DPH Tank of the Month
With Bert Engberts
How did you get into keeping a
Planted Discus Tank?
I think it was
summer ’72 when my parents and I went to an acquaintance of my dad. This man
had a huge (to me at that time) planted tank with tropical fish. I had seen
other planted tanks, but this one took my eyes and that was the first time
when my thoughts were: I want a tank for myself. I only had to convince my
folks, but that was easy, because my dad had the same thought. My mom argued
for a while, but 3 weeks later we had a tank for our own. It was an old 600
ltr full glass tank the acquaintance could get and he helped us to set it up.
It was beautiful!!! But the joy only lasted for 6 months, because it started
to leak. Because the maintenance of such a tank was too much for us, we
bought a smaller tank (200 ltr) with a metal frame. We had this tank for
many years and I took it with me when I married my wife. We went to another
city and there I lost my interest in keeping a planted tank, because of the
water there. It was very, very hard (> 30 dH), so the maintenance was very
difficult. I stopped the hobby in ’83, but made myself a promise: I would
start all over again one day with DISCUS!!
In ’76 I first saw discus fish at an exhibition, and I was lost to the
discus virus. From the first moment on I was in love with the beauty of the
fish. But when I heard about the prices and the problems with keeping the
fish at that time, I choose to try to keep them later.
In ’96 my brother in law told me he had bought a planted tank with discus
fish from a colleague of his and asked me to help him to set it up. I think
you can guess what happened next: I had to have one of my own. We were moved
to another city again, where we had perfect water for keeping discus (very
soft), and I started a planted discus tank. Till this day I can say that it
gives me an enormous satisfaction to have such a tank. And everyone who’s
telling that discus shouldn’t be kept in planted tanks; I would invite to my
place and see for their selves how beautiful it is to have such a tank.
What do you feel has been the most rewarding
aspect of keeping such a tank?
Well, there are several aspects that are rewarding for me, such as:
- Like others I made a lot of mistakes during my first year, but I’ve
learned from them. And looking at my tank now I’m very proud that I kept
my hopes up.
- Visitors can’t keep their eyes off the tank and they are talking about
a living painting.
- The view of such an underwater world is just great and maintaining
this is the greatest hobby.
What has been the hardest challenge for you in
keeping a Planted Discus tank and have you overcome it?
The hardest thing to achieve was the right balance between Discus –
plants – water quality. Let me make this clear: My Discus always comes on
the first place, but with a lot of experiments, measurements, water changes
and the use of good plant fertilizers, I managed to get the right balance
between the three. Okay it took me some years (I did have a new and bigger
tank, so I had to start all over again), but I can show the outcome proudly.
What kind of approach do you take in maintaining
your tank the High Tech way or a more natural way?
Well, I would say I
took the High Tech way. I have the advantage of working in a wastewater
treatment facility, where we have running some auto analyzing equipment.
With these monitors it was easy for me to do water tests with my tank water.
This way I reached the balance, that I was talking about, in my tank. At
home I have a pH/temp monitor. Once in awhile I recheck the tank water at
work, but that’s just for my own reassurance. After building a drip system
I’ve now more time for enjoying my tank. But constant water refreshment I
would count as the more natural way, this happens 24 hours a day in the
What piece of advice can you give to others who
are thinking about setting up a tank like this?
Don’t try to invent the wheel again. There is so much knowledge in books,
on the Internet and with the “Oldies” in the hobby that nobody has to
experience disasters. So read, read and read. Good books are plenty,
hundreds of good articles are available on the net and always ask the
experts. And keep the faith in reaching a beautiful planted discus tank.
That’s all I would give as advice to the new ones in this hobby.
600 ltr planted tank with a gravel/sand bottom. The tank maesures are
My filter is a 150 ltr 6 chamber biological filter and the filter is made
inside the tank behind the whole backwall. The backwall is from the brand
‘Real Nature’. The filter measurements are 200x15x60 cm. The contents are:
- First chamber -> filter foam.
- Chamber 2, 3, 4 and 5 -> Pond substrate, denilit and on top filter
foam to catch dirt from previous chamber.
- Chamber 6 -> Filter pump, heaters and air stone.
I also use 2x Eheim 2213 for prefiltration.
Filter pump: Pro 4 power head (900 – 1600
Heaters: Rena Cal Basic 300W and Thermal Compact 200W.
Air pump: Schego M2K3. This is a strong air
pump that’s extremely silent, especially for usage in living rooms.
PH/temp monitor: Orion Research Expandable Ion
Analyzer EA 940. It can also be used for checking ammonium or nitrate
levels, but I haven’t used it for those purposes.
- • 1 x Arcadia Freshwater 58W.
- • 1 x Osram Fluora 58W.
- • 1 x Philips Aquarelle 58W.
- • 2 x Philips Aquarelle 15W.
The light schedule is as follow: Fluora 07:30 – 23:30 hr. Freshwater/Aquarelle
08:30 – 23:00 hr. and 2 x small Aquarelle 11:00 – 21:00 hr.
The bulbs are movable in the hood, for when I have to perform the cleanings.
I have at the moment 9 discus fish:
- - 2 Pigeon Blood.
- - 1 Sun Pigeon.
- - 1 Blue Diamond.
- - 1 Red Turquoise.
- - 1 Marlboro.
- - 1 Royal Green.
- - 1 Heckel.
- - 1 Alenquer.
Other fish are:
- - 6 Ancistrus.
- - 2 Siamese Algae Eaters.
- - 4 Clown Loaches.
- - 20 Corydorus.
- - 10 Bleeding Heart Tetras.
- - 10 Cardinal Tetras.
- - Aponogeton Ulvaceus.
- - Aponogeton Crispus.
- - Echinodorus Amazonicus.
- - Nymphaea Lotus.
- - Vallisneria Gigantea.
- - Cryptocoryne Beckettii.
- - Cryptocoryne Undulata.
- - Temp. = 29 C.
- - pH 6,4.
- - KH = 1 dH.
- - GH = 4 dH.
- - Ammonia and Nitrite = 0 ppm.
- - Nitrate = 15 ppm.
Water change regime: Constantly 5% in 24 hours.
If you have any questions for me, please email me: