Most of the freshwater aquarium fish we find in our pet stores originate from the tropical river of the Amazon in South America. The Amazon has more variety of fish and plant life of all the rivers in the world put together.
The amazing variety and beauty of Amazonian fish and plants is what drew me to this style of aquarium. I have fallen in love with creating Amazon community tanks and re-creating the environment and natural eco-systems of this river.
The diversity of the Amazon River and its many streams means there are infinite ways in which you could create an Amazon theme, and the style and decor of your aquarium setup will depend on what sort of fish you wish to keep.
Today I will focus on setting up an Amazon themed aquarium suitable for Angelfish or Discus. These fish can grow quite large so it is recommended to have an aquarium at least 150-200 litres or more in volume. They are also rather peaceful fish, so are very suitable for the community tank, so long as follow a few simple guidelines.
For my theme I want to re-create the flooded jungle of the Amazon. Every rainy season the Amazon River bursts its banks to flood the surrounding jungle. At this time the fish head into the jungle to find a suitable quiet place to breed. This is the kind of aquarium I want to represent and will guide you through the process.
Collecting the Decor for an Amazon Aquarium
For an Amazon themed aquarium the decor (gravel, rocks, driftwood, plants) should be as natural as possible.
For me this is a great excuse to get out into nature and explore some local rivers and streams. If you are lucky enough to live nearby to a clean natural river or stream like I am then this is the ideal place to get what you need for your Amazon setup.
The river near me has lovely brown/red gravel that is very fine almost like sand. I gather 2-3 buckets worth of this gravel for my substrate. You can give it a quick clean using a hose in a half full bucket, stirring the hose end through the gravel and pouring out the dirty water, but this is not necessary and it can be beneficial to leave the dirt and other bits of leaves and stick in there as this will help with plant growth.
TIP: Be sure to get the finest gravel you can; this will help plant growth as the roots can easily spread through the gravel, otherwise the plants and their roots will have a tough time.
While you are down at the river be sure to collect some larger rocks and lots of interesting looking driftwood. You can start planning your aquarium scape as you find bits of driftwood and rock. Be sure to gather more driftwood than you need though, as quite often I will bring home a nice piece of wood only to find it is far too large and would not look good in the aquarium.
You can give the driftwood a quick scrub with a new scourer if you like to clean them up. This can be a good idea as some of the wood may have traces of algae on them and often you can not see it. It isn’t entirely necessary though and should be fine as long as the river it came from is clean fresh water.
If you are not as lucky as me and can’t find these things in the wild, then you can find them from your local pet stores or garden supplies shops. If you buy them be sure to clean them discus fish collecting thoroughly before using.
Soil for Growing Plants
Most people don’t think to do this, but to grow healthy aquatic plants, just like normal terrestrial plants, you need good soil.
So the nest thing you will need to collect is some good clean soil. If you have some clean soil free of chemicals in your garden you can use this, although this can be risky as your soil may be very hard and have a high PH level which will not be suitable for your fish. It can be a good idea to test your soil out in a small aquarium first to make sure it is suitable for your intended fish and plants.
If you don’t have any suitable soil on hand you can buy some from your local garden supplies. I have heard of people regularly using Orchid compost which is said to be very good. Just be sure it is free of chemicals and you should be right, but again a small test run is always a good idea to be sure.
Your Aquarium, Heating and Filtration equipment
I am assuming that you have your aquarium ready in place and your heating and filtration equipment already purchased, but here are a few quick tips for your setup.