Aquascaper in Focus (February 2006)- Norbert Sabat

By: MiamiAG
January 28th, 2006
7:13 am

Aquascaper in Focus (February 2006)- Norbert Sabat


This month's Aquascaper in Focus is Norbert Sabat!

This month's Aquascaper in Focus is none other than our very own Norbert!


Norbert, thanks for agreeing to be this month's Aquascaper in Focus! Lets start off with me asking you to tell us a little bit about yourself.

I live in Warsaw (Poland), I am 27 years old and I work as an architectural engineer. Everyday I work in an office where I am busy with architectural projects - boring work, which does not really seem to interest me. I went to school at Warsaw University of Technology but I never really finished everything (probably one day). I always liked drawing, I also loved comics (Marvel, DC etc), I also entered a few "molding" contests but after high school I lost interest. I listen to all types of music but my favorite is hip-hop.

Tell us, how did you become interested in the planted aquarium hobby? How long have you been in the hobby?

Honestly, I never really treated the planted aquarium hobby very seriously but there was something that always pulled me towards it. I had my first aquarium in my childhood that my father took care of. Later on I took a break from fishkeeping for 12-13 years up until 2002 when my sister received a goldfish in a fish bowl from her friends on her 18th birthday. For some reason, I started to take care of that fish by changing the water every 2-3 months, feeding it, etc. It wasn’t a large responsibility but for many aquarists (although nobody will admit to it) it all started with just a goldfish or a Siamese fighting fish in a small cup.

In the summer of 2003 something pushed me to buy the poor goldfish a regular rectangular aquarium. Unfortunately, the goldfish was not too happy in its new home so it was soon moved back to the fish bowl but new fish went into the aquarium (Neons, Rams and Corydoras). It was a classic beginner tank as it was overstocked, under filtered, low light, and very poorly planted. At that point I was not even thinking of a planted fish tank, to tell you the truth. I never even knew that planted aquariums even existed!

Everything changed in the Fall of 2003 when I got hooked up to the internet and started to learn about this hobby. One day I surfed to a site that had pictures of planted tanks (Amano style and Dutch style) and it left a deep impact on me. At that point, I thought that in order to create a fish tank of that magnitude you needed an unbelievable amount of determination and knowledge (plus I thought that people that created these tanks were from another world).

My passion grew larger and in January 2004 I started a 100x40x45 cm tank. Over the next few months my fascination with Japanese planted tanks grew very rapidly. As a result, in April 2004 I changed my fish tank over to a planted tank (I installed more lights, Co2, started to fertilize etc). This is how it basically started for me. As you can see, I have only been in the plant hobby for less than two years. Oh yeah! The goldfish has moved from the bowl into a regular 40-liter aquarium that has been his home for almost a year.

From where do you draw the inspiration for your aquascapes?

This is probably going to sound weird or too general but my inspiration comes from nature itself where I am constantly searching for themes for my tank arrangements. “Searching” might be too strong of a word since 99.9% of my ideas come by accident -- sitting on a park bench looking at a clump of grass under my feet. I am a rather quiet and reserved person so that is why I love to take walks by myself where I think a lot. Very often looking at a fragment of nature (bushes by the pond, certain rock arrangements), I imagine how I can create something like that in an aquarium and what kind of plants to use in that particular aquascape.



Do you follow any particular aquascaping style?

My favorite tanks are in the “nature aquarium” style, especially works by Takashi Amano (only from the last 7-10 years though as the older ones don’t appeal to me), where there is a lot of artistic work. I don’t only like one particular type of arrangement but I rather equally like rockscapes as I do branches and root layouts. “Dutch Style” layouts do not touch me that much anymore as such glamour and splendor does not appeal to me. It actually reminds me of unnatural scapes, unnatural French gardens or French poodles (basically nothing that can occur in nature). As I was observing the last results in the ADA competition I can safely say that the “nature” themes are evolving into abstract offshoots. Although they did not all display a true natural picture, it was closer to my aesthetic tastes than Dutch layouts.

[break]

What are your main goals when setting up a new tank?
What do you enjoy most about designing and creating aquariums in this hobby?

The basic rule is to have fun. I do not think too much on the arrangement. In other words, it is not my intention to use it to reveal some type of truth about life, emotions or my personal philosophies. To me, aquascaping is similar to painting- I take an empty canvas and paint whatever comes to my mind. When I finish my painting (plant/rock arrangement), I simply put it away on the shelf (i.e., I make a final picture) and take another empty canvas (i.e., I start another arrangement from zero).

I believe that in order to develop ourselves we must do new things, face new challenges because if we do not, we will not progress. Without challenging ourselves, we can take one decade to work on our planted aquarium yet our arrangement will still look the same way as it did ten years ago. Practice is the basis. For me, designing plant aquariums (the first day and the first two months) is more interesting than possessing the aquarium. There is nothing more fascinating than creating an underwater garden, the stages after that are boring for me. Of course I like to marvel over the final product but if I was to look at the same arrangement over six months or a whole year I think I would go crazy !

When I position the aquarium I do not pay attention to whether or not it is in harmony with the environment because my room is too small to worry about that. When I have my own home I am sure I will take that into consideration. Up to this point my arrangements follow one basic rule: minimalism of plant types, that is why I use just 2-6 types planted in large groups. Also, I never pay attention to the chemical aspect of this hobby. One time I tried to examine the hidden processes that occur in an aquarium (absorption of nutrients, concentration of chemical compounds, etc.) but I came to the conclusion that it is not worth my aggravation. I prefer to use a moderate lighting range of 1.5-2.5 watts per gallon, therefore, I do not have to struggle to keep the aquarium in good condition. I always rely on my eyes and intuition more than testing. I prefer to play a gardener rather than a home chemist .
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?

I think I am not using (at least consciously) any rules in arranging rocks/wood and plants. I am an architectural engineer and have developed a good spatial sense. I painted for many years (supposedly I was not bad at it) so some aspects are obvious to me. When looking at an arrangement of rocks, I simply see what is wrong, I can predict how some characteristic line of arrangement will look when the plants will be grown. I can see proportions between the given elements. I do not think in the least that my aquariums are without flaws (quite the contrary) but many things come to me without any effort. I do not have to follow any rule of arranging three rocks in a “golden partition” because those rules are as instinctive as breathing to me.

My last arrangements of small aquariums (48 and 44 L) were done spontaneously. Generally I knew what I wanted to do (for example, I told myself that I want to do iwagumi withmoss) but when I took the first rock in my hand, the rest was done without thinking. However, it can be said that all of my arrangements were different from the ones I arranged in my mind before I began the work.



How about the use of colored plants?

I try to avoid colored plants (meaning other than green). Up to this point my arrangements have been uniform except my one 180L aquarium had orange accents. Therefore, I cannot tell you much on this topic. I like small colored accents in the central and back area of the aquascape (e.g., the group rotala wallichii is often used) but I do not like aquariums where color is dominant.

Do you place any special consideration on choosing the right fish for your layout?

Not really. Of course fish are important, they add life to the aquariums but for me fish are just an accessory and upon changing the arrangement I remove them without any regret. Some may call me insensitive but that is the way I am. If I were to become attached to a fish it would be to some larger fish but not to some brainless school of fish such as the neon tetras. Up to this point I have tried to select the smallest fish possible to make my aquarium visually appear larger…
[break]
I’m always fascinated with your aquarium backgrounds. In your pictures, they seem to resemble the far away horizon. How do you get that look?

