DIY Biotope w/ tons of plants & a living wall and potential for disaster!

  • Get the NEW AquariaCentral iOS app --> // Android version will be out soon!


AC Members
Jun 13, 2013
Naperville, IL
AquaBella comes as 5 tubes. 3 are marked day 1, 2 and 3. So these obviously are put into the tank the first 3 days. 4th one goes in on day 90. Last tube is a booster that goes in day 180.


AC Members
Nov 16, 2004
Real Name
March Update:

I added new lights! HD had a 3 x T5 setup for $40 so I went with that. I now have those and 2 60 watt grow lights.

Above: This is how it looks from the top of the tank.

This is looking at the 3 bulbs. It makes a lot of light for one fixture.

This is the whole tank. I have another tank with piles of val. In addition to the bamboo I now have val growing throughout the entire tank. It has been there over a month and the Oscars seem to like it. They have not eaten it or had any trouble with it at all. It is sending out runners in every direction. The old leaves are browning and dying but there is new growth coming from each bunch.\

I have included some photos of the happy inhabitants. Where else can I post fish photos for no other reason?

Here is one of my 3 Oscars. I love the open top because it makes the tank feel like a lake.

One of my two Pictus cats.

A happy pleco.

A view from the end of the tank looking toward the other side.

The Bichir hiding under his rock.

AND Finally. . .

If there is one thing I have learned from the internet it is that everyone always tells the truth about how big their fish are. This is my 26" Oscar. He is too big to frame with the camera lens so this is only part of him. He got so big because he trained with Bruce Lee and ate all the other fish in his old river. An Amazon tribe sent him to me because their children could not bathe in the river for fear of him.

DSCN8451.jpg DSCN8452.jpg Untitled-1.jpg DSCN8445.jpg DSCN8461.jpg DSCN8462.jpg Untitled-2.jpg Untitled-3.jpg DSCN8443.jpg


AC Members
Sep 21, 2013
Paxton, FL
Real Name
Looking nice! I like the 26 incher... I can see why the village children were afraid.

Sent from my iPhone using MonsterAquariaNetwork app


AC Members
Nov 16, 2004
Real Name
Update Time:

So it has been a little over two years since I installed the troughs.

The plants have outgrown them. The roots take up so much of the trough space that I have had to regularly scoop out the the expanded clay pellets that I had been using as bio and root-growin' media. The plants have been so healthy that they continued to grow until roots had burst through most of the seams and water was trickling out of every joint. After a few dozen patchwork fixes to guide the drips more or less into the tank I had to improvise a diversion system to reduce water flow. I reduced and reduced until 90% of the water bypassed the gutter entirely. The system succeeded to what I set out to do but the plants just grew too big for their own good. It was time for a redesign.

*attempting to insert image here but it seems the editor wants me to attach all the images to the end of the post. Not how I intended it but the images are there.

Nate, whatever did you do?

I tore it all down! There was some epicly rich soil made from 100% natural fish waste collected around the roots which explained why everyone was so happy. I took it all out to the yard and washed it for the garden in spring.

Whats new, you ask?

I upgraded my 12' of house gutter to 20' of 4” PVC piping with room for 40 plants! The unit itself rises 7' above the tank and is 6' wide. The highest tube extends about 10' up from the floor.

Tank Specifics:

135 gallon tank


Mag 9.5 (rated at 450 gph at 10' head)

-basket prefilter

-Venturi adapter to seriously aerate water and eliminate need for an airpump

-This is the pump that feeds the whole system

Fluval FX6 canister filter

3 gallon bio media chamber with expanded clay pellet bio media.

3 T5 grow lights in a Home Depot garage fixture


2 adult oscars

1 Jack Dempsy

2 Pictus cats

1 albino Pleco

1 Parrotfish (found on doorstep in bucket)

Terrestrial Plants:

Chinese evergreens

Peace Lily


Lucky Bamboo

Spider Plants

Aquatic Plants:

None since I introduced blackworms and the pictus cats destroyed EVERYTHING trying to eat them all.











