Beginner 36 gallon bowfront build


So, not necessarily *new* to the forum, posted a couple months back, and some yesterday, but this is still our first tank as a family (had some fish back in hs/college, some tenish years ago, didn't know what I was doing)
Anyway, my son's and husband and I got a 36gal bowfront and have been working on it

My seven year old insisted on pirate ships as the decor, and he was excited so we went with but I wasn't impressed with the way the tank looked, just two ships chillin' in the middle of the tank and not much else. Got some live plants to try and spruce things up, but it just made it look weedy, since there was no visual balance. Cycled the tank for nearly four months and finally figured out a stocking plan, got a small school of glowlight tetras, small school of kuhli loaches, and some shrimp. Today we added cory cats, and I just couldn't deal with the tank anymore. Maybe it's shallow but I wanted the tank to be pretty dang it, regardless of the pirate ships!
So my older son (the pirate ship lover) brainstormed and decided on something new and improved!
Behold shipwreck cove!
It's still not perfect, and I will eventually have a totally naturally looking aquascape (maybe a 75g in a few years?) But I still love and it's so much better than it was
Photos are before and after, ignore the murkyness I could wait for things to settle to snap a pic!
The dwarf grass never really spread, I don't think I divided them enough, but that's not a problem now.
Also, the anubias and Amazon swords went gangbusters, but the Java ferns put off a ton of babies and then died. Had a post about them I think, I buried the rhizomes on accident. Fixed it, but I guess it was too late.
Those babies ended up getting incorporated in the new setup, glued to rocks and to the ships and such. Also got some new, larger Java ferns of a different variety to fill some space, and an El nino fern :)
Also found the joys of Christmas moss, which we stuffed in there too, and threw in some (thoroughly cleaned) small rocks (which the albino cories play with, I didn't know they did that)

I think the new set up provides plenty more hiding places for the kuhli (rather than just the two ship bellies) and has a lot more visual interest to boot. It may not be much, but we're proud of it.
After the before and after are side shots :)


  • IMG_20220413_165250030~2.jpg
    157.5 KB · Views: 17
  • IMG_20220616_182008389_HDR.jpg
    178.3 KB · Views: 17
  • IMG_20220616_182025400.jpg
    226.7 KB · Views: 17
  • IMG_20220616_182016362.jpg
    216.6 KB · Views: 17


Latest incarnation looks like Disney imagineers laid their hands on it. May I suggest jungle val to fill in the background and side of the ships?

Perhaps it would be even more interesting to have the right ship point to the right of the tank or even to the back not to make it look almost in parallel like it is now?


Lol is that a good thing or a bad thing? People can go either way with Disney! Haha

I think that's a fantastic suggestion! Part of me wants something nice and big to do that, but that either means planting a baby and waiting for growth or dropping significant cash for a big plant and then praying it doesn't melt! But this will definitely keep evolving!

We're so excited it isn't so...blah anymore :)


Well, it’s a good thing! Some vals to get you started should not break the bank. They might melt but usually come back stronger and propagate easily. I just added some a week ago in a low tech tank. After the first melting, they are already growing back.

Also, I added microsword (same tank), and could not be happier at the speed it propagates (sand with root tabs).

Dwarf sag is another almost fail safe foreground plant.


I think some micro swords would be cool! Maybe around the edges of the "cliffs" to soften the transition? I will absolutely look into jungle val, just as a space filler you think? I definitely want to get plants in there that aren't just stem plants so I think that's a good option :)

Do you think we should try to carpet or leave the bulk as is?

Good to know it's a good thing!


I love carpets but haven’t been able to grow one in low tech. But the micro swords could be a potential candidate if one is patient. Every tank and water/light/substrate is different. But even if they don’t carpet tightly, some bushes of micro swords here and there are just lovely.


I wasn't thinking a carpet either, but I was wondering if others thought it might look better. I kinda like the bushy look, as you said, with open spaces, especially since cories like to sift

I'd also like to say, immediately after we re-did the tank, there was a significant change in fishy behavior. The cories started having zoomies up and down the tank and all over the place (I thought it was maybe stressing from the change, but then they started playing in the bubbler so I guess not?)
And the kuhli's actually all came out of hiding. For the past week we've felt blessed if we saw one poke it's head out during feed times, but now they're wiggling around the tank and zooming around with the cories! We have six in the tank, and now we can fully see at least three at a time, plus one or two lounging in the sword.

We were worried just a major change all at once would stress everybody out temporarily, but nope! Exact opposite effect. I guess that's the power of more hiding places, less need for them


And since we mentioned the imagineers, which story do you want to tell? The sunken ship theme is not uncommon, but you got two of them! There must be an interesting story to be told.


I'm not sure about story, but that scene from pirates of the Caribbean was playing in my head the first time I looked at it after after we finished for the day xD

"It's not for naught it's called Shipwreck Island where lies Shipwreck Cove in the town of Shipwreck"

Pirates are an unimaginative lot when it comes to naming things


Btw, did you bury the rhizomes of the anubia in the foreground as well as the bolbitis in the background? That would be something they do not take well.
Btw, Weeping Moss is my favorite one. It could grow on the side of one of the ships.


The anubias is one of the few survivors from the original setup, which I *had* buried the rhizome of, but got set straight by the lovely people here :)
Was at the same time my Java ferns were going black. I fixed all of them, the Java ferns never recovered but the anubias did and splendidly. They're supposed to be slow growing but that puppy puts out a new leaf every day or so once it got going!

I'm sorry I'm not sure what the bolbitis is, if you mean the plants in the back left corner (behind the larger ship), according to the label from the store that's two Java ferns I glued to a large rock and an El Nino fern that I just kinda wedged behind it and prayed it doesn't nudge loose haha


Yes, those in the back. Good to hear the anubias survived and are doing great. And good to hear, this design gives you joy although it’s a compromise. Once the kid(s) have lost interest, it’s all yours to rescape it ;)


Ha! Loose interest!
Today I heard my 3 year old trying to say neolamprilougus leloupai (spelling?)
And the older one told off grandma for calling the kuhli's snakes. I'll have to fend them off with spray bottles xD

As for the weeping moss, do you have a source for that you can suggest? I really like that look too, but didn't know there was such a plant that could be submersed!


I could tell you per PM, but you lack 4 more posts to get you to 50 when private messaging will be enabled. I don’t like to recommend or diss in public.


Understood. May I reach out to you when I cross that threshold? :)


Of course. Matter of fact, I have more weeping moss coming in the mail next week. Let me attach a link to its requirements ;)Weeping Moss Requirements


Thank you! I really appreciate all your help :)


No problem! Keep us posted along the way your tank is evolving.

Similar Aquarium Threads


Random Great Thread!

New Aquarium Build Threads

Latest Aquarium Threads

Top Bottom