Expert Advice on Aquascape in the Tropical Fish Aquarium

The Aquascape

by Hailie Whatley, DarkWater Aquatics

aquascaping by dark water aquatics
When mentioning a “good freshwater tank”, most people have an Amano-esque vision that comes to mind. A miniature world full of intricate landscapes, a tasteful selection of well-integrated plants and a harmonic balance between livestock and their surroundings. “Aquatic Gardening” is a conversational term for aquascaping. It can vary from a cliche’ Spongebob themed aquarium with a mishmash of tetras and live bearers, or it can apply to the AGA worthy competition scapes. There is no wrong way to aquascape, as it is based on aesthetics, much like there is no wrong way to decorate a room. Although the previous statement bears a sound diction, in aquascaping we always strive for the truley stunning aquascapes. There are a few key elements in achieving the “wow” factor.

Improving your Aquascape

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I always find myself trying to describe to someone who is having difficulty with an aesthetically pleasing aquarium how they can improve. They compare my work with theirs and are
puzzled with why they are different, and why they cannot duplicate the effect. The magic is in detail and structure.




The Eye and the Aquaskape

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Aquascapes adhere to a single formula of a strong point in which the eye is drawn. For an Iwagumi, the point is the harmonic assembly of stones usually placed in the center of the scape.
For the “U” or “V” formula, high sides draw the eye to a centerpiece or open space.
A heavy side scape focuses on opposites. This usually consists of the majority of the
hardscape concentrated on one side, while the other side remains as open space. Don’t underestimate the power of nothingness.

Dutch style scapes rely on contrast and appearing “busy” as it utilizes several colors and textures
in nearly every area of the tank. The power in the Dutch scape is in chaotic balance.

As we gaze in awe at a well-done aquascape, we find ourselves being drawn to a point. That point is the not the single most important element of
the aquascape, but the soloist shining in support from the harmony.


Substrate use in Aquascape

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An impressive aquascape starts from the ground. You must have a plan for design before construction begins. In an “Iwagumi” scape, the substrate will be generally even, with light,
sloping to add dimension and the effect of “rolling hills.” High sides sloping inward create open space and a valley-like effect. A go-to substrate structure is low in the
foreground and sloping up to the back. This provides an easy scaping ground with the luxury of dimension. It is important to realize there are no boundaries. Steep slopes and mountainous
terrain provide an interesting effect and a truly different terrain. Experiment and don’t be afraid of being creative.
Rocks and driftwood are go-to’s for aquascaping. Driftwood varies from gnarly and twisty to straight and trunk-like. Every piece has potential. Twisty pieces can create the reaching effect
and straight pieces can create the illusion of peering through a forest when fastened upright.

Dark water Aquatics in Orlando FloridaRocks come in every flavor, as well. Smooth, round pieces are great for a river or beach effect
while jagged pieces give you the feeling of a perilous mountain peak. Hardscape should appear to have natural erosion. Place your pieces in the substrate and sweep sand over it, as if
it had been there for years. Once you have completed your design plan, don’t settle on a compromise for hardscape pieces- you will ultimately
be dissatisfied. Pursue until you have the perfect pieces.



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As stated previously, the power of the aquascape comes from the draw of the eye. Several ways of doing so (cheating) can include a simply stunning centerpiece, a stump piece that
is powerful on it’s own or a stone that has enough character to steal the show. Another way is the path illusion. A simple, but powerful aquascape consists of the “V” substrate plan
and a path of contrasting substrate that trails off through the point of the “V”. To further the effect, narrow the path as it moves back, until it disappears. This creates a vanishing



Plant Choice


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Choosing your plants should be part of the planning phase. Remain consistent with your level of maintenance and tech level (low light, high light, Co2). Once a list of possible plants
have been made, map out where you want foreground, midground and background. The next step is purely based on what you want. Color and texture vary immensely in plants. Downoi (P. helferi)
has a completely different effect than Valisineria. Envision the plants in your scape and choose accordingly. Don’t be afraid to place plants in between rocks or in precarious areas.



