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Biotope Rules (What is a Biotope)

6145 Views 13 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  Sir_BlackhOle
You can find these same critters and plants,ahem, weeds, ober most of the South east gulf region.

Mic is often found in fairly rich soil ponds, pools, lakes even, although I have found it doing well in shallow streams with fairly clean sand.

Smart weed is all over, nasty stuff. There's only one semi nice looking, and even them I do not care for it in the genus.

Nasty road side ditches are very good places for most common weeds.
The natural systems are much harder to find the rare plants that we really like:) Often they come and go in locations.

Sailfins are better than mosquito fish!

All my spots are closed off till spring but I'm going to try and catch some fish next weekend. I have some word on Flagfish locations, so we shall see.

More darters and blue fin shiners! I bred some of these a month ago it seems. I have a couple of other fish I'm not quite sure what they are yet. They are breeding as well.

I only have one non biotope tank.
Is it a biotope if the plant is colected in the location even if the plant is an exotic? Say like Hygrophila polysperma here in FL or Hyacinth? Water lettuce?

Some of the lines cross over, we have at least 2 species of Crypts here in FL growing the wild, but they are not natives.

What is introduced and what is native? Water lettuce is very debateable and one of the favorites for arguing that issue.
There are large pleco's roaming around also.

Tom Barr
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The rules I am going by (I made up) are that it can go in a biotope if it grows in the area, and exotics (especially invasives) are included. After all we are learning about the environment and learning about invasive plants is a very good thing. I have already had a judge comment that he never knew "Amazon" sword plants grew in the US (And these were not exotic: E. berteroi). My goal is to fool another judge with these "American" crypts.

Also I think to be fair to many beginners starting biotopes that realistic "substitutions" should also be allowed. If you can't get American Val for an American biotope, they should be allowed to use another Val as long as they mention the substitution. I think of this biotope thing as a more educational and fun thing versus some of the highly competitive and expensive aquascaping efforts out there.

So I wouldn't worry whether its local or introduced. If its been out there growing for a while then its part of the local biotope.

Steve Pituch
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Well that __really__ opens up a FL biotope tank.
There are many plants here, at least 5 or more I've never once seen in any tank design.

I have some lobed moss, no one's had in any tank I know of.
It's very fine, dark green etc.

It's fun to fool judges but if they judge biotopes, they need to do their homework:)
They also need to know the rules with exotics.

There are few plants that would not grow well in FL, example, crypts in both TX and FL and have been there for many years.

Fish too.

I have a very biotope, a 4 gal open top non CO2 tank with H polysperma, the lobed moss, pearl grass, hairgrass, Utricularia stellaris, Ludwigia repens.

It's rocks and tree are also native FL.

I think the rocks and driftwood shaopuld also be collected or comes from the local region.

What is a local biotope range/region? 100 miles sq? The same ecosystem? Where are those lines drawn?

Tom Barr
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It's fun to fool judges but if they judge biotopes, they need to do their homework:)
They also need to know the rules with exotics.
Thanks Tom! I couldn't agree more. ;)

As far as biotope dilineation, I see three categories of Natural aquaria. I'd also like to define the term "natural recreation" for the purposes it's used here. I also agree that, if possible, the hardscape elements should be collected from the area to be recreated as would be the case for local/native biotopes.

Natural recreation- the creation of an aquascape with the intention of re-creating a natural habitat with organisms which do, or would likely, exist in a defined geographical area. The design of said aquascape is intended to simulate a natural environment, not the creation of a traditional "Aquatic Garden", even if using the limited species of a true biotope aquarium. I also tend to be a purist and feel that invasive foreign species should not be included in this, even though they may be found in the same areas as natives.

1. The true Biotope: A biotope tank, by definition, is a recreation of a specific natural environment. I've always understood this to mean that if the organisms can be found together in an area with the dimensions of the aquarium you're using then it's a viable biotope. Yes, this is a very specific definition, but actual biotope recreation is a very specific thing. An example of this could be an Orinoco River tributary pool biotope. Most true biotopes will be monocultures with a limited amount of animal species diversity.

