Upper Bladen River, Belize. Overhanging tree branches shoreline habitat area

6th place in Biotope Aquarium Design Contest 2018

russia United Kingdom. Lee Nuttall

Volume: 540 L
Dimensions: 150x60x60 cm
List of fishes: Cryptoheros spilurus, Thorichthys meeki, Poecilia mexicana, Xiphophorus hellerii
List of plants: Myriophyllum sp.
Description of decorations: Sand with a fine gravel mix. Beech tree leaves and twigs. River boulders and cobbles, locally collected beech/oak branches and twigs.
Description of equipment: EHEIM classic 600 with both biological and mechanical filtration, 1 x Arcadia T8 38W freshwater lamp, EHEIM thermocontrol 250 heater.
Water parameters: Temperature is 27°C, 80.6F, pH is 7.5, Ammonia is 0 ppm, Nitrite is 0 ppm, Nitrate is 20 ppm, GH is 18.


Description of the area surrounding the biotope: Bladen Nature Reserve is located in the Central American country of Belize, a country consisting of 8,867 sq. miles (22,966 sq. kilometers) of tropical forest, savannah, mangrove, and wetlands. Bladen Nature Reserve is located in Toledo District in Southern Belize. The reserve gets its name from the Bladen Branch of the Monkey River which runs north-easterly through the area. This system lies along the south-eastern flank of the Maya Mountains and contains three branches (including the Trio and the Swasey) making it the fourth largest river basin in Belize. The river is lined with undisturbed primary forest.

Description of the underwater landscape of the biotope: Due to the large area of Bladen River, the underwater biotope can be quite diverse as there are many different water habitats such as rocky faster flowing riffles, runs, deep pools, vegetated areas and adjacent streams. The river substrate in this particular biotope is mainly composed of rocks, cobbles and sand. Tree branches overhang into the water as well as sunken branches with dead floating leaf and plant matter. Water from the video supplied with my description appears to be fairly transparent.

Description of the parameters of the habitat: Water parameters were unavailable, however, it is mentioned that the phosphorus levels plays an important role in fish species diversity and aquatic plant life. Bladen River contains low levels of phosphorus which in turn controls plant life as a result little plant life is found throughout Bladen River. The Trio branch of the river is phosphorus rich, therefore contains much more aquatic plant life and fish density. Underwater videos show a blue tinge to the water with transparency levels from 4-8 meters.

List of fishes and invertebrates occurring in the nature biotope: Cichlid species: Cribroheros robertsoni, cryptoheros spilurus, Petenia splendida, Trichromis salvini, Thorichthys meeki, Vieja maculicauda. Non cichlid species: migratory Agonostomus monticola, Astyanax aeneus, Astyanax bimaculatus, Awaous banana, Gobiomorus dormitor, Heterandria bimaculata, Rhamdia guatemalensis, Poecilia Mexicana, Xiphophorus helleri. Invertebrates: Pachycheilus largillierti, Pachycheilus corvinus, and Melanoides tuberculatus.

List of plants found in the nature biotope: Aquatic plant life is low, however Myriophyllum, Vallisneria and emerged Echinodorus sp. is present in some habitats.

Threats to the ecology: Bladen’s status as an IUCN category 1a nature reserve which means that it is afforded the highest level of protection possible to a protected area. Bladen reserve can face many potential threats to its echo system such as the expansion of agricultural areas, hunting, illegal extraction and development ventures. There is also the potential of runoffs from fruit farming plantations. In 2009 Bladen was illegally entered by a hydroelectric company who were conducting a feasibility study for a potential hydroelectric dam on the Central River which forms the boundary between Bladen and Columbia River Forest Reserve.

Sources of information:
Bladen Nature Reserve Management Plan 2007 – 2012

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

I liked design of this biotope, simple but effective. The branches that you used on the right side is looks very natural, seems like from coast of a river. Besides it was good idea too that using the plants on top side. In my opinion if your light you use would be warmer, it could look better. Good tank dimensions, good species, good materials. This biotope has one of best appearances in this competition. Congrats.

Mert Aykuta

If someone wants to start with biotopes, I would suggest starting with Central American biotope. Simple to maintain and firemouths love it. Non-stop action with males flaring, easy reproduction and scenes of convict cichlids defending youngs and vice versa. Very well executed bioscape, with enough details for the eye to explore. Nothing more to add, congratulations.

Petra Bašić

It’s refreshing to see Thorichthys meeki used in a biotope, where as many people may be tempted to represent other Thoricthys species in other biotopes for extra rarity value. I can definitely imagine the Thorichthys sifting the sand in and around the leaves in nature, and the Mollies picking at the algae and biofilms on those overhanging branches. Breeding all four of the featured species in that aquarium would also be pretty much a given, with the Cryptoheros already with fry in the video. Swapping the Beech and Oak leaves out for something more Belizeian would be the icing on the biotope correct cake.

Jeremy Gay

Very natural looking tank, plenty of hideouts for the fishes. The only problem is too fast breathing, which is quite surprising, because aquarium is not overstocked, and there seems to be nothing which could cause e.g. pH issues.

Piotr Kierzkowski

A wonderful composition, that indeed gives a perfect impression of a shoreline area in a Central American creek. It is structured well, a fine composition of species in a realistic setting. The growth of the algae on the branches, the floating plants, the arrangement of the wood and the stones were sensitively done and transporting a good spirit.

Anton Lamboj