Public aquariums rarely use live aquatic plants in their displays, instead opting for plastic alternatives. When real plants are used it is usually on a small scale but in January 2013 at the London Aquarium we went BIGGER and BETTER!
We worked with companies in the UK and Holland to create what is one of if not the largest aquascaped (that’s an underwater landscape) display in the world…and a new home for our Red Bellied Piranhas at the same time.
The week before the planting we caught all the fish and moved them to a temporary home in quarantine, the windows were then polished inside and out and almost half a tonne of gravel was added to the display in preparation for the start.
On a cold Tuesday morning the plants arrived from Holland in a specially insulated van; thousands of them! Some of them were just a few centimetres tall and some over a meter; these huge specimens are called Grandmother plants and not normally let out of the nursery but instead used to make smaller cuttings…in fact for that week we had Europe’s entire supply of them! For months they had been growing in a special area of the nursery dedicated to us at the Sea Life London Aquarium.
Next began two mammoth tasks: firstly putting in all the hardscape (that’s wood, boulders and a tonne of sand) and arranging them to look like a flooded Amazon forest to make the piranhas feel right at home. Secondly we had to separate, check and place each one of the individual plants; this took two whole days!
Once the planting was all done we filled the display slowly as to not disturb any of our hard work. The new sand and gravel had made the water a little murky so we waited anxiously for the water to clear. By the Thursday morning for the grand unveiling it was crystal and the job was done!
Special thanks go to Cat Dixon, Pete Williams and the rest of the displays team for their tireless efforts, the team at Planted Tanks for their hard work and expertise and Aquadip for the awesome plants.