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That tank is indeed tied for 1st place with Oliver's tank. If the total scores were calculated one way Jeff's was 1st, if calculated the other Oliver's was 1st. I chose Oliver's tank for BoS because it is a better example of a general planted tank, which is what the majority of the AGA showcase is all about.

As far as that tank being a creative aquascape, it is just that. I've said it before and I'll say it again until I find one better...in my opinion this is a perfect planted discus tank. The hardscaping and choice of plants is a perfect compliment for the fish, and vice versa. Yes, bare-bones, this is just a few pieces of wood, some rocks, and bunch of Amazon Swords in a tank. Just as with other minimalist art the skill lies in artfully and tastefully arranging the few elements into something greater than the sum of the parts. Yes, it's bare compared to the rest of the aquascapes we see, but it's a DISCUS tank, they need space.

So what if it has light colored gravel? It shows off the colors of the discus better and is in fact the very color of the sand in the Amazon where these fish live. Not only that, but it goes well with the powder blue color of the fish. Oh yeah, it's CLEAN too. That shows care in maintenance, it's hard enough to do in a regular planted tank, let alone one with discus.

Finally, consider the scope of the aquascape. This is a 300+ gallon aquarium with a school of 10 *adult* discus. Making that kind if impression with so little in such a large space is evidence of skill and forethought, not luck and photoshop. That's why it did as well as it did.

As far as folks seeing tanks prior to the competition it's up to the judge to be impartial. Seeing all the scores and commentary on this particular tank during BoS discussion it's clear as a bell that the judges were impartial in this case. Everyone here knows who I am, does that mean I can no longer participate in discussion of my aquascapes or in aquascaping contests? Hardly.
 

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So far I have been staying clear of these discussions for two reasons. One, I feel guilty as there were alot of scapes I liked alot more than mine :oops: Most importantly though, I make my tnaks for me. My enjoyment. I enter because I value others opinions and I want to learn and be a part of the community. I read my comments once, and I don't remember them now. I am pleased that I made something I wanted to show the world. I am proud yes, but I really only care for my opinions in the end;)

Now I will go back to remaining out of it:) Congrats to all who won and all who entered, whether it was a "normal"[-X tank or not:p
 

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Entering the AGA was a goal of mine since the beginning of the year. When I got there and saw the other entries, I have to admit I knew the tank I entered wasn't all that special and knew it wasn't going to get a second glance. Yes, I'm just a hobbyist. The tank that was entered wasn't my best work ever, but it was clean, the fish are very healthy, there's no algae, and I put a lot of work into it. I'm in the same boat with Dennis in that, in the end, it's the feeling of creating something I wasn't embarrassed to share.

I showed livestock for several years and learned a long time ago that once all is said and done, it's really about the sportsmanship, learning new things, and meeting folks with the same interests. Once I got my courage up, I actually struck up a couple conversations at the convention and found people to be very warm and friendly. Special thanks to Tom Barr and Diana Walsted for chatting as long as you did. That wouldn't have happened at the some of the livestock shows at national level; believe me, I tried.

When I got home and arrived at the pet store where I work, I was reminded why my tank exists in the first place. There were several folks who wandered into the fish room, walked up to the nanocubes and stared right at mine... ignoring the saltwater nanocubes above it at eye level.

The plant hobby is definitely a powerful one and I think we can do a great job of welcoming new folks. Everyone should be participating in contests like the AGA; seeing others' tanks is inspiring, especially to newbies. I know this from experience... several times, I've given customers the address to the contest results and they've always appreciated seeing the photos. A few times, people have come back with pics of their own tanks that are on that caliber after only a few months.

Sorry for the long sappy post, guys, but I felt really refreshed after attending the conference and wanted to speak my mind. With any contest, there's going to be disagreement about the results, but that's why it's a competition in the first place... everyone's going to have their own opinion. :) I'm just glad there are cool sites like this and others where people can share info and experience with each other.

-Sarah
 

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Entering the AGA is supposed to be fun, it's a hobby, a relaxing hobby. I don't have any opinion about which tank should or should not have won at the AGA but I did look at the ADA contest and wonder why one of the Bronze tanks was not the grand prize winner. :wink:

C_perugiae said:
Sorry for the long sappy post, guys, but I felt really refreshed after attending the conference and wanted to speak my mind. With any contest, there's going to be disagreement about the results, but that's why it's a competition in the first place... everyone's going to have their own opinion. :) I'm just glad there are cool sites like this and others where people can share info and experience with each other.

