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Aquascaping

Contents:

  1. Aquatic Plants Digest V3 #1212
    by Roger Miller <rgrmill/rt66.com> (Sat, 14 Aug 1999)
  2. Ameristyle Aquascaping
    by boukmn/mindspring.com (Sat, 14 Aug 1999)
  3. Aquascaping American-style
    by "Cathy Hartland" <hartland/nfis.com> (Sun, 4 Jul 1999)
  4. Aquascaping
    by "James Purchase" <jpurch/interlog.com> (Mon, 5 Jul 1999)
  5. Aquascaping
    by =?iso-8859-1?Q?St=E9phane?= ANDRE <steaqua/dds.nl> (Mon, 05 Jul 1999)
  6. Amano Aesthetic Principals
    by lovell <lovell/drizzle.com> (Mon, 05 Jul 1999)
  7. Aquascaping
    by "Roger S. Miller" <rgrmill/rt66.com> (Mon, 5 Jul 1999)
  8. Aquascaping
    by Robert H <robertph/best.com> (Sun, 04 Jul 1999)
  9. Aquascaping
    by Tom.Wood/ci.austin.tx.us (Tue, 6 Jul 1999)
  10. aquascaping
    by "Roger S. Miller" <rgrmill/rt66.com> (Sun, 4 Jul 1999)
  11. Yoshino and Kobayashi aquascaping book
    by "James Purchase" <jpurch/interlog.com> (Wed, 7 Jul 1999)
  12. Aquascaping
    by =?iso-8859-1?Q?St=E9phane?= ANDRE <steaqua/dds.nl> (Wed, 07 Jul 1999)
  13. aquascaping competitions
    by Wright Huntley <huntley1/home.com> (Wed, 07 Jul 1999)
  14. Aquascaping: Aquarium Composition
    by Elliot Williams <ewilliams/ucsd.edu> (Wed, 7 Jul 1999)
  15. Tank aesthetics? or anesthetics?
    by lovell <lovell/drizzle.com> (Wed, 07 Jul 1999)
  16. terracing
    by "Roger S. Miller" <rgrmill/rt66.com> (Thu, 8 Jul 1999)
  17. terracing
    by George Booth <booth/frii.com> (Fri, 09 Jul 1999)
  18. RE: Terraced Substrates and Aquascaping
    by "Thomas Barr" <tcbiii/pacbell.net> (Fri, 09 Jul 1999)
  19. Substrate terracing
    by FISH2R/aol.com (Fri, 9 Jul 1999)
  20. Aquarium style (was American style)
    by "Roger S. Miller" <rgrmill/rt66.com> (Sat, 10 Jul 1999)
  21. Contest/Showcase Thoughts
    by krandall/world.std.com (Sun, 11 Jul 1999)
  22. terracing
    by Robert H <robertph/best.com> (Tue, 13 Jul 1999)
  23. What makes a fabulous tank?
    by Elliot Williams <ewilliams/ucsd.edu> (Wed, 28 Jul 1999)
  24. RE: Dutch tank and aquascaping style
    by "Thomas Barr" <tcbiii/earthlink.net> (Sat, 22 Jan 2000)
  25. Design and Aquascaping for a novice
    by "Roger S. Miller" <rgrmill/rt66.com> (Thu, 21 Jun 2001)
  26. focus and aquascaping
    by "Roger S. Miller" <rgrmill/rt66.com> (Wed, 20 Dec 2000)
  27. Composition and Aquascaping (was focus)
    by "Mark Stahlke" <mstahlke/inetdial.com> (Wed, 20 Dec 2000)
  28. AGA conference report and pics
    by Lazarus Miskowski <lazmiskowski/yahoo.com> (Thu, 15 Nov 2001)
  29. art and the planted aquarium
    by "Roger S. Miller" <rgrmill/rt66.com> (Thu, 15 Nov 2001)
  30. Convention - American Art
    by "Gary Lange" <gwlange/mindspring.com> (Thu, 15 Nov 2001)
  31. Official Ducth aquarium online...
    by Stephane ANDRE <steaqu/netcourrier.com> (Fri, 01 Dec 2000)
  32. Aquatic Plants Digest V4 #734
    by "Roger S. Miller" <rgrmill/rt66.com> (Fri, 22 Dec 2000)
  33. Foregrounds
    by Thomas Barr <tcbiii/yahoo.com> (Fri, 22 Dec 2000)
  34. Foregrounds II
    by Thomas Barr <tcbiii/yahoo.com> (Fri, 22 Dec 2000)

