Friday, December 01, 2006


Thanks for visiting my blog. I've been a saltwater hobbyist for many years, but I was never really interested in freshwater or planted tanks. My perception of planted tanks was that they looked like the mucky dredges of the Charles River in Boston Massachussetts! But that all changed when my company relocated me to Tokyo, Japan in the Summer of 2004. It was here that I was exposed to the beauty and tranquility of planted tanks. After all, Japan is the homeland of Takashi Amano, the founder of ADA and zen-master in the art of the "Nature Aquarium Style".

Below are some examples of the "Nature Aquarium Style":
Pictures below were taken at a local store in Azabu Juban (

Monday, November 06, 2006

Delivery Day!

Christmas came early this year! I bought all of the dry goods from an online store ( Their prices are 10% to 30% cheaper than the retail shops in Tokyo. And shipping is free (if you order over JPY 20,000 or roughly USD $200) and very quick (less than two days).

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Tank

I went with ADA's Glass Garden Mini. The dimensions are 36 x 22 x 26 cm or 19 liters. This is roughly 14 x 9 x 10 inches or 5.5 gallons. I was tempted to set-up a larger tank, but I didn't want to deal with breaking it down and shipping it back to the States once my Tokyo job assignment ends.

Each ADA tank is signed by the assembler and the inspector. Talk about German quality combined with Japanese attention to detail!

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Lights

This is ADA's Solar Mini with a square, four-pin 27w power compact. It is made to match with the tank and is asthetically perfect in my opinion. My only complaint is the reflector. The reflector is a simple polished, curved piece of metal. I think they could do a better job of maximizing the light with a better reflector design ala Spider or Lumenarc reflectors.

This is the side view of the light. The light pivots forwards and backwards for easy access to the tank.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Filtration System

I am using a simple Ehiem canister filter.

This is ADA's Lily Pipe (Mini V-1). It is the intake to my external canister filter. It is hard to see in this picture but it is basically a tube capped on one end with slits cut into the glass.

This is the return pipe (Mini P-1) for the outlet from my canister filter.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Supplements

This is liquid fertilizer made by ADA. Green Brighty Step 1 is for the first three months of a new aquarium set-up. Green Brighty Step 2 is used for aquariums from 3 months to a year old. Green Brighty Step 3 (not shown) is for mature aquariums over a year old. The Bright K is used with water changes and/or after pruning.

These supplements are added to the substrate when setting up the tank. There is not alot of information on what is exactly in this stuff. According to Jeff Senske of ADG (Aquarium Design Group), Clear Super is a powder-grade carbon to polish the water and absorb excess organic substances and promote the proliferation of nitrifying bacteria. Bacter 100 is a bacteria and enzyme supplement containing over 100 different microorganisms in a dormant state. Toumaline BC is a mineral compound of iron, aluminum, sodium, boron, lithium and magnesium.

The CO2 System

I wasn't going to use CO2 on this tank, but I just love ADA's glass work and wanted to use their beetle counter and pollen glass. This CO2 system is relatively cheap and comes with a disposal CO2 canister, stand and regulator.

This is ADA's Beetle Counter. To be honest, this bubble counter is overkill and a bit big for my small tank. But I figured that I could re-use it when I upgrade to a large tank. Besides, this CO2 bubble counter is a work of art. The CO2 bubble rises in a spiral instead of straight up. What's the benefit over a standard bubble counter? None! It's just nice to look at.

I couldn't resist this all-glass check valve for the CO2 system. Beautiful to look at and almost 100% reliable unlike other cheap plastic check valves. The little, red glass ball is the valve and seals completely if there is any back-siphoning.

ADA Pollen Glass Mini. It contains a diffusion plate to aid absorption of the CO2 into the water column.

I plan to shut-off the CO2 at night so I bought the solenoid.

And I bought a cheap timer for the solenoid.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Substrate

This is a 2 liter bag of Power Sand for use as the base of the substrate.

This is a 9 liter bag of Aqua Soil "Amazonia" for use as the main substrate.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Hardscape

This piece of driftwood was buried deep at the bottom of the bin at Aqua-Meister, a local ADA retail store near my house. Not to sound sappy, but it was love at first sight!

From the left.

From the right.

This is the backside.

This is the backside from the left.

This is the backside from the right.

This is how I plan to set the driftwood in my tank.

Right-side angle.

Full frontal.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Set-Up

After some advice from members of the New England Aquatic Plant Society, I cut off a piece of the front left leg in order to tilt the driftwood forward. It was a small change, but it gives the piece a dynamic sense of movement. Thank you to NEAPS!

Here's the tank right before planting.

The equipment is all set-up. In the picture, from left to right, you can see the glass check valve, bubble counter and diffuser.

Here I've added Bacter 100, Super Clear and Tourmaline. The directions in English are contradictory. In one set of instructions, ADA tells you to put the additives on the bare bottom of the tank. In another set of instructions, they tell you to put it on top of the Power Sand. So I split the difference and did both.

Here I've added one 2 liter bag of Power Sand and some more Bacter 100, Super Clear and Tourmaline.

Here I am setting the dirftwood.

I added roughly 1/3 of a 9 liter bag of Amazonia.

Another angle. The driftwood is pushed as far back and to the right as possible.

Side angle. The substrate has been graded about 8 cm in the back to 4 cm in the front.

Here's the end result. I wish I had taken more pictures of the planting process, but I was too excited. I went to two LFS and they actually didn't have a great selection. I bought want I could, but wanted probably twice as much plant material. I'm not keen on the rotala (?) in the back left corner, but I felt that I needed some stem plants to help during the cycling of the tank. I think I will pull these out when the tank is stabalized.

The anubias on the bottom left is not set yet. The LFS did not have any small rocks for me to tie the anubias to. I'm not sure where I will place this piece of anubias. I definitely need more foreground material, but the LFS only had two pots of this Hemianthus callithictroides (at least that is what I think it is). The plant in the back right is a type of Microsorium (I think). I will need my friends from NEAPS to help me identify this stuff. In general, I think this tank needs a little more separation between the foreground and midground, but I'm not sure what to do yet. And there's also the issue of the back left corner and what to do with it. I'd like to use some hair grass, but I can't visualize if it would look good. I also need to re-grade the substrate.

View from the top.

View from the side.

View from the left side.

Ta-da! Not bad for a first timer, but there's definitely ALOT of room for improvement.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Timeline: Two Month Old

It has been about two months and so far I am happy with the results. Plant growth is exceptional except for the stand of rotala in the back left corner. The rotala grew, but it never really prospered so I pulled it. I may leave the back left corner empty for now. The microsorium is growing like a weed. I will have to keep on top of my trimmings. The hemianthus callithictroides is starting to spread nicely. The anubias is doing well, but seems susceptible to algae growth. I'll keep an eye on it. I have a school of tetra neon, one cory, three amano shrimp, and at least half a dozen other bee-sized shrimp (sorry, I don't have their latin names).