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Is it me or are all these scapes starting to look alike? Now I'm not the most creative person, I know that, art is not my area, tech is, but lately all the tanks we seem to collectively gush over all have this same "Amano-ness" about them. There are but a few exceptions, Ricky Cain's mound comes to mind but otherwise I keep seeing pretty much the exact same elements in each.

Those commonalities:

Driftwood "planted" in fan type motif

Sandy areas in the foreground

Rocks placed just behind sandy beach area to delineate planting zone.

There are other common elements but I lack the verbiage to properly describe them

Is aquascaping stuck in a rut?

It's like I keep seeing slight variations of the same theme. What will it take to move out of this self perceived rut and advance the hobby as a whole?

When I posted pictures of my own design I kept hearing the same thing, you need this element or you need that element. Who is the arbiter of aquascaping text and why do we keep listening to them? I found I kept having to defend my choices that were out of the norm.

There has been some talk about a lack of an "American" style, yet when one of us Americans goes out on a limb ya'll stand there manning the saws and take turns cutting it off.

I post this to open a dialog, please feel free to post your thoughts,
 

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I agree with your views.

People usually think that if it is not natural, it is a dutch aquascape.

There are the few who tries to do something different, but people tend to discourage those attempts because it is out of the scope of natural-aquascape.

Does a scape has to be natural to be pleasing to the eyes?

People are trying to mimic a scape by using similar plants that have/had been use in a naturalscape. How many has made an attempt at using plants that haven't been widely used in naturalscape?

We have over 200+ variety of plants to choose from, yet we keep seeing the the same 30% or so used.

People may say that it is hard to acquire the more rare plants, but rare plants does not account for the 70% of the other variety; furthermore, with the internet, aquabid, and so many people giving away plants, it is not hard to get the plants.
 

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I think that because this hobby, (and I mean aquascaping, not growing nice looking plants) is still in its infancy, at least in the US. I could liken it to music - it takes a lot to actually compose and not just play. The US "composers" are still just a few :)

In addition, we here in the US, don't want to follow an established trend. That is a good thing but will surely take us through "growing pains" (and some of these "pains" really hurt the eyes, ahaha).

--Nikolay
 

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Huh,

Where to begin with this? I have been feeling the same way as gnaster lately. I remember when you showed us your tank a while back and it was critiqued pretty hard. I agree that the Nature/Amano style seems to be the norm right now. I find in my new scapes that I gravitate toward fan type wood placement, mounds of plants and while not an open foreground, definitely a large forground covered with glosso or marsilea.

What are some examples of American aquascapes? Is this one? What about this or Cavan Allan's

Like I said, I have been thinking of this to lately. I would love to be able to come up with something original, new. American:) I find to me though that if it looks neat, natural and relaxing I feel like it is a nature/Amano style. If it feels regimented then its Dutch and all others are just messy and unorganized. Some of the links that I posted are tanks that I don't fell fit in these categories. Jeff Kroop's especially. That is a scape I was drawn to from the beginning since it looks wonderful but not like any of the other "styles". What would you consider his to be? It seems to be organized but not contrived. So many of these Amano style tanks are unnatural feeling to me. Nature NEVER looks like that, but then again he would be the first one to agree with that:)

Should we start trying to take inspiration for an American style from America? Do we look to our waterways and lakes, focus on native flora and fauna? We talk about Ricky Cain's "Zen" Style but he will say he's not basing anything on "Zen" (Or so I seem to remember from his Chat one Thursday night). I feel that the Amano/Nature styles are drawn more from the eastern culture than anything else. Look at the Zen/Buddhist gardens. temples and shrines for comparison. Where should we draw our American style from? Start looking at the old Southern plantations, Spanish moss on oak trees and the grandiose peaceful old houses. Maybe look to the swamps, but then it might start to look Amanoesque. Sticks/roots with plants on them. Then again, if we look at Amano's tanks with rock and glosso or hairgrass I immediatly think of Ireland or Scotland.

