For July's aquascaper in focus, I have chosen to interview another avid aquascaper from Hong Kong --Harry Kwong!
Name: Harry Kwong
Location: Hong Kong, China
Carlos: How did you become interested in the planted aquarium hobby How long have you been in the hobby? Harry: My interest in aquariums started with a birthday present for my little girl --a glass bowl of Colise Lalia --three years ago. I started just like most beginners, thinking that keeping an aquarium is not too difficult. However, after a certain number of fishes died, I became serious in this hobby. I then start searching on the net, finding a very helpful Hong Kong aquarium website and got lots of information, technique and knowledge there. In the beginning, my favor was in fishes, but I think fish will be very boring to live in an empty tank. Since then, I started my interest in planted aquaria. It has been over one year since my first successful planted tank,and it is one of the most challenging hobbies I have ever had and will surely keep it on.
Carlos: Could you please describe your the fertilization and maintenance routines you use on your various aquaria? What liquid and base fertilizer brands gives you the best results? How often are water changes performed, and how much? Harry: For people who don't know much about chemicals like me, I prefer to use brand fertilizers such as ADA, Tetra, Dupla etc so far, if I can afford. If you love your plants and tank, you better not to use cheap and unknown fertilizer since it may cause disaster in your tank. Usually I will use ADA Step 1 for new tank, Green Brighty Special for shade tank, ECA for color plants, KCL solution for all the tanks, TMG for mature tank; every month or two I will apply JAQNO -Flora Stick Pro near the roots. I do believe in dosing fertilizer every day instead of once a week. At least one third of water will be replaced every week.
Carlos: Most of your aquarium layouts show a distinct Chinese influence. How important are traditional Chinese art techniques in your layouts?From where do you draw your inspiration? Harry: In fact, frankly speaking, I didn't intend to show a distinct Chinese influence. However, in most of my layouts, I like to add some colored plants(red) among the green leaves. Red color in Chinese means joy, happiness, vitality, energy...etc. Hong Kong's culture is a mixture of Western and Eastern civilization, and more or less my ideas and concepts will unconsciously be influenced by Chinese Culture.
Carlos: What are you usually trying to recreate in your aquascapes? A natural or idealized landscape like a mountain range? A biotopic underwater scene like from a lake? Do you incorporate any particular aquascaping techniques frequently in your layouts to achieve the emotion or idea you are trying to convey? Harry: For me, I seldom dive under water, therefore it might be difficult for me to catch the feeling of an underwater scene. In my idea, underwater scenery is boring and disorderly. Therefore, I would rather like to create a natural aquascape imitating mountains, forest, beaches...etc, just like what we can see and feel everyday. In my opinion, to create a good piece of work you should catch the feeling first. That's why a good aquascaper will always love the nature.
Carlos: What are your main goals when setting up a new tank? Harry: For every new tank setting, I will treat it like a piece of art. My main goal is to make my idea come true and, in the end, take a good photo.
Carlos: Are there any tactics or techniques you use to make arrangement decisions in your designs? Do you use any guidelines or rules for wood or
rock placement? How about the use of colored plants? Do you place any special consideration on choosing the right fish for your layout? Harry: Before arranging and setting up the tank, I will usually have a layout in my mind (better to make a sketch). The most critical aspect is looking for suitable materials, such as stones, woods, plants...etc. I don't have many guidelines for wood or rocks only that they must look natural. In most of my works, I will put wood and rocks together in a tank because I love too see both elements in a tank. It is easier to create good perspective and structure this way. As I've said before, I like to have colorful plants among the green leaves which will bring out the contrast and focus. Schooling fish such as tetras and medium sized rainbow fish are my favorite. I will not choose fish that hide or large fish. The size of fish should also have to match with the proportion of the tank.
Carlos: What do you enjoy most about designing and creating aquariums in this hobby? Harry: Setting and maintaining a tank needs a lot of care, patience, persistence, enthusiasm and problem solving abilities. I enjoy the challenges and the overcoming of all difficulties until the tank is ready to take the photo. A good photo is the result of all my past hard work.