Aquatic Plants Digest V3 #1212

by Roger Miller <rgrmill/rt66.com>
Date: Sat, 14 Aug 1999

On Sat, 14 Aug 1999, Tom Barr wrote:

> Roger Miller wrote:
> 
> "I don't mean to imply that the southwestern xeriscape can't provide great
> ideas for aquascaping.  You're right that they share some elements with
> Zen gardens, and just as those gardens contribute to Amano's style, the
> American xeriscape could contribute to American aquascaping style."
> 
> Okay, I'll bite.  I think it is insane to use landscapes as inspiration for
> aquascapes.  Unless they are done to the level of the Amano style tanks
> (which are ridiculously labor intensive and contrived), they usually look
> pretttty hokey.  Little paths and bushes?  Give me a break. And I can't
> think of a single fish that would feel comfortable swimming (flapping?)
> around in a xeriscape environment.

The idea isn't to make aquascapes that look like gardens, but to use
elements of landscaping in your aquascape.  Keep in mind that the
landscapers and gardeners have been solving many of the same aesthetic
problems we have for hundreds of years.  If you ignore what they have done
then you're reinventing the wheel.

> Rather than draw on landscapes for a
> tank design, I would propose that the natural habitat(s) of the tank
> inhabitants provides a far more valid basis for design.  A riverbank, a
> running stream, a calm pool, etceteras.  From that perspective the Dutch
> style tanks are far more natural, even though they tend to be forced through
> frequent trimming. IMHO of course...

Have you seen very many natural aquatic settings that look like something
you want in your planted tank?  There are a few, but freshwater bodies are
typically murky from suspended sediments and colored by dissolved
organics.  At this time of year in particular plankton of various sorts
adds to the problem.  The bottom is usually mud liberally stirred by fish
and other animals hunting for the many worms and other things living
there.  The plants grow in large, dense stands consisting of a single
species of plant, or maybe two, sometimes with large open areas.  Of
course, the plants aren't arrayed to please the human eye.  Perhaps they
please the hordes of insects that usually live there.

What most of us want in our aquariums is a lot more similar to the garden
than it is to nature.  That is especially true of the tanks we think of as
Dutch aquariums, which aren't at all similar to any natural environment
I've ever seen.

Yes, there are analogies from natural settings that can inspire
aquascapes.  I use them myself.  But that natural inspiration is highly
idealized and then it serves only as a starting point for an aquascape
that is brought to reality using methods like the gardeners' landscaping
traditions.


Roger Miller


Ameristyle Aquascaping

by boukmn/mindspring.com
Date: Sat, 14 Aug 1999

I just love a devil's advocate! Tom wrote;

>Okay, I'll bite.  I think it is insane to use landscapes as inspiration for
>aquascapes.  Unless they are done to the level of the Amano style tanks
>(which are ridiculously labor intensive and contrived), they usually look
>pretttty hokey.  Little paths and bushes?  Give me a break. And I can't
>think of a single fish that would feel comfortable swimming (flapping?)
>around in a xeriscape environment.  Rather than draw on landscapes for a
>tank design, I would propose that the natural habitat(s) of the tank
>inhabitants provides a far more valid basis for design.  A riverbank, a
>running stream, a calm pool, etceteras.  From that perspective the Dutch
>style tanks are far more natural, even though they tend to be forced through
>frequent trimming. IMHO of course...

This seems reminicent of the art establishments criticisim of "Pop-Art"
That DOES in fact use soda cans, advertisements and icons to inspire
modernistic interpretations of reality; instead of a bowl of "Still Life"
fruit. Before your thinking get too focused on the human affectations of a
suburban landscape (stone footpaths, hedges to keep out the prying eyes of
neighbours etc) remember I noted the use of solid decorative items in more
or less symetric shapes to define borders of identical plants. Sensei Amano
also had a critical idea regarding fish: The fish should fit the decore not
the decor fitted to fish. The guy can make a tank of 95% Glossostigma, two
dozen flag fish and a few stones look like a scene from "The Sound of
Music"! Frankley, as long as your pollutants are low, and your fish have a
place to hide, they never had it so good! Three main questions I ask myself
before I import a Landscape Form (LF) to my aquarium is:

1. 	Does this LF have MY aesthetic appeal?  If not, forget it.
2. 	Does this LF contrast plantings on both sides of the border? If not, I
change my choice of plants or border. Greater contrast IMHO, strengthens
composition.
3.	Does this LF have functionality?  For example, does it prevent the
Glossostigma from invading the micro grass? 
4.	Does this LF decrease my work? ex; Roger Miller (I think) suggested
eliminating the use of stems for palm trees because of the trim work. I
agree. Why import a "hard-work-Martha" LF to my tank when I eliminated trim
hedges from my garden for just that reason?!