I’m always experimenting with new types of lighting for the background. Usually I use a white piece of cardboard positioned 5-10cm behind the aquarium where I shine a light from the top. This type of setup lets me take pictures where the surface of the water (in rear) is not noticeable. Additionally, this type of background along with lighting from the top creates a shadowing effect on the lower part of the background so it makes the tank seem deeper. Generally, I think that adding a great amount of light for the background gives better photos. I try to be very open to new ideas so I experiment with new colors instead of the classic blacks and blues (I think it is very difficult for some people to stop using those colors).





[break]
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?

It’s hard to tell what the future brings. Due to a lack of time, I took apart all of my planted tanks except for one biotope 44 liter with Apistos. I just think that I need a little break so I can catch my breath and look with fresh eyes at aquascaping. One reason being is that I was somewhat “bored” of my last aquascapes, where I was looking at the environment but I was not satisfied with the results. I was not able to trick myself into believing that small tanks can be just as passionate as large ones. I think that I learned enough to create any type of arrangement so for now I will just perfect the tools of the trade and concentrate on the artistic aspect. Like I said before, my aquascapes are pretty simple; in the future (if I set up another planted tank) I will concentrate on the smaller details and larger variety of plants. My biggest calling will be a tank with HQI lighting in the range of 3-3.5WPG. I was always afraid of a strong light like that and I always thought that it was not necessary to have a beautiful tank.

Finally, is there any particular advice you would give to a hobbyist creating his first planted aquarium layout?

Look at as many pictures of tanks as possible, analyze the arrangements and plant selections so you can see for yourself where a specific plant should be placed, how it grows etc. If you want you can just copy other aquascapes (only the best ones). Some may critique you for it but it’s a good lesson for you. Never begin with really strong light so if you have no experience stay away from the 2.5-3.5WPG range as all you will have is problems. Constantly practice with your arrangements and remember one thing, “Rome was not built in one day”.

I would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak about this hobby and Kamil for translating it.


All photos are protected by international copyright law and owned by Norbert Sabat

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Carbon in the Planted Aquarium

By: MiamiAG
January 8th, 2006
8:05 am

Carbon in the Planted Aquarium

Carbon is the backbone of all life. Every organic molecule of every living organism is predominantly carbon based. Given this simple fact, it becomes clear why carbon plays a pivotal role in the planted aquarium. Aquatic plants extract CO2 (carbon dioxide) from their environment and employ it in a process called photosynthesis. Photosynthesis combines CO2, water and light energy to produce simple carbohydrates and oxygen (O2) (see Figure 1). The first and simplest carbohydrate produced from photosynthesis is 3-phosphoglycerate. It is from this simple molecule that larger and more complex carbohydrates arise (by way of a variety of enzymatic processes).



Growth rates of aquatic plants are strongly correlated1 with availability of carbon and the plant’s affinity for carbon uptake. Studies1 have shown that plants with the greatest carbon affinity have the greatest growth rates, whereas those with lower carbon affinity have correspondingly slower growth rates. Because carbon availability is normally the limiting factor to growth, addition of CO2 to a planted aquarium will always result in large increases in growth (assuming other critical elements are not lacking). Without additional CO2 the growth rate will be dependent on the rate at which atmospheric CO2 equilibrates into the water. CO2 will dissolve into CO2–free water to a degree that is dependent on the air pressure, temperature, pH and bicarbonate/carbonate content of the water. The final concentration of CO2 in the water depends entirely on those factors. Once that concentration is achieved the level of CO2 will not change unless the plants remove it or one of the other factors is altered. Plants remove CO2 at a rate much greater than the rate at which it equilibrates into the water. So at the height of CO2 utilization the plants limit their own growth by using up all available CO2. Because CO2 is an integral component of the bicarbonate buffer system a drop in CO2 will necessarily result in a rise in pH. As the pH increases the influx of additional atmospheric CO2 will be diminished by its conversion to bicarbonate. This is offset somewhat by hard water plants that can utilize bicarbonate directly. However, without routine water changes or buffer additions (Alkaline Buffer™ or Liquid Alkaline Buffer™) this path will eventually lead to complete depletion of the KH (carbonate hardness) which will result in dramatic pH swings from day to night (5.7 – 9.6).1

CO2 injection bypasses this predicament by delivering a constant source of CO2. Because the introduction of CO2 will lower pH one has two options: (1) Monitor and calibrate the rate of CO2 addition to precisely match the usage by the plants or (2) use a pH feedback metering system. (2) is ideal because as the pH falls below a certain point the CO2 turns off, thus avoiding catastrophic pH drops.

If one is not quite ready for the initial investment in a CO2 injection system but would still like to enjoy some of the benefits of adding additional carbon there is an alternative: Flourish Excel™. Flourish Excel™ provides a simple organic carbon molecule (similar to what is described above in the photosynthesis discussion) that plants can use as a building block for more complex carbohydrates. Because Flourish Excel™ is an organic carbon source it does not impact pH.

The chemical structure of Flourish Excel™ is quite similar to some of the products of photosynthesis (see Figure 2) such as Ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate and 2’-carboxy-3-keto-D-arabinitol 1,5 bisphosphate. Flourish Excel™ possesses the same basic 5-carbon chain seen in these molecules.



The route through which Flourish Excel™ is used by plants involves two main processes: a) adsorption and b) transformation. Because the active component of Flourish Excel™ (see Figure 2, polycycloglutaracetal) is charge neutral and of relatively low molecular weight it is readily adsorbed directly across the cellular membranes of most plants. Once present within the cell there are two possible modes of action. It may be biologically converted into CO2 and then utilized in that fashion. Or, it may be converted into any number of more complex organic compounds needed for the life processes of the plant (e.g. sugars, starch, amino acids, etc). These conversions (in either mode of action) are mediated by any of a variety of enzymes present (oxygenases, carboxylases, phosphorylases, etc). In order to determine the precise mechanism (i.e. down-conversion to CO2, or up-conversion to longer chains) further studies involving radioactive C14 tracers would be necessary. However, with that said, our studies to date show that Flourish Excel™ imparts a measurable, quantitative growth benefit to plants. Thus, it is clear that the plants are utilizing the Flourish Excel™.



Our research has shown that Flourish Excel™ imparts not only a clear qualitative increase in plant health and vitality but also a clearly measurable increase in growth. Recent studies (see Figure 3) have shown growth enhancements using Flourish Excel™ that range from 200% - 500% (growth above normal growth seen without Flourish Excel™). These are only preliminary results of a currently ongoing study aimed at determining more precisely the relative growth response to Flourish Excel™ in comparison to a standard control and a CO2 based control. The anecdotal evidence to date suggests that CO2 injection will promote growth enhancements above the growth enhancements seen with Flourish Excel™ alone. However, one can still obtain a cumulative benefit by using Flourish Excel™ in conjunction with CO2 as the two work quite well together.


1. Walstad, Diana, Ecology of the Planted Aquarium, Echinodorus Publishing, 1999, pp. 94-97.

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Dutch Aquascaping Basics (overview)

By: tsunami
December 31st, 2005
11:15 am

Dutch Aquascaping Basics (overview)

The Dutch were among the first to become interested in planted aquariums, growing plants successfully since at least the 1940s. The NBAT, the Dutch Aquarium Society, began to host annual competitions with certain guidelines on how tanks were supposed to look like. With the implementation of a set of rules, contestants began to style their tanks accordingly. A style began to take shape.


A Dutch layout from the 1980s.

The hallmark of this style is the tight, manicured look of the bunch plants. Plants are neatly organized into rows which gain height from front to back. Ideally, up to three kinds of plants are used per foot of the aquarium so a four foot tank (48 inches) should ideally have no more than twelve species. Stem plants are carefully chosen for their growth rates as well so as to keep the shape of the 'streets' as low maintenance as possible --hence the use of lobelia and Saururus cernuus is very popular.

