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At the AGA, as I watched Mr Amano aquascape, Jeff Senske talk about scaping, the Iron Aquascaper contest, and comments again from Mr Amano about AGA winners, I realized something. These 'pros' set up an aquarium with the plants they want, without thinking that after 'maturation' they will remove them and really install the 'scape they want. They install the scape they want, then watch it mature.

This goes against a lot of the advice we give out here where typically we tell newbies to start with fast growing stems, then over time gradually change out these to generate your 'desired' scape. So I'm just curious what others think about this. Those of you with lots of experience out there, which way to you go? Do you start out with the idea of changing out the plants as the tanks matures, or do you just do the scape and let it mature? How do you avoid what so many of us go through with early algae issues? I'm not talking about the slow start up that Edward is posting in the fert forum. These are fully planted, and scaped tanks.

Comments anyone?
 

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Hi Bert!

I learned aquascaping really by the philosophy of Jen Jensen who landscaped the Henry Ford Estate in Dearborn (this was for a Senior Research Project study for the University of Michigan). His philosophy was that he would plant the trees and bushes he thought would make the Ford Estate look nice decades after the initial planting.

Of course, we are dealing with a different medium here (water as opposed to terristrial). But, for me at least, the same philosophy applies. I aquascape using the plants that I want knowing ahead of time that in order to get the effect that I wish to see will require time, heavy pruning, and careful maintenance with ferts, light, and so on. To me, there has never been a sense of plant Plant types A; replace Plant Types A with Types B; and finally, replace Plant Types B with desired plant Types C.

Careful monitoring of the aquarium and lots of practice/wisedom should allow one to avoid this "interchanging" of plant species. Also, having the foresight to know that the scape will not peak for a while after planting will help avoid frustration.

It is just my 2 cents.
 

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I think all in all getting to that level of plant choosing requires a lot more along the lines of real world experience rather than simply knowing how to stave off algae. Most of the 'pros' you see in aquascaping competitions and definitely Amano use things like bacter and so forth to pre-load the substrate with beneficial things that naturally help balance out the aquarium prior to the plants "taking over" whereas me and my poor self normally go with a self-made mix of cheap substrate materials to achieve the same "eventual" effect that the ADA substrates have. In the beginning, however, it does help for me to try using plants that will suck up the nitrates and help some of the other plants get started. My last two tanks have been done without doing this though, as I've learned to slope up my ferts and lighting to the final desired levels rather than having to change plants midway. More than this, though, is actually being able to visualize the scape you want in the end. I will be the first to admit that my opinion of the plants that I want now and my opinion 5 weeks into the growth of the tank have ALWAYS differed greatly. No matter how much forthought I give to plant choices, I'm always wrong on at least one of them. This is because I simply don't have the amount of experience some of the pros do and, hence, don't know exactly what some of the different plants will grow out to look like against a different plant, in different light, etc. For me, though, the journey is just as rewarding as the 'scape.' Maybe that's because I'm lacking in the 'artistic eye' department and my learning curve on that side is a bit steeper, but who knows? My thumb is green and algae free at the moment and for now, I'll take it! :)
 

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Most of the tank that I do setup now involves planning ahead. I pretty much have an idea of what I want to do and how I want it to come out. On some tank it comes out the way I want it and on some it doesn't. Just part of a learning experience. What I like to recommend to new people that is starting out on this hobby is to have a grow out tank. This will give you a chance to learn the characteristic of each particular plant and may help you in the future when you are ready to scape a new setup. But there are some that want a tank just like Amano for example. What I recommend to those people is to get the right equipment and exact plant if possible and try to copy it. Then later on you can do your own thing. Most of my friend that I help with this method seems to love it.
 

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IMO, the real reason to encourage newbies to start with rapidly growing stemmies is to let them taste a bit of success. Once you get a few years under your belt, you can then set off to do whatever you'd like.
 