Just then I tried another idea, if you invert a stump, the roots now look
like a dead tree. I then tie java moss to the "branches" interspersed w/
Dwarf sag and I suppose after a few beers it looks like an old oak tree w/
willow moss and saprophites growing from it!

I'm going to try to enhance this look on another stump by first tying peat
moss to the branches w/ fishing line and planting Glossostigma on its
branches. Picture a hilly grassy scene; like the rolling hills (curved
sponge under substrate)of a Florida golf course or a retro scene from "the
Highlander" with a single oak tree(Upturned stump), few branches, several
small leaves(Glossostigma,moss). Think "Aqua-bonzai" w/ black backbround;
simple, understated. I'll let you guys know how it looks when I finish it.

~D. Boukmn, 
"A-stumpin' in Fort Lauderdale":-)	 


Aquascaping American-style

by "Cathy Hartland" <hartland/nfis.com>
Date: Sun, 4 Jul 1999

Roger Miller asks:

> Is there a uniquely American style - some body of work that represents
> something unique in American (or any new world, for that matter)
> aquascaping?  If so, what are its major elements and who provides the best
> examples?

This very question was brought up on a message board. I suggest 
that the most uniquely American aquascape is the "West Virginia 
Acid Mine Drainage" biotope. (Sorry, any wv'ers, beautiful state but 
streams are in bad shape.) Broken glass, tires, beer bottles, 
rusting car segments, ancient appliances, rocks turned orange 
from acid drainage. No fish--this is a sterile environment due to low 
pH. Very easy maintenance. To be truly authentic, add periodic 
doses of chicken manure (from high-density poultry farm runoff) to 
increase algal blooms and reduce oxygen content. Sure to be the 
talk of the local aquarium club!

Cathy Hartland (who has kayaked in too many streams like this)


Aquascaping

by "James Purchase" <jpurch/interlog.com>
Date: Mon, 5 Jul 1999

Roger Miller posted some thought provoking comments about aquascaping...

> We've long had "dutch-style" aquariums which seem to feature prominantly
> dense plantings teired very formally from low in front to high at the back
> and sides.  Is there much more to the style than that?  Who best describes
> the techniques?

Talk to the Dutch... they started it... sort of like a jungle crossed with
an English garden...

> More recently we have the Japanese style best illustrated by Amano's
> tanks, but also shown in Yoshino and Kobayashi's "The Natural Aquarium".
> The principle elements I see in the Japanese style are the assymetry,
> "3-dimensionality" and vertical relief in the substrate -- all with the
> overriding intent to present something that appears "natural".  Are there
> important elements there that I've entirely missed out on?

Amano, at least in my opinion, produces some of the most beautiful
aquascapes I have ever seen. The ones in Yoshino and Kobayashi's book
(beautifully reproduced by TFH by the way) are also very nice, but are much
more realistic, at least to my eye, than Amano's. Y&K take natural
aquascapes as their source, and work from there. Amano is an artist who
works from an idea or an ideal, and there is a lot of philosophy contained
within his work. Nature is dealt with by Amano in idealistic terms. An Amano
aquascape, while beautiful, is obviously a labour intensive endeavour to set
up and maintain - much more than any other style. Not everyone cares to
devote that much time and energy to one single tank.

> Is there a uniquely American style - some body of work that represents
> something unique in American (or any new world, for that matter)
> aquascaping?  If so, what are its major elements and who provides the best
> examples?

Mmmmmm,.......I doubt that there is anything remotely American about what is
being done in the hobby right now, at least stylistically. Not only is the
country probably too big physically (hard for hobbyists in New Mexico and
Maine to compare results and share notes), but the planted end of the hobby
is still pitifully small when compared with the market as a whole.

James Purchase
Toronto


Aquascaping

by =?iso-8859-1?Q?St=E9phane?= ANDRE <steaqua/dds.nl>
Date: Mon, 05 Jul 1999

Robert,

I enjoyed very much to read you.

