Archive for September, 2008

Diffuser Dilemma

Posted in Product Comparisons on September 29, 2008 by Bhushan Dalvi

There has been a lot of debate over which diffusers available in the hobby right now are the best or the most efficient in delivering the most amount of carbon dioxide in a planted tank. For larger aquariums reactors are the preferred mode. I believe for aquarium up to 30-40 gallons,  glass diffusers introduced  by Aqua Design Amano (ADA) especially the Pollen Glass Series is an excellent choice. They are efficient, beautiful to look at and almost like a piece of art.

Over a period of two years now there have been a lot of replicas of the Pollen Glass Series available on Ebay from China and Malaysia. There is a big debate going on out there if it is worth paying the price ADA charges for its goods and the Pollen Glass Series is one of the most debated. I have been using both the ADA Pollen Glass Series as well as the Generic diffuser for over a year now and would not hesitate to say “You get what you pay for!”

ADA Pollen Glass

Right from the design to the quality of the glass work every thing is just simply impeccable with the ADA Pollen Glass series. You have to actually hold a piece in your hand to see what I am saying. The ceramic disc is perfectly placed. Once plugged in the Pollen Glass diffuses the incoming carbon dioxide into extremely small bubbles spreading it as a mist all over the tank. The size of the bubbles is actually the smallest I have seen with any similar generic diffuser I have used. The interval between two cleaning for the Pollen Glass is fairly longer than a generic diffuser which clogs up in about 15 days. Over a period of time the efficiency of the Pollen Glass to diffuse carbon dioxide does not fluctuate as much as the generic diffusers. Simply saying the bubble size coming out of the Pollen Glass is far more consistent than the generic copies available in the market.

Generic Diffuser

Coming to the generic diffusers which are copies of the ADA Series, I have had various experiences mostly bad. I once received a diffuser which had a small hole on the glass stem which connects to the ceramic disc. Most of the carbon dioxide escaped from here before reaching the ceramic disc. Another time I received a diffuser which had really sharp edges which would easily hurt the person handling it if they are not careful. This one even came without a suction cup and had a really bad design in general. The stem connection to the carbon dioxide tubing was so badly designed that it just won’t hold the tube on for more than a few minutes before it popped off due to building pressure. The size of the bubbles delivered by these diffusers are not as small as the Pollen Series but I think they would be suffice if you decide not to spend on the ADA product. The bubble size is really inconsistent and they start showing signs of clogging within 15 days.

The generic diffuser cost approximately 1/10th the price of a Genuine ADA Pollen Glass and hence a lot of people prefer buying these over the Pollen Glass. I believe it’s a matter of cost than the quality for a lot of people when it comes to certain things in our hobby. I would just say if you can afford one go for the Pollen Glass you will not be let down. For others there are a lot of generic varieties out there you just have to find the right one


“Temple in the Woods”

Posted in 20 Gallon on September 27, 2008 by Bhushan Dalvi

The inspiration for this layout is some memories from my childhood. The driftwood which forms the central piece in this layout reminds me of old temples covered with trees I have seen as a kid traveling though out my beautiful homeland. The trailing roots of Anubias over the wood and the cave formed under it illustrate the aging of a layout over a period of over a couple of years, similar to the old temples entrances which have now lost there glory and are now consumed by the surrounding jungle. Hence I called it the “Temple in the Woods”.

20 G “Temple in the Wood”

Rotala rotundifolia

Wass Up!

After keeping aquatic plants for over 10 years this was my first experiment with aquascaping and fertilization.

Here are the tank specifications

Tank: AGA 20 G

Light: 65W PC 12000K

Substrate: Paving Sand

Co2 : DIY Set-up for 1 year and then pressurized co2 at 1 bubble/sec

Filtration: Rena XP-1

Rotala Rotundifolia
Anubias Barterii
Anubias Barterii “Nana”
Anubias Nana “Petite”
Echinodorus tenellus
Didiplis Diandra
Cryptocoryne Parva
Cryptocoryne Lucen
Cryptocoryne wisillie x lucen
Cryptocoryne “Mi oya”
Cryptocoryne Spirallis
Cryptocoryne Petchii
Hemianthus micranthemoides- 2 variants
Pecock Moss

Microgeophagus altispinosus
Corydorus Delphax
Corydoras schwartzii
Ottocinlus vittatus
Cardania Japonica

Complete Seachem Line.