Look tho the western lands withtheir wide open spaces and big sky country? Iowa corn fields:) Seriously, what about the Sequoia parks or the more rugged forests of upper Ca, Washington or Oregan?
Maybe the hard part of American style is that America is such a diverse melting pot of cultures and peoples. Sorry I ramble:) I think I hoped that by just typing freely I would come up with some of the answers. Guess I need to stew on it some more:). Lets keep this going!
 

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Gnatster, I'm not so sure that what we're seeing these days in aquascaping is just more "Amano-ness". Granted, many Amano elements are present, such as the driftwood and space defining stone. But, just as landscape elements are to outside gardens, these are the "bones" of our aquascapes.They would have been inevitable in our tanks, Amano or no.

To Amano's credit, and to our edification, he opened our eyes to "naturalness". We Americans ate it up because we culturally prefer the "natural" (read informal) over the formal such as Dutch tanks or English cottage gardens.

I think that's where the "Amano-ness" ends and a burgeoning new American style begins.

There are no absolutes, but open, unplanted areas and high mounded, ledged scenes are not necessarily Amano. I think they are evolved from the Sentske tanks and Luis Navarro's. They, and others, took Amano's "naturalness" and made the spaces bigger, simplified the plant list and moved the viewer's perspective from seeing the small, such as the mountain stream to seeing the larger, such as the hillside or the island.

I'm over simplifying, perhaps, but I'm sensing the beginnings of an "American" style.

Later.
 

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As an after thought, Gnatster, I do agree that some of the scenarios are getting repetitive. The double mound with the vanishing pathway seems to be a lot of people's favorite. Mine included since I'm about to do a 'scape in that design.

I like the depth that the vanishing pathway gives a tank and I like open, unplanted areas. They draw the viewer in, I think, and offer a visual break from the planting. The observing eye needs, as in outside gardens, a rest, a pause.

And I wholeheartedly agree that we need to be more tolerant of the "envelope pushers".

Later.
 

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Amano's use of photography to disseminate inspirational templates has provided an immeasurable boost to our hobby. They are intended to inspire ardor and provoke imitation while selling a product line. They do this very well. He has established an international hallmark of success in our hobby. This is no small achievement and is worthy of admiration and imitation.

I think the AGA contest has now influenced aquascaping in a new and unexpected way. It inspires a sort of ardor that has created a new class of aquascape; the competitive image of a moment. From my perspective this change erases the importance of the AGA event as a gardening showcase. It is sad for me to hear that people are concerned about how entering a scape might damage their prestige, or even worse, that they could somehow be shamed by participating.

In this forum a new horizon has begun. Thanks to the prevalence of digital cameras we can share pics in a less competitive environment that allows us to discuss problems and learn from mistakes in short order. Everyone learns by imitation. I say hurray for imitation! ...even if the images and threads become a little repetitive.
___
Jeff
 

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What's wrong with imitating something for a few months/years and then move on to a new challenge?

I see it as a lesson in one style etc for a little while, get a good ahndle on it, then tear it down and try something else.

I find little permance in planted tank and have little loyalty to any one tank's scape. After I get what I want, on to the next idea.

You have so many media to work with(Wood, cork, terracing, rock, sands, plants), and there are 200 commonly available species, you don't need to have a new species to have a new aqauscape.

If you feel in a rut, come up with a solution.
Try something more daring.

Try smaller than noraml rocks or larger than normal.
Try a tank with one species.
Add a weird fish to the tank.
Many ideas left to try out there.

The only limit is yourself.

Regards,
Tom Barr
 

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I see original designs in aquascapes all the time. I think the problem is not many original tanks look as good as the NA. I make original aquascapes at my house. I have never seen anything like them, only problem is most of the time they are very ugly. Amano is using an old gardening and planting style to make things look just as good as they do above the water.

There is not going to be a "New" way of aquascaping until someone can create something good looking that is original. Otherwise people will call it another good looking NA style tank, or a good looking "Dutch tank".

I see no stagnation. I just see something that is so good looking almost everyone wants something like it. If Americans want their own style, they need to create something beautiful without looking like a Dutch and NA style tank.

My thoughts on the matter.
 

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I would caution to seek originality not for the sake of being original, but to seek originality for the sake of being yourself.