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I setup my tanks how I like them from the start. I do this because I don't like to mess with the tank after setup other than weekly maintenance. I am still learning about what plants are good for certain setups and occasionally pull out bad plants, but I am doing this far less as I gain experience. I have also learned how to keep algae down after setup by just not dosing ferts. I dose after a certain amount of time, usually 2-3 weeks. All of this is from experience though. I have one of Amano's books, and he explains that while his tanks look great now, he has made many many mistakes. He even says he has made some mistakes multiple times. Experience is very important in this hobby and helps us make good decisions. Telling a newbie to use stems to absorb nutrients is probably best, because they might not know what else to do. They will learn though and make better decisions the next time around.
 

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Some good insights here! :thumbsup:

TNguyen, I like the idea of suggesting folks start out with a 'grow out' type tank to learn about the different species requirements, characteristics, etc.

Careful monitoring of the aquarium and lots of practice/wisedom should allow one to avoid this "interchanging" of plant species. Also, having the foresight to know that the scape will not peak for a while after planting will help avoid frustration.
IMO, the real reason to encourage newbies to start with rapidly growing stemmies is to let them taste a bit of success. Once you get a few years under your belt, you can then set off to do whatever you'd like.
There certainly is no substitue for experience. Having the knowledge, and all the tools (substrates, nutrients, lighting, etc) certainly are factors in a successful start and scape. Though I must say, even though I consider myself relatively experienced, I'm not sure I would start a new tank without a fair number of fast growing stemmies.

My thumb is green and algae free at the moment and for now, I'll take it!
Great line! :)
 

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I agree that having some immediate initial success is very important to most of us. Even if you've been in the hobby for a while we all still have to deal with the new tank cycle and such. That is why Amano came up with is fert products. He has different things dosed at different times, as well as substrate additive that Jargonchipmuck mentioned. Since most of us aren't the Amano type (multiple $$$ to spend) we find other cheaper ways - like cheap stem plants, to do the same thing.

If you also have more patience and can wait weeks and sometimes months for things to fill in you can start with an emersed method for foregrounds etc. You can wait for the tank cycle before adding livestock. Most of us like futzing with the tank, trying this plant or that, watching growth etc.

I think the Aquascaping contest and Mr. Amano's demo tank were designed with that day in mind and no necessarily thinking about a new tank cycle. They also didn't have fish to worry about. I think these were in a different category than what most of us do.
 

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Good thread! I think this is really a 'lifestyle issue'. The 'Pros' have a greater ability to tend to their tanks either themselves or through their staff while the average aquarist has life getting in the way and thus their tanks getting into trouble. The act of filling the tank with stems allows the typical aquarist more wiggle room as the tank develops and avoid problems. If one is to use a sparce amount of plants and basically set the tank from the getgo the way he/she wants the tank to be long-term all the maintenance items need to be fulfilled to avoid issues. Which would include constant water changes, using organic removal media, careful montoring of the light cycle, seeding the filter, etc.
 

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I also agree that it's best to start with a farm tank. It's also nice to keep a farm tank so one can start with enough of each type of plant when planning an aquascape. It's super important to start with lots of plants from the beginning no matter what sort of setup you are starting.

In addition to knowing how to grow plants the pros also have the upper hand knowing how to trim them properly. Many hobbyists top their stems, uproot the bottoms and replant the tops. This will never achieve the nice bushy stands you see in those stunning aquascapes. I'd love to see someone put together a picture intensive article or even a video on trimming a planted aquarium.
 

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I will speak for myself and not set an example for unlike some I am not blessed to live at a place where aquarium hardware, substrate, plants, fishes are easily available. I never put a name to it -- Aaron T calls it a 'farm tank' -- and yes I do have tanks like that in which I keep plant varieties for display tanks, but then these only can supply small amount of the species needed. I also keep 50k bags of lateritic clay for making substrates. I have a collection of stones and wood of various types which I have collected in my various outings (and some gifted to me by young people who crowd my fish rooms on holidays). I even have a collection of submersible pumps (mainly used for cooling air) of various sizes, which I adapt for aquarium use.

You would wonder at my disclosure of near LFS proportions; but it was necessary as we here have formed a group of planted tank enthusiasts, and the stocks I keep allows others to follow the hobby.

I quite often have to setup small planted tanks for newbies. I also plan with more experienced followers their dream tanks. Sorry for the overlong introduction.

