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A Planted Christmas Greeting

by Lluis Ruscalleda Turon

When I left the United States to move to Barcelona, Eheim gave me a full Aquastyle Set to make projects for them. I wanted to make a driftwood project but sadly, everything here in Europe is more expensive than in US. I finally went to the wild to collect wood like a cook seaching for good produce in the farmer's market. At the base of a mountain, I found thin but solid bushes that look like small trees (priceless to me).

Christmas is coming soon, so I decided to make a typical Christmas tree. I could have used a branch tied with Java moss, but then it would not have the triangle shape of a Christmas tree, so I started from the beginning, organizing the branches.

Once I had a master plan of where the branches should go, I used the electric drill to make holes in the main base of the tree then inserted the branches into the holes. (I actually tried first with crazy glue or velcro but failed.) The good thing about this method is that I could fit the branches in and out like a LEGO, until I found the right hole for each branch without damaging them.

I used velcro and zip ties to attach the main base of the tree onto the black slate rock. I admit I don't always make things look good, but I make them work. I intended to cover the base with white decorative sand so I didn't care too much about these details.

I tried to find Christmas moss from Tropica in Barcelona but it is hard to find. (Between you and I, if in the US there are 20 good stores in New York, in Barcelona there are only 3 or 4 good ones.) So I used regular Java moss, Taxyphyllum barbieri (Vesicularia).

I tied the Java moss with nylon thread on the branches, one by one; and then I inserted them in the base. This time I wanted the branches to be permanently stuck in there so I used some crazy glue on the tip.

Once I had the tree done, I considered what to do with the Riccia fluitans I had. Here in Europe we celebrate the three Wise Men, so I thought about making the Star of Bethlehem, but that is not typical in the US. So I decided to make the typical five-point star on top of the tree.

I have been rushing on this project to get it done by December 1st . So that means I used what I had handy. I work in my family business, an office supply store, so I am familiar with paper, clips, laminating plastics, etc...

I used the laminating plastic to draw the star. I cut the shape of the star and I used it as a base for the velcro. I could have tied the Riccia onto the plastic but it is better for the Riccia to grow on the velcro surface.

After the star was done I inserted it on the top of the tree with the help of a pushpin and velcro.

I still had some Riccia left and I thought I would use it to make ornaments hanging from the branches or long shiny garland along the Christmas Tree.

The ornaments didn't work out, but for the garland I used a white string (like the one IKEA gives you to tie stuff onto the car. I used some small pieces of heavy sinkers to avoid floating).

To finalize it I used white sand to recreate winter snow, with some small rocks so the arrangement looks a little more natural.

I debated whether to use small guppies or angelfish, I decided to use angelfish, because they are angels, i.e. christmas angels, plus they match the color of the sand.

This project was not intended to make something natural like a long-term tank, this project was to make something special for Christmas. My main goal was to make a nice photo of the Christmas tree for the holidays, make it into a holiday greeting card and send it to aquatic plant friends.

If you are interested in learning about the photography, I used four lights to shoot the final photo:

1-In the background with a blue gel on it to recreate the sky (from top to bottom); the sky has to be more light on top than the bottom.

2- A canon beam light just for the star, in full flash power with a yellow gel on it. (The star has to look yellowish, that's why I choose the riccia in first place.)

3- A light on top facing down with a green gel on it, to give color to the tree.

4- A final light on top of the tank too, with minimal power and no gel color for the fish,

I shot the photo with tungsten settings, F/11 and 1/125, ISO 80 I think.

Well, that's all,

Hope you like it and Happy Holidays!

Barcelona, Spain