Monday, 07 May 2012 00:20

Tom Barr's 120g Dutch-inspired Aquarium

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Tom Barr 120g Dutch Aquarium TankThis beautiful 120 gallon aquatic display was created by Tom Barr over at the Barr Report, you may have heard of him. Large manzanita branches form the hardscape and function as dividers for a colorful and high contrast array of plants in this Dutch-inspired tank. 

Tom's list of credentials is impressive: Water Treatment, Sacramento State; B.S. Aquatic Biology, UC Santa Barbra; M.S. Botany, Univ. of Florida; and an ongoing Ph.D. in Plant Sciences at UC Davis. An environmental consultant, a Biology teacher, and author of the Estimated Index Aquatic Plant Fertilizing Method, Tom has been planting aquarium tanks and guiding hobbyists since 1989.

The aquarium being featured today is one of many Tom has set up in his Sacremento home, a 120 gallon custom-built rimless tank.



- 120g rimless built by the
- ATI T5 48" fixture with dimmer (bulbs: 1 ATI purple; 2 ATI blue specials; 2 GE starcost; 2 Aquawave red; 1 Giesemann aqua flora)
- CPR overflow box; sealed with duct tape to prevent CO2 loss
- CO2 injection into return pump via Rhinox 50mm diffuser
- Outflow via a PVC pipe, at ~900 gph 


The Space

The 120g tank rests along a wall, nestled between an entryway and a livingroom couch. 


The Tank

Setup and Maintenance

The tank was first set up in August, 2011, through the past 9 months, it's gone through countless mowings and plant changes. The substrate used is ADA Aqua Soil, and the tank is kept at 80F degrees. Glass lids are used from November to March to reduce evaporation.

First setup in 8/11 

The ATI T5 lighting fixture comes with a controller and automatic dimmer, it's calibrated to average ~60 umols for 8 hour cycles throughout the day (the sun puts out about ~2000 umols). The various colored bulbs allow Tom to tweak the spectrum to minic dawn, mid-day, and dusk.


Water changes typically take around 35 minutes, to clean the prefilter, catch and cull shrimp, trim plants, and do some rearranging.


The goal of this tank is high production, meaning high light and CO2 to factiliate speedy plant growth. The excess plants produced here supply Tom's hobby aquarium business, and you can often catch him selling off excess exotic "weeds" on forums such as the Planted Tank, or at local Sacremento aquatic club meets.

UG trimming and re-growth 

Tom pioneered the Estimated Index Aquatic Plant Fertilizing Method, the following two images highlighting two weeks of growth under an EI dosing regime:

Two week growth


Flora & Scape

The current scape is actually a rescape, this time Tom opted for a loosely based Dutch-style (colorful and high contrast) over his previous Amano-style (natural, minimalist and green) layout. The beautiful manzanita dirft wood Tom collects himself in the untamed regions of Southern California, and he keeps a larger and cheaper selection of driftwood than any fish store at his house.

The plants are planted in a way to distract you from the jagged hardscape, so that you notice the plants first, then the eyes flow to the outline of the wood.

As for plants, well, Tom is constantly "weeding" out different species and experimenting with new ones. The following is an inconclusive list of plant species that at one point or another grew in this tank (red & color plants are in red, plants taken out are struck through): 

- Ammania gracilis
- Bucephalandra
- Crypt parva
- Didiplis diandra
- Echinodorous vesuvius
- Elatine hydropiper
- Erio setaceum, types 1, 3
- Erio kimberly
- Erio tiandra
- Glossostigma elatinoides (glosso)
- Hydrocotyle umbellata (pennywort)
- Hydrothrix gardneri
- Limnophila guinea
- Ludwigia peruensis/glandulosa
- Ludwigia pilosa
- Ludwigia inclinata red
- Ludwigia senegalensis
- Myriophyllum heterophyllum (myrio - red)
- Parashorea stellata
- Pogostemon helferi (downoi)
- Propersinaca palustris
- Rotala wallichii 
- Rotala macranda
- Rotala butterfly
- Subwassertang
- Tonina fluviatilis
- Utricularia graminifolia (UG)
- Alternanthera reineckii
- Fissidens
- Ludwigia pantanal
- Rotala magenta
- Staurogyne porto velho
- Tonina lotus
Ludwigia glandulosa, erios setaceum 3, rotala wallichii
Different variants of Rotala Macranda [below], same tank, same age, but one is a more orange color, the other one is more red. This suggest that light, nutrients, tank differences are not playing much role, rather, the phenotype of each variety I have. Some species of plants appear to have more red expression, independent of environmental conditions.
Rotala macranda, same species, different color expressions
Tom continues to rearrange and change plants in the tank, or "weeding" as he calls it. It's an endless process, and he never stops learning.


- Painted fire red shrimp (neocaridina), 500+
- Amano shrimp
- Double trunk elephant nose (gnathonemus petersii)
- Gold nugget plecos
- Otocinclus
- Pencilfish
- Red phantom tetras
- Dwarf rainbows

Double-trunk elephant nose

School of dwarf rainbows


Evolution of the Tank

The slideshow below covers changes to the tank over the past 9 months:

If you'd like to read more about Tom's tank or have questions for him, head over to his photo journal on on the Barr Report.

Are you looking to start your own planted tank and gaden and not sure where to start? Read our in depth guides on starting a planted aquarium tank or a low maintenance Walstad bowl.

Have a planted space you'd like us to feature? Start a photo journal in our forums


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