> Date: Sat, 03 Jul 1999 09:15:16 -0700
> From: Robert H <robertph@best.com>
> Subject: Re:Aquascaping
>
> >>We've long had "dutch-style" aquariums which seem to feature prominantly
> dense plantings teired very formally from low in front to high at the back
> and sides.  Is there much more to the style than that?  Who best describes
> the techniques?
> More recently we have the Japanese style best illustrated by Amano's
> tanks, but also shown in Yoshino and Kobayashi's "The Natural Aquarium".
> The principle elements I see in the Japanese style are the assymetry,
> "3-dimensionality" and vertical relief in the substrate -- all with the
> overriding intent to present something that appears "natural".  Are there
> important elements there that I've entirely missed out on?
> Is there a uniquely American style - some body of work that represents
> something unique in American (or any new world, for that matter)
> aquascaping?  If so, what are its major elements and who provides the best
> examples?<<
>
> Roger,
> This is a subject that I have had great interest in, and have done some research and
> experimenting in. I am certainly no artist, but I am striving to incorporate those
> principals.
> There are distinctive differences between german and japanese artists. Unfortunetly
> there are only a few available examples of german work.

> One that comes close  are pictures by Wim Heemskerk, as seen on the rainbowfish WEB
> site,
> http://www.ecn.net.au/~atappin/Planted.htm >From an artistic critique, even his
> displays seem somewhat 2 dimensional to me. The best examples I have seen of german
> aquascape was in a TFH publication this past year, Aquarium Quarterly by Arend van
> den Nieuwenhuizen.

Nieuwenhuizen is Dutch and no German. Originally, the planted aquarium we are speaking
about is definitely Dutch.

> It gives detailed instructions on how to build and aquascape
> using terracing, focal points, and what he calls the golden intersection, (amano has
> a simular concept)
> The differences I see between the two are as you mentioned, amano incorporates more
> open space, limited number of plant species, and usually one focal point.
> German/dutch have a more densley planted display with several focal points from
> different viewing angles. Terracing, or a sloped substrate is essential in both
> approaches. German displays that I have seen slope the substrate so low in the front
> that there is no gravel against the front glass.

I never saw a so fine layer of substrate in Holland. It may look like that on the
picture because the Dutch aquariums are very often embedded (in wall, furniture...).

> This one simple thing makes a huge
> difference in the viewing perspective. Although many amano pictures clearly have 3"
> of gravel against the front glass, if you look closely you can still see an incline
> from front to back German/dutch  use a combination of high terracing, attaching
> things to the aquarium walls, and using potted plants on terraces and raised areas.
> Nieuwenhuizen describes his method of attaching cork sheets to the glass. The other
> key I see is using color and contrast effectively. I suggest you write to TFH and
> get a copy of this magazine/book publication, (15.95 US) The pictures alone are
> worth the price. They come out with 4 a year.

> I dont think there is an "american" style! Amano made a commercial success of his
> work, and had everybody wanting to

> know how he did it. Many people wanted to know what kind of substrate he used, what
> kind of fertilizer, lighting, and so forth, but the truth is in my opinion, he
> accomplished his picture perfect displays by his artistic understanding of depth and
> perception, not by anything magic in his growing technique.

At last a little bit of common sense! I think Amano makes 'Aquarium Kleenex' under
perfusion (like in
Hospital). After max. 1 month, he just empties his tank and built another one to make
new pictures. Nothing is natural in his concept.
I love a fully planted aquarium and I admire the Dutch for it. In my modest French
opinion, I think they are the best in the world. Moreover, they do it in a very cheap
way.

> My own attempt at this has been muttled. Years ago I used to be somewhat of an
> artist, but I could never get it right the first time, and would constantly be
> painting or drawing over my work. My display tank has been no different. I have
> re-arranged the plants several times, and even added more gravel to raise the back
> higher and added terraces. I suppose I could spend the rest of my life doing this,
> never being satisfied, but I get enjoyment in doing so!
>
> Robert Paul H
> http://www.aquabotanic.com

Is "Aquarium Quarterly" entirely written by Arend van den Nieuwenhuizen?
Is the subject always planted aquarium?
Can you give me the TFH address?

