Passion into Business - The Art of Aqua Terrarium
Star of the month
Daring to dream, remaining humble and making it big inspite of personal setback and challenges makes Mr.Jithin Samji Heric a true Hero in this wonderful hobby . Here, he is in talks with Mr.Sunil Dcosta - the proprietor of www.aquafishcare.com about bringing nature to everyone home by creating beautiful Aqua terrarium.
Jithin Samji Heric
Aqua terrarium Expert from India
Plants in Aqua Terrarium
Sunil Dcosta : What made you get into Aqua terrarium ? Your fascination with nature?
Jithin : Here's the back story to that. I am a big fan of nature aquariums. I always enjoy watching fishes in their natural environment. But what I realised is that planted tanks were not always pocket friendly. Especially because of the need for expensive equipments like Chiller and Co2 unit. So I was continuously on the lookout for options to have an easy-to-do planted tank. That's when I stumbled upon a style called as riparium. A riparium is an aquarium with marginal plants planted in the background.
Marginal plants are the plants that grow on the banks of a waterbody. This style allowed me to keep plants with a wider range of fishes which were otherwise not compatible with plants, like the mbuna cichlids and the other South American cichlids. Moving to Aqua Terrariums was a natural transition from riparium. This allowed me to bring in more theatrics into my creations. Here I could add in a fogger and create the illusion of a cloud covered misty mountain or a waterfall or a rainforest paludarium. The possibilities are limitless and that really excites me.
Sunil Dcosta : What is the focal point you see when you are building an aqua terrarium?
Jithin : I need to humbly admit I am no expert here, but here's a glimpse into my thought process when I set out to build an aqua terrarium. The focal point is usually driven by the story which I want my creation to tell everyone. So it could be anything from a winding driftwood to a textured rock or a beautiful focal plant.
Sunil Dcosta : What type of plants do you usually prefer in making an aqua terrarium?
Jithin : Making an aqua terrarium is like painting on a canvas. And there are two parts to it: the focal part and the fillers. Moss usually forms the bulk of the fillers. And I like using Cryptanthus, or Bromeliads as the focal plants. But like in all fields we have to continuously learn and the plant choices are becoming more diverse with each new creation.
Sunil Dcosta : What type of tank shapes and sizes do you consider? Which is your favourite?
Jithin : I am a big fan of the shallow tank. If you are someone following the world of aquascaping, you would have noticed that it's trending these days. Instagrammers like Shrimpery have popularized the indoor pond aquarium style, which uses shallow tanks. It's a bit like thinking out of the box. Plants growing out of the tank really adds the x factor to the tank.
Sunil Dcosta: Do you make any use of fertilizer for Aqua terrarium? What about pruning etc...?
Jithin : A sufficient bioload of fishes might take care of the nutrient needs of some plants, but for others you might need to fertilize, especially if they are showing deficiency. There are many options for fertilizers but I usually use the wabikusa mist by ADA.
Pruning will be driven by the look that you want to achieve especially if the plants are shading others you could trim those.
Sunil Dcosta: How long have you been doing this as a hobby?
Jithin : I've been in the Hobby for more than 25 years. But my passion turned to my profession 5 years ago. I used to be an IT professional for the first 10 years of my career. Then an incident in my life changed my whole perspective. My father got diagnosed with Cancer. This really hit me hard and made me to change my perspective of life. It gave me the courage to pursue what I really like. That's how I could take up my passion as my profession. Not to mention the support of my family without which it would not have been possible.
Sunil Dcosta : What are your valuable Tips to a beginner wanting to get into this fascinating Art of Aqua Terrariums?
Jithin : Beginners will do well if they read about and understand the basics of hydroponics before setting up the aqua terrarium.
Tips for beginners
* Plants need food just like fishes. Here, by food I mean fertilizers. That comes from the organics in water. If the fish bioload in the water is less then we need to supplement it by adding fertilizers to the water column.
* Give a photo period of atleast 8 hrs for marginal and terrestrial plants.
*Also quarantine the plants for a month or more as they can be carrying pests.
Sunil Dcosta : Is it costly to make a terrarium?
Jithin : I would recommend that we don't use cost as a yardstick to measure this beautiful art. You could easily make a bowl terrarium with a glass bowl and materials collected from the backyard for absolutely no cost at all or you could also make a vivarium with exotic tropical plants in a sophisticated micro habitat, which can cost you in tune of lakhs. It all depends on what you want to achieve.
Sunil Dcosta : Which was a challenging project you have worked on and why?
Jithin : Every new project brings a new challenge at the beginning, the same challenge would be non existent at the completion of the project. But when I think back I would say my first ever prototype terrarium was my most challenging work. Because I didn't know how to proceed then, what plants to use, what lighting to use, how to water, how to troubleshoot etc. etc. But after refining the prototype for years I now have a working model from which I can recreate my works.
Sunil Dcosta : Is there a demand for Aqua terrarium in India? What is your opinion?
Jithin : Surely there is a rising trend for terrariums in India over the last two years. This can be noticed from the increasing number of youtubers making videos on this topic. I've personally made quite a few Aqua terrariums in the last year, which can be viewed on my Instagram page. There are also many workshops happening on this topic.
Sunil Dcosta : How easy is it to maintain an Aqua Terrarium?
Jithin : For an aqua terrarium, maintenance is not too hard in comparison to a planted aquarium. I follow the usual water change routine that you would do on any planted tank. You need to keep an eye on the plants; some times they get infested with pests. We also need to keep an eye for deficiencies and dose fertilizers accordingly. If you are having a conventional terrarium then you need to ensure sufficient air circulation to prevent mould. It's good to have a cleanup crew of isopods and spring tails.