Buce Buddies: Aquascaper Julio Casarez
Here at Buce Plant, we appreciate the work of all our fellow aquascapers. Our community has grown significantly the past few years, and we want to take the time to highlight those who have turned the aquascaping hobby into a passion. We are excited to learn more about our aquascaping community, and we know you are too! This is why our team will be featuring talented aquascapers here on Buce Blog. Introducing our first featured Buce Buddy, Julio Casarez (@jc_planted).
My name is Julio Casarez (@jc_planted). I am 29 years old and originally from San Antonio, Texas. I have been moving all around the U.S. for almost 9 years now, due to work, and have had the opportunity to live in Colorado, Hawaii, and Maryland, before landing back here in San Antonio this year. I got into the hobby back in 2013, when a buddy of mine in Colorado (shout out Teddy) introduced me to aquascaping. He gifted me a 3 gallon AIO tank, along with an Aquaillumination Nano. I had no idea what I was doing, but quickly fell in love with the endless amounts of plants at the local fish store. He gave me a quick rundown of the nitrogen cycle, and taught me about co2 injections. My first set up was simple, sand, ADA Amazonia, some water sprite, anubias, and an amazon sword. I kept that little tank until about 2016, when I made my move to Hawaii. I left the hobby during my time in Hawaii for about 3 years, and when I moved to Maryland, I started saving for a new setup. Once the pandemic started, it was game on. I was off of work for 3 months and had nothing but time.
My first setup - 3 gallon AIO tank
I started with an old 2 gallon hex tank that I randomly had in my garage, and stuck an Aqueon Planted LED light on it. I stayed cheap and tried out the dirted method, using organic potting soil with sand to cap it. I had a hand me down piece of broken bonsai wood, and decided to plant around it. This tank is what kicked off my Instagram account and became a favorite of mine. Simple, low tech, no filter, no ferts. The trick to maintaining a low tech tank is to always plant heavy from the beginning. This helps you achieve natural filtration, as well as naturally produced o2 and co2 for your plants and livestock. I stocked it with some neocaridina shrimp and guppy fry and just let it do its thing. Plant list for this one included, Mint Charlie, Bacopa Monnieri, Stargrass, and Red Root Floaters. For lighting, I eventually upgraded to the UNS x ONF Flat Nano.
My 2 gallon hex tank
Another friend of mine had started up an Instagram account (@trifecta__tanks) and talked me into starting one as well. How much the aquascaping community had grown, and all the new equipment I had been missing out on blew me away. One of the first accounts I found was Buce Plant, and that’s when I became extremely addicted. I was getting endless amounts of inspiration and knew I had to step my game up. The feedback I received on my first setup blew me away, and I quickly started upgrading my equipment. I went out and bought myself a 6 gallon Waterbox.
6 gallon Waterbox
I had not really learned about hardscape yet, and most of my early setups were plant heavy. When I got my Waterbox, it was no different. I went to Buce Plant for some lighting upgrades. I got myself a Twinstar 360E light for the new Waterbox, and a Dymax slim flo filter. The plants used in this tank were AR Mini, Ludwigia Super Red, Mint Charlie, Bacopa Monnieri, and Red Root Floaters. I used UNS Controsoil and a Pea Pebble mixture in the front, along with some Dragon Stone down the center. This tank was tons of fun, it was my first time diving into new aquatic plants again, and figuring out how to stabilize my parameters while injecting co2. II stocked it with Sparkling Gouramis, and some Orange Neocaridina Shrimp. These tanks were fun, until I had to move again.
Now that I am back in Texas, I have rescaped my 6 gallon and also got a new 4 gallon UNS Cube. Both are beginning with the Dry Start Method, using Dwarf Baby Tears in the 6, and E. Belem in the Cube. These two scapes were my first time really playing with hardscape. The 6 gallon features some smaller pieces of Seiryu Stone, with a piece of Spiderwood that will eventually have AR Mini, Bacopa Monnieri, and Pogostemon Stellatus planted around it. I also found a nice piece of Malaysian Driftwood to create a small cave that will have dwarf baby tears growing over it. For substrates, I chose UNS Controsoil and ADA Colorado Sand. For the cube, I went with Seiryu Stone, UNS Controsoil, and ADA Colorado Sand as well. The Dry Start Method just started, but I am planning on adding some Rotala Narrow Leaf sp. Red behind the main stone, and some Bucephalandra sprinkled in.
My goal for this year was to create with more hardscape, and that’s what these two new scapes represent. People always ask if I solely stick to nano tanks, and the answer is yes…for now. It’s almost been a year since getting back into the hobby, and I am constantly learning. My hope is to eventually move up to a 20 gallon, and then see where it goes from there.