2. The Habitat tank: If one wants to get a little looser with habitat/niche requirements and use organisms from multiple areas of a given body of water then one is creating a habitat tank. This could be as minute as using organisms from two different zones of the above pool or as broad as using organisms from the entire tributary.

3. The Region tank: In my mind, this is the broadest scale of an aquarium meant for natural recreation. Steve's Southern Texas tank is a great example of this. He used organisms from a broad range of habitats found within a relatively limited geographical area. While something like this is not close to a true biotope it is a good representation of a region.

4. The Theme tank: This last one is included for completeness' sake. Though not a true "biotope" tank, many people still consider the traditional "Amazon" tank to be a biotope. A tank like this, with the possibility of amazing species diversity doesn't even come close to natural recreation even though some care may be made to limit organisms to that of a broad geographic area.

There you have it, Phil's take on biotopes
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Well I am thinking about Rodman resevior, is it a lake or a river? Is the backwater and rich mulmy soil the same as the rapid flowing hardbottom regions? Depth of the water? Some plants do greatv near the surface, others are found much deeper.

Where that habitat cut off is is difficult.

I alway get a hoot out folks wanting to create a Rio Negrio biotope with plants No plant is going to live there except trees, dislodged floating grass mats etc during the wet season. Water is simply way too deep during that time of year.

So time of year is also something to consider.

I find it hard to argue these divisions.
I guess you just have to make a line and stick with it.

Tom Barr
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I am also from south texas. Actually the same town as Steve. I have a question about substrates. I dont necesarily want a perfect biotope aquarium, but is the substrate included in this definition?

I would say it is optional. Not many people will want to use Texas clay mud in their tank. The water would be very realistically opaque, but we do need to see the plants! In Florida, if the area has nice gravel, then use it.

I think in order for people to appreciate other people's biotopes, I think a detailed description should always be available to the viewer of a picture of a biotope tank. Copying a substrate is really going the whole nine yards. In fact in my Brazos biotope I specifically listed the substrate as coming from Texas, but not typical of the biotope area. (It was Texblast plus garden soil, certainly not authentic).

If you make a substitution because you couldn't get a particular species of a plant, or you couldn't get the same rocks, or type of tree that the driftwood was from then just mention it in the description. No one in the US is going to use Lake Malawi rock but if you do the research and find something local that is a close match , and mention your references, then people are going to be interested in what you have done.

In know I am mixing the requirements for the local, get the plants yourself biotope type, and the more general type of biotope, but I guess the range is up to the individual. And we are in the infancy of this aspect of the hobby, so lets brainstorm ideas!

Ideally, I wanted to do just a Padre Island biotope, then I expanded it to a Corpus Christi biotope. When I started exploring the Nueces River it became a Nueces County biotope. Know I am planning to increase the radius to 100 miles (a short distance in Texas), and am also making expedition plans to extend the range to 200 miles, if I can get the plants I want at that location. As you learn about an area, you tend to expand the area as you gain expertise and look for new plants.

So I think, we just need to be flexible. I think most of us are interested in collecting the plants ourselves so it should be pretty easy to enjoy each other's work. A few may want the general "SE Asian", "Amazon", or "Rift Lake" biotope, but I think for most of us to appreciate something like that some thought has got to go into the aquarium. I don't think a bunch Texas rocks and water is going to make us believe its an African Lake biotope.

So lets just have fun. :)

I think you guys in Florida have the best location in the US. In Texas when we have water, its muddy and not enough. We would never think of going snorkleling.

Steve Pituch
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Well I am thinking about Rodman resevior, is it a lake or a river? Is the backwater and rich mulmy soil the same as the rapid flowing hardbottom regions? Depth of the water? Some plants do greatv near the surface, others are found much deeper.
I don't feel that backwaters with rich soil would be the same biotope as the rapids areas even if they're part of the same body of water. They're distinctly different areas, having never been there to see them, most likely harboring different types of organisms. I wouldn't expect to see largemouth bass in an area of faster current, though one might find the same species of minnow in both fast and slower waters.

As far as the Rio ***** goes, I think that particular biotope is the result of media. I've seen too many references, both in print, and on the internet, to Blackwater Biotopes, with all sorts of nice plants in there.