Plants should be organized so as to provide maximum contrast in color and leaf shape/size with their neighbors. Colors can include light green, dark greens, browns, reds, pinks, and purples. Small leaved Hemianthus micranthemoides vs large leaved sword plants, round Bacopa caroliniana leaves vs the slender leaves of Ammania gracilis, etc. These neatly organized plants should be arranged and built around the focal point(s) of the tank. Aquariums should have no more than two focal points, usually placed 1/3rd or 2/3rds the length of the tank (rule of thirds).


A Dutch layout from 2001-2002.

Some important considerations are that features in the back of the tank should never catch the eye (no red plants in the back) so as to provide more depth. Also, the tank is usually viewable only from one side. The back wall and sides should be concealed and look as natural as possible, usually with the use of mosses and java fern. They created the first moss walls. Another consideration is that the variety of decoration used should be as minimal as possible, similar to what Amano advocates. Don't use various kinds of rocks or various kinds of wood in a tank --stick to one kind only.

Typical plant choices:
Rotala indica
Lobelia cardinalis
Limnophila aquatica
Bacopa caroliniana
Alternanthera reineckii
Java moss
Ammania gracilis
Hygrophila corymbosa v stricta
Hygrophila difformis
Saururus cernuus
Hydrocotyle leucocephala
Didiplis diandra
Rotala macrandra
Vallisneria sp
Echinodorus 'Ozelot'

Fish play a very important part in this style as well. The bottom, middle, and top zones of a tank should be filled with fish to make each area interesting to the viewer. All fish species should be different in shape, color, and size, but the least number of species possible should be used to fill all niches in the tank (so no blue rams in a tank with kribensis, or silver hatchetfish with marbled hatchetfish, etc). A group of larger fish such as angelfish or congo tetras is always appreciated. Schools must be as large as possible.

The appearance of the aquarium in a living room was also critical, usually having the aquarium as being the main piece of decoration. Custom cabinetry incorporating the aquarium into the wall is very popular due to the small size of the rooms. A metal stand or any hardware showing in the living room would be unthinkable.

Lastly, typical technical specs of a Dutch Aquarium:
Tank sizes range from 90 gallons to 300 gallons
Lighting: 1.8 wpg to 2.0 wpg, kelvin ratings are very low (5000k seems to be the norm)
Nitrate tends to be above 10 ppm
Phosphates tend to be low (near zero)
Plant species choice ranges from 12-19
Fish species selection ranges from 5-7

Carlos

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An interview with Li Qi Rui (Jerry), November 2004

By: tsunami
December 30th, 2005
9:33 pm

An interview with Li Qi Rui (Jerry), November 2004

Before I say anything else, I would like to extend a warm 'thank you' to SurWrathful (Paul) for communicating with Jerry and translating their discussion back into English.

Name: Li Qi Rui
Location: Taiwan
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Carlos: How did you become interested in the planted aquarium hobby? How long have you been in the hobby?

Li Qi Rui (Jerry): The first time I ever laid eyes on a planted tank was when I was in college. I became mesmerized by the entire photosynthetic process of the plants in the tank, coupled with the active pearlings from their leaves. This stemmed my interest in this hobby. At first, I didn’t pay too much attention to the aquascaping; I was merely interested in the plants’ photosynthesis. I started with a 45cm tank, with my first ever plant being the Monosolenium tenerum, which was my favorite. Accompanying it was Hygrophila stricta. Of course this didn’t really constitute an aquascape. Also, filtration was done using a very simple powerhead while CO2 was made using disposable formulas. After several days, the Monosolenium tenerum finally pearled. This was such an exciting thing for me to first witness such an event. From this point on, I began the starting point of a four-year long hobby in aquascaping. As well, my choice of tanks became bigger and bigger, along with my knowledge of aquatic plants and aquascaping techniques. Most of what I’ve learned came from chattings with fellow aquarium hobbyists and internet forums. Most importantly, my experience came from my willingness to experiment new things.

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? Your plants are incredibly vibrant and healthy by any standards.

Li Qi Rui (Jerry):An example of how I maintain my tanks as well as their husbandries:
Size:90X48X50(cm^3)
Lighting system: ADA 903X2(NA 32WX6)~10hr/day
Substrate: Brustman, RMC Aquarium Sand, ADA Iron Bottom, Brustman liquid fert.
CO2: 2.5kg(approx~5lbs)aluminum tank, ADA Pollen Glass Beetle 40D, 3bubbles/sec
Filtration: Hydro 30 Filter, Brustman white cotton(I think he meant sponge), Brustman
activated carbon
My daily routine involves lighting the tank for ten hours. CO2 injection will turn on and off according to the lighting period. Water change is done 2-3 times weekly, and each time I change about two-third of it. When setting up a new tank, I do not dose any fert for the first three days. I will begin dosing only in the fourth day, using liquid ferts and iron-rich ferts; approximately 8-10 drops daily. In my filter, I only use the activated carbon and sponge inserts; I do not use any other media. When I first started I did try to use ceramic ring and silica inserts, but I realized this didn’t really fit in with my schedule. Then I learned to just use the sponge and carbon inserts, which were adequate to grow beneficial bacteria and achieve the filtration purpose. I clean the filter about once every two to three months; I change everything. At this time I need not worry about losing those bacteria because they would’ve established enough colonies in the tank. In terms of temperature I think 68-77F is the optimal range to grow beautiful plants. Even after pruning, the plants’ growing speed is still very strong. Therefore, I feel this is really a very nice range of temperature. My philosophy is to constantly observe what goes on in the tank in order to make any necessary assessment and adjustment. This is such an important point to consider in aquascaping.


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?

Li Qi Rui (Jerry): In Taiwan, aquascaping styles fall into several categories; from the Dutch to Euro-American, to Japanese(aka Natural), to Chinese style. Essentially, these styles all originated from the famous tanks all over the world, from different countries. Personally, my own influence has been from Takashi Amano’s Natural style. I was captivated by his works when I saw his book. Even if not everyone appreciates his style, Takashi Amano really influenced me tremendously. I learned a great deal from reading his books and from many of ADA’s works on-line. I also agree strongly to search for inspirations in nature. I myself am a visual designer, so I also have a very keen sense of aesthetics. Gradually I realized that art and aesthetics originated from the nature. Therefore, nature has always been the source of artistic inspiration and creation. Consequently, aquascaping should also be natural. A good aquascape is one that which recreates nature. In actuality, this is but a form of imitation; nature is the foundation of motivation. An aquascapist’s own expression of such motivation can then be coupled with personal emotions and ideas. As a result, the more you observe from the nature, the more you will discover its many aesthetic expressions.

Carlos:You seem to use many of the same plants in each of your aquascapes. Is there any reason why you have chosen to use these plants almost exclusively over all others?

Li Qi Rui (Jerry): Ever since I learned how to aquascape, red and green varieties of Rotala rotundifolia have been my favorites. Couple those with Glossostigma, Nesaea triflora, and Halophila ovalis have become my most beloved plant combination to use. I especially like the Rotala rotundifolia’s bushiness and appearance under the light. I think there are no plants that can replace its place and quality. My choice of other plants are solely based on their color combinations and bush-like qualities. Halophila and Anubias nana I use to make visual divisions in order to gauge in the entire aquascaping direction. Therefore, my choice of plants are more often based on how I want to create an aquascape.

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?

