DPH Tank of the Month
With Willem Catsburg
How did you get into keeping a
Planted Discus Tank?
Well actually I wouldn’t call my tank a planted discus tank. First of all
it has no discus (maybe they’ll return one day, it’s hard to control myself
when I see nice Heckels) and it has almost no plants. The tank is 280 cm (a
little over 9 feet) and houses only 7 bleheri Amazon sword plants (Echinodorus
bleheri), 2 Echinodorus ‘Ozelot’s and a couple of floating Ceratopteris
I’ve had tanks with lots more plants starting in 1992, for instance one
tank with a huge Tiger lotus (Nymphaea lotus) of 1.5 meter (5 feet)
diameter, now that was a planted tank. And I even had discus there!
Nevetheless I can tell you about my current tank, it is after all the one
I am most proud of :)
What do you feel has been the most rewarding
aspect of keeping such a tank?
The most rewarding for me is to be able to have a look into a completely
different world at any time. The looks of visitors and family when they see
something special. The joy of watching my fish grow up and behave like they
do in the wild. And also the fun of meeting other hobbyists through
aquariumclubs, shows and the internet.
What has been the hardest challenge for you in
keeping a Planted Discus tank and have you overcome it?
My hardest challenge is not just dealing with the loss of a fish, but
dealing with the loss of a fish when I can´t find out what the problem was.
It´s these moments that I fear most, because as long as I haven´t identified
the problem, I can´t do anything to overcome it and prevent it from
happening again. That’s why I always try to learn more about fish, tanks,
plants, diseases, everything.
The hardest thing with plants for me is the need for more light. My
lighting is only minimum at its barest as a friend of mine would say (you
know who you are) and especially with 80 cm (32”) hight it’s hard to find
What kind of approach do you take in maintaining
your tank the High Tech way or a more natural way?
I think I’m in between the high-tech and the natural way. I do have a
sophisticated sunrise/sundown system and a continuous pH-controller, but I
trust my large filter the best and I don’t use chemicals unless I really
have to. I even do my waterchanges by hand ;-) (30-40 buckets a week is not
an exception). I do have the test kits to measure about everything there is
to know and my chemistry study helps me with a lot of these things, but
eventually I just believe in a natural balance that has to grow without to
What piece of advice can you give to others who
are thinking about setting up a tank like this?
Just go for it, don’t be afraid to ask for help. A planted tank is a
jewel for every living-room and a planted discus tank is the highest… well
almost, I’m sorry I have to add this, but a planted tank with Uaru
fernandezyepezi’s, altums and stingrays is just a little higher.
Hey wait, what if I add those nice Heckels I see over there……
Fish I have:
- 50 Rummynosed tetras (Hemigrammus rhodostomus)
- 1 Pseudacanthicus sp. Leopardus (L114)
- 1 Leporacanthicus heterodon (L172)
- 1 Leporacanthicus galaxias (L007)
- 1 Leporacanthicus triactis (L91)
- 1 Pseudacanthicus sp. Titanic (L273)
- 1 Panaque nigrolineatus (L27)
- 1 Baryancistrus sp. (L18)
Fish I want:
- 6 Uaru fernandezyepezi (way on top of my list)
- 6 altums (Pterophyllum altum)
- 2 Stingrays (Potamotrygon motoro)
- 7 Echinodorus bleheri
- 2 Echinodorus ‘Ozelot’
- A couple of floating Ceratopteris cornuta
My tank is 280 x 75 x 80 cm, which is a little over 9 feet x 29” x 31”. I
have a biofilter made of 2 other tanks each 100 x 50 x 50 cm (about 39” x
20” x 20”). The total amount of water is 2000 liter (528.4 US gallon). The
water circulates in a little under an hour.
I have 2 300 Watt heaters (tubes) in the filter. I also have a continuous
pH-controller with a CO2-cylinder.
I have 8 TL’s, total 420 Watt. They are on for 13 hours a day including
the automated dimming. A sunrise is 45 minutes and so is the sundown. This
is done with electronic high-frequency devices that dim the TL’s themselves.