Foliage of myriad shapes, textures and colors in "The Celestial Swamp."

Foliage of myriad shapes, textures, and colors in “The Celestial Swamp.”

Motivated by the splendor of expansive aquascape projects in large, broad enclosures, such as “Tom’s Bucket O’ Mud,” “Don Boyer’s 200-gallon Riparium,” and “A Chocolate Puddle,” Nigel Tobey of Cambridge, Ontario, has built an exceptional planted ecosystem display, “The Celestial Swamp.” Nigel Tobey’s riparium setup celebrates color, texture, and dimension with a wide range of fully-submerged plants as well as marginal aquatic plants reaching though the air in the space above.

The following details are the basic specifications for “The Celestial Swamp”:

  • Enclosure: 68-gallon, 48″ X 30″ X 12″ (257-litre, 123cm X 76cm X 30cm) glass tank by Miracles in Glass
  • Lighting: Eight dimmable, PAR38, 5000K LED lamps
  • Filtration/Water Circulation:
    • Coast-to-coast overflow
    • Tuff Stuff stock tank 40-gallon (151-liter) sump with Poret® Filter Foam
    • Eheim Compact 5000 for sump return flow
    • Hydor Koralia 425 for additional in-tank circulation
  • Water parameters:
    • pH 7.5
    • KH 3
    • GH 10
    • No3 20-30ppm
    • TDS 387ppm
    • Water Temperature 72°F (22°C)

The underwater plant substrate combines a thin base layer of sphagnum peat with ADA Malaya and ADA Amazonia. Okho Stone and Manzanita branches decorate the tank and reach above the water’s surface to provide additional planting surfaces for both submerged aquatic plants and above-water marginal aquatic plants. Gravel-filled Aqua Verdi Riparium Planters, as well as DIY “shower caddy” cups, provide additional plant substrate and support for riparium plants. Even with tall, robust plants filling out the layout background, the broad tank footprint provides plenty of space for light to penetrate to assist in growth of underwater foliage, as well as a few floating plants.

Sump filtration system detail.

Sump filtration system detail.

The system uses no pressurized CO2 injection; the submerged aquatic plants rely instead on the steady flux of dissolved carbon dioxide from the bioactive substrate, biofilter, and the respiration of numerous swimming fish. Riparium plants growing above the water easily satisfy their carbon requirements from the air, where CO2 is many times more available than it is underwater. Fish waste products along with routine fertilizer dosing fulfill the other plant nutrient requirements.

Glass coast-to-coast overflow under construciton in the 68-gallon, low & broad aquarium enclosure.

Glass coast-to-coast overflow under construction in the low, broad, 68-gallon aquarium enclosure.

These lists detail plant selection by planting zone:

    • Riparium
      • Adiantum raddianum
      • Anthurium variety
      • Chamaedorea cataractarum
      • Cyperus alternifolius var. gracilis
      • Ficus pumila
      • Hygrophila angustifolia
      • Lysimachia nummularia “Aurea”
      • Monstera deliciosa
      • Spathiphyllum “Petite”
    • Underwater
      • Anubias barteri var. nana “Petite”
      • Cryptocoryne lutea
      • Cryptocoryne retrospiralis
      • Cryptocoryne x willisii
      • Helanthium tenellum
      • Helanthium tenellum “Green”
      • Hygrophila polysperma
      • Sagittaria subulata
    • Floating
      • Limnobium laevigatum
      • Salvinia natans
Subdued lighting under dimmable LEDs brings out subtle details in plant lusters and hues.

Subdued lighting under dimmable LEDs brings out subtle details in plant lusters and hues.

Selection of small fishes further enhances the expansive scale of “The Celestial Swamp.” The following lists livestock species with approximate quantities for each:

  • Ancistrus sp. “Super Red” (1)
  • Danio tinwini (12)
  • Celestichthys choprae (6)
  • Celestichthys erythromicron (6)
  • Celestichthys margaritatus (5)
  • Otocinclus affinis (1)
  • Otocinclus cocama (1)
  • Poecilia wingei (3)
Danio tinwini plies the submerged aquatic realm.

A Gold-Ring Danio (Danio tinwini) plies the submerged aquatic realm.

These photographs and select details provide just a quick glimpse of the mysterious world within “The Celestial Swamp.” I look forward to learning and sharing more about Nigel Tobey’s inspired riparium aquascape as it continues to grow and develop.

Exuberant plant growth above water and submerged.

Exuberant above-water riparium plant growth and submerged fully aquatic foliage.