How to achieve black water lighting?

LarrythEDeer
  • #1
After many years of African cichlids, I have finally had a chance to setup my first South American tank. I decided to create a black water style tank. However after hours of research I can not find a way to create that perfect shadow affect in the tank. Any knowledge on how to create that dark shadow affect in the tank would be greatly appreciated!


Tank specs:

20 gallon tall
24 inch fluorescent stock light
stocked with 5 bloodfin tetras so far
 
Rplunk
  • #2
I just set up my first black water tank; and I am pretty happy with the turnout so far. As for getting that perfect "shadow effect" all it really takes is some mopanI driftwood or bogwood, almond or oak leaves, or peat moss to tint the water. These things leech tannins into the water that give it the black water tea color quality. The dark shadowy sections in the tank should form naturally once you have enough plant life, rocks and wood to set the landscape. Using very fine, dark sand mixed with a contrast of lighter colored river pebbles makes for a very nice setting.

In order to get the tannins to stay in your water and keep that tea colored water, you will have to remove the carbon from your filter cartridge.

Also: Peat moss is a great way to lower your PH a bit to make the tank more comfortable for your South American freshwater fish which usually prefer PH below 7.0.

Hopefully this is what you were looking for!

 
LarrythEDeer
  • Thread Starter
  • #3
My tank has plenty of tannins, but the light seems to touch every inch of the tank. I am hoping my amazon swords, once fully mature, will create some shadows. I thought there was some sort of lighting trick to create this effect. I might have to look for better driftwood. Something with more suspended limbs in the water.
 
Rplunk
  • #4
hmm. What is the wattage on your 24" fluorescent bulb? try to only have lighting at about 1.0 - 1.5 watts per gallon (for a 20 gallon tank, 1.0 watts per gallon would be achieved with a 20 watt bulb)

Aside from the brightness of your lighting, I think that landscaping really is key. You want your focal points to be off-centered and to create triangular shadows. Just play around with driftwood and rocks to create some nice angles in the tank. Angled pieces of driftwood that block the light from penetrating down to the substrate will create those pockets of caverns and shadows that you are looking for.

Since you have a tall tank, try getting some long, thin branches that stretch down from the top of the tank so that they look like roots reaching down into the water.

Just youtube some videos of peoples tanks for some more ideas.
 
psalm18.2
  • #5
Great advice. For now you can put in some floating plants to block light.
 
Siggi
  • #6
I was reading the thread and thinking the same: get some wood hanging top-down.
Screw it onto a rail just above the waterline and let it hang down into the tank; get some java moss or even a dwarf anubias attatched to it for a great effect.
Wood hanging top-down is great for shadowing down the watercolumn.

Another thing: blackwater environments normally have (very) fine grained substates. Make some pockets of gravel for your plants and cover the rest of the bottom with fine, dark sand, evt. some leaves (oak is good, doesn't easily rot).

Background: very important for darkwater 'mysterious' background. Have you tried hanging a sheet of acrylic glass of a dark colour right behind the back glass of the tank? Dark green is usually best. Cut some silhouettes in cardboard and glue them to the acrylic, making the impression of more wood/roots hanging in the distance.
It sounds too simple, but gives a nice effect of distance.

Ah, and using LED's to light the tank can give spotlight effect.
If you put it right over the water-in hose, it will give a nice shimmer-effect as well...

Just a thought to enhance the light and shadow contrast in the tank. Especially being a tall tank, I tink you can get nice lighting with spotlights. Not on the expence of the tube, of course; as an extra...
 
LarrythEDeer
  • Thread Starter
  • #7
I spent a while moving around the decor. I also added even more oak leaves than I had already. The leaves create nice dark pockets. I have been looking into LED lights, but I am going to leave those for a future upgrade down the road. I'm planning on getting duckweed or a similar plant to block out more light. Once they start growing they should help with the spotlight effect. My amazon swords will need some growing to create any desired effect. I like the idea of the java moss. Any more ideas for plants that would create a mysterious look. (writing down a shopping list as we speak ) The colors in the tank, especially green, contrasts to much with my black background. I will certainly look into creating silhouettes.

Edit:
I want to keep a biotope aquarium. Are there any plants like java moss that are native to South America?
 
Siggi
  • #8
Sorry about the late answer...
With respect to Southamerican java moss:
With the biotic diversity in the amazonian region, I'm quite sure ther must exist a plant from there, occupying the ecoligical niche of java moss - but to my knowledge it is not in the comercial circuits.
Perhaps due to the 'established popularity' of java moss, Southamerican species have not gained a 'market share'.

Don't worry overly about the species question in a biotope aquarium - we all end up mixing species that probably do not have overlapping distributions in the wild; inspite of being from the same continent...

Post a photo of the result of your work. :camera:
 

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