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Discussion Starter #1
I'll also be taking ADA/Amano/AGA layout suggestions to post here. Just PM me on which tank you would like to see here.

Aquarium:


Size: 250 liters (65 gal)
Fish: 15 Cardinals tetras, 3 Harlequim rasboras, 8 Rummy-nose tetras
Plants: Anubias barteri var. nana, Blyxa echinosperma, Blyxa japonica, Echinodorus tenellus 'Amano', Glossostigma elatinoides, Ludwigia arcuata, Ludwigia glandulosa, Ludwigia sp. 'Pantanal', Micranthemum umbrosum, Rotala indica 'green', Rotala sp. 'nanjenshan', Rotala wallichii

Questions an ADA judge would ask (taken from contest booklet...they judge on creativity, composition, fish choice, creation of natural atmosphere, aquarium condition, and viability):

1) Does the aquascape make an original creative impression to the viewers?

2) Is the aquascape composed well (is there compositional balance within the aquascape)?

3) Are the aquatic plants appropriately positioned within the aquascape? Does the balance exist in the colors and shapes of the plants used?

4) Do you feel harmony between the fish and the aquarium layout?

5) Is the aquascape laid out well making a natural looking atmosphere?

Some questions of my own:

1) What compositional rules does this layout follow? Which compositional rules does it break?

2) What are the main elements in this layout? How do they work together harmoniously (or unharmoniously)?

3) What type of atmosphere/impression does this layout seem to create for the viewer?

Just questions to help aid discussion. However, discussion can head in directions that have nothing to do with the above questions (but still relate to the above aquascape).

Carlos
 

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I think the tank is too uniform looking. He is so good at trimming that it looks weird to me. But i think it is a great looking tank. I had a similar idea and was about to do the layout... then i saw this and had to figure something else out.
 

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There is too much 'sameness' for my blood here. The left mound of Rotala is just too overwhelming, imo. He sure must be an avid pruner!
 

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Discussion Starter #4
The plantings are very lush and the combination of plant species and textures is perfect. However, I feel that the midground area is unclear and weak. The Anubias barteri var. nana are absolutely dwarfed by the sharp, homogenous incline of Rotala rotundifolia 'Green'.

The use of the soft textured Rotala sp Nanjenshan toward the back was very clever. This aquarium shows good use of planting gradients, where you can increase depth by planting a larger species toward the front and phase it out to a similar looking but more finely textured species toward the back. Heteranthera zosterifolia --> Rotala rotundifolia 'Green' --> Rotala sp. 'Nanjenshan' is a good example.

I feel that the stems of Ludwigia 'Pantanal' in the upper left hand corner could be brought out a little more to balance the vibrant stand of R. wallichii.

Carlos
 

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Carlos gave a pretty eloquent description of what looks to me like two smooth green mounds with some rust-colored eruptions. The plants appear very healthy and the aquarium is obviously well cared for, but I agree with Shane and Bert that the overall impression is one of uniformity and meticulous pruning.

This aquascape is a case where I think the planting can be simplified a lot without losing the effect. Personally I don't see the nuances that Carlos describes in the choice and gradation of stem plants. I see rather uniform round mounds of green. The aquascape uses 12 different plants, but I see roles for only 3 (or maybe 4) plants in this aquascape; one to form the mounds, one to form the rust-colored eruptions and one for the foreground. The role of the mid-ground plants here is optional, but I would not use more than one. As it is the mid-ground plants help obscure the low stone work but are otherwise not very prominent. The transition role of the midground could be performed by more visible rock work with the foreground and background plants peaking through and around the stones. Or the stones could just be taken out and their absence wouldn't effect the aquascape much at all.


Roger Miller
 

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Discussion Starter #6
This aquascape is a case where I think the planting can be simplified a lot without losing the effect. Personally I don't see the nuances that Carlos describes in the choice and gradation of stem plants. I see rather uniform round mounds of green.
If they seem like uniform mounds of green, then the gradient effect is working well. Aquascapers in the U.S. often believe that it is best to use plants with maximum contrast in leaf texture and color in the same aquascape.I believe there is something to be said about using plants with minimal differences in gradients --creating much smoother, flowing aquascapes in the process.

The aquascape uses 12 different plants, but I see roles for only 3 (or maybe 4) plants in this aquascape; one to form the mounds, one to form the rust-colored eruptions and one for the foreground. The role of the mid-ground plants here is optional, but I would not use more than one. As it is the mid-ground plants help obscure the low stone work but are otherwise not very prominent.
My opinion differs here. I don't think minimizing an aquascape's plant species as much as possible improves it. Pretty much personal taste. However, as you decrease the number of plant species in a layout, you will have to bring out the hardscaping to greater and greater prominence. You could potentially minimize an aquascape with one foreground, one midground, and two background plants (say: Glossostigma, dwarf lobelia, Ludwigia arcuata, and Rotala sp Green), but your hardscape should be very bold to hold interest. Otherwise, the aquascape will became bland.

An interesting analogy would be in writing. You don't need qualitative words to have functional sentences such as "very" and "more" and "greatly," but they sure are important to add emphasis and detail.

Carlos
 

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However, as you decrease the number of plant species in a layout, you will have to bring out the hardscaping to greater and greater prominence. You could potentially minimize an aquascape with one foreground, one midground, and two background plants (say: Glossostigma, dwarf lobelia, Ludwigia arcuata, and Rotala sp Green), but your hardscape should be very bold to hold interest. Otherwise, the aquascape will became bland.
I don't think that follows at all. And I'm certain that the converse -- that you add a bigger variety of plants adds interest and decrease the need for "hardscape" -- is also not necessarily true.

I submit that in a tank with a small variety of plants the contrasts between plants can make designs stand out more clearly. Nothing is certain. but that contrast can mean that hardscape should be *less* important for giving the aquascape its structure and inherent interest -- not more important.

Monocultures with the entire tank planted in one species are an entirely different matter. They do depend heavily on the structure provided by hardscape. And of course, a tank planted with a number of very similar species are about the same as a monoculture.

The converse idea that a large variety of plants adds interest is disputed by the comments on this aquascape. Enrico used twelve plants in his mix, yet 3 out of 4 of us commenting on the photo see sameness, not variety. many aquascapes these days are planted mostly with small-leaved stem plants. With small-leaved plants the viewer may need to have his or her nose pressed against the glass to appreciate the difference between adjoining plants -- especially if those plants are all pruned to similar heights. At any greater distances the differences have little visual effect.

I don't think that one could ever make much of an argument that a minimal number of plants is necessary for a good aquascape or that a big variety of plants is required for interest. I do think that a lot of us are still basically plant collectors and tend to use more different plants then we need to use. I also think that if the aquascaper wants to emphasize the inherent design of an aquascape that the job is better done with a smaller variety of plants.

Roger Miller
 
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