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Fish and invertebrates are the final addition. We have been conditioned to rely solely on livestock as the focus of our aquariums, when that is not the purpose. Resist the impervious urge to
overstock the tank. The fewer fish, the better. Most aquascapes utilize a small shoal of tetras, as they are unlikely to molest the intricacies of the scape. Invertebrates such as shrimp and
dwarf crayfish are also popular, as they come in a rainbow of colors. A tasteful aquascape will appreciate a modest stock of animals and will achieve a harmonic balance in doing so.




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Don’t neglect attention to detail. A simple alteration of the placement of a stone or direction a branch is facing can literally make or break the scape. Take time to work your hardscape
before the first drop hits the substrate. Arrange, take a step back and assess, arrange further. In some instances, leave the hardscape for a few days to see if it has the effect
you want. It is far easier to adjust sticks and stones than it is to disassemble an entire ecosystem. Let your creativity fly. See how it looks if you directed your substrate path
over a stone, or if you made the driftwood look like a fallen tree. Plant small mosses and rosettes in between stones to mimic natural growth patterns. Nothing should look contrived
or artificial.

Dark water Aquatics in Orlando FloridaThis is only the surface of what aquascaping is. It takes practice, and with each scape you are freer to take a steeper risk, to try a more daring look. There are no boundaries with
the aquascape, but you will only be satisfied when you are impressed. Keep reaching and pushing forward and you will be great at what you do. Don’t forget to account for a mature
look- note how the scape will appear once it has grown in and matured. Patience is key in art, and this art in particular. It will be a challenge and it will be expensive. You will
face setbacks and failures, but don’t let this discourage you. In the end you will have mastered an art that is both dying and being born. It is up to you to strive and succeed.
Don’t neglect the inspiration of others and learning of their challenges. In the end, becoming an Aquatic Gardener will be a rewarding and educational success.


For more information on Aquascaping and aquarium plants, Contact DarkWater Aquatics:

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The Guppy; Breeding Procedure


breeding the guppy is easy and funThe One Fish You can Mold to Your View of Perfection;

The Guppy, Tropical Fish of Infinite Color + Variety.


By Thomas R. Reich PhD Ichthyology



breeding the guppy is easy and funOf all the species of fish aquarium enthusiasts breed, the Guppy, without a doubt, is the most popular, most admired, and the prized favorite of breeders, both beginner, advanced and commercial.  No aquarium fish has as much literature written about it.  No fish in captivity has been bred so successfully from a plain olive gray, unremarkable fish, in its wild state, to the hundreds of exotic colored and fancy tail species existing today as the noble guppy.

Many hobbyists have started out breeding guppies just for the fun of it, and have found themselves completely entranced and fascinated that, through selective breeding, they have developed an entirely unique fancy variety!breeding the guppy is easy and fun

The male Guppy measures about 1-1/8” in its wild state and up to 2 inches in extreme high-bred varieties.  He is admired for his brilliant coloring and unique activity as he darts about the tank in search of food and breeding partners.  In a tank of Guppies, all colors, shades and hues can be seen.  Remember, though you may buy the exact male and female that you want to breed, but sometimes their offspring will not breed true, some will look like the parents some vastly different.

It is the guppy fri that are different which can be your unique finds.  Unlike the male of other species, there is no uniformity of coloring.  It is this spectrum of variation that allows the breeder to pick and choose among his collection for the perfect male to be singled out for mating.  It has been said by many that no other fish can afford the breeder as much selection, power, fun, satisfaction and pride as this small freshwater tropical fish.

breeding the guppy is easy and funThe female Guppy measures 2-1/4” in length in its wild state.  The female is not as beautiful or colorful as the male; in fact she is quite drab.  However, serious breeders and commercial breeders have improved many strains until many females can be found sporting luminously colored fins and exotic fancy tails, many times mimicking the beautiful colors of her fancy male counterpart but never actually approaching the male guppies’ stunning beauty.

There are many reasons that the beginner would be wise to choose the Guppy as a starter fish for his breeding experiments.  One reason the guppy is most favored by the breeder is because the female bares living young.  She is a rapid easy breeder, and requires only to be well fed.

