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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: 170x65x50cm
Fish: 11 Rasbora caudimaculata, 15 Hyphessibricon rubrostigma, 25 Barbus oligolepis en 1 Crossocheilus (Epalzeorhynchus) siamensis
Plants (from left to right): Hydrocotyle leucocephala, Hygrophila corymbosa "stricta," Didiplis diandra, Lobelia cardinalis, Ammania gracilis, Vesicularia dubyana, Hygrophila difformis, Cryptocoryne crispatula var. balansae, Echinodorus 'Ozelot', Alternanthera reineckii "rosaefolia," Bacopa caroliniana, Limnophila aquatica, Micranthemum umbrosum

Questions an NBAT judge would ask (taken from word of mouth of an actual NBAT contestant):

Design related questions ONLY:

1. Fish:
A) Do the fish fill the top, middle, and bottom of the aquarium to make each zone interesting?
B) Are the schools of fish as large as possible?
C) Are the fish too large or too small of the aquarium?
D) Is there a group of larger fish to catch the eye?
E) Are all fish of different colors, shapes, and sizes?
F) Are there too many fish species? Minimum number of fish species should be used.

2. General:
A) Is there any algae anywhere in the aquarium?
B) Is any equipment readily visible?
C) Are glass sides or back walls visible? (the back wall should be covered)
D) Is the variety of decoration material minimal (rocks, driftwood)?
E) Is the quality of the furniture high, and how does it look within the room?

3. Plants:
A) Is there a minimal number of different plant species in the layout (maximum, three species per foot of tank)?
B) There should be no more than two focal points, and other plant groupings should lead the eye toward the focal point.
C) Are plants of different colors, textures, and sizes combined effectively?
D) Do neighboring plants offer maximum contrast?
E) Does the layout provide infinite depth through the use of structured plant streets to lead the eye?

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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Did they put a green lens to take this picture? I do not have a lot of experience with those contest or aquascaping at this point, but the first thing that surprice me was the fish list, Where are those fish? the only one I can see are the green/yellow almost invisible fih on the left.
I think some contrast is missing, when I look at this picture it is alomost like if they took only one side of the tank, like there is something missing. Like a driftwood to add some colour or at least some rock (maybe some slate to keep the colourscale). The plant look real good and well balance as of size and different green shade, but for me it seem imcomplete.
 

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tsunami said:
Questions an NBAT judge would ask (taken from word of mouth of an actual NBAT contestant):
Before getting farther into this there are a couple things I want to point out.

First is that the NBAT contest is *not* an aquascaping contest, it is an aquarium contest. You can tell just by reading the short list of questions that Carlos provided that having a good-looking aquascape is nowhere near the highest consideration on the judges' list. Having a great photo of the tank isn't on the list at all, which gets me to the second point.

In the NBAT contest the judges (who I'm told are both trained and paid) visit the contestants ' homes; they look at the setting of the tank and how it fits into the home, they test the water themselves and provide results to the contestants, they may poke and prod about, uprooting plants to see the condition of roots and so on, they observe the health and behavior of the fish and from the sounds of it they also check the aquarists' knowledge of the livestock's taxonomy and origin. I think the judging is repeated a number of times over the course of a year to make sure that the aquarium's conditions on one visit aren't just a fluke. All in all, it's a very rigorous competition.

The APD post here

http://fins.actwin.com/aquatic-plants/month.9907/msg00190.html

provides a little more information interpreted to english. The NBAT site is here

http://www.nbat.nl/home.html

Follow the links at the bottom of the NBAT page to "het Aquarium" then to "wat hier eens te lezen en te bekijken was" and scroll to the bottom of the page. There they have links to the top finishers in the NBAT contest from 1997 on. The photos aren't great, but some are useful. The site provides quite a bit of information on each aquarium. Even if you don't read Dutch you can get the gist of what is being said by running the description through a translator (babblefish, for instance). For the 1999 contest they even included a table of water parameters for 15 tanks. You might be surprised by some of the results.

When I read their site I frequently have to remind myself that Harlingen is *not* just a town in Texas.

I think it's important when you study these tanks to consider more than their appearance in the photo. Use your imagination and the information they provide to place yourself in front of the tank; picture what it would be like to live with a tank like that.

There are a lot of questions that the NBAT judges might ask that you can't hope to answer from a photograph. There are other questions that we might be able to answer with a good photo that we really can't answer with the photo provided. The color rendition in the photo is so bad that it can't be used to answer questions about color balance or contrast in the layout. The photo is so green that even most of the contrasting shades of green are wiped out. I've tried to answer a few questions for which the photo might be adequate.

B) Is any equipment readily visible?
No.

C) Are glass sides or back walls visible? (the back wall should be covered
It looks like the back and sides are mostly obscured, but this tank might look a litte better if the ends were *not* obscured.

D) Is the variety of decoration material minimal (rocks, driftwood)?
Maybe. I can't really tell what's in the shadows. Certainly it isn't very prominent.