Carlos: What is in the horizon for you in terms of aquascaping? Are there any particular ideas you look forward to implementing in future arrangements? Do you feel that you have anything left to learn? Harry: In the future, I'll try different ways of aquascaping arrangement in different tank sizes. Also, I'm looking for technique of handling various types of plants in one tank. In the future, I'll try to design a set of "series tank", i.e. two or three individual tanks combine together to make one aquascape view. There are lots of things I need to learn, such as handling different types of plants; use of chemicals and fertilizers; different light sources for different plants....etc. There is no limit of learning and study in the aquarium hobby.
Carlos: Finally, is there any particular advice you would give to a hobbyist creating his first planted aquarium layout? Harry: For beginners, my advise is to search for information and learn. Nowadays, through the internet, we can find a lot of good works online, and we can ask questions that get answered, saving us a lot of time. Before starting an aquarium layout, we should study all the pants that will be placed in the tank: their growth behavior, light requirement, way of fertilizing...etc. Beginners are always trying to put all their favorite plants into their tank all at once. It may look good at the beginning, but after a certain short period, problems come, and they don't know how to handle it. Sometimes, too much failure will make people lost interest in this hobby. Try to make a simple tank, learn the way of planting. Once you can handle it, than start a more complex one. We should understand that aquascaping is not just as simple as mix and match. In fact, we are doing this with living organisms. It is a piece of living art. We have to follow things step by step and gain experience from failure. To improve our skill and technique, we should search more, read more, try more, and get closer to nature.
Carlos: Is there anything else you would like to say that wasn't asked in the questions stated above? Harry: Why do we love aquascaping? Because, basically, we are part of nature. Although we are living in an artificial concrete jungle, we long for getting in touch with our natural environment. Aquascaping will make people get closer to nature which helps us understand and love our world more deeply.
Title: Beach of Paradise
Dimensions: 60cmx22cmx30cm (24inx8.8inx12in)
Volume: 9g (40L)
Substrate: black sand, decoration white sand
Lighting: Philip Flourescent Tube 2x20w (3 wpg)
Plants: Microsorium pteropus 'Windelov', Microsorium pteropus 'Narrow Leaf', Microsorium pteropus, Anubias barteri var. nana, Anubias barteri var. angustiifolia, Anubias congensis, Anubias gracilis, Cryptocoryne x willisii, Cryptocoryne wendtii, Cryptocoryne wendtii 'Brown'
Fish: juvenile Bosemanii Rainbowfish (9)
Title: Aquarium Passion
Dimensions: 70x43x50cm (28x17x20in)
Volume: 33g (151L)
Substrate: ADA Aquasoil Amazonia
Plants: Rotala rotundifolia, Rotala indica, Rotala macrandra, Vesicularia spec, Hygrophila lacustris, Glossostigma elatinoides, Eusteralis stellata, Eusteralis sp., Hygrophila polysperma 'Rosanevirg', Didiplis diandra, Rotala sp., Heteranthera zosterifolia, Blyxa japonica, Blyxa echinosperma, Ludwigia palustris, Ludwigia arcuata, Ludwigia repens, Ludwigia sp. 'Cuba'
Fish: Bosemanii Rainbowfish, Praecox Rainbowfish, M. lacustris Rainbowfish, Apistogramma macmasteri, Paracheirodon axelrodi (Cardinal Tetra)
Title: Island of Green Serenade
Dimensions: 40x40x46cm (16x16x18in)
Volume: 17g (74L)
Substrate: ADA Aquasoil Amazonia, decoration white sand
Lighting: T5 9wx5 (2.65 wpg)
Plants: Java Fern, Java Fern 'Windelov', Narrow Leaf Java Fern, Bolbitus heudelotii, Vesicularia sp., Rotala indica, Anubias barteri var. nana, Anubias barteri var. nana 'Petite', Cryptocoryne wendtii 'Green', Echinodorus angustifolius, Didiplis diandra, Ludwigia repens, Cyperus helferi
Fish: H. herbertaxelrodi (Black Neon Tetra), H. pulchripinnis (Lemon Tetra), H. flammeus (Flame Tetra), Nannostomus marginatus (Dwarf Pencilfish), Labeo bicolor, Epalzeorhynchus kallopterus (Flying Fox)