However, being a very sturdy fish, more than most other fish, the guppy can manage even when breeding the guppy is easy and funfeeding is irregular and conditions are far less than optimal.  Additionally the Guppy can tolerate a wide range of temperature, and have been bred as successfully in a jar or goldfish bowl, as they performed in a large 10 or 20 gallon fully equipped aquarium.  The Guppy also thrives in outside summer ponds as long as the water temperature does not fall below 60 degrees F

A female Guppy is ready to spawn at the early age of three months (some as early as 8 weeks) and has a new litter about every three – four weeks.  Inbreeding has no adverse affect on the Guppy; in fact, it is through this very process that new strains are developed.  Most species of fish (especially egg-layers) have to be paired and pampered to induce breeding.  Not so with the Guppy.  One random male placed in a tank with one or even a large number of females can successfully fertilize most if not all the female guppy in a very short period of time (one or two days!).



breeding the guppy is easy and funHIGHBREDING OR STRAINING


The Guppy can be high-bred or strained to produce a stock with a definite shade, a particularly beautiful body color, a long flowing tail, or any characteristic that you detect and establish as your particular goal.  The following is a method for establishing a unique strain or high-bred.

The way to distinguish the young male is to watch for the development of the anal fin which begins to breeding the guppy is easy and funbecome noticeably pointed, in many cases even before the male guppy begin to get their color.  From a tank of young Guppies, select the males which show the strongest indications of the dominant characteristic you wish to develop (color, fin shape or size for example).  When your selections have been made, it is wise to separate those males from the tank, because your purpose is to mate these males with a choice crop of female guppy.

It is then important to separate all the large healthy females and isolate them before they can be inseminated by a less desirable male guppy.  Remember, one mating can produce up to 8 broods, so you only want virgin females.

breeding the guppy is easy and funWhen you decide which male guppy to be the father of your unique new variation, you can introduce him to untouched females.  It sounds harsh, but you must eliminate the undesirable males as they develop.  Allow them to mature long enough to make sure which are undesirable in color, shape or size.  You can give these less desirable males and females to friends, after all, most guppies are pretty in their own way — these just do not have the characteristics exact you are looking for. Or use the guppy rejects as feeders for your larger fish, or my personal recommendation is to use these guppy rejects to control the mosquito population in your outdoor pond or fountain!

Do not expect your first batch to produce the desired result.  If your goal is a fancy tail breed, it will bebreeding the guppy is easy and fun necessary to continuously repeat the above procedure for some time, each generation, pocking only the very best guppy to breed back into the breed.  After every new batch of young, always select the best females of the last crop to be mated with the best male.  The sire (male) of a batch can be mated back to his daughter, and even to his granddaughter, if he is the perfect male for your goals, to obtain the desired result.

Following this general course, you can expect to have a nice tank full of potential prize winning guppy in as little as four or five months, or as long as a lifetime, it’s up to you!  At least you will be well on your way to obtaining your individual fancy breed.


breeding the guppy is easy and funFor further information and more detailed methods of hybridization, there are many booked specifically written on the subject.  To really get into guppy breeding, get involved in your local Tropical Fish Association, networking is a wonderful thing!

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The Guppy; Aquarium Tropical Fish of Choice for Over 100 Years

tropical fish the guppy

tropical fish the guppyA Short History of Tropical Fish Legend, the Guppy


By Thomas R. Reich PhD



While goldfish have been kept as pets for hundreds of years, the tropical fish hobby owes its great success to the comical little tropical fish the Guppy – the first “tropical” fish to gain widespread popularity.  After more than half a century of cultivation, the Guppy is still the most popular tropical aquarium fish.  More than a few aquarists have been introduced to the hobby by a gift of guppies from a friend.  In his book, “Exotic Aquarium Fish”, Dr William T. Innes refers to the tropical fish Guppy as the “missionary fish” because it has made so many converts to the aquarium hobby.  But what could be unusual about a fish as common as the common guppy?

The Guppy has been introduced to so many places throughout the tropical America’s that it is not certain just what the original habitat of this fish was.  However, most scientists believe that the Guppy’s original home territory was Venezuela, Trinidad and the Guyana’s.  This tropical fish is extremely plentiful in these countries.  For instance, every drainage ditch in the city of Georgetown, Guyana teems with Guppies.

Credit for discovering the Guppy is generally given to the Reverend John Lechmere Guppy, who is supposed to have collected specimens in Trinidad in 1866.  Even this little bit of Guppy history is tropical fish guppyclouded by doubt.