A) Is there a minimal number of different plant species in the layout (maximum, three species per foot of tank)?
The number of plant species comes in under the maximum. I would say though that there are more species in the tank than the layout really needs, so it isn't minimal.

B) There should be no more than two focal points, and other plant groupings should lead the eye toward the focal point.
There is only one focal point and the layout really emphasizes that point. Unfortunately. the layout seems to direct the viewer to the right "optical center" and then there is nothing special there. Perhaps the small Ozelot sword will help someday when it grows up.

E) Does the layout provide infinite depth through the use of structured plant streets to lead the eye?
The use of streets is pretty obvious, but that doesn't leave me with an impression of great depth.

I thought it would be interesting to go back to the ADA contest questions that Carlos was asking and apply them here.

1) Does the aquascape make an original creative impression to the viewers?
No. The aquascape is something of a cliche. Some of the other Dutch scapes are a lot more daring than this one.

2) Is the aquascape composed well (is there compositional balance within the aquascape)?
Except for the apparent absence of something to fill the focal point the tanks looks very well balanced. It's composition is obvious.

3) Are the aquatic plants appropriately positioned within the aquascape? Does the balance exist in the colors and shapes of the plants used?
The group of M. umbrosum on the right appears out of place. The group of H. leucocephala on the left is almost as alienated from the aquascape. I can't really answer the rest of the question based on the photo.

4) Do you feel harmony between the fish and the aquarium layout?
Fish? The fish that are visible are hardly distinguishable. It seems that many are probably hiding in the plants. Hiding while pictures are taken is a pretty common and natural behavior for fish. In that sense it seems just right.

5) Is the aquascape laid out well making a natural looking atmosphere?
I'll use "relaxed" rather than natural. The aquascape is laid out failry well, but the impression is not comfortable or relaxed. Some of the plants groups are trimmed to the point that they appear to be completely separated from adjacent groups. I think the aquascape would have a much more relaxed look if the groups were allowed to grow together, as it seems they often are in other Dutch-style tanks.

Roger Miller
 

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So they did put a green lens after all, at least in this context, the judge will see the tank in person. But this is a good exemple why i have some reserve about aquascaping contest who only use picture... I guess the solution would be a small 30 sec video ( most digital camera can do it) and in the video, the aquascaper should be shown just to make sure from the skin colour that no colour filter was add.

I think it is hard at this point to answer the question the judge would ask themself because we only see a 2d picture and the judge look at the tank directly.

My comment remain the same about the fish no matter the picture we look at. They are barely visible and the shot should have been taken while the fish are being a darker plant or background.
 

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defdac said:
Don't know if this is ok, or even if the result is satisfactory. But anyway:
Thanks! That looks a lot better. In real life the tank is probably not that shadowy. I epxerimented with the photo a little and found that the information in the shadows is simply gone. There probably isn't a way to make the image much brighter and still keep it looking about right.

It looks *way* better this way and even if the colors aren't exact they have to be more accurate than in the first photo.

Roger Miller
 

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Discussion Starter #8
First is that the NBAT contest is *not* an aquascaping contest, it is an aquarium contest. You can tell just by reading the short list of questions that Carlos provided that having a good-looking aquascape is nowhere near the highest consideration on the judges' list. Having a great photo of the tank isn't on the list at all, which gets me to the second point.
Right, I purposely omitted almost all the questions presented by the NBAT in this critique, leaving behind only those questions which pertain to aquascaping/design.

All in all, it's a very rigorous competition.
Perhaps not too rigorous. The lighting isn't exactly very intense, which means growth rates should be controllable. I'd say a lot of these tanks are very stable. There is one contestant in the NBAT who has submitted the same tank and ranked near the top every year. The tank looks almost exactly the same from year to year.

Don't forget, there is an article on Dutch aquaria (aquascaping aspect only) here:
http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/forum/cms_view_article.php?aid=41

The color rendition in the photo is so bad that it can't be used to answer questions about color balance or contrast in the layout.
It's a real shame that all of the Dutch tank photos are really poor. Regardless of the poor photo quality of the first picture in this thread, it managed to place 38th in the 2001 ADA contest. This placement goes counter to two assumptions made about the ADA contest: photo quality is a significant factor in judging a tank, and that only Nature Aquarium Style aquaria can hope to do well.

Although the photo quality isn't great, I don't feel that this tank is very bright in person as the lighting is probably in the 2 wpg range (with normal flourescents, no less). Also, some plants like the Didiplis diandra on the left seem to have blackening lower stems --a common ailment of insufficient lighting with this species.

Carlos
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Here is a "sister" Dutch aquarium by Leo Crutzen, titled "My Little Underwater Garden" in the ADA 2001 contest. He has also participated in the NBAT, if I recall. The photographer seems to have been the same person, as the original photo was of similar quality and also had a green cast to it.

