A last hoorah. Just had to sneak in this last interview.
Name: Tony Gomez
Location: Irvine, California
Carlos: How did you become interested in the planted aquarium hobby? How long have you been in the hobby? Tony: Back around March of 2003 the wife and I talked about getting a fish tank for our apartment to spice up the décor. About a month later this little tank was realized with a Petsmart 29g setup. After “cycling” it for about a week, the wife then wanted some plants, so we went to an LFS and picked up Ludwigia repens, Ludwigia glandulosa, Cabomba Caroliniaa and some bog plant. Slowly watching these plants melt away under the 18watt bulb got reading quite a bit online. ...this very shortly lead to a extremely steep learning curve with a 3.8wpg AHSupply set with pH controlled CO2 and DIY ferts. Everything went down hill from there ..muahahaha Very Happy
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? Tony: When I started out, I would test out pH, N, P and Fe about 3 times a week. I would then dose accordingly with DIY fertilizers (pretty much what you would find at www.gregwatson.com). I would also perform weekly 50% water changes with the good ol bucket. Much has changed since then. I now no longer test on ANY of my 4 tanks unless I see signs of nutrient deficiencies or algae. Fertilizer dosing is now sometimes like the estimative index, sometimes just random ( ie…”hmmm..lets try dumping in 2ppm PO4 this week”), and other times I keep the tank really lean. I have even toyed around with the SeaChem ferts on a smaller low light tank. As for water changes, It isn’t routine anymore either. Usually it is weekly, but sometimes it will be every 2-3 weeks. Even with this seamlingly insane dosing I do not have ANY issues with algae once the tank is established (the exception is my algae scape tank which is always like walking on a razor to keep one algae and not another). There are two things here that I think is a MAJOR factor for my success with this (lack of) routine. 1) CONSISTANT CO2 2)well established tanks with plenty of plants
Carlos: How would you describe your aquascaping style? From where do you draw your inspiration? How has Takashi Amano, for example, influenced your work and your style? Tony: While I do not brave the creativity levels of some others such as Ricky Cain’s “Island”, I do try and play with new ideas and try and incorporate them with the old. As for styles, I have played a little bit with all of them. My 29g definitely had a Dutch flavor while my 30g and the nano were definitely influenced by Takashi Amano. A new tank I am working on will end up having a Taiwanese influence.
I am still pretty new in the scheme of things so I try and tinker with a little bit of everything to find out what I am good at and what still needs work. I will say that I will tend to favor Amano’s style tanks over the others...at least at for now.
Carlos: In contrast to your first layout, your latest two layouts contain no red plants and focus more on vibrant greens and branchy driftwood arrangements. Is there any particular reason why? Tony: The 29g being my first tank fell victim to collectoritus. Anything I could get my hands on ended up in that tank. Over time, I learned the personalities of various plants and my desire to collect shifted to properly scaping the tank. The 30g and the nano were started after the collectoritus stage and never fell victim to that. The 30g was intended to be a much lower maintenance tank that I could actually enjoy instead of pruning weekly to maintain a look. This tank was actually inspired directly from one of Amano’s tanks. The nano tank was the product of a challenge: how small of a tank could I successfully scape. This pretty much dictated the plant choice and I didn’t find room in my mind for red plants here (I do all my scaping in my head first). Unfortunately this tank succumbed to SMF (Spousal Maintenance Factor). While at AGA, this tank was MASSIVELY overdosed with Seachem Excel and unfortunately never fully grew out.
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? Tony: This is really hard for me to answer because all of my tanks have different goals from a “recreation” standpoint. The 29g was to see if I could harmoniously compose a scape of all sorts of colors and textures. The 30g...well, that I am not sure. I got some wood and just started playing around with all sorts of arrangements. Once I was happy with wood placement, everything just filled in. The nano, I was just trying to use the typical aquascaping elements in a very small space. I have yet to try to recreate any natural or idealized landscape or a biotope, but I can tell you that I definitely want to try those.
