AQUATIC LIFE offers Twist-In (TI) RO/DI Systems.
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to replace the resin media. aquaticlife.com
ATLANTIC WATER GARDENS’ Typhoon
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The cabinets have a wood-grained finish.
BY DAVID A. LASS
On a recent family vacation, I had the opportunity to visit the Oceanário de Lisboa “Florestas Submersas” (
Forests Underwater) exhibit in Lisbon, Portugal. It is, I believe, the late Takashi Amano’s
My good friend Scott Dowd, senior
aquarist/freshwater at the New England
Aquarium, gave me an introduction to
Núria Baylina, curator and head of conservation at the Oceanário de Lisboa.
She generously offered my wife and I a
behind the scenes tour of Florestas Submersas—the huge freshwater planted
tank that Oceanário de Lisboa developed
Statistics from Oceanário de Lisboa’s
website offer some perspective on the
• It is a U-shaped aquarium with a volume
of 160 cubic meters. It is 40 meters long, 2.5
meters wide and 1.45 meters deep.
• The aquarium holds 12 metric tons of
sand, 25 metric tons of volcanic rock and
78 tree trunks.
• It has more than 10,000 tropical freshwater fish of 40 different species and 46 aquatic plant species.
The tank has “mounds” of plants that
grow all the way from the bottom to the
surface. Anubias and other bottom/low-
light plants grow in the sand and at the
bottom of the mounds of plants.
The very strong water movement in the
tank is unlike anything we could achieve in
our home aquariums. The tall plants have
grown all the way to the surface and wave
in the water; the fish have to exert some effort to stay in one place. Unlike our aquariums, where the fish can only swim a short
distance before they run into the glass, in
the Florestas Submersas environment, the
fish can swim virtually as far as they want.
The impact of this exhibit is at times
overwhelming. My involvement with
the freshwater aquarium hobby/indus-try spans more than 50 years. I actually
remember the introduction of the first
all-glass aquariums (before that we had
stainless steel frames, with each piece of
glass individually set), and I have owned
local fish stores and a large wholesale im-port/distribution business. Yet the beauty
and health of this Amano jewel crowns all
that I have seen. The mechanics, however,
• Water: The display uses what is available
from the city mains, which is treated before
going into the system. The primary treatment is activated carbon.
• UV sterilizer: Remember, we are talking
about a huge volume of water.
• Carbon dioxide: There is plenty of it,
monitored and easily controlled.
• Mechanical filtration: Just as for many
of us hobbyists, the water coming from the
tank first encounters a simple bag filter.
Filters are cleaned and maintained on a
regular basis, whether they need it or not.
While there is a lot of mechanical and biological filtration, it is pretty much what
we hobbyists use: sponge and cloth filters,
• Settling tanks: There is a series of rectangular tanks that the water passes through.
• A team of Oceanário staff and Aqua Design Amano staff do all the maintenance
work (diving, syphoning, trimming, etc.)
after the closing of the exhibit.
In addition to being able to access and
examine the entire system from behind,
Baylina is very knowledgeable about fish
and can instantly recognize if anything is
not how it should be. The parameters of the
water constantly are monitored, and any
problems are handled before they can have
an impact on the tank.
THE FISH AND SHRIMP
While I’m sure there are many fish I did not
see (especially those that come out at night),
the primary fish population includes:
• Roseline sharks, also known as Denison
barbs. They seemed to be young speci-
mens, with lots of grow-
ing to do, and lots of
space to do it in.
• Diamond tetras—
mostly adult specimens,
• Other tetras such as cardinals, serpae
and lemon, and I’m sure a few others that
• Cleanup crew—catfish, Siamese algae
eaters, Otocinclus and more.
• A large batch of Amano shrimp (
Caridina multidentata; previously Caridina
japonica) scour the bottom and the plants.
Baylina said they had some algae problems
at first, but now they are completely under
Seeing the fish in this massive, perfectly maintained tank makes me realize how
simple and straightforward fishkeeping
can be. And if you are as skilled and knowledgeable as Baylina is, a masterpiece like
the Florestas Submersas can be achieved.
For more information on the exhibit,
Takashi Amano’s Final Masterpiece
The enchanting ‘Florestas Submersas’ exhibit is an invitation to view an underwater world like no other.
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