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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is a spin off topic from ask Ken that will help in the overall effect of your tank no matter if you entry a contest or not.
These are the tricks of the trade in a winning tank that I will go into detail from my experience in the 2003 ADA and AGA contest.

Feel free to share on how you prepare the days, weeks or month before a contest and horror stories.

Thanks
Ken
 

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about the only horror story I can tell is that just recently, I busted 2 stems .:( Now the tank is a tad thin as they were large stems. ...luckily, they are growing out again! Note to self: use scissors to remove unwanted leaves.

As for preparation, I can do nothing better than to quote directly the words of one much much more experienced than I am. From the APD:

There are several contest coming up for aquascaping.
Carlos and Scott have been telling folks about them.

__Now__ is the time to start working on the tank to get it into shape for the ADA, AGA, AB contest! Around the end of April Give yourself at least 10 weeks to have a tank come into the way you want it.

It should be quite good this year. The level of design has taken off well in the USA in the last few years.

Be __very__ picky. About the photo's, the design, the plant health, lighting for the photo etc.

I would suggest cleaning the tank top to bottom, then fluff the plants good and remove as much detritus as you possibly can. Clean the glass good, take a clean razor blade to anything you cannot clean easily. Clean the filter good. Clean rock/wood very well.

Clean everything on the outside of the tank also

Do larger and more frequent water changes.
Try mega dosing right before the water change(24-12 hrs).

The day the tank has grown in the way you want, that morning that you plan on the photo shoot, do a large 70% water change early, then dose some PO4, traces and crank the CO2. Come home when it's dark outside for the photo shoot. Take many, many photo's. Use a tripod.Readup on photography hints from the AGA past speakers and other web sites on this topic.

I will do 60-70% water changes 3x a week and dose after the water change 2-3 weeks before I feel the tank is going the direction I like. Fluff the plants good before each water change, this will remove some algae that has attached, clean the glass even if you cannot see anything on it.

You can also use the lights from anopther tank for addition photo shoot lighting. Large white paper foam boards can also be used or cut out, black also for framing a tank etc.

Remember: the goal is to present _your idea_ and goal, not worry about getting a high place contest. Your only competitor is yourself. Design and make this tank for _you_, your own pride. Do not follow what other folks are doing, try something YOU WANT to do!!!

I will say that this type of experience is good for anyone that wants a better tank. Same goes for Open house events, these are even worse because they can see everything, unlike photos..................so try it this year, start now, don't wait 2-3 weeks till the contest deadline.

If you won last year etc, it's not nice to sandbag, enter the show case instead, and then enter the ADA contest and see if you place in the top %. If you win that one 3 years in row then you can die happy.

We want everyone to enter and develop these skills. The more prime examples of good aqauscaping by _different_ people, the better. Work as a team to promote your favorite passion and hobby and give them "secrets" away to the next group of winners. Got a friend? Get them to enter one.

And have fun and realize you will work your butt off for this:)

Regards,
Tom Barr
 

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A horror story from me for my first aquascape entry:

I was preparing my 55g for the 2002 AGA contest since January, but had met failure after failure at getting the tank to at least look semi-nice. I just didn't have time until my senior year of high school ended.

Afterwards, we moved in mid-June. I moved all the best cuttings of each plant along with me. When I finally started planting the tank, the worst possible scenario started to unfold. All the plants started to disentegrate! All plants disentegrated almost entirely except for about 1-2 cm of a growing tip. What a mess.

Then, in the entire month of July, I had a very persistant green water plague which I could not get rid of with water changes or blackouts. Finally, I bought a HOT Magnum and used the micron cartridge. The greenwater was history by early August but the contest was only a month and a half away.

Here is what it looked like on (8/10/02):


After a look of work and perseverence for the AGA (9/1/02):




Carlos
 

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I think patience is important. Actually I don't think rushing just to get a tank really is a good idea. Practice and develop good maintenance methods all the time. Stability in a tank is hard enough for a lot of us to achieve. You should be taking your time. If the tank matures at the right time thats good, but if it matures two months after the contest take the pictures then and enter them the next year. I don't think the AGA literature I've seen says you have to take the pictures at a certain time.