Now the choice of plants might result in different approaches. In a tank with plants like crypts or vals, you might need to create hidden substrate areas to limit the adventures of their rhizomes and suckers. This you do even before you add the substrate. With such tanks you are forced to plant for maturity and plan accordingly.

Tanks which are predominately stems, stones, driftwood, moss have a different approach of plant and adjust. Trimming and widening clumps -- or thinning them -- as your fancy desires and the plant growth allows.

Naturally sometimes both the approaches gets mixed because of the mix of plants and the layout proposed.

The limitation of the bulk amount of plants necessary for aquascaping will naturally predispose any hobbyist to plant - trim - add more - wait to mature tactics. The method suits the means and the circumstances governing you; not the other way around.
 

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I'd love to see someone put together a picture intensive article or even a video on trimming a planted aquarium.
I've got the pictures and video of me trimming my 90-P Rotala scape, including pictures from the following weeks to show the plants grow back. Too lazy to edit and put it together......
 

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hmm, interesting questions

for me, I always start a tank with all the plants I want and 2 additional super fast growers. Usually by the time the tank cycles is completed, I toss these 2 plants out, and the layout usually dont change much.

This tank has stayed the way it is with only the foregound changing from microsword to UG and removing the hygros from the cycling days



I guess that doesn't qualify as being "pros"
 

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I third (fourth?) the trimming techniques video/writeup. I am fairly certain it's the area that I'm lacking the MOST knowledge in. I lack knowledge everywhere, but I'm comfortable with the rest of the tank. Trimming is the one area I get myself into trouble without really knowing it.
 

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I actually suggested this to someone at AGA that they should have a video presentation on trimming techniques for their next convention. I think it would be a great learning tool for a lot of folks.

How about it Ghazanfar? You wouldn't need to edit it perfectly, just post it on line for others to look at? :)
 

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IMO, the real reason to encourage newbies to start with rapidly growing stemmies is to let them taste a bit of success. Once you get a few years under your belt, you can then set off to do whatever you'd like.
I think people here are missing the point, the reason that for the last decade the mode of thinking has been to start a tank with fast growing stem plants. The reason for this was to control algae, nothing else. This line of thinking always suggested that in a new tank, particularly during the first 90 days, 70 to 90% of the tank space planted with fast growing stems would break in the tank and get it through the rough period of new tank syndrome. It is algae problems during this critical period that discourages most newbies.

So how do you guys alternatively deal with this issue if you do not start with stemmies?
 

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I think people here are missing the point, the reason that for the last decade the mode of thinking has been to start a tank with fast growing stem plants. The reason for this was to control algae, nothing else. This line of thinking always suggested that in a new tank, particularly during the first 90 days, 70 to 90% of the tank space planted with fast growing stems would break in the tank and get it through the rough period of new tank syndrome. It is algae problems during this critical period that discourages most newbies.

So how do you guys alternatively deal with this issue if you do not start with stemmies?
That was my impression as well, starting with fast growing plants (which happen to be stem plants) to outcompete and avoid the initial algae onslaught.

I assume instead of stem plants you could use floating plants, especially if the submerged plants do not require that much light. I know Oliver Knott use Salvina sp. for this cause.
 

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When I start a new tank I do it with a short photo period, sy 6 hour for at least the first month. I also plant it with at least on bunch of anacaris, When things start blooming realy well and diatoms are gone the anacharis is removed. Later if all is well the photo period will slowly be lengthened unitll a balance is met.
 

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Good thread! I think this is really a 'lifestyle issue'. The 'Pros' have a greater ability to tend to their tanks either themselves or through their staff while the average aquarist has life getting in the way and thus their tanks getting into trouble. The act of filling the tank with stems allows the typical aquarist more wiggle room as the tank develops and avoid problems. If one is to use a sparce amount of plants and basically set the tank from the getgo the way he/she wants the tank to be long-term all the maintenance items need to be fulfilled to avoid issues. Which would include constant water changes, using organic removal media, careful montoring of the light cycle, seeding the filter, etc.
Here's a start for Algae control!
 
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