Global Moderator
Jun 15, 2008
Central NJ
Real Name
Camera Used
Canon PowerShot SX260 HS
LOVE this project! Thanks for sharing it! I would have painted the wall white or pipes yellow though. ;)
  • Like
Reactions: Wild West


AC Members
Nov 16, 2004
Real Name
First, thanks to the moderators for not locking this thread. I know it's old but this post has become my aquarium journal. I am documenting the tanks as they are today before trading one out for a 180g I picked up on Craigslist for $200. I hadn't planned on ever upgrading the glass again but I couldn't pass this up. This will probably take several months of projects but the changes will start soon and I don't want to forget this.

I put the 4" PVC tubes in in March, 2016. Here is how it looks today.

Both tanks are 125 gallons. The planted tank is a community tank with <30 small fish. I have Inkbird heater controllers on each tank with about 600w of heaters on each. There is an FX6 on this tank and a 407 on the cichlid tank. The water pumps up through the pipe on the right in the corner. It is nearly 6' long and filled with expanded clay pellets as bio media. There is a venturi air intake before the impeller so a load of bubbles get chopped into microbubbles just before spending the next 6' slowly rising in the water column. I do not have a separate air source in these tanks.

The cichlid tank looks like this today:


Water from the main pipe assembly diverts into this tank at about .75 gpm. The water level in this tank is only 1 inch higher than the other tank so draining has always been the struggle. Between the 407 and the constant exchange of water and the biomass of the plants, both tanks have pristine readings at all times. The water in my town is very hard. I haven't seen the pH budge since I moved here 15+ years ago.

Both tanks are lidless because I like the aesthetic of being able to look into them like a pond. Consequently, the humidity in my house is a comfortable 30% . Forced air heat in my area tends to dry other houses as low as 7%. I add up to 5 gallons per day to this 250g system. I intend to drop a fridge ice machine line to my basement with an auto shut off valve so I don't have to manually carry buckets every couple days.

Here are more shots of the house mostly for my own record:

These pictures are a lot of fun to go back and see later.

The cichlid tank is stocked with 8 silver dollars of two different varieties. 1 mature gold severum and one mature green severum. There are also two 12" pictus cats. There is always a pleco.


Lighting on the planted tank is two Fluval 2.0 LED lights. These are pre-app control. The light on the cichlid tank is a Distin's Tanks single row 48" LED. This tank will become the community tank and the 180 will become the cichlid tank. Nearly all the plants will move here along with the better lighting.

Oh, another note I'm proud of I want to remember in the future: I built a hose adapter to the pump system so I can water all the houseplants in my home using aquarium water. It looks like this:

The red switch allows me to shut off the pipes if I should need to. The top blue valve controls how much water goes to the cichlid tank. The bottom valve diverts water to a hose for watering all my indoor plants.

My goal has always been to create a biotope where the fish fertilized the plants and the plants cleaned the water for a sort of zen harmony. I do a few water changes a year but the filtration and plant biomass is so much overkill that I change water just to clear out some of the hardness that must be building up. Someday I'll run a R/O unit in the basement which will feed the fridge line I'll plumb to keep the tank topped off. Then the system will be free of all maintenance. (Of course that's never true and it will always require tinkering but that will be additive, not necessary).

I think that sums it up. This is a pretty accurate snapshot of what's growing in my house these days. The next posts over the next few months will be how things look as they are installed. The DIY tile mural background and new stand will be in the DIY forum.


Global Moderator
Staff member
Jan 11, 2013
West Falls NY
Real Name
Pinkey Pinkey Love the jungle look!

I believe it was you that got me into growing pothos out of my 75gal years ago. I used a large size marina brand breeder box that uses air line to circulate water though it like a HOB filter. For quite awhile I had a pothos growing around the perimeter of the room out of this single breeder box. I haven't kept up on it and the root mass in the breeder box kind of choked itself out. I've got just a little bit of sickly looking pothos still hanging in there in the box. Nothing around the room anymore.