Current is also important. There must
be sufficient flow to move water around
the aquarium to prevent dead zones and
to distribute nutrients and dissolved gases
effectively. Directing water flow past any
hanging roots or a little above the substrate
is terrific for nutrient and gas exchange.
Given the aerial space in ripariums,
much fun can be had with raising or
directing outlets above the water surface
and creating small waterfalls, fountains,
or surface ripples. For example, using
tubing attached to outlets to extend and
direct the outlet water up and out of rear
rockwork can create waterfalls. Hidden
elevated spray bars can cast rivulets down
a carved or hardscaped backing. Or a
simple concealed outlet at the surface
can create an attractive rippling current
between the plants. Be creative!
As ripariums tops are usually fully
open, routine water top-offs are essential.
Regularly check that the water levels have
not dropped too low, and be aware that
significant evaporation from water and
transpiration (loss of water from aerial
leaves) can occur quickly in dry and/or
hot environments and if water features are
used. Check the water chemistry regularly
and add RO demineralized or rain water
if salts begin to accrue. Rapid growth can
use a lot of buffer and mineral salts over
time, so do check GH and KH regularly
and adjust as needed.
Benefits to Fish
A great benefit of riparian planting is
the creation of an excellent underwater
environment, with plants at the waterline
providing a terrific cover for small, shy, or
juvenile fish. Emerged foliage overshadowing
the aquarium water and either trailing roots,
rafts, planters, or long stems beneath will
provide a host of covered, shadowed, and/
or dense areas for aquatic animals to retreat,
rest, spawn, or brood and raise fry.
Bubblenesting species will relish the
surface plants for anchoring nests. Planted
cover can also make timid species more
confident about their surroundings, as they
feel secure that they can easily seek refuge as
needed. This often makes for more natural
and confident displays of behavior—not to
mention a great environment to spawn and
raise vulnerable fry.
As with any planted aquarium, first
consider your tank size and shape. Decide
whether water levels will be lowered, if a
tall vertical backing may be used to secure
or showcase plants, if there will be emerged
hardscape to train plants against, or if you
will just let plants escape of their own free
will from the top. This will largely determine
your plant options and design potential.
While the only limit is your imagination,
there are a few common options. One is to
Emergent plants can take an aquascape to a whole new level—above the waterline.