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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Well, the NBAT results are out, a treat for those who like or actively scape in this highly formalized style.

I was not impressed at all with the planted aquariums this year. Here is the only notable:

Planted Tank Category Winner:

By J.C. van de Werve

Terrarium Category entries are amazing as usual, much can be applied to making the emersed parts of our paludariums lusher and more "aged" from these:


By B. Courage


By A.W.J. de Greeff

And lastly the biotope category:


A Central American large cichlid biotope, by J. Nijhuis

For more planted tanks and the rest of the results:
http://www.nbat.nl/aquarium5/keuringgezel/keuringgezel04.html

Carlos
 

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It might help if you keep in mind that the "Dutch Aquascaping Contest" is *not* an aquascaping contest. It is an aquairum contest that concentrates on the makeup and health of the biological community and maintenance of the tank. The aesthetic value of the aquascape is a relatively small factor in their judging.

In the past I have found that the contest winners are often not the most aesthetically pleasing tanks --to me, anyway. A visit to the NBAT web site is worth it for the view of some of the other contestant's tanks and setups. It's unfortunate, but the photo presentations really aren't very good. The site is at

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

On the left side of the window there is a list titled "Landelijke Huiskeuring 2004". Click on "Gezelschapsaquaria" to see the community tank entries. Other items on the list are for different categories in the contest; biotopes, marine tanks, vivariums and terrariums.

Roger Miller
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
It might help if you keep in mind that the "Dutch Aquascaping Contest" is *not* an aquascaping contest.
I understand that the judges go to every aquarium during different times of the year, inspecting the placement of all the aquarium chemicals/materials, the status of the filtration system, lighting, and water quality. They even stick their hands into the tank and check the root systems of specific plants. However, aquascaping is a very important aspect of this contest. Furniture also features prominently, and furthermore, the position in the room. Here are the guidelines, which span several categoryes including aquascaping and fish choice to create the entire presentation. At least for me, furniture, position of equipment, fish choice, and plant health *are* important parts of a contest since they effect the presentation of the aquascape. The ADA and AGA certainly judge tanks with all those criteria save furniture and placement within the home.

The hallmark of this style is the tight, manicured look of the bunch plants. Plants are neatly organized into rows which gain height from front to back. Ideally, up to three kinds of plants are used per foot of the aquarium so a four foot tank (48 inches) should ideally have no more than twelve species. Stem plants are carefully chosen for their growth rates as well so as to keep the shape of the 'streets' as low maintenance as possible --hence the use of lobelia and Saururus cernuus is very popular.

Plants should be organized so as to provide maximum contrast in color and leaf shape/size with their neighbors. Colors can include light green, dark greens, browns, reds, pinks, and purples. Small leaved Hemianthus micranthemoides vs large leaved sword plants, round Bacopa caroliniana leaves vs the slender leaves of Ammania gracilis, etc. These neatly organized plants should be arranged and built around the focal point(s) of the tank. Aquariums should have no more than two focal points, usually placed 1/3rd or 2/3rds the length of the tank (rule of thirds).

Some important considerations are that features in the back of the tank should never catch the eye (no red plants in the back) so as to provide more depth. Also, the tank is usually viewable only from one side. The back wall and sides should be concealed and look as natural as possible, usually with the use of mosses and java fern. They created the first moss walls. Another consideration is that the variety of decoration used should be as minimal as possible, similar to what Amano advocates. Don't use various kinds of rocks or various kinds of wood in a tank --stick to one kind only.

Typical plant choices:
Rotala indica
Lobelia cardinalis
Limnophila aquatica
Bacopa caroliniana
Alternanthera reineckii
Java moss
Ammania gracilis
Hygrophila corymbosa v stricta
Hygrophila difformis
Saururus cernuus
Hydrocotyle leucocephala
Didiplis diandra
Rotala macrandra
Vallisneria sp
Echinodorus 'Ozelot'

Fish play a very important part in this style as well. The bottom, middle, and top zones of a tank should be filled with fish to make each area interesting to the viewer. All fish species should be different in shape, color, and size, but the least number of species possible should be used to fill all niches in the tank (so no blue rams in a tank with kribensis, or silver hatchetfish with marbled hatchetfish, etc). A group of larger fish such as angelfish or congo tetras is always appreciated. Schools must be as large as possible.

The appearance of the aquarium in a living room was also critical, usually having the aquarium as being the main piece of decoration. Custom cabinetry incorporating the aquarium into the wall is very popular due to the small size of the rooms. A metal stand or any hardware showing in the living room would be unthinkable.
Carlos
 

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I love Dutch aquascapes, but the site unfortunately doesn't provide us with high quality pictures and they only have one picture for each setup.

Carlos, are you saying that the judges actually visit every participant's house?
 

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Carlos,

Aquascaping does play a role in the contest. As in any other contest, if you aren't on top of every detail then you will not win. The aquascape is one of those details. NBAT doesn't refer to it as an aquascaping contest, so I don't know why you would.

I'm not sure where you got the second quote in your last letter. I've read it before, but can't place it. The quote does not describe the entire process or judging criteria used. It only describes some of the aesthetic qualities judged. There is an old letter in the APD archives at

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

in which Stephane Andre tries to translate some major points about the contest rules. "Aesthetics" comprises one of three major categories; under aesthetics there are several subcategories of which two (animal choice and decoration elements) don't apply to the aquascape, but to the animals and the setting.

I've spent quite a bit of time stuffing parts of the NBAT contest rules summary (all written in Dutch) through translators to figure out how the contest works. Where the rules discuss aquascaping they are excruciatingly detailed (as is reflected in the quotation you used), specifying how many plants are to be used and how they are to be used, among other things. The most important aspect of aquascaping in the Dutch contest is the ability of the entrant to satisfy all of the rules -- not the ability of the entrant to produce an original and/or attractive aquascape. That is why the most original and interesting aquascapes in the contest usually don't win.

It's a tough contest for which the winners deserve a great deal of respect for their knowledge and accomplishments. It is a misrepresentation to call it an "aquascaping contest" The NBAT contest requires the entrant to satisfy some very demanding criteria, of which an attractive aquascape is only one.

Roger Miller
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I'm not sure where you got the second quote in your last letter. I've read it before, but can't place it. The quote does not describe the entire process or judging criteria used. It only describes some of the aesthetic qualities judged.
Roger,

I've done a lot of research as well.

That quote is part of an article I wrote for this site on how to create a Dutch aquascape. It's been in the Aquascaping articles section for some time. I purposely extracted only the aesthetic portions of the contest and added them into the article (since our methods of growing plants, maintenance, etc are quite different).

Yes, the judges actually do go to your home, Raul.

Carlos
 

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Let me help you out. First there are local rounds which deliver district winners, these then go on to a nationwide round which gives the Dutch champion. For both rounds a team actually visits your home and checks everything up to safety with the electricity and the "plumbing".
Ed
 

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Hi Ed, nice seeing you here :D

In Belgium we have something similar. Two knowledgable people came to my house in september to check everything about my tank. There is however a small difference with the competition in the Netherlands: in Belgium, it is mostly about esthetics and biology of the tank. While in the Netherlands also electricity, water parameters, safety, plumbing,... are taken into account.

The Belgian contest is very much influenced by the Dutch one, so all aquascaping techniques must be 'Dutch'. That is something I don't really like about this contest. For me, Nature Aquariums are much more beautiful.

But in the end, every contest is a subjective one. And if you are enjoying the hobby, the results don't matter...

Sven
 
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