This bit of Guppy lore goes something like this.  About 1860, an English naturalist, Lechmere Guppy, Sr., living in Trinidad, frequently send to the BritishMuseum collections of natural history tropical fish specimens.  Among some fish that he sent was a tiny, brightly colored little fish that was described as a new species and named, after him, Girardinus guppyi.  After it had enjoyed years of popularity as an aquarium fish, and had become known to aquarists by the specific name guppyi, someone discovered that, years earlier, the same fish had been described as Lebistes reticulates.  In the meantime guppyi had been shortened to guppy, and no matter what changes are made in tropical fish catalogues, books on aquaria, or labels on exhibition tanks, guppies will be guppies as long as the little fish retain their deserved popularity among fish fans.  There is another fish from Trinidad which has the official right to the name of Mr. Guppy.  This fish is Hemibrycon guppyi, but as it is a much larger tropical fish than the Lebistes reticulates, is rarely seen in aquariums due to its violent nature, additionally it is an egg-layer.  With this in mind, there is not the slightest danger of confusing the two very different fish which unofficially share the name guppyi.

Aquarium fish for backyard pondsGuppies, in spite of their tiny size, are useful citizens of whatever pond or stream they have been introduced to and inhabit. Specifically, one of their favorite foods is the “mosquito larvae”.   This tropical fish the Guppy is able to eat almost their total weight of “mosquito larvae” every day!  As, in nature, this little gem is always prolific; they are known in the West Indies as “million fish” since it is mathematically possible for a single pair to multiply and become a community of close to a million fish during a year of near perfect conditions.  The sum total of their efforts in mosquito control has made much of Florida inhabitable, as well as many other areas of the world.  The extent of their contribution is debated but they seem as desirable in nature as they are in the aquarium.tropical fish guppy

From the beginning of Guppy culture, it was noted that males showed great variety in fin shapes and colors.  No two wild male guppies were ever exactly alike.  Through the years guppy fanciers have carefully selected until there are now more guppy varieties than could possibly be described here.  Literally every color is seen on male guppies.  There is even one tropical fish variety, the golden guppy, in which both sexes are yellow all over.

feeder fish tropical fish guppySeveral guppy varieties are worth virtually nothing, yet are sold as feeder fish and still fulfill a valuable purpose to the aquarist. Some males have beautiful sword like extensions on their tails.  The extension may be on the top or the bottom.  It will come as no surprise that these are called swordtail guppies.  In another variety, there is a sword extending from both edges of the tail.  These are called lyre tails.  Still another variety produces males with an iridescent green netlike pattern over the tail fin and body.  These are Referred to as lace or snakeskin guppies.

The aristocrat of tropical fish guppy varieties is the veil tail guppy, prize specimens of which frequently sell for more than $100.00 a pair.  In the veil tail the tail has been developed into a broad triangle, sometimeshi breed guppyy tropical fish as long as the fish’s body.  The dorsal fin extends back like a long plume.  Veil tails come in many exquisite colors.

The king of guppy breeders was Henry Kaufman, of Trenton, New Jersey.  Mr. Kaufman’s veil tail guppies were known the world over as the finest money could buy.  Many of the strains available today were originated by his organization.  Kaufman won so many world championships, national and local contests with his tropical fish guppies that he retired from competition in 1966.

tropical fish guppyThe guppy has become so popular that there are national, international, and local guppy breeders and aquarium associations.  These organizations, much like rose garden societies and kennel clubs, exchange information, set standards for prize winning guppies, and sponsor tropical fish guppy contests to promote and encourage amateur participation in the competitive breeding world.

The root guppy or “original” may be plentiful, is referred to it as the “common” guppy.  This variety is sold very inexpensively as “feeder Fish” in many pet and tropical fish aquarium stores.  This variety had colorful males and drab gray females.  This is by far the heartiest variety for backyard summer ponds, and when the weather turns, guppy breedingthey will fade away into memory only to be replaced inexpensively the next spring.

The  tropical fish Guppy is referred to as the millions fish, because 6 females and 3 males can easily produce what seem like a million fish by the end of the summer, given the room to grow and the food to support such a colony.




Dr Thomas R Reich PhD

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