-Sarah
I seem to remember my wife and I sitting at the banquet with someone (a couple) from MI. I was running around like a nut that evening so forgive me if I forgot the name and have the wrong person.
 

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At first glance, J senske's tank looks like a regular tank with java ferns, driftwood and juvenile discus swimming about. They need to start including a foot ruler in front of the tanks to help out people who are perspective impaired, like me.
 

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Hey Sean... you sat with me at the banquet. I really enjoyed talking to you and the guys from Practical Fishkeeping. Your wife and I had a good chat when you were running around at the end of the banquet, so tell her I said hi. :) My friend, Kirby, is very active in the reef hobby, so he's been going to stuff like MACNA and IMAC; it was his first freshwater convention and he really enjoyed himself.
 

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C_p....

I wouldn't ever say that you're "just a hobbyist". There is nothing wrong with wanting to do this for fun and not get any deeper into it than that. Yes, a lot of us get really into it, probably more than we really need to, and let it become more than a hobby. Heck, I had to start keeping SW tanks just to have something aquatic I wasn't super involved in or had any desire to get involved in more than was necessary to enjoy keeping a tank. I wish I could go back to those "just a hobbyist" days, things were a lot more fun then.

I hope you were at the presentation of the awards after the banquet. You are a perfect example of the exact type of person I was thanking for entering and wishing we had more participation from. Thank you, and everyone who participated for the same reasons you did. I wish everyone had your attitude toward this hobby.

Best,
Phil
 

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I'm the aforementioned friend of Sarah's, and as she pointed out I'm a saltwater person and was thus out of my element at your convention. Speaking as an outsider and a scientist, I'll tell you I was somewhat taken aback by the emphasis everyone seemed to place on what was largely an artistic competition. Honestly, the only part of it that interested me was the biotopes, and that seemed to be the least appreciated and most sparsely-entered category. (For the record, I'll enter one of my own next year. :D ) I'm used to conferences where the focus is on advancements of science and discovery rather than discussions of who used red plants too gratuitously and whose slope of background plants was too irregular. I certainly respect the art, but anything beyond a cursory discussion of its merits invites somnabulance. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and discussing it analytically detracts from the art, in my opinion.

That said, there was plenty of science to keep me happy. I'm not conceited enough to think that everyone is edge-of-the-seat excited over discussions of Cryptocoryne phylogenetics and geographical distribution, but I sure love 'em! I thoroughly enjoyed many of the talks. I understand (now) that this hobby is far more art dominated than the reef hobby, and your conventions have to be a skilled marriage of art and science. In that respect, I think the conference as a whole was well done, even if the contest didn't tickle my interest much.

As I said, I'll enter a biotope next year. I won't win, because I have no interest in competition, but I'd love to share my ideas. I've had several FW biotope ideas bouncing around in my head for a while and having a forum in which to share them might be the inspiration to actually create them. In that respect, the contest is obviously a good thing.

So there's your unsolicited opinion from a plant outsider. Maybe I'll see some of you folks again next year.

-Kirby

Plantae semper vivum! - or something like that. I can't think of a good Latin blessing for plant people. :(
 

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I guess that kinda came out a little funny, Phil. I'm actually quite plant-obsessed, but a relative newcomer to the hobby. I order the aquatic plants for a pretty decent-sized pet store and manage most of the freshwater tanks, but I have just recently gotten serious about plants, probably only about eight months ago. Not only is it an interest of mine (competes well with homework) but helping people with plants and learning about what actually goes on in a planted tank is part of my job.

What I meant to say is that I'm still in that "hobbyist" level when it comes to what I know and how I work with my tanks. Hopefully, in the future, that will develop more rapidly, now that I have good internet access so I can learn from this site and others.

And yes, I was there at the awards banquet. I was as excited to see how won for the year as I have been the last couple years, even more so now that I have the hands-on experience. The only thing I missed all weekend was Amano's demonstration; after a long week of tests and papers for class and the flight the day before, I couldn't stay up any longer. I really regret not being around for the picture afterward, but hey, at least I'm in the pic with the rest of the girls and Amano. :)

Hmm... had some other thoughts, but forgot them. I'll finish this up when I've had more than four hours of sleep and less than 10 hours of work at some place other than a trade show. :)
 

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I think the contest are great and have gotten better each year.
Folks in the USA have gotten very good.

It's nice to see a blend of both Art and Science with a passion for weeds.

