Stream of Mount Lao after a rain in summer, Qingdao, China

2nd place in Biotope Aquarium Design Contest 2018

russia China. Sun Kai

Volume: 324 L
Dimensions: 120x60x45 cm
List of fishes: Rhinogobius brunneus, Opsariichthys bidens, Cipangopaludina cathayensis, Pseudorasbora parva
List of plants: Phragmites australis
Description of decorations: Stream sand an stone, Pterocarya stenoptera woods and leaves.
Description of equipment: LED 50W x 2 EHEIM600 filter bucket x 1.
Water parameters: 26°C, pH 6.5, GH 1.


Description of the area surrounding the biotope: Mount Lao is the most famous mountain range in Qingdao, Shandong Province, China. It is known as the first mountain in the sea. As a temperate monsoon climate, the temperature difference in the Lushan area is large throughout the year, and the rainfall distribution is mainly concentrated in the summer. In the spring, many Pterocarya stenoptera will germinate in the dry river with the seeds floating, and when the summer rains come, the fragile saplings in the river center will be washed down by the big water and stuck in the rock pile. As a fish and natural aquatic environment lover, snorkeling to see fish is one of my biggest hobbies. In the second week after the torrential rains, the water flow is gradually stable, which is the best time to watch!

Description of the underwater landscape of the biotope: As a biotope aquarium lover living and working in Qingdao for a long time, I always want to find opportunities to show the amazing underwater world around me to my fellow hobbyists around the world. I also want to show our charming natural streams to local people in Qingdao, so they could understand that the beauty of nature is ubiquitous and deserve our care. I love the gobies, and I am particularly fascinated by Rhinogobius brunneus. I am very fortunate to have this beautiful species living around me. Creating a stream biotope tank to keep Rhinogobius brunneus has always been my own plan. The stream of Mount Lao is the main destination for my snorkeling in the summer. In a few days after a heavy rain, I was shocked by the booming biological community there: All the newly broken Pterocarya stenoptera are washed down and stuck together by the powerful water. Dried Pterocarya stenoptera leaves are soaked in water and then stay on the bottom. Phragmites australis along the shore are expanding enthusiastically. Opsariichthys bidens are constantly challenging the rapids, looking for preys. Male Rhinogobius brunneus are shuttling through the pebbles dexterously, and sometimes ostentatious displaying the dorsal fins to show off, in order to win the favor of the female with eggs. Although the stream is chilly after the heavy rain, I was just too fascinated to leave, as almost a part of this community, completely integrated into nature. At that time, I hear my heart, isn’t this the best auqascaping inspiration? So, here comes this work. In order to maintain the real natural scene of the aquascape, all the materials were hand-collected from the very stream, including the branches of Pterocarya stenoptera.

Description of the parameters of the habitat: Although there is no hot summer in Qingdao, there is a severe winter. The average annual temperature in Qingdao is 12.3 °C, which is still suitable. In January, the coldest month in January, the average temperature was -0.9 °C; the hottest in August, the average temperature was 25.3 °C; the extreme minimum temperature in the past 100 years was the lowest at -16.9 °C on January 10, 1931, while the extreme maximum temperature appeared in 2002. On July 15, the highest temperature reached 38.9 °C. The air is humid, the rainfall is abundant, the temperature is moderate, and the four seasons are distinct. In spring, the temperature rises slowly, one month later than the inland; the summer is hot and humid, but there is no heat; the autumn is high, the precipitation is low, the evaporation is strong; the winter wind is low and the duration is long.

List of fishes and invertebrates occurring in the nature biotope: Rhinogobius brunneus, Opsariichthys bidens, Cipangopaludina cahayensis, Pseudorasbora parva.

List of plants found in the nature biotope: Phragmites australis.

Sources of information:
“Shandong Fish Records”, “Chinese Fishes – Gecko Suborders”,

Comments of the members of the jury of Biotope Aquarium Design Contest 2018

This is a good stream biotope. A lot of stones plenty of different sizes and different colours there are. This aquarium is giving natural feelings on you. It is not best design in this competition but material layout is right. I liked your species and lights. I would like your video to be better. Congrats.

Mert Aykuta

In my opinion this tank is a little bit too small for the size and amount of fishes. But except of this, the tank has interesting, natural looking composition of roots and stones, providing fishes with lots of hideouts.

Piotr Kierzkowski

A tank setting that indeed looks like lying in a stream and looking at nature. The composition of species is interesting and gives a good insight about diversity in Chinese rivers. The sparkling light, the arrangement of the branches and stones are reflecting water that underlies a greater current. The tank gives a wonderful impression about the beauty of nature; it is a great work, absolutely outstanding.

Anton Lamboj

To me this biotope aquarium has the WOW factor. The fish look like they feel at home swimming between the branches and over the rocks. I also like that in general, the fish seem to camouflage themselves in the aquarium. The colour of the fish simulates the colours of the décor which happens very frequently in nature, making it pleasant to look at from a river explorer’s point of view. Sun Kai, I really, really like your biotope aquarium! There is a super cool detail in this tank that few people would notice, which is that the bottom substrate or benthic sediment matches the larger rocks that are in the aquarium. A common mistake people make when creating a biotope aquarium is placing sand or gravel which does not look similar to the larger rocks. So, let’s say a river has large black rocks, do you expect the sand to be totally white without a black spot in it? Another example would be having a large quantity of big quartz rocks and having benthic sediment consisting only of sedimentary rock.

Ivan Mikolji