Aquascaping for fish health

Paul B

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Manhattan Reefs
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As I sit here self quarantining myself I have a lot of time to look at and ponder my tank. As I study it from the front and the back which I just scraped clean just to do something I noticed something that we rarely speak about.

We normally make our aquascape to look like something pleasing to us. But how do we know if the fish like it? After all, they have to live in it.
I think my fish absolutely love their home and if they had thumbs, they would be giving me the "Thumbs Up" sign.

Most of us (no one here I am sure) certainly look very ugly and scary to our fish and remember they can see us as well as we see them. They can also see our homes, TV, sock drawer kitchen etc. When we eat fish, I put a blanket over the tank so they don't get the horrors.

Anyway, I designed my aquascape with so many caves, nooks and crannies that I have some fish that I see maybe a couple of times a year. That may not be good for me but one fish that I saw maybe once a year lived almost undetected for 18 years. A Brutlyd or 6" cusk eel and I killed it by accident when I took out a rock and didn't know he was there.

Fish need to feel secure and if you can see them, they know it and don't feel safe. PVC pipes and flowerpots do not cut it and you may as well shoot those poor fish as they hate that. That is one big reason so many fish die in quarantine. It isn't their perceived disease, it is their surroundings.

My entire reef structure is built on a base which I built out of cement and the thing sits roughly about 1 1/2" off the gravel.
I can see the back of the tank under the reef almost everywhere and in that under space is an interconnected catacomb system where a fish the size of a mid sized copperband butterfly can hide while traveling from one end of the 6' tank to the other.

After cleaning the back of the tank a couple of days ago I discovered that I have two rainsford gobies, 2 green clown gobies, 2 six line wrasses, 2 possum wrasses, 2 gecko gobies and a pistol shrimp.
I didn't realize I had two of those fish because of all the hiding places I never see both of them at the same time.

You may not like this, but the fish do, which is one reason they only die of old age.

If you do any diving you will notice that there are very few, if any fish that will let you get with in a few feet of them before they hide. Great white sharks are one that let you get very close and personnel. :oops:

Fish like Hippo tangs love to jam themselves into a tight space just to have some "personnel" time which is why if you see them in a bare tank, they will be behind the heater. Mine is hiding right now and if I had to find him, I probably couldn't.
My 7" Janss Pipefish rests laying up side down on the top of a cave and my 2 Gecko Gobies have found such a secure place that I can say I never see them. I know they are there because if I "shoot" some live worms into their hole, Iget to see a glimmer of a fin or tail.

This system of caves (not just one or two) and hidden passageways is crucial for many fishes health and one big reason we have a disease forum because fish that can't hide are very stressed and stressed fish are the ones that get sick.
I myself am writing this from under a chair right now. :p

This piece I built from real rock, dead coral and cement. This and two more like it form the base of my reef structure.


Paul B

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Manhattan Reefs
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I think a lot of people make the mistake of buying, or collecting rock and stacking it in their tank. I think that is a totally wrong approach.
When they collect rock in the sea they throw it up on a barge. Doing that breaks off all the cool looking protrusions so we get roundish, un interesting, few holes rock.

We can easily make it much better for almost free. That picture of conglomerate rock I pictured at the beginning of this thread is about 3' long.
It was simply built by cementing together using Mortar, like you use for bricks smaller pieces of rock and dead coral skeletons.
It spans half my tank and only touches the gravel in 3 small places. I have three of those home made rocks which support my entire reef.

My original plan was to build the entire thing supported from above on cables and it would have been able to be raised and lowered. I didn't have the time to do that but imagine being able to raise your entire reef structure a few inches for maintenance or just looking for a creature.
I think that would be so cool. But it didn't happen.
Here is another piece in my tank. It is about 18" long. You can't correctly build hiding places with tunnels using small pieces of rock. It just can't work.



Manhattan Reefs
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North jersey
can you post an "after pic" Im thinking of doing some new aquascaping. But I need some ideas. especially on one half of my tank. Most of the fish seem to hang out on just one side


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Forest Hills
my opinion on aquascaping of your reef tank depends on:
types of coral you keep
shape of your tank
water flow
and sometimes even the decor in that room

Paul B

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Since I have a lot more time now, like everyone else, I scraped the back of my tank clean. I was never able to see anything back there but Now I see there is a huge systems of interconnecting caves where many of the fish and crustaceans that I rarely see, hang out.

Now I spend more time in the back of the tank than the front.
These Rainsford gobies always stay on opposite ends of my 6' tank. But I see they get together in the back to hang out and I think they are spawning.

I have 2 of these Sunburst Anthius and they also don't seem to get along. One stays in a small cave in the front and I rarely know where the other one is. Now I see they both hang out in the back.
I don't think they are spawning yet, but they are young.

This Janss Pipefish I also rarely see, but now I know where he hides.

This female Bluestripe is also there constantly trying to spawn with the much larger Janss. I think this is impossible and probably illegal.

This Perchlet also lives there.


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New Hyde Park
Aquascaping in my opinion is purely subjective. As far as fish health is concern you can raise healthy fish in an empty tank. Back in the day before live rock was available i used to raise saltwater fish with undergravel filter and dead corals :)

my 2 cents....