I think most aquascapers outside of Asia are still getting the basics down. This aspect of the hobby is still in its infancy. The question of originality and the advancement of 'American' style and the creating of something non-Amano comes up every year. Folks, each aquascape takes six months to a year to develop. To create a good aquascape, one has already had plenty of practice beforehand in some way shape or form.

Aquascaping as an art form has advanced incredibly fast in the past few years --it has been less than a decade for most countries. What can we expect? A fully diversified art form with impressionism and realism and modernism? Styles that took years to develop. I guess we are simply an impatient lot and want everything now.

By all means, continue striving for original impressions. It'll happen with practice, planning, and luck. However, remind yourself every time you see a mound scape or a riccia carpet or a driftwood arrangement how much work that person placed into that aquascape. I reommend looking more closely. Perhaps "aquascape overload" is causing many to overlook and underappreciate many of the details.

Carlos
 

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tsunami's quote

I guess we are simply an impatient lot and want everything now
And there in lies the "American style", and the reason it might be hard to pin down;)

Maybe sometimes we can't see the forest for our trees:)
 

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Driftwood "planted" in fan type motif

Sandy areas in the foreground

Rocks placed just behind sandy beach area to delineate planting zone.
What the...?! That was going to be my next scape, too. Back to the drawing board... :(
I see nothing wrong with having Amano-ness in a scape. In fact, if someone says that to me, I would take it as a compliment. For a newb like me, having something even remotely natural is an accomplishment. This is why I find imitation as a healthy way of learning. Just my version of the newb side of the story.
 

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Gnatster, I guess my latest aquascape inspired you to write this post :wink: . It matches your description perfectly. What can I say, hmmm… it is NA style for sure. However, my aim wasn’t creating some kind of Amano design copy. At the beginning I didn’t even know how it’s gonna look like. Generally, it’s impossible to create two identical aquascapes. Of course there are some basic rules that everyone follows creating NA.
We should ask ourselves if we want to change the world of aquascaping or just have fun creating something that looks good for us. For me the second one is more important.
 

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On originality...

Public opinion (what we get when we post a picture and ask for comments) does not reward original creativity. I think that is true in all forms of art. The public has to be warmed up to an idea before they recognizes its value. By the time the public learns to approve of a new idea the forefront of creativity has moved on. Originality is only valued and recognized by a few.

Originality isn't even very well valued. It amuses me that the one aquascape for which I received the most compliments from the widest variety of people is the one that was an unabashed ripoff of an Amano-scape. It -- a simple layout with riccia and stone -- did not contain a single original element. On the otherhand I occasionally see aquascapes with what I think are successful creative elements and those aquascapes are broadly ignored and disapproved.


On American style...

I agree with Jeff Senske that there is an American style. He called it "Design Style." I tend to think of it as an abstract style. As I understand it, the intent of the aquascape is to realize a design. It is a submersed community garden. It is not intended to represent a natural scene and it differs from a Dutch garden because it avoids most of the stylized formalisms. There may be other common features in an American style. I recall that Karen Randall (who may have seen first-hand more American aquascapes than anyone else) said in her talk at last year's AGA convention that regular use of red plants is an important element in American style. I tend to think of the use of red plants as a technique (and a widely abused one) not as a style.

For what it's worth there are several recognizable styles other than just Nature Aquarium and Dutch; e.g., there are German emergent tanks, Tonina tanks, Chinese formal gardens and others.


The state of aquascaping...

I think that aquascaping as an art is in its infancy. In fact, Jeff's "Design Style" that I think is so typical of American (broadly speaking -- not just US) aquascapes may be an early step. One of my daughters is a freshman fine arts student. Her major classes this year are 2-D Design and 3-D Design. In her classes they learn to represent basic designs using relatively simple elements. Oddly, that seems to be about where we are with aquascapes.

Amano is far beyond that stage. He is probably the most mature and most developed aquascaping artist in the world. I doubt there are any of us who can't learn a great deal from him. By contrast, I don't think that the Dutch 'scape has even reached step one. The Dutch aquascape -- while it may be attractive -- is not artistic.