I agree with everyone, some sort of description is very helpful with biotopes. Case in point, my Sri Lanka tank of AGA 2001. I needed an iron rich substrate and for hardware reasons couldn't use clay out of my backyard so I substituted Flourite. Also, there was no way of getting an algae eater from Sri Lanka so I had to substitute the most unobtrusive ones I could, shrimp and ottos. Everything else was accurate down to the recorded collecting regions. It defintately needed some explanation as to why those choices had been made. I think that the people looking at the tank would have understood it better than they did.

Was the tank a biotope? Nope, ottos alone would nix that. It is a good example of Steve's point about substitution though....and was a pretty killer natural tank in it's prime. :)
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"Substitution" and "Exception"


It definitely was a biotope. :)

I sure we don't want to see rigid rules about what we are doing at this point in time, but I have been thinking about "rules" of this biotope thing for a few years now because I have been disappointed in some of the types of entries in the AGA contest. The AGA contest rules need to be spelled out. I bet in a few months we'll have some mighty good suggestions.

The "substitution" thing I think is good. Also your Sri Lanka tank shouldn't have lost any credibilty because of fish needed for maintenance, or other reasons if the reasons are listed.

The other idea is "exceptions". Hey, you need cleaner fish or shrimp to control algae. You only have one tank and your daughter wants her plastic Nemo in the tank, or you have a 5 year old angel fish in the tank and you have no where else to put this cherished fish. If they are listed under "exceptions", they will be ignored as being part of the biotope by anyone looking at the tank, including judges if its in a contest. In theory it should be easy to ignore something if this concept is accepted, and we can all concentrate on the real part of your efforts.

If the gravel is not authentic and I have no way to get the real stuff, so just make it an "exception".

This makes it easier on us. If somebody wants to tackle a biotope with "Amano" like zeal, well all the power to them. But if you just want to enjoy say just the plants, or have some type of obstacles, then you need some way to explain, so the rest of us can get maximum enjoyment out of your efforts, and know exactly what you are trying to replicate.

"You" of course meaning anyone.

Steve Pituch
I'm used to signing Steve P., but since Steve Pushak has been using that signature I'm spelling it all out.
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New Topic

Hi all,

I just spun the biotope rules discussion into the new topic split from the "Great Ditches" one started by "HeyPK". I hope I didn't confuse anyone.

I think it worked! :D

One thing I found is if you toggle "newest first", you get to see the latest msg at the beginning (top) of the screen.

Break the rules

Tom Barr just mentioned in another forum what it is good sometimes to break the rules, especially when it has to do with working in an art form. Thats good advice for us people involved in biotopes right now. We should try to always be "pushing the envelope". At least I think thats what Chuck Yaeger said about test pilots.

Steve Pituch
What is the AGA contest? How do you enter your tank Steve? Just pictures?

I am really interested in starting a biotope type tank with lots of plants from this area, but then again, as this is going to be my first large aquarium, I also want some certain fish types that I havent been able to place in the 10 gallon but are not from anywhere near this area. I guess then it wont really be a biotope tank at all. I dont know, maybe after while I will get the "exotic fish" bug out of my system, but right now I think I want a little bit of everything! I just dont know! It will probably be a mix-and-match tank for a while with local/non-local plants and fish.
Aquatic Gardeners Association (AGA)


The AGA is the international organization of planted aquaria people. It is probably the most unifying entity we have for promoting advancements in the state of the art. They are at: .

The AGA contest was started a few years ago and is the best resource for seeing what other people have done in aquascaping. Every year you can view the best aquascapes from all over the world and see the current state of the art. They do have a biotope category, and there has been some very nice work submitted, but it seems many people have not understood what a biotope is. The biotope category also does not really have any of its own guidelines for entries, so this is understandable. However, from all the interest I've seen revealed on this forum, I think the number and quality of entries is going to improve. Feast your eyes on the entries at: . :lol:

By the way don't worry about the non biotope fish in your tank. I know I will just not consider them part of the biotope.

Steve Pituch
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There sure are some great pictures on the AGA website....I know what I'll be doing for a while today ;-)
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