The video above is a lovely (I hope) look at Rachel O’Leary’s famous 150 gallon Hillstream aquarium. Below are all the specifics I didn’t include in the video. From the tank size to the hardscape to the fish and plants that call this ecosystem home. I hope you find it helpful!
The Aquarium is a 150 gallon is a behemoth. It measures 72 inches across, 18 inches in width, and 28 inches deep. That means it tips the scales at more than 2000 pounds (stone included. With just water it clocks in closer to 1800 lbs).
The hardscape of this tank is made up of river stones collected locally in Pennsylvania, and broken down to size. You can see the whole process of creating the rock hardscape here. When collecting rocks yourself, it’s important to make sure you do so legally and ethically—don’t destroy the environment for our hobby and don’t break your local laws on collecting.
In addition to the rockwork, there is an extensive Manzanita wood structure in the tank. I’d recommend purchasing this wood in person from a local provider so you get the texture and shape you’re after.
Rachel used Caribsea Super Natruals Rio Grande as the substrate in her aquarium. I’ve also use this inert substrate in one of my aquariums. It holds up wonderfully and feels quite natural. But it doesn’t provide and fertilization, buffering capacity, or nutrients of any kinds. It’s literally just small bits of rock. That’s great for lots of tank styles, but it will make growing nutrient-greedy plant’s tough. That’s one of the reasons why Rachel’s tank is made up of plants that mainly get their nutrients directly from the water column.
The Plant Fertilizers:
None. Rachel doesn’t dose anything in this aquarium and doesn’t even add root tabs. All the nutrients in this tank come from fish waste and uneaten organics.
The lighting on this tank is interesting. It’s not something you can buy off the rack…at least not entirely. Much of the light in this tank is provided by a Fluval High Output T5 Fixture. But in addition, Rachel has created a DIY shop light to add additional light and keep the aufwuchs (algae growth on rocks) going.
Rachel has customized a Fluval FX5 for this tank. Instead of using the stock inflow and outflow bar, she custom built a new system using PVC piping. The system exploits a type of filtration called a Matten Filter—basically a large sheet of foam within the tank which provides mechanical filtration and a home for beneficial bacteria. Rachel uses foam distributed by Swiss Tropicals and it’s a relatively low-cost way of providing incredible filtration as long as you;re comfortable having the foam visible within your tank (Note: You can disguise the foam by coating it in moss or rhizomed plant like Java Fern).
The tank is filled with an variety of plants. They include Anubias petite, Anubias nana, Anubias barteri, a variety of Buce, African Water Fern, and a mix of mosses.