Regards,
Tom Barr
 

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Days ago, Roger wrote:

I agree that the judge's coments sometimes seemed to over-emphasize maintenance requirements. It's impossible for me to say how much that consideration might have effected the scoring. "Viability" -- the judging criteria where I think maintenance requirments might be considered -- is the lowest points category.
Hi folks, I'm coming into this late, as I don;t visit ANY of the forums very often. But I wanted to mention that on this issue, one of the reasons that I tend to comment on maintenence ssues is that these are give-away points. Roger is right, there is not a tremendous emphasis on them. But this is an area where even if someone is not terrifically artistic, there is no reason to lose points, with a little attention to detail. Unless there are MAJOR problems with the long-term stability of a tank (which was not the case in ANY of the tanks within the top 75% of the contest this year) I am unlikely to take more than a point or two for viability "issues". But as Phil said in one of his posts, MANY of the decisions we had to make this year came down to taking a single point away here or there.

Karen
 

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Ricky Cain said:
I know that for me personally the overall impression carried the most weight. I could give a hoot about viability and maintenance. Those are choices an individual makes when planning out and setting up an aquascape. I don't know how much time a person has to devote to their tank so I tried not to think about that even though I had to use the AGA criteria in judging.
<snip>
Let me say this, it is much, much easier to enter the contest than it is to judge it. I'm going to try and stay on the entry side of the fence from now on.

Ricky
I think it is critical that "overall impression" carry the most weight... that is, IMO, what aquascaping is all about... the "wow" factor when someone walks into the room. But unfortunately, as you have seen first hand, once we agree to judge one of these things, we have to somehow order the tanks, and sometimes making the decision between one and the next comes down to the picky details. MOST of these tanks would have the "Wow" factor if you walked into the aquarists house and saw the tank sitting there by itself.

Karen
 

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Robert Hudson said:


Someone please explain how this qualifies as a creative aquascape and worthy of 1st place? Bare white sand and two groups of plants? Everyone here knows who Jeff Senske is. According to the WEB site he won first place in the same catagory as Oliver. Was it a tie or should it say second place?<<

It was definitely a tie. Both tanks were beautiful. There can definitely be beauty in simplicity.

>> Phil told me he was trying very hard to be impartial which is why he gave up being moderator at my forum, but can anyone except Mr. Amano be at all impartial when the majority of the pictures in the contest were displayed and talked about in this forum, my forum, Planted tank, Aquatic Quotient, Age of Aquariums and other forums months before the contest?
<<

It certainly sounds like Phil did it. Amano hadn't seen any of these tanks, and I only signed up for this Forum yesterday. I did not see ANY of the tanks on this or any other forum before the judging. There are a few that I recognized from prior years. (one, I privately told the owner is not in as good shape this year as it has been in the past<g>) But, after years of judging horse shows, where we see the same animal show after show, year after year, I feel quite confident that I can judge an entry based on merit rather than who it belongs to.

That leaves Ricky. Personally, I think that Ricky also has the integrity to judge fairly whether he has seen the tanks before or not. There have been people that I've disagreed with a LOT more than this year's group of judges, but NEVER have I felt that the judges have not acted with honor and integrity.

Karen
 

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I'm always disappointed with the biotope section. I did like the first place winner's tank...but that was about it. Everything else was a Dutch or Amano style tank, only they used plants from the same continent. Biotope implies specificity...and I never get that from any of the submissions in this section.

Also, I absolutely don't understand why biotope and Amano style ("nature") tanks have been judged in the same category. IMo, they are the complete antithesis of each other.
 

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I wish I'd seen the article from Stephen M in the most recent issue of TAG before judging the contest. From the information I was given I got the impression that he was trying to recreate that hillside in the photo he sent. Had he submitted one of his TAG photos that showed a detail of a pool I would have had a much different impression and would have scored the tank a lot higher.

As for judging Amano style and true biotopes together it comes down to perception. For most folks what Amano does is the epitome of recreating a natural environment and see it as a biotope. Others have only limited information to go on and enter the best biotope they know how to. For example, someone reads multiple places that SE Asian aquatic soils are rich in clay and iron so they use Flourite thinking that it's the best option available even though it's really not. The only way Biotopes is going to improve is for folks to enter as many super specific aquascapes each year, whether they're aquascaped "attractively" or not. Changing the criteria scores to reflect accuracy and realism over beauty of [traditional] aquascaping would help too.
 
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