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Re: Aquascaping question

Shireen wrote:

> One of the things that fascinated me about some of the
> aquascaping was the height of many background plants.
> I've had trouble with that because, while the upper parts
> look good, the lower parts of the plants that are shaded
> from light always get stringy and unhealthy.
> - - I'm wondering if the background plants in some of
>     those tanks have a raised substrate in the back. If so,
>     how is this done?

No doubt some of them were terraced.  I've never succeeded in keeping
anything terraced for any length of time, so maybe someone who is
successful with it can explain how they did it.

> - - Does a very thick substrate cause anaerobic conditions
>     that could be unhealthy?

In my experience most plants seek out and thrive with an anaerobic
substrate.  Just the same, there are limits.  I wouldn't want all of the
substrate to be anaerobic.

> - - Other than driftwood, are there other ways of raising
>     the height of some plants (riccia, Java fern, Java moss,
>     etc.)? Large rocks could cause weight problems! Does
>     anyone use realistic-looking lightweight "fake" rocks
>     made of plastic or styrofoam that provide a good
>     clinging surface for some plants like riccia, Java fern,
>     etc.?

Some plants (Bolbitis in particular) don't seem to attach well to
rocks.  Wood works better.  I would stay away from foam plastics like
styrofoam; that's partly because they release plasticizers into the
water and partly because a lot of the foam I've seen submersed very long
appears to degrade.  I seem to recall that one of the large tanks in the
2000 AGA contest had a construction on the back and sides that appears
to be of styrofoam or something similar.
> For someone who does not use CO2 and fertilizes sparingly,
> I'm fairly happy with the plant growth rate. But my tanks
> look too 2-dimensional. It would be nice to have more
> vertical landscaping to create the illusion of hills and valleys.

I'm glad you're happy with your tank.  Lack of CO2 and sparing
fertilizer may be why the lower leaves of your stem plants look a little
ratty.  Those factors (taken together) keep the lower leaves on stem
plants looking better than they would otherwise.

A common practice is to stagger the height of plants from high in back
to low in front so that plants at the front obscure the lower leaves on
the background plants.  That way the lower leaves on the background
plants can get pretty ratty and no one notices.

Roger Miller