We have a long way to go. Maybe at this point we're a step or two beyond fingerpaintings stuck on the door of the refrigerator. But we aren't far beyond that point. Heck -- most of us still have to take ugly equipment out of our tanks just to make them presentable.


Roger Miller
 

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The Dutch aquascape -- while it may be attractive -- is not artistic.
One test of art is whether you would allow it in your living room and that is where many Dutch Aquascapes are to be found. Artistic is a word prone to misinterpretation and abuse. Dutch aquascaping aims to produce a beautiful arrangement of plants, using forms and colours in an environment which is well designed and presented. There is a holistic approach in which the plants, arrangement, equipment, and furniture all take part to create an elegant whole.

Andrew Cribb
 

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pineapple said:
One test of art is whether you would allow it in your living room and that is where many Dutch Aquascapes are to be found
I have a beaten-up old futon in my living room. I never thought of it as art :) I guess I'll have to call off our plans to replace it. My wife is not going to like this...

Roger Miller
 

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I'm reviving this old thread! 8)

I've noticed that many people will say that new things should be tried and that sometimes we should break away from some of the molds that seem to be forming....yet, when a person does this, the comments they get often reflect the attitude that "we don't do that" or "you can't do that." I wonder why this is?

I was thinking earlier about posting this but decided to wait until the AGA pics were up (great tanks, btw). Now, I use difformis as the foregroud/midground plant in my 55g. I use just the tops because I really like their frilly quality and they are light enough for cories to navigate in near the substrate. Everytime someone sees them, they say "those are midground plants, or background plants." Why is this? Why, if the plant is kept to short height, must it still be a mid/back/ground plant?

I mean, let's assume that the plant grows very fast and is a hassle to maintain, but *is* doable for those so inclined. It seems to me that it would be the aquarists' choice - provided that s/he can keep it maintained.

I am far too lazy for this however - and since I dont use fertilizers, that plant grows very, very slowly (prune it about 1X a month). So what/who says it must be a background plant? Why is the reaction always that it mustn't be used up front? Is there a plant stigma associated with it and other plants? :shock: :p

What was the response when someone first took a floating plant and forced it to "sink" using hair nets, wires, threads, tacks, etc and had to trim it regularly to keep it from dying?
 

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Leopardess said:
I've noticed that many people will say that new things should be tried and that sometimes we should break away from some of the molds that seem to be forming....yet, when a person does this, the comments they get often reflect the attitude that "we don't do that" or "you can't do that." I wonder why this is?
Usually the "molds" are the result of common practice. At some point the ideas progress from a general experience to the stage of a rule. Often many of the people who parrot the rule don't really understand how or why it came to be.

I was thinking earlier about posting this but decided to wait until the AGA pics were up (great tanks, btw). Now, I use difformis as the foregroud/midground plant in my 55g. I use just the tops because I really like their frilly quality and they are light enough for cories to navigate in near the substrate. Everytime someone sees them, they say "those are midground plants, or background plants." Why is this? Why, if the plant is kept to short height, must it still be a mid/back/ground plant?
We like our categories. In this case, people who don't think that H. difformis can be used as a foreground probably haven't been at it very long. H. difformis used to be used failrly commonly that way. Hydrocotyl leucocephela is another midground/background plant that is sometimes pinned down and used in a foreground. That use was once more common than it seems to be now. We have more foreground options then we used to have. I think that's why those plants have fallen out of common use as foregrounds.

What was the response when someone first took a floating plant and forced it to "sink" using hair nets, wires, threads, tacks, etc and had to trim it regularly to keep it from dying?
Takashi Amano (using Riccia) was the first I know of to do that. Of course, the reaction was very positive.

Roger Miller
 

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Well I'm glad to see that you seem to agree. At least it's not just me! I was a little surprised to see Karen Randall's and Amano's comment son my tank that "fast growing" difformis shouldn't be in the foreground and wasn't "appropriate". I quite like it there 8) I think its one of those plants that is so common now that it gets a lot of flack for being boring...I actually think its one of the prettiest plants out there:)
 
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