Li Qi Rui (Jerry): I prefer recreating natural sceneries. I never try to imitate a particular scene underwater or artificial human ideas. I often use high lighting plants, and this has some reason to do with my interest with pearling during photosynthesis. For hardscaping I prefer using both woods and rocks; each of which presents a different sense of quality, but all are very natural. We can see this from many of Takashi Amano’s tanks; there are many beautiful tanks that utilize rocks or woods. You can do many things with these two things. I often want to infuse all my ideas into one tank, but like I said I only have one. So I can only choose one idea. That’s why I think if you are always in creative mode then you should not be afraid to learn to show it off.

Carlos: What are your main goals when setting up a new tank?

Li Qi Rui (Jerry): Normally when I create something I would ask myself what kind of theme I would like to express. What kind of theme would evoke a sense of accomplishment and joy when you create an aquascape. Once you know what you want to do then you can go search for the proper ingredients. You should of course try to find these things as quickly as you can, or find something that can replace it. Rocks, woods, and plants are all like this. I would follow my own desires to start a project; from setting up a tank to finishing up an aquascape; step by step. I think the most difficult thing about it all is to gradually find that right condition to maintain the tank in for photography. A tank might only be in its most excellent condition for just one week. After this, you might not be able to capture that same condition again. As a result, the only thing you can do is to create the next best condition for photography; that, to me, is life’s beauty.

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?

Li Qi Rui (Jerry): A scene utilizing rocks is totally different from a scene using woods. The only similarity between the two is that both are used as the hardscape. Rocks should not be too drab and flat. Rock hardscaping should express a sense of depth and power, while wood hardscaping should express forests winding and turning. Many books and internet teaching tools talk about these ideas. Basically, these are all part of artistic and design concepts. Aquascaping is like an artistic creation or designing art; one must consider visual depth, coloration, brightness, appearance, proportion, size, formation, etc…all of which might be a little strange to people who have never learned about art design. However, as long as you start with these factors it will benefit you in the long run. For me, the most important thing I start off with is to draw a picture. I then figure out where I want to position the rocks or woods, followed by the placing of plants from foreground to mid-ground to background. Green and red plants are equally important in their coloration and shape for consideration in positioning in the tank. That’s why it is important to know how to utilize each plant’s color and shape in aquascape. It is equally important to gauge in plants growing habits because this affects an entire aquascaping structure. The same goes for pruning. By understanding each plant one can better engage in pruning it in order to decorate the art work properly. As for the fish choice, I really don’t care too much. Usually I choose the ones I like, but it is nevertheless important to choose the right type and number because it will affect the tank’s sense of balance. Maybe the fish chosen might not be suitable to live in the kind of aquascape you have created, or maybe by overfeeding there will accumulate too much excretion in the tank. Also, one should carefully consider the fishes’ respiration.

Carlos:What do you enjoy most about designing and creating aquariums in this hobby?

Li Qi Rui (Jerry):
1. Being able to create your own world.
2. Discovering the wonders of life and living systems.
3. Culturing one’s own patience and love.
4. Increase one’s own perception about space utilization.
5. Challenging the power of nature.
6. Being able to find another way out to relax the mind.
7. Sharing your own sense of aesthetics with others.


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?

Li Qi Rui (Jerry): Currently, because of the many issues I have had to face in life and in work, I have decided to stop this hobby for a while. I will restart this hobby in three years. In the future I would like to try the 60-cm tanks because big tanks require more time to maintain as well as whether I can shell out enough time to care for them. Because I am a perfectionist, once I begin a project I must make it worthwhile. This gives me more meaning than if I did something sloppily. Therefore, I believe when I dedicate myself again in the future I will be able to bring to you all better works.

Carlos: Finally, is there any particular advice you would give to a hobbyist creating his first planted aquarium layout?

Li Qi Rui (Jerry):
1. Always experiment
2. Always go for perfection
3. Patience
4. Keenly observe surroundings and natures
5. Imitate as much as you can
6. Be determined; don’t quit easily
7. Learn the correct ways
8. Be aware of the fine details
9. Be yourself
I share the above mentioned values with my fellow aquascape enthusiasts.

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Dimensions:90cm(L)x48cm(W)x50cm(H)
Lighting System:ADA 903 x2 (NA32wx6)
Substrate System:BRUSTMANN Substrate, RMC Aquarium sand,ADA Iron Bottom,BRUSTMANN Liquid Fertilizer
CO2 System:2.5kg aluminium CO2,ADA Pollen Glass Beetle 40D
Plants: Anubias barteri var. nana, Glossostigma elatinoides, Blyxa japonica, Ammannia gracilis, Nesaea pedicellata, Rotala rotundifolia, Didiplis diandra, Rotala rotundifolia "Green"
Fish: Cardinal Tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi)
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Dimensions:90cm(L)x48cm(W)x50cm(H)
Lighting System:ADA 903 x2 (NA32wx6)
Substrate System:BRUSTMANN Substrate, RMC Aquarium sand,ADA Iron Bottom,BRUSTMANN Liquid Fertilizer
CO2 System:2.5kg aluminium CO2,ADA Pollen Glass Beetle 40D
Plants: Glossostigma elatinoides, Blyxa japonica, Ammannia gracilis, Nesaea pedicellata, Rotala rotundifolia, Didiplis diandra, Rotala rotundifolia "Green," Didiplis diandra, Ludwigia glandulosa, Rotala sp. Nanjenshan
Fish: Cardinal Tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi)
---------------------




Dimensions::90cm(L)x48cm(W)x50cm(H)
Lighting System:ADA 903 x2 (NA32wx6)
Substrate System:BRUSTMANN Substrate, RMC Aquarium sand,ADA Iron Bottom,BRUSTMANN Liquid Fertilizer
CO2 System:2.5kg aluminium CO2,ADA Pollen Glass Beetle 40D
Plants: Anubias barteri var. nana, Glossostigma elatinoides, Blyxa japonica, Ammannia gracilis, Nesaea pedicellata, Rotala rotundifolia, Didiplis diandra, Rotala rotundifolia "Green"
Fish: Cardinal Tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi)
---------------------

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Golden Ratio

By: tsunami
December 30th, 2005
8:58 pm

Golden Ratio

For this week's weekly topic, I have chosen to write an article on the golden ratio with visual examples. At the end of the article, I invite anyone to participate in a Golden Ratio excercise at the end of this article.

The invention of the golden ratio dates back to the classical era, created by the ancient architect Vitruvius, who states:

"For a space divided into equal parts to be agreeable and aesthetic, between the smallest and largest parts there must be the same relationship as between this larger part and the whole space."

Since the Rennaisance period, painters have used and applied the formula to other subjects as well. The golden ratio has even been applied to human faces!

The ratio can be summarized as the small is to the large as the large is to the whole. Mathematically, the whole is 1, the large is 0.618, and the small is 0.382. When drawn on an aquarium, there should be four intersections which refer to the four possible focal points. These intersections can also denote other key areas of negative or positive space which are not necessarily the focal point of the tank. Also, the horizontal lines can be used in creating a horizon line (the line dividing the water column from the plants or substrate). All these statements will be clarified below with the visuals.



In this concave layout with Rotala sp 'Green' and Glossostigma elatinoides, where is the focal point? The focal point lies on the top left hand intersection on the branch where the two mounds of Rotala meet. More typically, a concave layout will have the golden intersection fall on the negative space (i.e. background) between the two mounds.



In this layout, the upper right hand intersection seems to be the focal point ---and also the vanishing point, where the plants end and the negative space (black background) begins. The top horizontal line also fits perfectly with this aquarium's horizon line.



