Cenotes biotope

  • #1
I am finally, really, going to do it, folks. I've been fascinated with this biotope for a while now, and I'm constantly pulling plants from the pictures on mongabay to add to my other central american tanks.

Well I can't get over it lol. I have a new 20 gallon long, new fish to go in it as soon as I reseal the dang thing (yes my brand spanking new tank has a faulty seal - annoying) and now, I have a plan.

First step for me will be the layout. I have a bunch of plants common to central america, so I'm comfortable adding those, even though many don't have specific photos in the collection and examination list. Red cabomba, for instance, is sure to be found on the yucatan peninsula.

What I'll work on first is the hardscape, which is going to be the trickiest part. I'm going to have large river rocks atop a thin layer of planted tank substrate, probably EcoComplete or similar, and let the substrate get thicker in a few spots so I can use the areas as planters for echinodorus species. I'm not sure the exact species I'll use yet. Need to do some more research on which are likely the ones found in the Cenotes.

The big thing is going to be getting that starry moss look all over the river rocks. I'm planning to use hornwort, though The "moss" on the rocks in the pictures is supposedly some kind of chaeto algae, which is heinously smelly, and I don't really want it in my apartment if you know what I mean. But I saw hornwort in several of the photos, so I'm planning to use fishing line or thread and tie it across the rocks, maybe wind some around driftwood and such. That should give me a carpeted look as long as I keep it trimmed, yeah?

Then comes the really, really tricky part. The Cenotes, in the open water, have these thick, wood like reed things growing out of the rocks. I'm not going to be able to ID those, or get any reeds that look like them. I'm hoping to use Manzanita. The trick will be fashioning it so the branches stay upright somehow. I'm open to ideas on this, because the only thing I can think of right now is gluing them to the lid, and that seems unwise.

Well I will update as I go. Open for critique, of course I've never tried replicating such a specific area before, so this should be fun.

For entertainment and inspiration, the link to the Cenotes Biotope expedition photos at Mongabay
  • #2
I love the look of the biotopes in the pictures on the site you included. I also love those tetras and the mollies look awesome. I can't wait to see how your tank turns out. No matter what, it will be gorgeous.

What fish breeds are you planning on?
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  • #3
It will be swordtails and guppies. And probably a mess of pest snails lol. I know they aren't the species from this expedition, but they are both found in the same area of Mexico and likely to be seen in the Cenotes.

It just occurred to me, I can anchor manzanita "reeds" to the bottom of the tank on slate. Does anyone know a good epoxy to use to seal the screws so they don't leech?
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  • #4
Bought a large lot of "sticks" today from ebay. I didn't feel like collecting two dozen personally to find the ones that fit, lol. I'm planning at present to either silicone them to slate somehow, or simply lean them together and tie them off to keep them in place. Picking up some large river rocks later on today if I can find them, and some silty dirt from my boyfriend's yard if he's willing to part with some. I also have EcoComplete, which is going to go in the places I plant.
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  • #5
This tank has been my project for the day. I'll post pics in a bit, as I'm not done filling it yet, but just a brief outline of the nightmare this has been:

So I thought it would be great to recreate the look of the reeds growing out of the rocks, that look very "stick-like" in the photos. I went searching for slate with sticks attached and couldn't find any. So I decided to make my own. Not wanting to put screws in the tank was key in this - life would have been much easier if I'd just drilled the slate and screwed the wood on. But no, not me.

For one thing, I don't know what material all of the screws I have handy are made of. For another, even stainless does eventually degrade in water, and I didn't want to risk that happening. So I decided to use an aquarium epoxy.

My poor boyfriend and I epoxied the sticks I bought to the slate, and managed to clamp them in the upright position using a variety of tools. We let them dry outside overnight, and when the epoxy was totally dry, I brought them inside and proceeded to remove the plastic we were using to keep things level.