Thanks Daniel for editing it! For this one, Daniel had a full sized photo to work with so the photo quality is much better than J. Engelen's (I also have a full sized photo of his aquarium, if anyone wants to play with that).

Anyways...

Placed 44th in ADA 2001
Aquarium size: 200x65x60cm

Carlos
 

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tsunami said:
Perhaps not too rigorous. The lighting isn't exactly very intense, which means growth rates should be controllable. I'd say a lot of these tanks are very stable. There is one contestant in the NBAT who has submitted the same tank and ranked near the top every year. The tank looks almost exactly the same from year to year.
I'm not sure what growth rates have to do with how rigoous the contest is..

It's a real shame that all of the Dutch tank photos are really poor. Regardless of the poor photo quality of the first picture in this thread, it managed to place 38th in the 2001 ADA contest. This placement goes counter to two assumptions made about the ADA contest: photo quality is a significant factor in judging a tank, and that only Nature Aquarium Style aquaria can hope to do well.
I would be surprised if the photo entered in the contest had the color quality problems that appear in the printed then scanned image above.

Although the photo quality isn't great, I don't feel that this tank is very bright in person as the lighting is probably in the 2 wpg range (with normal flourescents, no less). Also, some plants like the Didiplis diandra on the left seem to have blackening lower stems --a common ailment of insufficient lighting with this species.
I doubt it's very bright by the standards some people are applying today -- but I think it probably looks brighter than it appears in the photo. But I also don't think you can judge the color of the lower leaves in the photo. The image contains very little information in the shaded parts of the tank -- certainly the color rendition of shaded leaves is not accurate.

Roger Miller
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I'm not sure what growth rates have to do with how rigoous the contest is..
Slower growth rates equals less rigorous pruning. I feel that proper pruning is absolutely essential for a successful Dutch street, etc. I am simply stating that Dutch tanks are simply not as demanding as a lot of stem plant tanks in the United States with over 3-4 wpg --most people avoid these types altogether because they are viewed as "too demanding." These tanks can maintain their 'look' for quite a long time without too much effort in the way of pruning, fertilization, etc.

I would be surprised if the photo entered in the contest had the color quality problems that appear in the printed then scanned image above.
The printed image in my Aquajournal magazine has the same color quality problems. I think Daniel's edited version is far superior to the one in the Aquajournal.

But I also don't think you can judge the color of the lower leaves in the photo. The image contains very little information in the shaded parts of the tank -- certainly the color rendition of shaded leaves is not accurate.
But some of it also comes from experience... if a tank has 2 wpg with normal flourescents, how can one hope to light the lower leaves of Didiplis diandra appropriately? D. diandra's lower stems will turn black with 2 wpg PC lighting over a 55gallon --I feel that the printed photo in front of me shows the same problems.

I think we are getting a little carried away with the photography aspect of Dutch tanks. The photography of these tanks is awful. It's plain and simple. Almost all the other ADA entries in this magazine have much higher photo quality. However, we should try to overcome these shortcomings and try to analyze this tank's quality as an aquascape --which I think is completely fair. If Dutch tanks are to be "perfect" aquariums, then they must be pleasing aesthetically as well --since the owner will probably be looking at the same general design for years.

Carlos[/b]
 

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Louisxyz said:
So they did put a green lens after all
What green lens ?

Why would you put a green lens if you growing Ammania gracilis and Alternanthera reineckii "rosaefolia :roll:

White Balance wasn't setup correctly or wasn't at all. Thats all :idea:
 

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Jay Luto said:
Louisxyz said:
So they did put a green lens after all
What green lens ?

Why would you put a green lens if you growing Ammania gracilis and Alternanthera reineckii "rosaefolia :roll:

White Balance wasn't setup correctly or wasn't at all. Thats all :idea:
To get the monochrome aspect of many of amano tanks... i'm no expert in photography, the only thing I mean was all the red flower are in a green shade in the first picture compare to the other one.
 

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Louisxyz said:
To get the monochrome aspect of many of amano tanks... i'm no expert in photography, the only thing I mean was all the red flower are in a green shade in the first picture compare to the other one.
Which meant that Manual White Balance wasn't setup. If I take picture of my setup without setting up WB, I get the same thing. This is just FYI :wink:
 

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tsunami said:
I think we are getting a little carried away with the photography aspect of Dutch tanks
It appears that if we aren't to talk about photo quality then we have little else to say.

Speaking generally, I find that J. Engelen's tank -- like many tanks in the NBAT contest -- is so bound by rules that it has little new to offer. Looking at the photo is not much different from reading a rule book and it's about as exciting. That isn't true of all the NBAT tanks. Some of them seem to stretch the rules and are more attractive for that fact. But being attractive is not a big key to winning the NBAT competition.

Of the recent entries on the NBAT site I like (among others) BPF (or EJM) Schalk's 4th place entry in 2003.


When I look at this aquascape I don't feel like I'm being bludgeoned by a painfully obvious "street" arrangement of over-pruned plants.

Roger Miller
 
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