For my third example, I chose a Dutch aquarium. The focal point seems to fall on the colorful Ammania gracilis on the top, right hand side. Is this the correct focal point?

Keep in mind, that these rules are not hardset and that there are several other guidelines you can follow in creating your aquascape. The golden ratio is just one tool out of many.

How to apply the golden ratio to your tank:

When first setting up your aquarium, I find it useful to take out a ruler or measuring tape and mark the aquarium with a marker. Measure the length of the aquarium and multiply that length by 0.618. For example, a 36 inch long tank x 0.618 = 22.25 inches. Draw a vertical line. Now, measure 22.25 inches from the opposite side. Draw another vertical line. Measure the height of your tank from bottom to top and multiply that by 0.618. Draw a horizontal line. Measure the height from top to bottom this time and repeat. When all is said and done, you should have a square in the dead center of your tank with four intersection points just like the aquariums pictured above. If you want to use the golden ratio, now you know where exactly is the focal point, where the horizon line should be located, etc.

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Aquascaping Principles, by Birgit Wolfgang

By: tsunami
December 19th, 2005
9:59 pm

Aquascaping Principles, by Birgit Wolfgang

Aquascaping Principals
by Birgit and Wolfgang

Aquascaping
In recent years the term aquascaping has become better known by aquarists all over the world. The big man from Japan, Takashi Amano started with his books a new style in aquaristic. The simple gathering of plants, beautiful stones and driftwood is no longer the goal of many aquarists.
Aquascaping has become a valued art.

This article is based on the style and ideas of the Nature Aquarium, combined with my very own opinions and experiences. It is allways a question of personal preferences on what type of aquascape you try to achieve. Many people just love those good looking japanese aquascapes, but they don´t feel able to achieve it. It is not a question of experience wether you can do it or not. It is no more difficult to have a beautiful Nature Aquarium than it is to have a normal tank. It is just the careful selection of plants and accessories that makes the difference. So many people just don´t have enough self confidence to try it. This article will give you a very compact guideline. Follow the rules and you will achieve your goal.

Amanos Nature Aquarium (NA) is often misunderstood. It is not the aim of the NA to reproduce nature biotopes of special regions. It is more the goal of creating an underwater landscape. A landscape seen before in real nature, not under water.
I myself started, trying to copy some of amanos works. But soon I realised that you cannot copy anything that has to do with living beings. Nevertheless it is good for practicing to start with copying an aquascape you really like. You will automatically use the right plants, place the stones correctly and create some free space which will give your tank more depth of field. With time, you will develop your own style, and sometimes you will like it even more than the one you tried to copy.
Then you start your new setups by thinking of a landscape you once saw and really liked. This may be just an accumulation of stones in the mountains, or a huge clearance in a wood. Everyone has his own preferrals, so everyone will choose another landscape and get his own style.
In Nature Aquarium plants AND fishes are the centerpiece of a tank. In providing the best conditions for your plants to grow, you usually do the same for your fishes. When the plants have everything they need to grow well, at the same time they provide the best conditions for your fishes. Plants use up excessive nutrients in the water that may cause Nitrate levels to spike, and they produce oxygen which is indespensable to the life of fishes.

AGAIN: This short article shall help you create those beautiful aquascapes you have seen in books or on the net and you never thought you can achieve.

So let´s start:

1. Imagination
Imagination is the key to aquascaping.
Get the pictures of available plants and accessories into your mind. Try to combine them in several ways. If you are not able to do this, you´d better start with copying a tank you like. With time you will find it easier to do your imaginative work.
You´ve got your picture? Well, then let´s go.

2. Choosing a background
There are some different ways of choosing a background. Some people use cork, others wood, some paint the background and some use self adhesive foliage. No matter what you do: as long as you don´t want your tank to stand in the middle of a room, give it a background. It is very unnatural to see the wall with all the hoses and cables shining through the tank.
When painting, or using foliage: You´d best use black or blue. This will give your tank a wonderful contrast and also make it easy to concentrate on the tank itself. You don´t want the people to focus on the background, just because it is red?

3. Choosing your substrate
It is unlikely that your aquascape will look natural when you use pink, blue or bright green gravel. You´d better take brown, gray or black. There are different types of substrate that will make your plant grow better or worse. Feel free to ask questions on the board on wether you should use.

4. Choosing the shape of your future layout
There are several composition types:
The concave setup (high on either side and low in the middle)



The convex setup (the opposite of the one above, so low on either side and high in the middle)



Convexity" doesn´t need to be produced by plants only as you can see.
The triangular setup (high on one side, getting lower to the other)



The rectangular setup (high everywhere). This is the one you should avoid. It doesn´t give you areas of free space. But these are very important to create an illusion of depth. So less sometimes is much more.

5. Choosing the accessories
For a long time, aquarists where looking for the perfect (beautiful) piece of driftwood, or stone. Then they placed it into the tank, and.... well, it didn´t look satisfying, did it?
Especially when making a setup with stones it is much more important to use different sizes of the same type, than just take one very beautiful stone. One single stone in a tank will allways look artificial, but when you place two or more, that´s what you usually see in nature. OK, OK – there is Ayers Rock, but it doesn´t actually look natural, does it (sorry to the Australians, didn´t mean to offend you).
Now take your stones or your driftwood and place them in a triangle (if they are at least three). The biggest one (if really big enough) usually is the main focal point, so take special care where to place it (see golden ratio in main focal points in the following chapter).
Never use different type of stones or driftwood. You can gather the ugliest stones you can think of. They just have to be the same type. Place them correctly in a group: I promise, they will look nice (don´t know if it works for red-bricks though)!

6. Setting the main focal points

To get a smooth aquascape you need to set one or at maximum two focal points. This is usually something that pleases your eye. Either a stone, or a piece of driftwood, or a beautiful (group of) plant(s). This is where the golden ratio comes in.
You sure have tried to put the most beautiful of your plants right into the middle of your tank. Well, it didn´t look too good, right? That´s because when you have a symmetrical aquascape, your eyes tend to wander from left to right and back, forth and back.... This is not the relaxed atmosphere you are looking for when you sit in front of your tank and watch it for hours.
Greek philosophers and mathematicians found out long ago: the best ratio that pleases your eye is 1:1,618. Heeeh?????
To explain. When you drink your coffee, you mix one part of milk with 5 parts of coffee (just as an idea) You have a ratio of 1:5.
So when you place your focal point, you devide your tank length into two pieces. One has the ratio of 1,618 and the other the ratio of 1.
How to do that??? Very simple: just measure the length of your tank and divide it through 2.618. Take the result and measure it from one side of your tank. Mark it. The rest is 1.618 (no maths there). This is the place for your very special „centerpiece“, focal point or whatever you call it.



It is not wise to have two centerpieces in relatively small tanks (under about 60gal). Never try to create more than 2 focal points.

7. Foreground, Midground, Background
To get some depth into your tanks it is most important to use low growing plants. It is not particularely necessary to have high growing plants as well, because you can have hills or higher stones and driftwood that fulfill their demand.
If you don´t have either stones, hills (terraces) or driftwood, you need higher plants as well to give a fine background.
Amano often uses Riccia fluitans and glossostigma elatinoides. While the second one can really be a challenge – sometimes even for experienced aquascapers, Riccia is quite easy to cultivate. It is a floating plant that needs a little care.
You will find an article about how to cultivate riccia easily in this forum.
Hairgrass (eleocharis) is another plant used very often as a foreground. Note: Glossostigma and Hairgrass must not be planted as they come from your lfs. Divide them into very small bundles, and plant them separately. This will make it grow in faster and also reduces the risk of decaying. After planting Hairgrass, prune the plant to a hight of about ½ - 1 inch. Eleocharis is grown emers (above water) in plant nursarys. Until the new shoots will appear, the old ones will rot and get infested with algaes.

