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my jungle waterfall aquarium build journal


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Waterfall Jungle Tank Build

Hey all! Towards the end of last year I was browsing etsy and came across this handmade resin medusa statue (that I unfortunately did not take photos of). She was handpainted so I coated her with a few layers of white krylon fusion spray paint. The resin the artist used was aquarium safe (always message and ask!). I really wanted to make an overgrown, jungle-esque, tank with the statue as the centerpiece. Eventually I want it to be covered in moss and look ancient.

I built the tank and stand and have had the plants growing in but I am actually going to tear it down this weekend and redo the scape and planting. I accidentally piled the substrate up way to high and I am not a fan of the look. I wanted to create this journal to show how I built this and to say what did and did not work.


The Stand

The stand was pretty straight-foward but I did want it to have a natural and minimalistic look from the beginning. I purchased an 8 foot butcher block from the hardware store and used that to make the entire stand including the legs (I wanted them to match in appearance). Wood was stained, I didn't take progress photos since I did not think I was going to share this build with anyone. I also assume most people have built basic stands before. I did want to have a bottom shelf which was built into the stand.

IMG_7414.JPG.b7ba6de1eee70e8ad892e39d183f4cb3.JPG IMG_7575.JPG.3658c883701abd23d33fb8a4691b6166.JPGdog tax

final stand. It actually ended up not being as stable as I thought it would be when the tank was on the tank so I did make one change. I used some basic 2x4s to create a skirt that the bottom shelf sits on and removed the two ledges. They did not provide as much structural support as I thought they would. I did want to keep the top skirt-free for the aesthetical look, I find the bottom skirt is perfect for this stand.



The Aquarium

The tank is a low iron 25g cube from Seapora.I bought it from my lfs but this is an online listing for it: http://www.reefsolution.com/catalog/aquarium-canopy-stand-aquariums-cube-25gal-crystal-series-cube-aquarium-p-10124.html?osCsid=9fd7b31b3b0bfc84b0d4cc1d0bbbbb22


My initial plan was to have a waterfall on top of the tank. The issue is that every other build I saw used a paludarium style tank where the back glass was taller then the front glass to support the waterfall. I did not want to have it sitting inside of the tank so I decided to build a support wall for it to sit on.


I ended up using a little under 3" of footprint at the back of the tank to create the support as well as a compartment to hide the filtration and heater. I used corrugated plastic since it is easy to cut and is rather durable. https://www.michaels.com/plastic-corrugated-board-by-creatology/M10567770.html.

FYI! Silicone does not adhere to this very well at all. It wasn't an issue for the compartments and support but it did become an issue when building the waterfall. Sanding it down helped the silicone stick to it much better.

Now it looks pretty ugly in the back, I wasn't too worried since I knew that the back would be hidden from view. I layered the pieces in a "T" repeatedly to provide good support for the waterfall sitting on top, it also kept the back panel from bowing in.


I used fiberglass window screen on the openings I cut out for water flow to the back. This is to keep critters and anything else from being able to go back there. I made three large cut outs so there is plenty of flow. Here you can see the holding box that the waterfall is built around as well as the "steps" for it. Lots of silicone to waterproof it. I ended up splitting the back compartment into three sections: the left was a planter, the center was open for the filter, pump, and heater, and the right was all support for the waterfall.


A top view as I was still building up the support. I cut a window into the planter (similar to the back panel) and used the screen to allow water to flow into the planter. I did not take any photos but I ended up adding 2 more planters that do not receive direct water flow from the tank, they are siliconed to the back of the tank so I can add more terrestrial plants around the waterfall.


I bought quite a bit of black slate and black lava rock to use for this build, I like the look of these rocks personally and thought they fit the overall aesthetic well. You can see the little holder for the waterfall where the water is pumped into. All of the tubing is hidden by rocks which are glued or siliconed into place. I used black all purpose pond foam at first but the cure time was too slow, it did create a good base for the rocks to be glued on though.


I unfortunately did not take many photos during this process but it was lots of rock layering on the sides. I bought a bag of small black lava rock that I glued to the back panel to hide the ugliness and to create my own diy background.


This is the finished tank with the background built. You can see how high the substrate is and why I want to lower it. It takes away more area for the fish to swim in and really is not necessary.

I knew I wanted this to be high tech with co2 and good lighting and I went back and forth on the light to use. I was initially going to go with a Kessil but the fact that you need to pay $100 just to control the light is insane and unacceptable. I did want a pendant style light hanging from the ceiling, not a strip/bar light. I also wanted it to give a beam/center light appearance in the tank to create depth, shadows, and a more dramatic look. I ended up going with an AI Prime which I am very happy with.

For the substrate I used fluval stratum, only because I like the natural look of it and I had 50lbs of it sitting in storage. Otherwise I personally prefer to use a mix of fluorite and stratum as my substrate.

