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Presented by Charles & Linda Raabe
Mactan Island, The Philippines
© 2008 All Rights Reserved

   This page will not be a "how to" attempt but one of encouraging you to be creative and break away from the typical "flower garden" arrangements that most aquariums, including mine, are landscaped as. Of course, the aquarium's dimensions are either going to restrict you or allow you a wide range of options. The typical dimensions of an aquarium are very limiting with their normally narrow and tall square shape which does not leave much room for creativity. As such, if it is not too late and you have not purchased the tank yet, I would like to suggest that a much wider dimension be considered, the depth of view and landscaping possibilities are much more open to say the least. Length is also an important consideration as well. Besides allowing much more creativity, most, if not all fish placed within our systems require horizontal swimming room more so than depth provided by heigth. A long, wide aquarium also provides much more territory that fish can stake out as their own thus reducing conflicts over who owns the eighteen inch wide section of a typical aquarium. For my next aquarium, I will not settle for anything less than 36 inches wide and 6 to 8 feet long, wider if possible. The following links will hopefully inspire you towards a creative and more realistic landscape.

   Aquascaping the Marine Aquarium  -  A quick simple article on some things to take into consideration

   Aquascaping with insulation foam   -  Another creative method for use as either a background or as an actual building block.

   A Planted Aquarium  -  Lets not forget this option since I have yet to see a reef that "plants" were not a major component of.

   Showpiece Items - Eye candy for the Aquarium  -  Placement tips and species selections

   Biotopes  -  The recreation of specific reef habitats.

  Aquascaping the Reef Aquarium  -  A short "how to" article.

   A few natural examples taken from the Reef Tour

Photo by Charles Raabe   Sea grass - While not normaly used as a show tank display, such an environment would be an excellent refugium idea. Besides having the plant life uptaking nutrients, the habitat that the sea grass provides can create a little world unto itself with multitudes of other life forms that will also process nutrients. Their reproduction will also provide the main show tank with a constant supply of live foods as well. All of this  keeps with what I believe should be the concept of keeping with the true meaning of the world reef, which for me, means diversity of life.

  Sea grass bowls - Within sea grass beds, there are quite a number of natural depressions that during the low tides, are just deep enough to retain enough water to allow a variety of coral species to thrive there as well. Not to mention a great many other permanent residents such as small gobys, shrimp, crabs and of course, the usual sandbed occupants such as worms, foraminiferans, snails and too many more to mention.

  Macro Algae covered Rock - Such areas make up great expanses of area that I feel does the majority of nutrient capture from shore based run off that makes it possible for the nearby shore fringing coral reefs to exsist. I would love to see exporters keep such live rock intact with its macro algae when collected and shipped overseas. The diversity of life forms that can be found living with the shelter of such macro algae is truly amazing. I can and do spend hours upon hours with a single sprig of macro algae under a dissecting scope being astounded by just how much life can be found in such a small world. If you have gone through my hitch hiker pages, the vast majority of the animals shown have come from just such live rock. Just as the SeaGrass habitats provide for, these macro algae rock habitats would also make for an excellent refugium as well as a show display. Even in such algae dominated areas, there are a good many corals to be found scattered in amongst it all. Most notably, the porites and pavona species.

  This is but one of a great many examples of coral formations, groupings that I see on the natrual reefs here. In due time, I plan to add quite a few examples of how and where corals grow to give you an idea of the great variations we can try to emulate within our display aquariums. Species selection is of great importance when doing so. Again, if you take a close look at the species living in such a tightly packed wall as shown in the above photo, it will give you a good idea of how such a biotope can be achieved.

The Reality of a Glass Box  -  While I am sure that most of us reef keeping fanatics would love to be able to have and maintain all of the diversity of life found within any given area of a natural reef, there is one, great, limiting factor that we have to contend with, and thats the simple fact that even with the largest of aquariums, they are in relative terms compared to the expanses of a reef, extremely small, confined spaces.
   On a natural reef, any herbivore grazers, or predators tend to take a nip here, a bite there, and move on. Thus giving that area a good deal of time to recover before the next nip and bite occurs. That and having an oceans worth of plankton being washed over such areas, constantly having multitudes of life forms dropping out of the plankton to colonize any new territory, how ever small, that nips and bites open up. Something that is highly unlikely to happen within a small glass box. As such, we have no choice but to place limits on such animals that do the nipping and biting within our aquariums. Having a wrasse, crab or any predator confined in such a small area will quickly deplete any life forms that are surviving and living on our substrates (rock/sand). Which is why I insist on placing any rock that I collect into a small holding tank for a few days to allow me to look it over for any obvious predators that if allowed loose into my aquarium, would have the same effect as tossing a wolf into a pen full of sheep. Within a week or two, you will end up with a very fat wolf standing in a sheep free pen. The only way that I know of to get around such a scenario is to have an open loop to a tropical ocean to get the constant influx of new planktonic life forms or by limiting / removing all possible predators. While doing such removals may seem to go against the whole concept of "diversity", it is simply a fact of aquarium life that we must deal with to maintain any semblance of diversity. If not, you will quickly end up with nothing more than a bunch of corals parked on top of some coralline encrusted rocks and thats it. Not something that I can honestly call a "reef" aquarium, doing so, would to me, be the same as putting a bunch of tropical potted plants on the back porch and claiming that you have a rain forest. Besides, I am willing to bet that you have at one time noticed a tiny "critter" growing or crawling about and were thrilled at the sight. Why not take the effort to encourage as many of those "critters" as you can? It really does add so much more to the enjoyment of "Reef" keeping.

This mirror is being hosted with the permissions of the original content creator for preservation and educational purposes.