8. Planting order
First you plant (place) the focal point. Then the lowgrowers and midgrowers and in the end the high plants.
Try to allways plant very dense.
Especially stem plants are a good way to form your aquascape. Many small leaved species, such as micranthemum micranthemoides, m. umbrosum, mayaca sellowiana or rotala indica to just name a few, can easily be trimmed to a desired shape. But therefore you have to plant it quite dense as I stated. Take two to three stems and plant them with tweezers. About an inch beside: plant the next bundle of two to three stems, and so on. The more dense you plant in the beginning, the faster the tank will grow in. Especially in the initial stage it is wise to cut the tops, replant the cuttings between the old ones while you leave the rooted parts in the substrate. So you can easily propagate your plants. The rooted parts will bud new shoots within short time.

9. Plant leaves and colour
It is allways wise to use plants with different leave size and/or colour. This again will create more depth and naturalness. If your tank is not too big (under 60gallon) it is wise to mainly use plants with smaller leaves. That will make it look much bigger than it actually is.
Especially red plants can help you give your tank more contrast. But be aware: If you use one single red plant it will again work as a focal point. If you allready chose a stone to be a focal point, you may get too much tension into your scape and your eyes will wander from one focal point to the other.

10. Fishes
You shouldn´t add fishes right from the start. There are many articles on fishless cycling in the net.
IMO (and not only IMO) it is better to choose schools of small fishes than just a few different big ones. A huge shool of tetras or rasboras will make your tank look much bigger (especially on pictures – you want to take part in an aquascape competition, don´t you?!?).
Choose fishes that won´t disturb your aquascape. Many species tend to dig – not good for your foreground carpet as you can imagine.
Also keep in mind that many fishes that are small when you buy it may easily grow to the size of half your tank. This is neither good for your aquascape, nor for the fish, so ask and READ before buying. Sometimes it is better to read, or ask in the net, because many lfs just want to sell. A bargain which was said to stay small may easily grow to size of a small shark.

11. Maintainance
Setting up an aquascape is one thing, but maintaining and enhancing its beauty is completely different. Only regular pruning and waterchanging as well as getting the right balance of nutrients/light/CO2 will make you achieve your goal. Sometimes when your plants grow in, you may even have to change a group of plants, cause it doesn´t look like your original imagination. It is acutally not that difficult nowadays with all the help you get, especially on this plant based forum. You just have to give it a try and believe in yourself.

Birgit Wolfgang

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An interview with Eric Cheng, August 2004

By: tsunami
December 19th, 2005
9:07 pm

An interview with Eric Cheng, August 2004

August's aquascaper in focus is... Eric Cheng!

Name: Eric Cheng
Location: Hong Kong, China
---------------------
Carlos: How did you become interested in the planted aquarium hobby? How long have you been in the hobby?

Eric: I have been interested in this hobby since two years ago. Before that, I had discus in my tank. One day, I shopped at an aquarium store, and there were some attractive planted tanks. My wife and I both wanted to have something different in our living room, not only the discus. And she decided to buy me a new tank as a present, so I planned to learn and do something new to challenge myself.

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?

Eric: I usually perform water changing once a week, just 1/3 of the tank volume. I mostly add some ADA products afterwards, such as Brighty K, Green Brighty Special Lights, Step 2, ECA and Tropica TMG. Those products are really good supplements for growing healthy plants. I also like to use ADA Aqua Soil Amazoma as base fertilizer because it is compatible to many kinds of aqua plants.

Carlos: Most of the layouts you present seem to have a lot of Japanese influence, conveying an atmosphere reminescent of a lot of Japanese entries in the ADA contest. Do you tend to use these as a source of inspiration?

Eric: I totally agree that my layout creation is influenced by Japanese style, especially, Takashi Amano. He is fantastic; the conveying of his presentation is natural, smooth and non-artificial, just like real scenery in front of me. I hope that I could learn more from that, and then inspire me to have new ideas for my layouts in the future.

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?

Eric: My dream aquascape is a natural one, and I always believe that keeping it simple is best. All of my layouts are not complicated. It is easier for me to handle and design, which makes me achieve what I want more easily. For me, I think that the most important technique is pruning. Because I am a hair stylist, I am more sensible about pruning and layering. I always apply these skills to aquascaping.

Carlos: How do you manage to get the tetras and other characins in your layouts to school so tightly for a photo? Any tips or is it mostly patience?

Eric: Firstly, let those little tetras get used to their living environment. When shooting photos, spending time to wait is a must. Or you can try to control them by using turning on and off the light, making them swim in the same direction.

Carlos: What are your main goals when setting up a new tank?

Eric: My main goal is that I am a fish and aqua plant lover; I like to bring them home and create a moving picture that I can put it in my living room. Actually, setting up a new tank motivates me spend time on practicing my skills. I am so happy to see that I am improving.

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?

Eric: Actually, I don’t have any specific techniques. But I would like to share some of my experience. For the driftwood, choosing the right size is very important. It has to fit and match with the size and style of your tank. Rock placement is done according to the shape and the surface area of the tank you are working on. For the plants, do not put similar colored plants together --creating more contrast makes the whole layout more outstanding. At last, choosing the right kind of fish is necessary, but it depends on the atmosphere of your tank.

Carlos: What do you enjoy most about designing and creating aquariums in this hobby?

Eric: The most enjoyable part of the hobby is the process. I learn many different things from different processes. And I see my skill is improving. Because of this hobby, I have met some new friends that I can share my experiences with, give comments, and support.

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?

Eric: For me, aquascaping is the combination of inspiration, creation, and thoughts. Whenever I plan to set up a new tank, I observe everything around me to inspire myself to create a new layout for my tank --so I don't have any particular aquascaping layout ideas at the moment.

Carlos: Finally, is there any particular advice you would give to a hobbyist creating his first planted aquarium layout?

Eric: Analyzing other people's layouts, listening to other’s comments, and asking when you are in doubt. Get lots of information before going out and buying all the materials you need for a planted aquarium. Getting well prepared is very important to a successful aquascape.
---------------------------------------------------------------
Dimensions: 25cmx25cmx25cm (10inx10inx10in)
Volume: 15.6L (4.1g)
Fish: Nannostomus sp., Otocinclus sp.
Plants: Eleocharis parvulus, Glossostigma elatinoides

---------------------------------------------------------------
Dimensions: 45cmx24cmx30cm (18inx9inx12in)
Volume: 32.4L (8.6g)
Fish: Trigonostoma heteromorpha
Plants: Vallisneria sp., Blyxa japonica, Microsorium pteropus 'Narrow', Anubias barteri var. nana, Java moss

---------------------------------------------------------------
Dimensions: 60cmx30cmx36cm (24inx12inx14in)
Volume: 65L (17g)
Fish: Hyphessobrycon sp.
Plants: Glossostigma elatinoides, Hygrophila polysperma 'Sunset', Heteranthera zosterifolia, Anubias barteri var. nana, Ludwigia arcuata, Eleocharis vivipara

---------------------------------------------------------------
Dimensions: 90cmx40cmx40cm (36inx16inx16in)
Volume: 144L (38g)
Fish: Black Neon Tetras (Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi)

---------------------------------------------------------------
Enjoy!