The final shot


In the left hand planter I currently have pothos, basil, golden creeping jenny, and arrowhead growing. I also have some red mangrove in the tank as well, you can see the stems sticking out. It has been doing surprisingly well in all of my tanks and is sending out air roots. You cant really see all of the plants from this angle though. I ended up sticking some pothos into the tank on the righthand side to add more greenery. I haven't planted the two back planters but those will be planted once I redo the tank. I'm thinking a nice fern in one and another bushy plant in the other (would love any suggests from you all). I also added some sheet moss to the rocks, you can see some of the white silicone that I want to cover with more moss.


Changes I want to make:

  1. I am not overly happy with the waterfall itself, I plan to add more rocks and silicone to redirect the water flow a little since it doesn't flow as evenly as I hoped.
  2. Lower substrate depth
  3. Fix the crooked statue, I thought I wanted her to be slanted to look ancient/apocalyptic in a way but I'd rather have her sit straight
  4. Rearrange the scape and plants. I planted some val in there that I really regret, I forget how fast it spreads and I do not want a vallisenaria tank so I will pull that. Otherwise I want to add some red or pink plants (pink flamingo? if it's ever in stock) and rearrange some of the existing plants.
  5. I installed a little fog/mist machine but I did not make the holding box deep enough so it only works if the waterfall cap (that has rocks on it to cover the holding box) is tilted off or taken off entirely. I want to mess around and get this working properly


I'll keep this thread updated with any changes I make, hopefully I can get this looking how I want it to be soon. 


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I love the statue, she looks like the foreboding keeper of the depths down there 😄

I also think you made an excellent choice with the lighting. It creates a lot of hard shadows that add to the drama of the scene.

If you're looking for opinions on ferns, I think a Japanese Painted Fern could look really nice. I absolutely adore them.

Beautiful work, thank you for sharing!

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On 9/1/2020 at 2:09 PM, Mike said:

I love the statue, she looks like the foreboding keeper of the depths down there 😄

I also think you made an excellent choice with the lighting. It creates a lot of hard shadows that add to the drama of the scene.

If you're looking for opinions on ferns, I think a Japanese Painted Fern could look really nice. I absolutely adore them.

Beautiful work, thank you for sharing!

i am always looking for suggestions, so thank you! i am very happy and pleased with the light. i was worried it would create too many shadows but it has given it a very dramatic look. the sleek and small profile is also very nice and lends itself to a display tank. 

i wanted the statue and tank overall to have an ancient, abandoned, city/keeper vibe. overgrown jungle and just an old statue guarding something. it’s why i made the back look almost like a mountain or volcano with all the rocks. 

i appreciate all the compliments, hopefully i find time soon to redo it a bit and i can post photos and videos

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  • 2 weeks later...

i have been crazy busy so knowing that redoing this tank is a 1-2 day process (i need to silicone some more rock to the waterfall and backing) i haven’t done it yet. this week it will get done though, please hold me to it lol. 


i snapped this pic of the tank going through its sunset mode and i want to say i am very happy with this light. i rarely see it getting recommended (price point is the main reason, i know) but it works very well. 

here is the medusa tank at sunset 😊


i’ll be taking photos of the rebuild/rescape and add them to this build thread. 

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3 minutes ago, Kriskm said:

I love how much you've done with such a small space. The scale of the little statue is just perfect for the tank. One suggestion when you rescape would be to put her a little off center and further back, so that the viewer has to peer through the jungle a bit to see her. She's like a hidden gem.

thank you! and i definitely agree, she’s moving during the rescape. the only difficulty is that both pieces of driftwood are on slate so i can’t really put them in exactly where i want them. 

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That stand looks very nice. I like to think of aquariums as decorative furniture that showcase a captured piece of nature, and that stand works very well with what you have done. I hate that I currently have mine on an industrial metal shelving unit, but I'm no craftsman nor do I have the tools and I don't trust the particle board stands from big box stores. And the scape you have done is absolutely stunning. An inspiration. Thank you for sharing. Looking forward to updates.

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  • 8 months later...

so i finally redid this tank the other week while listening to the sunday livestream. i'm going to give it a month or two to let the plants grow in and i'll do a full update on here. in the meantime i wanted to show off this group of red-orange platies i got from a local breeder. the color on these is incredible and i can't wait to breed them.




peep the medusa statuetank-6.jpg.b41d0e714dfa80dfc6c7ac59b31041b8.jpg






super excited for those. i also expanded the rasbora schools, here is one of my established chilis looking gorgeous. these are arguable the best looking nano fish out there.



here is a gorgeous red lizard that i got from a local breeder as well. he is very difficult to photograph so this is the only clear one i could get.


and lastly, a happy oto is a fat oto



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