One of the pieces of slate, the biggest one (of course), came completely detached from most of the epoxy. You know, that stuff that's supposed to be like cement. So that slate piece was a bust. I managed, using super glue and elbow grease, to keep the other piece mostly together and remove the plastic. So I finally put that piece in the tank and covered it with EcoComplete so the epoxy and slate are not visible.

Then I got mad at the other piece, yanked the one remaining stick off, and had a lightbulb moment. Epoxy is heavy. Most of it was still on the sticks. So I basically used the epoxy globs as anchors for the sticks. They are currently buried in the substrate and I don't think they're going anywhere, really. So after all that, TRIUMPH!

Plants currently consist of hornwort, red cabomba, and some assorted Sag and Val varieties. I'm planning to add a single jungle Val and several dwarf sag plants. The plan is to cover most of the tank floor in large river rocks, and plant the large grassy plants in the holes. Then let the hornwort grow out so I can hopefully anchor some to the rocks and let it grow over them.
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  • #6
A few shots of the tank so far, along with the kohaku koi swords. The showa platy did not want to come out and the guppy fry are too small to see on camera lol.

I still need a lot more plants. Like a lot. I'm going to get a few large jungle vals for the backdrop probably next week, and some dwarf sag if they have any for the midground. And more river rocks.

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  • #7
Looks good love the swordtails!

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  • #8
Haha thanks for the kind words... it needs a lot of work. But I'm just glad I figured something out for my fake reeds at this point.

I'm thinking of not keeping the cabomba. I dunno, it is not looking the way I see it in my head. Might have to nix that pretty soon and toss it in one of the other tanks.

Does anyone know where I can get large rocks covered in algae by chance? Like... aquarium safe rocks and algae. To green up the bottom of the tank.
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  • #9
Progress update. I need to remove the evil sticker that won't come off the front of the tank. Other than that, things seem to have stabilized. I filled it the rest of the way, replanted all of the sticks I could, and so far I think it's looking nice.

I will probably be adding some jungle val and/or dwarf sag.. I prefer dwarf sag as the water is supposed to be bright and clear, and jungle val will grow over the top of the tank and shade it. I have one val in there and a bunch of cabomba, but the cabomba is likely coming out to live in my boyfriend's tank which will have lighting more appropriate to it, and will hopefully turn it back into red cabomba (it actually is red cabomba, not green, but this is a mid-low light tank and it doesn't appear sufficient for proper coloration).

I will likely be adding a single sword plant, medium sized when fully grown, preferably with brown or red coloration under my lighting.

Most of the fish are in. I'm waiting on a single shortfin showa koi male sword, and considering catfish as well. The filter I added came with a sponge designed to work over the intake, so I may opt to go with a smaller cory school or a pair of small plecos assuming they will breed in my tap water, which is what's in this tank. I really want to do L144s again, since I lost my precious Lucy to mycobacterium in the original swordtail tank ... Hopefully on further research they will breed in higher pH as that would be the ideal species for me.

The tank is a 20gL. So if anyone happens to know of any oddball mexican catfish that will tolerate hard water well, I'd love to know about them assuming they are small enough for this tank. I'll be reviewing the biotope listings again for the Cenotes and see if there's anything that will work in there.

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When it's complete, I plan to have a fairly thick carpet of hornwort and a ton of sag-like plants in the background. The ones planted in front may end up relocated, as they will theoretically be too tall fully grown to work as foreground plants, and I'm pretty sure those are not the pygmy chainsword they were supposed to be.
  • #10
Oh no! That means you will have to buy MORE plants! XD
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  • #11
Haha. Yeah, sad lol! I'm planning to buy plenty of echinodorus tenellus - like 20-30 individual plants, as soon as I can find someone with that many to spare. I just love them and really want to carpet them across one of my tanks.

I added in all of the dwarf sag I was able to source, and the tank is now looking not so barren. I'll likely get pictures soon. Hopefully the dwarf sag is going to grow upwards rather than outwards, as I really don't want to put a bunch of vals in this tank. I might have to look for the broad-leafed, larger sag varieties. They will be hard to find though.

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