The Aquatic Gardener – Volume 21 Volume 3 (Jul –Sept 2008)

Posted in Book/ Magazine Reviews on September 24, 2008 by Bhushan Dalvi

The Aquatic Gardner (TAG) is a quarterly journal published by the Aquatic Gardener Association, Inc. I received my copy of TAG in the first week of August, 2008. As you can see from the picture above the cover page has a beautiful picture of blooming Cryptocoryne albida by Karen Randall. Her article in this issue of TAG is probably what got me to finally start an emersed cryptocoryne set-up. As always this issue of TAG has some great articles for aquatic plant enthusiasts.

The issue starts off with some aquatic plant news. The most interesting piece of information was about a charity started by Wilma Duncan called “The Cause”. This charity provides fish, plant and related equipments to children, the elderly and the disabled. You can find more information about this at

Next is a quick overview of Interzoo 2008 in a nice article by Ole Pedersen. Interzoo is the Europe’s largest pet fair. It happens every second year in Nuremberg, Germany. This fair is not open to general public so getting a little idea of all the new upcoming products in our hobby from manufactures like ELOS and Dennerle is great. The featured plant for this issue is Hydrocotyle sibthorpioides. Cavan Allen provides some great tips on growing this uncommon Hydrocotyle Sp.

Now the column I almost always wait for, the article by Takashi Amano translated by Tomoko Schum. This time Mr.Amano talks about Nature Aquariums for Cyprinids. The article has some beautiful pictures of his set ups using Cyprinids as the highlighted family of fish in the layout. Mr.Amano highly recommends use of a good amount of water flow for layout with Cyprinids.

In search of Cryptocoryne albida by Karen Randall comes next. Karen has done a great job in this article talking about her journey to Thailand to find this Cryptocotryne sp. There are some good details and pictures of the typical biotopes in which these Cryptocotryne are found. Last but not the least is a good article on big aquarium by Steen Erik Jansen. He discusses his successes and failures in maintaining a 2000 Gallon aquarium.

Hisonotus leucofrenatus

Posted in Fish Profiles on September 22, 2008 by Bhushan Dalvi

I came across this inconspicuous but interesting fish about 6 months back at a local fish store (LFS) which gets in some interesting fish once in a while. The first time you see this fish you will probably pass it up as a baby common pleco (Hypostomus Sp.). But I assure you the similarity ends right there. Hisonotus belong to family Loricariid and are more closely related to the Otocinclus Sp. than the Hypostomus Sp.

When I first saw these little buggers I was not really sure if I wanted them. They were labeled as Otocinclus “Niger”. Talking to a knowledgeable LFS employee reveled that these were wild caught and did not come in quiet often. I decided to get the last 3 they had. After having them for a while now I regret that I could not get any more. I haven’t seen them offered for sale around the town for a while now.

Coming back to my purchase, I came home and added them to my then newly set-up 10 G tank “Boraras Dream”. The tank was already thickly planted and all three of them quickly disappered in the thicket of Hemianthus Micranthemoides and Microsorium pteropus “Needle”. I saw them again after a couple of days grazing away on the diatoms and green spot algae on the back wall of the tank. From my experience I can now say they are herbivorous and excellent algae eaters. They are a perfect addition to a planted tank.

From what I have read about their biotope and my own observations of their behavior I would say that they love well oxygenated water with decent flow. In my tank they love to hang around the filter outlet right under the leaves of Microsorium pteropus “Needle”.

This portion of the tank has the maximum flow. Another thing which I have observed is they don’t like to be photographed. You have to be really careful in approaching the tank if you want to get a good picture.

The temperature in my tank varies from 75-78°F, but a lot of references point out that these catfishes can withstand far lesser temperatures. I haven’t seen any breeding behavior from my trio yet, but it would be really hard to tell as these fish are egg-scatterers and do a really good job of hiding their eggs in a well planted tank. I am hoping I will find some babies when I take down the tank.

Finally I would say don’t miss an opportunity to keep this very interesting fish if you happen to come across some and always get at least a group of three.


Counterfeit ADA Aquasoil Amazonia

Posted in Aqua Design Amano on September 21, 2008 by Bhushan Dalvi

ADA Aquasoil Amazonia is a world renowned planted tank substrate, which a lot of planted tank enthusiast swear by. It’s a proprietary product developed by Aqua Design Amano of Japan especially for use in planted tanks. I have been using this product for about 2 years now and have nothing but good things to say about this product. I will leave reviewing my experience with this product here as that will be topic for another post where I will review AquaSoil Amazonia in detail in the ADA product review section.

Going on to the issue we have right now, I was really disappointed after I came across a notice from ADA Hong Kong posted on their website have tracked bags of counterfeit ADA Aquasoil Amazonia from Guangzhou, China.The market is already flooded with lot of counterfeit ADA Glassware which not only hurts the reputation of the genuine product but also doesn’t work as efficiently as the genuine one ultimately affecting the final goal of creating a beautiful aquascape. This does not mean that there are no similar products out there to help you come up with a beautiful planted tank. To give you a good example, I have used both the ADA Pollen Glass diffuser and a similar unbranded diffuser I bought on Ebay from and overseas dealer. The only thing I would say is “You get what you pay for”.

