Scaping with found materials and some positive animal enrichment

Seisage

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Double posting from my journal because I shamelessly want to show off this scape. I'm proud of it and very happy with how it ended up coming together. The frogs seem really happy with it too :)

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Previously, I just had the plants floating with not much else in the tank since I didn't have the materials for scaping yet. The frogs seemed alright, but now I can tell how much enrichment they were lacking. Even though I had little terracotta pots in the previous setup, they didn't get used much. Now, the frogs frequently tuck themselves away amongst the rocks and plants and it's adorable.

This behavior is exactly what I was hoping for when I chose the large feature rock! I was so pleased when I saw Dumpling (the frog) do this. The two of them really never fail to amuse me.
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Anyway, to finish addressing the title I gave to this thread: I love using foraged materials for scaping! When you know what to look for and how to handle the materials, you can end up with some incredibly unique pieces that are also perfectly aquarium safe. For this scape, I used rocks and wood I collected from a local beach. Or, rather, from the base of the cliff at the top of the beach.

Most of the stones and pebbles are silica-based river rock, but the large stone with holes is a chunk of sedimentary rock. The holes were made by clams that bore into rock and live in it. Sure, ohko stone is pretty, but it's one of the favorite pets of aquascapers. It's popular for a reason, but how many people can say they have a rock with clam holes in their scape? That's what I mean by being able to find incredibly unique pieces through foraging.
Anyway, since it's sedimentary, I tested it by putting a rather strong acid on it and I saw no reaction. I'm still a little skeptical since basically all sedimentary rocks around here have some amount of calcium carbonate. I'm not too worried if it affects my water hardness though. The frogs can handle a slight increase just fine (my water is very, very soft) and it might actually be beneficial since I'd actually like some shrimp for this tank.

The wood is old, dead root wood that was rinsed and scrubbed with boiling water (the rocks got the same treatment). I superglued all of the wood to the largest rock so I didn't have to worry about floating. The smallest root I manipulated and glued down in multiple places to give the effect of the rock being overgrown with roots. It's more obvious when you can see it at a variety of angles...

The plants are not foraged, of course. I've got java fern, Anubias barteri (I think one normal barteri and one var. glabra), and Bacopa monnieri.
 
I like what you've done, but I also like the term you used: enrichment.

I haven't heard it used much for fish. Maybe it should be. It's a great word for making us look at the lives of the fish in the tank (or in your case, frogs) and not just at aquascaping for our pleasure.

A fishkeeper would need to learn how the fish lives in nature to try to enrich its environment. That's a fair goal.

Prowling beaches for 'spare parts' is fun. I have to be a little cautious with the beach across the street because it has had a history of erosion and has a graveyard on top. Not only do I not want to decorate the tank with Uncle Edmund, but they created a primitive seawall to slow the erosion, using the wreckage of old uptown buildings. Who knows what's in there.

But if I continue up, I find wonderful rocks, shaped by time, and it's great exercise to carry them back. Here,it is legal to pick rocks off beaches, unlike in some other countries with far larger populations. You couldn't fill a truck, but picking up rocks is no issue. I can't use the wood, even though it's often really beautiful, because this is pine forest territory. If I want free wood, I have to go where the few remaining oaks are, or find areas with maple. I have to soak it for a few months before I can use it. It calls for patience, but it's easy.

Depending on your local environment and the laws about moving them, you can begin to recognize aquarium plants in rivers and streams, especially if you kayak. There is a lot of Ludwigia repens, Vallisneria americana and hornwort around here.
 
I love collecting rocks and wood, and even substrate. I find it adds a lot of interest to the hobby. I will say your artistic skills are better than mine. We have the same rock boring clams here, I live just north of you. I can only use the bored rocks in my shimp tank due to their high calcium content. Here you only find the clams in argillite, shale, and some of the finer, muddy, sandstones.
 
I like what you've done, but I also like the term you used: enrichment.

I haven't heard it used much for fish. Maybe it should be. It's a great word for making us look at the lives of the fish in the tank (or in your case, frogs) and not just at aquascaping for our pleasure.
Thank you. While I wasn't necessarily going for recreating the dwarf frogs' natural habitat, I did want to keep in mind their desire to both explore and hide. I tried to create small holes, and pockets in between plants, for them to settle into and tuck themselves away. Also, creating a structure with a variety of heights, since they like to perch and rest on things, and to give them easier access to the surface if they need to since they aren't the strongest swimmers.

Enrichment is something that generally is overlooked. Thankfully, for many ornamental fish, it's pretty simple and involves good practices that are already used and recommended by experienced keepers: dense planting, a variety of microhabitats with different lighting and structural density, and a varied diet preferably including live food.

ETA: further regarding enrichment, I think it's a laudable goal to closely recreate a species' native habitat and that is the ideal. But I think what's more important than habitat replication is behavior replication, which may be what you were getting at. Plenty of zoos have all sorts of creative ways to enrich animals with incredibly unnatural materials. I think the same can go for fish. As long as they have a safe outlet to perform natural behaviors, regardless of whether that environment looks like their natural habitat, I think that's successful enrichment.

Prowling beaches for 'spare parts' is fun. I have to be a little cautious with the beach across the street because it has had a history of erosion and has a graveyard on top. Not only do I not want to decorate the tank with Uncle Edmund, but they created a primitive seawall to slow the erosion, using the wreckage of old uptown buildings. Who knows what's in there.
Yes, I'm grateful that I live in a relatively rural area. The beaches around here are populated, but relatively sparsely. There is fishing traffic, and people who live at the tops of the cliffs, but generally little development. It's the only reason why I feel comfortable foraging most places around here, even for my own personal food.

If I want free wood, I have to go where the few remaining oaks are, or find areas with maple. I have to soak it for a few months before I can use it. It calls for patience, but it's easy.

Depending on your local environment and the laws about moving them, you can begin to recognize aquarium plants in rivers and streams, especially if you kayak. There is a lot of Ludwigia repens, Vallisneria americana and hornwort around here.
I'm in somewhat of a similar situation to you. Around here, we have precious few deciduous trees. However, we do have evergreen shrubs. The roots I chose for this tank were roots from a plant called "salal". It's a shrub in the same family as rhododendrons/azaleas, which many people don't know is the secret identity of the commonly sold and beloved spiderwood.

We do have hornwort, I believe. As well as some other invasive aquatic plants that aren't so common in the aquarium trade. Callitriche stagnalis, for example. I may consider harvesting some for a future setup at some point. Invasives aren't protected, so I should have no issues.

I love collecting rocks and wood, and even substrate. I find it adds a lot of interest to the hobby. I will say your artistic skills are better than mine. We have the same rock boring clams here, I live just north of you. I can only use the bored rocks in my shimp tank due to their high calcium content. Here you only find the clams in argillite, shale, and some of the finer, muddy, sandstones.
Yes, hello from down south! Most of our coastal rock is also mudstone and sandstone. Many of our cliffs are undercut and eroded because of it. For whatever reason, this piece didn't react to the acid, so who knows its true composition. As far as I know, the clams can only bore into sedimentary rock though. I'll keep an eye on the GH/KH in my tank, so I guess we'll see what it actually does.

And yes, I agree. Buying wood and stones from a shop just isn't as fulfilling. I appreciate the hunt, and the challenge of working with what I find. It makes the tank feel much more personal.
 
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