8.04.2011

Blackwater Aquarium - Get the Look

Blackwater aquariums are not your typical looking tank as they generally have dark tea colored water, low lighting and generally have a lack in plant life. Below you'll find a few simple ways I came up with to create an aquarium that looks like or is a blackwater biotope type of aquarium.
Lighting
In a blackwater aquarium it can often be a daunting task for live plants to survive in this type of environment as it usually has low light levels. Generally blackwater biotopes have soft water and plants possibly wouldn't thrive beneath the water. I'd recommend choosing bulbs that give off more yellow lighting in this type of aquarium and have a low wattage which will make the tank a bit more dim than bright. However, in a true blackwater biotope it is possible to use other types of lighting although I personally don't like white light blazing through this type of biotope. It is common for blackwater aquariums to be so dimly lit that it is often difficult to view the fish in the aquarium.
Plants
Due to the low light levels and low pH in a blackwater biotope most plants aren't going to thrive too well here. In my opinion you may be better off using fake plants if any at all (choose green plants that have a yellow or red tone given to them as these may look best). For a more natural approach use live or fake plants that sit/float near the surface of the water for the best success rate for live plants or the most natural looking blackwater aquarium.
Decor
The most typical decor found in a blackwater aquarium is often some type of wood and for good reason since it can help lower pH which is needed for true blackwater environments. The incorporation of stones/rocks/etc can be used as well. Blackwater environments will generally have a black background or one that is a bit burnish in color (think of deep orange and red colors that occur in autumn). The substrate may be covered in autumn colored leaves (real or fake) such as oak. Gravel substrate is generally black or a natural color although it's probably more common in a true blackwater environment to find natural colored sand or black colored soil. Keep in mind that a white substrate will probably appear more yellowish in a true blackwater type of environment and by using a black colored background it will help create more depth to the tank itself.
Water Quality
There are chemicals on the market which can help to lower the pH in an aquarium if your pH is not on the soft side (a pH lower than 7.0 is acidic and considered to be soft water) for a true blackwater environment. Blackwater in nature can be as low as a 3.0 pH although in an aquarium this may become a bit too unstable for brackish fish. There are also natural methods which can be used to help lower pH such as alder cones, bogwood, peat, almond leaves, etc. If your aquarium is not a true blackwater aquarium use older aquarium driftwood, low watt yellow lighting and some peat extracts which can help your water look more yellow in color without possibly altering it to the extremes of a pH below 7.0. Blackwater environments generally have slow moving water so you'll probably want to avoid using forceful powerhead filters.
Water Temperature
Upon doing some reaseach (although I am not totally certain how accurate this blackwater reading is) I found that an average blackwater temperature is possibly around 82.7°F but ranges from 76.3°F to 89°F.
Additional Tips
Keep in mind that the use of carbon can tend to remove certain chemicals from your water and remove the coloration from your blackwater biotope. Here's a little inspo link I found online to someone who created their own blackwater biotope.

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