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Biotopes:What goes around,comes around.

Posted By: Martin Thoene <martin.thoene@lakenheath.af.mil>
Date: Tuesday, 22 September 1998, at 4:54 p.m.

All this talk on here about about Biotope recreation for our fish, a thing that has increased in peoples awareness within the hobby since the publication of several books on Aquascaping by a Japanese Author, reminded me of a book I have. I went and dug it out to see what it said that might interest people with our special interest.

It's a small paperback book, which if you saw it on a bookshelf, you'd possibly overlook. It's Title: 'Planning and Decorating the Aquarium', by Wilfried Weigel. I can quite honestly say that over the years I've found it to be the single most inspirational book I've ever read on this Hobby. It looks at how to design the aquarium into your home to compliment it's surroundings in many ways,and how to decorate a tank to simulate various regional Biotopes. It really treats the tank as a piece of Art instead as a box of water. "Sounds cool. Where can I buy it?", you might be asking. Trouble is this book dates from 1964! and is almost certainly out of print. It's got stuff like over-tank trickle filters and all sorts of stuff we may consider recent innovations. Also, it has some great '60's chic room designs that Austin Powers would be right at home in! We'll forget those, but I'll give you the good stuff.

MOUNTAIN STREAMS OF SOUTHEAST ASIA.

From the same general region come a number of interesting species which live, however,in clear, fast-flowing mountain streams. Some of these are very suitable for a landscape aquarium, as for instance the loaches(YOU BET!) which are typical inhabitants of this kind of habitat.These fast-moving streams force their way through gullies and erode the rocky soil. Their beds are therefore sandy and full of stones, which provide good hiding places. Here,where the rain forests gradually rise to the mountains, bamboos and wild bananas shade the banks, and in places there are tree-ferns and giant trees entwined by lianas, on which beautiful orchids find their place in the sun. The water is rich in oxygen and well illuminated, because floating plants are completely lacking, and the fish are lively and active. It is an environment which is attractive by reason of its lightness, cleanliness and liveliness.

Almost everywhere in this habitat the untiring, scouring water will have loosened little masses of rock. angular pieces of rock, both large and small, fall into the stream, whose bed consists of round, polished pebbles. These provide the motif for the tank. Pebbles of various sizes from the nearest gravel-pit. They can be placed on the floor of the tank in such a way as to form an S-shaped ridge, thus suggesting a stream bed that has been irregularly scoured. One sude of the tank has a carefull chosen piece of rock, sawn flat and positioned so that it represents a rocky bank that is slightly overhanging. Smaller, elongated pieces of the same type of rock lie in groups on the pebbles, as though they had fallen off from the banks: they provide good hiding places.

The vegetation consists mainly of Cryptocoryne species, such as C. undulata, C. griffithii, C. grandis and C. haerteliana. But not more than two of these species should be used in any one tank, and they should be planted fairly densely and not too deeply. A well grown specimin plant of Aponogeton crispus will help to divide up the area of open water.

A root of suitable size protrudes from the right hand rear corner of the tank, and is partly buried in the sand. This strengthens the impression of a fast, scouring stream. It is important that the different components of the picture should be present in the correct proportions. The sharp contrast between rock,sand and gravel on the one and a group of plants on the other gives the impression that few plants manage to find a foothold in such a frequently changing stream bed. It should again that this type of tank must have a number of hiding places as these are essential for some of the fish species concerned.

In these waters the temperature normally fluctuate between 24&28C (75-82F), the PH lies between 5&6, and the water hardness is very low (0 to 3 German degrees). In choosing fish for this kind of tank remember that, as for most aquaria, it is better to keep several fish of a single species than one or two of a number of different species.

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All the Biotope descriptions are as graphic as this and always send me on little mind journeys into the tropics when I read them. The tanks are illustrated by excellent line drawings and even in black and white are stunning. If anyone would like to see the design described above let me know and I'll E-mail it t