Carlos

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An interview with Harry Kwong, July 2004

By: tsunami
December 13th, 2005
12:02 pm

An interview with Harry Kwong, July 2004

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: Rainbow Paradise
Dimensions: 70x43x50cm (28x17x20in)
Volume: 33g (151L)
Substrate: ADA Aquasoil Amazonia
Plants: Rotala indica, Rotala macrandra, Vesicularia spec, Hygrphila lacustris, Glossostigma elatinoides, Eusteralis stellata, Echinodorus spec., Hygrophila polysperma 'Rosanervig', Didiplis diandra, Rotala sp, Blyxa japonica, Blyxa echinosperma, Ludwigia repens, Hemianthus micranthemoides
Fish: Melanotaenia boesemani, Melanotaenia lacustris, Melanotaenia praecox, A. Macmasteri, Neon Tetra, Epalzeorhynchus kallopterus (Flying Fox)

---------------------------------------------------------------
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)

---------------------------------------------------------------
Title: Little Green Field
Dimensions: 24 x 8 x 7 in (61 x 20 x 19 cm)
Volume: 24L (6g)
Lighting: T5 14W x 3
Flora: Echinodorus spec., Elecharis azurea, Vesicularia spec, Hemianthus callitrichoides, Eusteralis stellata, Anubias barteri var. nana ‘Petite’
Fauna: Hyphessobrycon flammeus (Flame Tetra) Nannostomus marginatus (Pencil Fish)

---------------------------------------------------------------


Carlos

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An interview with Wayne Sham, June 2004

By: tsunami
November 19th, 2005
11:27 am

An interview with Wayne Sham, June 2004

For this month's weekly topic, I've chosen one of the members of www.aqugrass.com , Wayne Sham! Enjoy!

Name: Wayne Sham
Location: Hong Kong, China
---------------------------------------------------------------
Carlos: How did you become interested in the planted aquarium hobby? How long have you been in the hobby?

Wayne: When I was seven years old, my dad gave me my very first tank. Since then, the aquarium hobby became part of my life. My first planted aquarium was set up about four years ago. The shops loaded with all sorts of different plants really attracted me. I've been addicted to aquascaping since then, and the winner of Taiwan's 2002 Aquascaping contest made me daft about aquariums.

Carlos: In your photos on www.aqugrass.com , you seem to use ADA products almost exclusively. Could you tell us about how the ADA substrate system and ADA liquid fertilizer line work? If you have Seachem, Kent, and Tropica products in Hong Kong, how do they compare to the ADA line in quality and ability to grow healthy plants?

Wayne: ADA and Tropica are the two brand products here in Hong Kong. Those substrate system and liquid fertilizer are qualification guaranteed. For example, ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia is relatively good compared to other brands in terms of growth of plants, formation of roots, as well as pH controls. However, it compacts easily, and replacement is needed about every 18 months.

Carlos: Your larger aquariums seem to show quite an array of species in arrangements that have hints of European flower bed scaping techniques, while your smaller aquariums seem very minimalistic with greater Zen influence. From where do you draw your inspiration? Do you follow any particular aquascaping style or use any particular techniques frequently in your layouts?

Wayne: Taiwan Aquascaping Style affected me the most when I was first starting in the aquarium hobby. Elaborate decoration but not very natural. But I love natural and heavy planted Dutch styles for my large aquariums. They are much more colourful and copious. I had also been affected by Takashi Amano’s works that implements lots of wood elements, which provides vital picture and feeling. I was applying these two tank styles, natural and heavy planted Dutch style, to my aquarium last year which ranked 46th in the ADA contest.

Carlos: What are your main goals when setting up a new tank?

Wayne: I hope I can break through my old constructs, design new layouts, and try more different ideas that I've never tried before.

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?

Wayne: There is a lack of rock material here, therefore, I always use woods instead. I would prefer to choose wood that is thin, branched and shaped. I would place 7 to 8 pieces of woods for a 90cm tank. Plants should be colourful and contrasts with each other. Besides green colour, red and yellows are widely used. I won’t choose fishes that are too colourful and schooling fishes are preferred.

Carlos: What do you enjoy most about designing and creating aquariums in this hobby?

Wayne: Consulting other's aquascaping ideas and designs, searching for materials, producing the layout, finishing as well as finalizing the layout with photography sessions. Every single one of these steps is enjoyable. Frankly, the admiration from others, such as judges, is very delighting. Moreover, obtaining experiences on designing and creating aquariums that improve my future layouts is also important. Because of this, I enjoy entering as many competitions as I can (ADA, AGA, TAPC, etc.).

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?

Wayne: In future arrangements, I shall keep trying different types of planted aquariums including both natural aquascapes and non-natural aquascapes.

Carlos: Finally, is there any particular advice you would give to a hobbyist creating his first planted aquarium layout?

Wayne: Learn the characteristics of the plants you are using. Look at more photos of aquascapes and study them. Try adding elements you like from multiple tanks into your layouts --practice. Slowly, you will create your own style.

Carlos: Is there anything else you would like to say that wasn't asked in the questions stated above?

Wayne: I deeply hope that there is a Hong Kong Aquascaping Style one day in the future.

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Title: Chrismas
Volume : 67L
Dimensions :W60cm X D28cm X H40cm
Lighting : T5 13W X 5, 6400K
Substrate : ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia

Plants :
1. Didiplis diandra,
2. Willow Moss
3. Dwarf Rotala
4. Heminanthus micranthemoides
5. Glossostigma elatinoides
6. Blyxa japonica
7. Anubias barterinana

Fish/Shrimp :
1. Otocinclus affinis
2. Thayeria boehlkei
3. Siamese Algae Eater
4. Neocardina sp.

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Title: Happy Valley
Volume : 182L
Dimensions :W90cm X D45cm X H45cm
Lighting : 30w X 5, 8000K
Substrate :
1. ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia
2. Bright Sand
3. Penac W

Plants :
1. Riccia fluitans
2. Blyxa japonica
3. Heminanthus micranthemoides
4. Willow Moss
5. Java Fern
6. Dwarf Rotala
7. Anubias barterinana
8. Bolbitis heudelotii
9. Hydrocotyle vulgaris
10. Red Pinetree
11. Ludwigia arcuata
12. Microsorium pteropus ssp.
13. Red Pinetree

Fish/Shrimp :
1. Otocinclus affinis
2. Siamese Algae Eater
3. Paracheirodon axelrodi
4. Neocardina sp.
5. Neocaridina denticulata

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Layout Title: Natural Buffalo
Volume : 360L
Dimensions :W120cm X D50cm X H60cm
Lighting : 150w X 2 HQI, 5200K
Substrate :
1. ADA Power Sand Special (S)
2. ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia
3. Penac W

Plants :
1. Blyxa japonica
2. Green Ammannia (Rotala so, “Green”)
3. Willow Moss
4. Java Fern
5. Junior sword plant
6. Sagittaria lancifolia
7. Dwarf Rotala
8. Nymphaea lotus rubra
9. Bolbitis heudelotii
10. Ludwigia arcuata
11. Sunset Hygro
12. Dwarf Anubias
13. Red Pinetree
14. Hygrophila polysperma var. “Rosanervig”
15. Eleocharis parvula
16. Microsorium pteropus ssp.
17. Rotala wallichii

Fish/Shrimp :
1. Otocinclus affinis
2. Lemon Algae Eater
3. Siamese Algae Eater
4. Red Phantom Tetra
5. Melanotaenia boesemani
6. Pterophyllum altum
7. Thayeria boehlkei

---------------------------------------------------------------
Layout: Breezy Hill
Volume: 20L (5g)
Dimensions: 35x21x26cm (14x8x10in)
Lighting: T5 8W X 5 (8 hours per day)
Substrate: ADA Aquasoil Amazonia
Flora:
1. Glossostigma elatinoides
2. Echinodorus tenellus "micro"

