This shop is, likely, one of the most interesting places you can visit in Rome and its surroundings. Its  owner, Costantino Orlandi is a long term – highly experienced – aquarium enthusiast (and so he’s much more than just another shop keeper) who, following hit personal taste, decided not to deal (do business) on the marine side of the hobby (on which I happen to agree, sorry George!). His shop is always crammed with high quality fishes (even though he mainly focuses on Central / South American fishes - to my surprise). When in need of a suggestion, looking for an “odd” fish or simply feeling the need to have a chat on fishes do NOT miss to visit BLU & VERDE. Costantino’s site – for evident reasons – is in Italian and here, under his permission (to use the his pictures and text), I translated an article to show you all of you how he works, enjoy his work and ask you not to miss a visit to his place if you ever come to Rome!

My swamp tank

This article as been published on n° 35 of italian magazine: "Il mio acquario" (My Aquarium) August 2001 by Sprea Editors – Milan (Italy).

Tanks of every kind and size are getting more and more common as time passes by. Very rarely does someone “dare” to make a (small) pond and very few go for a swamp tank to say the truth. Why? I really don’t know, but here I’d like to share with you how I built (simply and cheaply) my own swamp tank. First of all what is a “swamp tank”? It’s simply a tank (could it be different?!?!) with an area (above the water level) dedicated to epiphytic, swamp and terrestrial plants. It is a kind of  “integrated system” which is a bit more complicated (and “fussy” as far as its needs are concerned) to handle. My aim was to create a swamp tank dedicated (mainly) to  fish and plants from East Africa. Here we go:

The following pictures were taken while works were in progress:


The, self-made, tank had the dimensions of a rather big hobbyist tank measuring 100 x 40 x 60 cm, while the back “wall” was 2,4 meters high. It was supported by two alluminum rods fixed (by “stoppers screw”) on the wall. Cork “slices” are glued to the back-wall (mixed with randomly shaped flat ardesia rocks).  The whole construction was left to dry for 24 hours.

Pics while the artifact is drying


Light is provided by two HQL lamps (125 Watt each), one of them being dedicated to the aquarium while the second one is for the aerial part. A canister filter (water flow: 400 lt/hr) has been chosen along with a heating cable (100 Watt); at this regard consider the tank is located in my shop (in a conditioned environment, humidity level never lower than 60%). Despite the filter may look “under-sized” again, please, consider that, as it happens in “open air” ponds, a lot of nitrifying bacteria will settle in the heated bottom, thus helping the filter unit to handle wastes. Substrate is a mix of peat, silica sand, humus and powdered laterite with a thin layer of “brick-coloured” aquarium gravel as the top layer. The bottom has been aquascaped on two different levels.

Once the filter has been turned on the next step was to add the aquarium plants, using the “humid” way - filling the tank with as much water as is needed to cover the substrate and then adding the  plants in place according to a previously decided layout. This method will work if you know well the plants you’re going to add and allows you to  - easily – change your plans should anything go wrong (or, simply, you change your mind!). Only after this step is fnished and all plants are in place - the tank is filled with water. Since my target was an African creek I decided to go with the following plants: a fair amount of Anubias (nana, barteri, lanceolata, gracilis) plus some Bolbitis heudelotii (tied to the cork wall). In the aerial (above water level) area my choice has been: Tillandsia (an epiphytic plant with long fucsia flowers), two Phalaenopsis (orchids, different in colour), a Photos (Scindapsus aureus) with roots dipped into water, two (halves) coconut shells hosting a Croton (Codiadeum variegatum pictum) and a Maranta. I have had a lot of trouble with  Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum capillus veneris): the plant which was added at the very beginning of this "creation" just decided to go the other way and generate a new plant near the water surface in a more suitable (to actual plant’s needs) place! Last addition has been a small Madgascan “palm” (a Pachypodium sp., which actually is a succulent plant endemic to Madagascar, and not a palm!)

And now, last but not least, the fishes: 2 Panthodon buchholzi (aka Butterly fish) a group of 20 Phenacogrammus interruptus (Congo Tetra), a pair of Pelvicachromis pulcher (the well-known kribs: they spawned many times) while the cleaning duty is performed by two Synodontis nigriventris, (up-side down syno).

Now, let's discuss how I take care of this tank: I feed the fish twice a day (using a number of different foods) while the aerial/epiphytic plants undergo a “misting” once a day (with a water mix containing 30% R.O water). Water changes – 50% of the entire water volume – are performed every two weeks. Filter is serviced only when clogging is visible (i.e. reduced flow!), and the gravel is NEVER cleaned.  For this purpose a small grain substrate is used to prevent dirt being trapped and, at the same time, allowing bacteria to thrive. As a conclusion, this tank is a challenge for all of us involved (also in gardening since almost all kind of plants can be kept along the “pool”), and do not forget that roots falling into the water help to keep nitrates under control.


Costantino Orlandi’s shop is:

BLU & VERDE s.r.l.           
·        Via Aurelia Km 43,400- Cerenova 00050 (RM)

·        Phone/Fax 06-99326272

·        Opening (all year long) hours:    AM 9.00 - 13.30 PM 16.30 - 20.00

Sunday AM 10.00 - 13.00    
Closed on thuesday afternoon

English spoken

So far so good. I agree on almost all the ideas Costantino has put in place (and appreciated most of his tips) while building/running this tank (btw: the idea of setting up my own swamp tank – even if it’s way smaller – originated from his work) but it is needless to say that the best evidence this tank is CORRECTLY KEPT comes from its own appearance!


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