Also the judges will score higher the tanks that have been set up for the long run. If they sense a tank has been recently set up just for the contest, I think they will score it lower.

Steve Pituch
 

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Steven,

I don't think judges are particularly after older looking setups as much as eye catching and good designs. Very few of the tanks that won a prize were more than a year old, and most aquascapers (including me) usually reaquascape a tank within two years (or yearly!). I have two tanks which are torn down and resetup every year (two smaller ones). Fifteen days after the photos, the 55g shown above was rescaped to a more low maintenance, long term, more impacting design before I left for college.

Some tips for preparing for a contest:

Keep up on nutrient dosing. Don't slack. Above all, be consistent!

Water change every week, 50%. Vacuum along the gravel and among the plants, especially the fine leaved ones to remove any debris. Wipe the glass even if it seems like it doesn't need it. Mercilessly remove any bit of algae visible.

Prune, prune, prune. Go in there and prune once to twice a week to keep everything looking trimmed and organized. Understand the different growth rates and growth habits of the plants you are usng (i.e., if they grow more slowly don't prune them the day before you photograph the tank!). Let the plants fill in for a few days after trimming before the photo shoot.

Most of all, have fun! :)

Carlos
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Perparing

This is not a horror story, but a funny one.
2003 ADA was my first time perparing for a contest.
The ADA required 35mm reverse slide film only, so I borrow my brothers Nikon manual 35mm camera. The only cameras I ever used was your basic point and shoot ones. My brother gave me a 10 minute run through on his 35mm camera right before he left on vacation. This was one week before the April 30th deadline.
So on the morning of the shoot, went to the camera store and picked up a roll of 36 exposure reverse slide film.
I remember that April was very warm here in NYC. I had to cover both my windows with cardboard to make the room pitich black.
I also removed all filters and waited for the water to clear up.
I then prepare the camera and load the film to mount on a tripod.
I then snap away trying different background light to different colors.
I used a few other lights to accent different areas of the tank. Now a few hours into the shoot and about 6 more exposure to go the room was getting hot from all those lights. Also a black turtleneck shirt didn't help.
I kept taking pictures not realizing I snap over 36 shots. The camera film count was still at 30 after about 48 shoots. So I thought I was done with the shoot. I was glad to open up some window by then. I then started to rewind the roll of film, but with one turn it was done. Damnit....
I never took one shoot in that 5 hours since the film was not loaded on the track correctly.
I can't ever take anymore shoots that day since I only brought one roll and the film was rewound into the roll.
So lesson learned never touch a 35mm manual camera again....
Well the next day I redid everything again.
Later
Mr. Du....mbass
 

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What do I do to get ready for a competition? Nothing really. Most of my tanks don't require any intensive effort to get reds as bright or stems as full simply because I don't have any high tech tanks with stems in them . My only stem tank is a Walstead style and that's easy to take care of. I will step up the algae patrol for a month or so beforehand and increase WC to get the algae out, but that's it. I'm pretty fanatical when it comes to algae in my tanks anyway.

What I do do is take pictures every week for a few months ahead of time and then every day a week before the deadline so I've got plenty of pictures to choose from. Sometimes the tank looks best a few weeks beforehand and is overgrown just a bit too much two weeks later even though I thought it needed to fill in more when taking the first picture series.

As far as the AGA judges leaning toward more established [looking] tanks I have to agree. I was told straight out that one of my biotopes last year was scored poorly because the Mayaca looked like it had been put in there a week or so before. I also found out that some of the judges thought the foreground in my discus tank didn't look mature/filled in enough (even though there were three layers of glosso growing over itself) and so it was marked down. Such is life and the way of things. :)

Best,
Phil
 
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