Fauna:
1. Boraras maculata


---------------------------------------------------------------
Layout: Rainbow Garden
Volume: 182L (48g)
Dimensions: 90x45x45cm (35x18x18in)
Lighting: 32W X 3
Substrate: ADA Aquasoil Amazonia, ADA Bright Sand
Flora:
1. Microsorum pteropus
2. Fontinalis sp.
3. Echinodorus tenellus "micro"
4. Nymphaea lotus
5. Sagittaria lancifolia
6. Anubias barteri var. nana
7. Microsorum pteropus "Windelov"
8. Hydrocotyle vulgaris
9. Cyperus helferi
10. Cryptocoryne wendtii "brown"

Fauna:
1. Melanotaenia besemani
2. Nematobrycon palmeri
3. Siamese Algae Eater


---------------------------------------------------------------

For more of Wayne's inspirational works, please visit:

http://www.aqugrass.com/gallery/wayne

Carlos

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An interview with Enrico Monteiro, May 2004

By: tsunami
November 12th, 2005
9:19 pm

An interview with Enrico Monteiro, May 2004

For this month's aquascaper, one of my personal favorites!

Name: Enrico Monteiro
Location: Brazil
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Carlos: How did you become interested in the planted aquarium hobby? How long have you been in the hobby?

Enrico: I discovered the planted aquarium hobby about three years ago, when I began visiting the www.aquahobby.com forums. By the end of 2002, I had setup my first planted aquarium with a fertilized substrate, strong illumination, and CO2. It's been a lot of fun since then.

Carlos: In the aquariums you submitted last year into the AGA contest, you mention that you do not use any liquid fertilizer in your tanks. Despite that fact, many of your stem plants look remarkably healthy perhaps due in part to your enriched substrate. Could you tell us about your substrate method?

Enrico: Well, in last year's contest, I did not use liquid fertilization in my aquariums since they were setup recently. In mature and algae-free aquariums, I use some liquid fertilization but not much. For the substrate, I use earth worm castings, using Mr. Vladimir Simoes' method. I consider it an excellent substrate fertilizer because it provides a wide variety of macro and micro nutrients to the plants. I consider it to be very safe to use if you follow Vladimir Simoes' method. More information about this substrate method can be found here:
http://www.e-aquaria.com/des_monteiro.html


Carlos: From where do you draw the inspiration for your aquascapes? Do you follow any particular aquascaping style?

Enrico: I draw a lot of inspiration from Takashi Amano's works. I think it is fascinating and challenging to make an aquascape that does not look contrived. In the aquariums in which I try to follow more of a Dutch style, I try to add design elements from Amano's Nature Aquariums.

Carlos: Your layouts are very crisp and refreshing to my eye, with some very unique elements I have never seen before. In your 112L (30g) aquarium with the java moss in last year's AGA contest, did you leave the background empty of plants on purpose? What were you trying to recreate or evoke in this aquarium?

Enrico: My original intention was to let the background plants, originally Rotala sp Green, to fill in a little more. Unfortunately, the Rotala sp Green would not grow in as well as I would have liked so I replaced it with the easier to grow Hygrophila polysperma. I tried to take pictures later, but by the time the Hygrophila polysperma had grown in, the moss had gotten way out of control.

Carlos: What are your main goals when setting up a new tank?

Enrico: My main goal is to try new design elements and new ideas --hopefully to make something new as a result.

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?

Enrico: I always try to use basic aquascaping techniques. Unfortunately, many techniques aren't exactly ones that you can read from a text or from the internet. You have to practice.

I also use a lot of intuition in my designs, trying to place plants or hardscaping material in the places I think they look best. Before I even fill up the aquarium with water, I tend to draw out the design and try several different arrangements on a flat surface (outside of the tank).

I think fish choice is very important for the presentation of a layout. Unfortunately, fish are not very easy to get rid of once you want to try out a new design which clashes with those fish.


Carlos: What do you enjoy most about designing and creating aquariums in this hobby?

Enrico: I enjoy how the aquascape sometimes takes you in directions you didn't plan to take.

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?

Enrico: My goals right now are to create cleaner, more well executed aquascapes. I also plan to make greater use of ferns, which add a different quality to a layout that I really enjoy.

Carlos: Finally, is there any particular advice you would give to a hobbyist creating his first planted aquarium layout?

Enrico: Read a lot, look at a lot of pictures, and have patience!
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30g (112L)
28 x 16 x 16 in (70 x 40 x 40 cm)
Lighting: 6x18 watts Osram Daylight 6100K fluorescent bulbs (3.6 wpg)
Substrate: Fine gravel capped over 3-4 cm laterite+processed earthworm castings
Flora: Cryptocorine wendtii 'Brown', Eleocharis minima, Glossostigma elatinoides, Hygrophila polysperma, Ludwigia arcuata, Ludwigia sp. 'Pantanal',Microsorum pteropus, Microsorum 'Narrow', Vallisneria americana, Vesicularia dubyana
Fauna: Serpae tetras

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66g (250L)
39 x 20 x 20 in (100 x 50 x 50 cm)
Lighting: 8x30 watts of Osram 6100K daylight fluorescent bulbs (3.6 wpg)
Substrate: Fine gravel over 5 cm laterite+processed earth worm castings
Flora: Alternanthera reineckii 'Lilacina', Bacopa caroliniana, Eusteralis stellata, glossostigma elatinoides, Hemianthus micranthemoides, Heteranthera zosterifolia, Hygrophila polysperma 'Sunset', Lindernia sp., Rotala macrandra, Rotala rotundifolia, Rotala wallichii
Fauna: Cardinal Tetras (P. axelrodi), Harlequin Rasboras (T. heteromorpha), Rummy-nose tetras (H. rhodostomus)

-------------------------------------------------------------------
66g (250L)
39 x 20 x 20 in (100 x 50 x 50 cm)
Lighting: 8x30 watts of Osram 6100K daylight fluorescent bulbs (3.6 wpg)
Substrate: Fine gravel over 5 cm laterite+processed earth worm castings
Flora: Anubias barteri var. nana, Blyxa echinosperma, Blyxa japonica, Echinodorus Tenellus var. 'Amano', Glossostigma elatinoides, Ludwigia arcuata, Ludwigia glandulosa, Ludwigia sp. 'Pantanal', Micranthemum umbrosum, Rotala indica 'green', Rotala sp. 'nanjenshan', Rotala Wallichii
Fauna: Harlequin Rasboras (T. heteromorpha), Cardinal Tetras (P. axelrodi), Rummynose Tetras (H. rhodostomus), and Black Neons (H. herbertaxelrodi)



-------------------------------------------------------------------
66g (250L)
39 x 20 x 20 in (100 x 50 x 50 cm)
Lighting: 8x30 watts of Osram 6100K daylight fluorescent bulbs (3.6 wpg)
Substrate: Fine gravel over 5 cm laterite+processed earth worm castings
Flora: Glossostigma elatinoides, Echinodorus tenellus var. 'micro', Blyxa japonica, Cryptocoryne balansae, Vallisneria americana, Vesicularia dubyana, Microsorum pteropus, Anubias barteri var. 'nana', Rotala rotundifolia 'green', Rotala wallichii and Eusteralis sp.
Fauna: Symphysodon aequifasciata, Paracheirodon axelrodi, Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi, Hemigrammus rhodostomus, Crossocheilus siamensis and Rasbora heteromorpha


-------------------------------------------------------------------

Carlos

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