Carlos: What are your main goals when setting up a new tank? Tony: All of my aquascapes (with the exception of the 29g) start with some sort of mental image of the final product. My goal is to realize that image. Sometimes however, my plants tell me they want to do something else, so I listen to them.
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? Tony: There are a few tactics that I seem to stick with. I “try” to stick with the golden ratio. Sometimes it is expressed with placement of plants, sometimes it is the placement of negative space and other times it is the division of boundaries. Most of the time I don’t think too hard about it, but the tank ends up with some golden character. It is more of a feel than it is a formula. With color, you need to have some sort of blending going on. A green tank with a bunch of glandulosa just isn’t going to cut it unless you are trying to be all artys-fartsy. Leaf texture is something I work hard on varying; color isn’t the only thing we have on our pallet. As for fish, I do not design around them. Fish just become inhabitants. Unlike some others, I will not return/sell of some fish just because they do not work with my aquascape. When I do have a new tank with no fish already in there, I will spend some time thinking about the general feel I want the fish to have but this will not end up limiting me to just one “ideal” fish.
Carlos: What do you enjoy most about designing and creating aquariums in this hobby? Tony: Well...the designing and creating part Being able to say “I did that” always makes me feel good.
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? Tony: I still have so many things I want to do in the hobby. So many ideas to try with never enough tanks (that my wife will allow Wink). I can tell you that in the immediate future, a Taiwanese tank, and a very Amano-esque tank will materialize. I will try to do some hardscaping with rock in there. By try, I mean being successful at it. Rocks are probably my weakest point. While I think I have a good handle on wood and plants, I still have plenty to learn. Only a fool would say they have nothing else to learn.
Carlos: Finally, is there any particular advice you would give to a hobbyist creating his first planted aquarium layout? Tony: I think I’d like to just start listing out some thoughts here …which are more like lessons I have learned the hard way Wink
1) Dose ferts lightly in the beginning
2) Visualize the tank grown in, as your tank will look considerably different in a few months.
3) If you think you have enough plants at the beginning, add some more. You can avoid lots of algae issues by over planting and removing unwanted plants as the tank stabilizes.
4) If you are using CO2, keep the levels up and keep them consistent
5) SAEs WILL eat some types of plants so plan accordingly.
6) Do not be afraid to ask for opinions on your tank.
7) If this hobby starts feeling like a chore, re-think what you are doing. For me, it was investing in a DIY Python and not having a bazillion stem plants in a high light high CO2 tank. This is supposed to be relaxing and fun. Enjoy it!
Dimensions: 30x12 x18in (76x30x46cm)
Volume: 29g (110L)
Title: Dance of the Danios
Lighting: 2x55w AH Supply setup
Plants: Rotala rotundifolia, Diplidis diandra, Ludwigia glandulosa, Limnophila aromatica, Ludwigia repens, Heteranthera zosteraefolia, Hemianthus micranthemoides, Anubias nana, Glossostigma elatinoides
Fish: Poecilia latipinna, Otocinclus sp., Brachydanio rerio, Neocaridina denticulata, Caridina japonica, Neocaridina sp. ‘malayan’
Dimensions: 20x18x20in (51x46x51cm)
Volume: 30g (113L)
Title: Under the Pale Moonlight
Lighting: 2x36w AH Supply setup
Plants: Cryptocoryne lucens, Cryptocoryne retrospiralis, Marsilea minuta, Anubias nana, Cladophora sp.
Fish: Rasbora dorsiocellata, Trichopsis pumilus, Crossocheilus siamensis, Otocinclus affinis, Caridina japonica, Neocaridina denticulata
Dimensions: 6x6x6in (14x14x15cm)
Volume: 1g (3L)
Title: A Slice of Ethereal Pie
Lighting: 7x1w Luxeon LED Lighting
Plants: Hemianthus callitrichoides 'cuba', Hemianthus micranthemoides, Anubias nana 'petite', taiwan moss
Fish: Neocaridina denticulata