Stéphane
The Netherlands


Amano Aesthetic Principals

by lovell <lovell/drizzle.com>
Date: Mon, 05 Jul 1999

	Roger Miller's questions about theories on aquascaping were timely for
me, as my own tank's redesign has been stalled for weeks.  Amano says,
"… if inspiration doesn't come, the artist doesn't force it, but waits
for the right moment," but being an American, I want to finish this
project, so I have actually been reading Amano's book lately instead of
just looking at the pictures.  Here's an indexed summary of the
principals that I have distilled, arranged somewhat in ascending level
from concrete considerations to wholly aesthetic ones.
- -- Sherman Lovell
	Overview and Index of some of the aquascaping ideas in "Nature Aquarium
World, Book One: How You Can Make a Most Beautiful Aquarium" T.F.H.
Publications, Inc. 1996

	"The Basic Concepts of Aquatic Plant Layout" at the end of the book
from pages 154 to 166 gives a good overview of Amano theory and
practice.  Some of the principals:
* The natural style is learned by observing plants in their natural
state.
* The best way to improve one's work is to be exposed regularly to a
wide variety of influences: landscapes, paintings, etc.
* The best layouts express something of the spirit of the creator.

	AMANO ON AMANO:
"My greatest work" page 132
	FISH:
Fish as complement to waterscape 71, 86
Plant growth matches fishes' native habitat 148
Wood and plants in center because Discus like to swim laps 128
Calm fish, calm layout 82
	PLANTS:
Choose plants that highlight another specific plant 20
Native plants only 33
Using only one species, with rocks 60
(Red ) plants act as accent to keep simple layout from becoming
monotonous 52
Vivid reds 28
	GEOMETRY:
The "golden section," the harmonious ratio of two sections (approx. 5:3)
33, 156
The golden section…three growths on scalene triangle in the center 53
Ratio of three left to one right 56
Design for appreciation from two angles 40, 125
Viewable from front or back 120
U-shaped layout 106
V-shape:110 "Key… it to maintain a smooth line from level to level."138 
Simple triangular design 13
Simple layout structured around driftwood in center 82 (with off-center
element) 116
Intricate layout of rocks and plants in bold design 92
	REPRODUCING OR INSPIRED BY SCENES FOUND IN NATURE
	Aquatic --
The changes seen from bank to river bottom 29
Memory of rain swollen rivers 42
Amazon River 108
West African waterscape 122
Sea bottom 68
Reminiscent of the South Seas 48
	Terrestrial --
Savannah 104
Thick green foliage of high summer 45
Narrow road leading off into mountains 66
Old growth forest 142
Reminiscent of a jungle 18
Pastoral feeling 32
	CONCEPTUAL:
Evoke idyllic childhood memory 18
Recreate what we see yet fail to notice 21
Balance many contrasting colors  24 
Hard to strike a balance with strong colors 28
Contrast between red sand and green Anubias 136
Spring theme 32
Imitate tansai painting (use light colors) 37
Strong sense of perspective 18
Eschew formal beauty 25
	JAPANESE/ZEN AESTHETIC:
"Wabi-sabi" (quiet refinement tinged with the sadness of transience.)
25, 76
Lean vertical rock on horizontal rock. (Common arrangement in Zen
gardening)10
A standing rock and several different-sized horizontal rocks. 
(Zen gardens make good use of foreground space) 11
One of the main goals of Zen Buddhist gardening: to create a great space
in a small area 17
Zen temple 76


Aquascaping

by "Roger S. Miller" <rgrmill/rt66.com>
Date: Mon, 5 Jul 1999

On Mon, 5 Jul 1999, James Purchase wrote:
 
> Mmmmmm,.......I doubt that there is anything remotely American about what is
> being done in the hobby right now, at least stylistically. Not only is the
> country probably too big physically (hard for hobbyists in New Mexico and
> Maine to compare results and share notes), but the planted end of the hobby
> is still pitifully small when compared with the market as a whole.

Certainly nothing uniquely so.  But I remember more than 30 years ago
reading beginning texts (U.S. authorship) with advice on how to set up and
aquascape new aquariums.  Their idea was to start with an eye-catching
center piece - if this was a plant then it was often a sword plant - with
tall plants scattered along the back and sides.  With the notable
exception of the beautiful black-and-white photos in old editions of Innes
and Axelrod's "Encyclopedia of Tropical Fish"  the plantings were
typically sparse.  Even many of the examples in Rataj and Horeman (I
think that's U.S. in origin) show that style.

