is Chris Teem. I'm the owner of Aquadariums LLC, and I just scaped this paludarium made by Custom Aquariums behind me.

About Tank Tested

Alex Wenchel from the YouTube channel, Tank Tested, has been aquascaping and keeping aquariums for over twenty years, sharing his knowledge and expertise with the YouTube community. Watch the video filmed at Aquashella, Dallas 2019 here, and check out his channel for some great info on aquarium care.

"Tank Tested was created by me, Alex Wenchel. I've kept aquariums for more than twenty years, but it's only been in the last few that I've gotten into aquascaping. By trade, I'm a documentary and natural history filmmaker based in Washington, D.C. and I've been producing digital series for years. If you'd like to see some of the series I've produced, check out Nat Geo Wild's Wild_Life with Bertie Gregory or Symbio's Wild Warrior."

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