Growing In: Flick Ford's Native Fish & Riparium Adventure

Greetings Aquascaping Friends!

Today we would like to share some photos documenting progress for a project by one of our customers, Flick Ford. Flick has put a great deal of research and thought into this series of riparium habitats for native North America sunfish and other species, while also selecting the best equipment, live plants and livestock to develop the displays.

Among other combinations, a 90G tank will hold a group of Missouri longear sunfish (Lepomis megalotis) along with Cyperus Dwarf Umbrella Sedge, Asclepias Mexican Milkweed and other large and robust riparium plants. Other setups will use smaller enclosures for other native fishes, including orangespotted sunfish (Lepomis humilis) and Ocmulgee shiners (Cyprinella callisema) and bluespotted sunfish (Enneacanthus gloriosus).

Native Lepomis species and other sunfishes are astonishingly beautiful, but most are also highly territorial, so one must take with appropriate species combinations and numbers of individuals to avoid excessive bullying and potential loss of fish.

Riparium plantings can be especially compelling as foliage for aquariums native North America fish. The following list summarizes the most useful features of this combination:

  • No extra CO2 required - riparium plants easily get all of the carbon dioxide gas that they need directly from the air, where it is much more readily available than underwater. The extra complications of maintaining dissolved CO2 in the setup, including canister dumps that can kill fish, are thus avoided.
  • Robust plant-based filtration - many of the most fascinating North American fish, such as cyprininds, sunfish, suckers and predators, are relatively large, active and hungry animals that place extra demands on aquarium filtration. Vigorous riparium plants sequester dissolved plant waste products from the aquarium water as they grow.
  • Biotope representation - the aquatic plant flora of many of our native aquatic environments is just as lovely and rich as our fish fauna, but in many habitats there is relatively little underwater foliage; the plants grow instead as marginal aquatics rooted in very shallow water or mud, but with most of their foliage in the air. Such native fish habitats include rocky streams, oligotrophic lakes and tannin-stained creeks. Riparium setups can create beautifully authentic representations of these aquatic ecosystems.

These snapshots show progress for Flick's native riparium displays. The planting include a combination of native North America marginal aquatic plants, along with other selections from other regions chosen for their foliage textures and other features. The plants are establishing very well! The aquascapes also include a few low-tech submerged plantsthese will grow well without CO2 injectionas additional fish cover. We'll catch up with Flick again in a few months as he complete his fish stocking and as the riparium plantings fill in.

Flick has made use of both the Aqua Verdi Riparium Planter and the Riparium Supply Planter for situating his plants. Notice in particular the design of the Riparium Supply planter that uses black acrylic parts. These blend in very well with a dark aquarium background to virtually disappear underwater.

By the way, Flick Ford is also an accomplished wildlife artist specializing in aquarium fish, sport fish and other species from around the world. Visit his site to see his beautiful paintings, which include many available as high-quality reproductions...

The Art of Flick Ford