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Discussion Starter · #21 ·
These comments probably belong in a thread about Judging, but...

It may be time that the judging criteria are looked over and revised. One item in particular is the Long Term Viability area. Many of the comments talk about how difficult it would be or inappropriate a certain fish is to keep in a certain situation for the long run. However what we seem to be creating these days is a design for the moment. Speaking to many during the AGA Conf a lot of the tanks entered have now been torn down and a new design is in the works. The design was solely for the contest and now a new scape is being prepared.

We also need to look at what some of the leaders in the hobby are doing as we tend to mimic them. For example, during his presentation Amano showed a natural scene he used for inspirations. Then he showed the tank that followed. A small 30cm (~12") long tank was employed housing dime sized Angels. In the arrangement the fish looked massive gently gliding over a low turf studded with rockwork. With our knowledge of the fishes ultimate size this tank would have faired poorly in the AGA contest in the long term viability area. Nary a peep was heard about the sustainability of the scape presented yet it is quite obvious these fish will quickly outgrow the tank.

In the end I think for designs to grow and push the envelope is if the criteria are also adjusted to reflect trends.
 

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Well, in the case of judge's comments I wouldn't take it too seriously. Recall that the judges were reviewing and in some cases commenting on ~120 different tanks. I think that judges tend to determine whether or not an entry is a top contender then for those that are not in the top tier they provide (if anything) a simple statement to justify their placement. Usually those statements seem pretty canned. Been there. Done that.

This year there were a number of comments about stem plants in the foreground -- it seems to be a theme. I'm not sure exactly what inherent problem is posed by stem plants in the foreground. Another common comment was that an aquascape could not be easily maintained -- which overlooks the fact that some people thrive on the time and detailed attention that some aquascapes require. And my all-time least favorite comment; the aquascape (of a part thereof) needs a little more time to grow in -- which can be said a number of different ways. The statement presumes that the aquascape does not represent the aquascaper's intent, that the judge's vision is probably what the aquascaper really intends, and that given a little more time the aquascape will tend to take on that appearance.

I know that Karen is familiar with using H. difformis as a foreground. Perhaps she tried it and that is her considered opinion. Regardless, I wouldn't expect her to deliver a treatise on the subject. You need to take the judge's comments in context; sometimes they are useful and sometimes they aren't.

All that said, I think Phil did a great job on the comments that I've read. Even for tanks like mine that weren't real competitive he seemed to put a lot of effort into well-considered and well expressed comments. Ricky's comments also were often very well put and much to the point. He just didn't comment as much as Phil.


Roger Miller
 

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I agree that they should be taken somewhat lightly in some cases, it just threw me off.

Since we're on the topic...there were other comments I feel I should just take lightly. One was the viability/long term possibility of some tanks (including my own). The tank was set up for months as it appears in the pic, but there was a comment about it looking set up just for the picture and being hard to maintain (I had to chuckle though, especially since a lot of tanks by pros seem to be set up for the picture and nothing more :D ).

Another category that could use reviewing is the fish one, as mentioned. I'm not sure if I lost points for it (not that it matters - I still wouldn't have won a single thing) but it was commented that I had hard water and soft water fish together and that it wasn't good. I don't have any wild caught fish and they're all raised in the same water, so I'm not sure if that category really applies the same to me as it would to someone with, say, wild caught discus and african cichlids in the same tank. I can see why they have that area of judging, but I feel it could be too hard to really know. The same goes for my "unnatural" natural-born white fish :lol:

That said, yes, phil's comments seemed to be very thought out, in my opinion, and were often rather long (a good thing!).

Did anyone else notice that there seems to be fewer Dutch Style aquariums? Maybe my eye just goes to the nature style, but for some reason it feels like there aren't as many really Dutch-ish ones this year.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the judge's work at trying to rank all those tanks - a daunting task, I'm sure. :shock:
 

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Discussion Starter · #24 ·
That certainly kills one very good reason to enter, if some of the judges feedback should be taken lightly how can an entrant learn from mistakes? What does one take lightly and what does one use as constructive? I realize there were ~120 entrants and judging them all as well as adding a constructive critique is a large and thankless task. Maybe it's time to look over the process and see how it can be changed for the better.
 

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gnatster said:
That certainly kills one very good reason to enter, if some of the judges feedback should be taken lightly how can an entrant learn from mistakes?
I would suggest that getting judge's comments was never a very good reason for entering the AGA contest. If you want useful comments on your aquascape the best way to get them is to post a photo on this or other forums and ask people what they think. You will generally get much more informative feedback then you can get from the one or two lines that the judges can usually afford to give you, and you have the opportunity to talk out the details.

To get back to the original topic of this thread, contests like the AGA, ADA, AB or NBAT (Dutch) contest tend to discourage creativity. They tend to create a uniform standard for what is "good" in aquascaping and reward adherence to those rules over creativity.

I don't think that's an entirely bad thing. Before the contests most of us were like teenage artists -- we had a wealth of ideas, but we were short on the technique necessary to make those ideas appealing to others. The contests give us all an opportunity to refine our technique, to compare our work to others and to judge the quality of our ideas. The contests also encourage people to do their best work, then put that work in front of a larger audience then would otherwise get to see it. That encourages more people to participate in the hobby.

It is perhaps inevitable that as we understand more about which ideas are most valuable and realize the larger investment of time and energy necessary to make those ideas work that fewer experiments will hit the airwaves. It seems like a process of maturation.

Just the same, without encouraging creativity I think this hobby eventually falls into a rut and slowly dies of chronic boredom. We should find ways to make those new ideas more important.

Roger Miller
 
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