My Aquascaping Journey-@Parisianscape

My name’s Quentin. I’m 29 years old. I live in Paris, France and this is my aquatic story.

I started keeping tropical fish at 12 or 13 like many of us did, with a community tank populated with guppies, xipho or red tailed black sharks. The setting of this 26 gallon (100 liter) tank –as the general harmony- was terrible. My mum wanted me to use those horrific ceramic bridges…and I wanted to please her. So I did. It was so ugly…

But from the moment I had fish, I knew it wasn’t only a child hobby but a real passion.

At the age of 16, I set up another aquarium –bigger this time at 53 gallons (200 liters) and I populated it with discus. This tank was something else. It wasn’t aquascaping yet but it was fully planted with an enormous red nymphaea. The tank was open with some of the plants growing out of it. My discus was also laying. That wasn’t bad for a 16 year old who only used his pocket money! It led to nothing but I was proud anyway.

I remember running contests with other passionate friends at the time. “Who was able to create ‘the most beautiful planted nano tank’ ?” was one of them, for example. Those guys were not fierce competitors and it was easy for me to win those “challenges”–I was living in the French countryside at this time. And even if I loved my discus tank, at the age of 19 I had to sell everything to move to Paris for my studies. It was heartbreaking, really.

That was ten years ago, today.

Time flew by. Several times I wanted to go back to aquarium but life is expensive in Paris and so are the flat rents. I just didn’t have the space to do something satisfying.

Finally, I met someone who was as crazy as me for aquariums. Seeing tanks again in someone else’s flat just pushed me to do it again. At the same time, I found a nano tank in the street. That was enough for me to start again! 

And this is how it all begins…one more time!

I really think Instagram has helped me a lot with my scapes. In the late 90’s it wasn’t that easy to have information and great examples of what scaping means and how to do things. Today, through social media, you can reach people easily. It’s a way to ask for advice and to learn from your mistakes.

I started asking questions to an influencer on instagram(at this time he was answering questions on his Story and I was lucky to get his opinion on my tank). Now I can tell my scape was bad! (Even if back then I thought it was great! haha!) It was a low tech tank but, like, really low tech! The lighting system I used wasn’t powerful enough to make the plants grow well. And I was using those CO2 kits with sugar jelly and yeast. Needless to say, it wasn’t a success!

That being said, that was the beginning of my IG account: @Parisianscape. You can find some remains of this scape scrolling down my feed. Careful: it’s not a masterpiece!

However, I’ve been lucky even though once I had a water leak in this tank. I say “lucky” because that was an opportunity to change this terribly mistaken scape into something much better!  So I went to my store, bought lava stones, Ada sand, JBL soil, and some plants. It was time for redemption!


The Cliff

During a water leak you don’t have a lot of time to react. And we all know that scaping requires time and good vibes. I was very stressed scaping my little cliff tank. But as in fairy tales, there’s a happy ending.

First of all, I used lava stones to create the cliff. It was really important to adjust each of them till I found the perfect position. I put some filter wool behind and between the stones when necessary. It helps to keep the soil in the back (I didn’t want my white beach to become black over time!). Once it was done I added the JBL soil until I had a decent level (around 6 inches/15 cm). But I didn’t only put JBL soil. To have existent bacteria in the tank, I also mixed it with the old soil (it was Aqua soil Amazonia by ADA).

The cliff was ready to be planted. I wanted something thick from the beginning and very raw. For this scape, I used a lot of Alternanthera reineckii mini, but also Riccia fluitans, Staurogyne repens, Bucephalandra wavy green and Hygrophila pinnatifida for the foreground. In the midground I used Hygrophila sp. lancea and Ludwigia palustris. And in the background I planted Rotala Rotundifolia, Cryptocoryne balansae, and Nymphoides ‘Taiwan.’

I can see I made mistakes when I look back on this tank. I didn’t know some of these plants were about to grow that big and/or need more light than what I had given them.

That was the case with Hygrophila sp. lancea and Ludwigia palustris. I lost both due to a lack of light. On the other hand, the Cryptocoryne balansae and the lotus ‘Taiwan’ were growing out of control.

To complete this scape I only added white sand(which contrasted very well with the dark lava stones), a bit of gravel to make it more natural and a few branches.

This tank was really pleasant to take care of. I am a very manic person with trimming and these plantings were giving me a lot to do. In a tiny tank like this –about 12 gallons /45 liters- I had to trim the plants every week, which is perfect for me!  I loved the dynamism of this scape.

But if I had to do it again from zero I would definitely afford the right equipment from the start. It actually costs more than it should to make mistakes like mine (for example, I tried to save money by buying a cheaper lamp or a cheaper CO2 system instead of buying the good item). I wanted a high tech tank but without the inconvenience of the price. And if that’s your case too, be aware that this has an ultimate cost. Don’t lose money with intermediate furnishings; you will regret it later.

Although this scape has recently evolved into another landscape, today I’m running it with a CO2 system from Dennerle, two RGB lights from Chihiros and a Crystal Profi Green Line filter from JBL. I give it a daily dose of EasyCarbo from Easy Life and a weekly portion of Tropica’s Specialised Nutrition. I’m only using RODI water, adding Bee Shrimp’s salt to remineralize it.

This is the home of red cherry shrimps, Hemigrammus rodwayi and Hyphessobrycon amandae. The latter seem to be really good in this scape as some of the females appear ready to lay. Let’s see what it gives!

A passion can come from a ceramic bridge placed in an aquarium or a nano tank found in the garbage. You can put it off for many years because you live in a student flat, or because your studies take too much time, but it will always come back to the surface again one day. ‘Cause once you taste it, you can’t stop (that would be a great food tagline; remind me to sell it someday!).

Keep on scaping, everyone, and don’t give up!

~Quentin from @Parisianscape on Instagram