I am not sure how widespread is the counterfeit ADA Aquasoil Amazonia in the US market as there are just two distributors for ADA products Aquarium Design Group, Houston and Aquaforest, San Francisco. Both of them are very reputed dealer and stand behind the product they sell. I hope the counterfeit ADA Aquasoil Amazonia will never reach the American shores.

Distinguishing the genuine ADA Aquasoil Amazonia from the counterfeit will be a tough thing to do unless you are very careful and can read some Japanese. Here are a few pointer provided by ADA Hong Kong.

Counterfeit                Genuine

The ADA logo on the counterfeit bag has slender alphabets as compared to the bold logo on the genuine bag.

Counterfeit                  Genuine

This is a picture of label on the ADA Aquasoil Carton. The only difference I could tell between the counterfeit and genuine is the scribble on the fourth line on the counterfeit label.

Counterfeit                  Genuine

As per the ADA Hong Kong website there is a difference in how the counterfeit and genuine ADA Aquasoil bag describes a sand-flattener. I could not tell a whole lot of difference .

The above picture shows the difference between the ADA product manual. The first picture is of the genuine manual and the second one is a counterfeit. The difference between the two pictures is the description is longer on the counterfeit.

Photo Credit: ADA Hong Kong


“Boraras Dream”

Posted in 10 Gallon on September 20, 2008 by Bhushan Dalvi

“Boraras Dream” seems an unlikely name for an aquascape. It does not stand for a scene from nature like a mountain range or a river, but it definitely depicts one. My inspiration when I started with this scape was to create a small cozy corner scene from a pond or a river with vivid under water life. I wanted to create a scape which would be a play ground for one of my favorite fish species which I had been trying to find for a long time. Every time I tried to find some Boraras sp. around town, they used to be some really emaciated specimens at an exorbitant price. Finally after looking around for a year I found some from an online retailer. My dream to own these dainty beauties finally came true and thus started the “Boraras Dream”.

10G ” Boraras Dream”

These  pictures were taken exactly 180 days after set up.

These pictures were taken exactly 180 days after set up.

Boraras Sp.

Boraras Sp.

Planting Scheme Diagram

Planting Scheme Diagram

Now the tank specs.
Tank: 10G with trim removed
Substrate : ADA Aquasoil II , Power Sand special and Tourmalin BC
Light: 65 W PC with 6700K
Filter: Aquaclear 30
Fertilizer: ADA Brighty K
Step 1
Step 2
Brighty Special Lights
Florish Iron
Green Gain
Green Bacter
Co2: ADA CO2 System 74-YA/ver.2 at 1 bubble/sec
Hardscape: ADA Blackwood and locally collected wood

1.Riccia Fluitans

2.Hemianthus callitrichoides “cuba”

3.Hemianthus micranthemoides

4.Hydrocotyle verticillata

5.Cryptocoryne Wendtii “ Brown”

6.Cryptocoryne Wendtii “Green Gecko”

7.Microsorium pteropus “Needle”

8. Rotala rotundifolia

9.Christmas Moss (Vesicularia montagnei)

10. Marsilea minuta

11.Cryptocoryne Willisii x Lucens

12. Echinodorus tenellus

Fish :

Boraras sp.
Celestichthys margaritatus
Ottocinclus sp.
Hisonotus leucofrenatus


Cardinia japonica
Neocaridina denticulata sinensis “red”(Red Cherry shrimp)


Posted in AquaMusing on September 20, 2008 by Bhushan Dalvi

AquaMusing- A name which would actually mean nothing to a lot of people. Aqua as we all know means water. Musing in all its generality means contemplation or meditation. Since I was a kid I had a lot of fascination for everything related to water. Traveling as a kid through the beautiful Western Ghats of India, getting a glimpse of a water body, even a small pond would light up my eyes. Water has a weird effect on me. It calms me when I am agitated, excites me when I am down and out. My musing starts with creating a piece of nature in my home in form of an aquarium.

This blog will be my journey through a rewarding hobby which I started as a kid. I have learned a lot of things from my own experience and observations through a period of over 15 years. Now don’t get any ideas! I am not a grumpy old guy trying to bore you. I would be more interested in sharing my experiences with fellow aquarist all over the world and learn as I travel new roads in this hobby of keeping beautiful fish in breathtaking planted aquariums.

Lets Start!