I now and then hear on this list of people looking for a good centerpiece
plant, so I think that style is still alive.  While alive it probably
isn't alive and well.  I think most of us have found it best to keep
plants in fairly dense plantings.  Besides, if you're at all successful at
keeping plants then you have to work constantly to keep that sparcely
planted, centered style otherwise the plants' reproduction and growth
destroy the layout.

I think it was good back in the days when we were generally bad at keeping
plants.  You layed out your tank with the centerpiece and six or seven
other individuals.  When they died (which they did regularly) you threw
everything out and started over.  If you planted too much then it cost too
much to start over.

I also hear on this list from a lot of people - mostly from the US, I
think - keeping large, showy plants like big swords and submerged dwarf
lillies.  George Booth's photos, for example, show some nice uses of big,
tank-dominating plants.  I'm pretty sure he's in the U.S.  - unless Texas
seceded recently and took Colorado along so they'd have something to do in
the winter.  It could happen.  Honest!

Amano's photos show rather few big tank-dominating plants.  Instead he
uses mostly grass-like and small-leaved plants.  Where he uses potentially
large species like sword plants they are shown in an early stage of growth
before they get to anything like their natural size.

I've seen much less of the Dutch style but there too it appears that big,
showy plants are little used.  Instead, small to medium size plants, and
small-leaved plants are more common.

Could this be our well-known "bigger is better" tendency showing up in
aquascaping?


Roger Miller


Aquascaping

by Robert H <robertph/best.com>
Date: Sun, 04 Jul 1999

>>Talk to the Dutch... they started it... sort of like a jungle crossed with
an English garden...<<

Well I think this "jungle" is a common mis-conception of us north americans, because there
are so few published pictures for us to compare. The dutch pictures I have seen that are
top notch are far from being a jungle, and are fascinating to look at. They are both
assymetrical and natural looking, and show as much artistic beauty as any japanese
aquascape, in my humble opinion: but maybe my dutch roots predudice me!

Robert Paul H.
http://www.aquabotanic.com


Aquascaping

by Tom.Wood/ci.austin.tx.us
Date: Tue, 6 Jul 1999

I'm not claiming my style as "the" American style, but I think it has the
characteristics that many fellow hobbyists appreciate.  I lay out the plants
according to their mature size, cascading down from back to front, and then
try to create a random 'natural' look by using rocks to create open space
and irregular shaped planting groups that penetrate each others' space.  The
end result yields a Dutch style look without all the trimming and replanting
that comes with terracing via cutting the plants shorter than their mature
size.  The trick of course is in getting enough experience to know what the
plants' mature sizes will be in your particular setup.  It took a few tank
teardowns to get it right.  

While the Amano tanks are beautiful, there is nothing natural about them and
the amount of labor involved to keep the contrivance looking good is
definitely un-American. <g>  One of his books even shows a tank that mixes
Discus with Madagascar lace plants. A fish that needs higher temps with a
cool water plant? I don't buy it.  And tying a floating plant down to create
little bushes is just plain dumb.  IMHO, IME, YMMV, etceteras.....


aquascaping

by "Roger S. Miller" <rgrmill/rt66.com>
Date: Sun, 4 Jul 1999

Folks,

While mowing the lawn just now I found myself contemplating aquascaping -
the artistic part of our hobby.

We've long had "dutch-style" aquariums which seem to feature prominantly
dense plantings teired very formally from low in front to high at the back
and sides.  Is there much more to the style than that?  Who best describes
the techniques?

More recently we have the Japanese style best illustrated by Amano's
tanks, but also shown in Yoshino and Kobayashi's "The Natural Aquarium".
The principle elements I see in the Japanese style are the assymetry,
"3-dimensionality" and vertical relief in the substrate -- all with the
overriding intent to present something that appears "natural".  Are there
important elements there that I've entirely missed out on?

Is there a uniquely American style - some body of work that represents
something unique in American (or any new world, for that matter)
aquascaping?  If so, what are its major elements and who provides the best
examples?


Roger Miller


Yoshino and Kobayashi aquascaping book

by "James Purchase" <jpurch/interlog.com>
Date: Wed, 7 Jul 1999

Several people have asked me for details about a book I referred to a few
days ago. The book I was referring to is "The Natural Aquarium" (subtitle -
How to Imitate Nature in Your Home), published in 1993 by TFH. It's TFH # is
TS-195 and ISBN 0-86622-629-X. The book, authored by Satoshi Yoshino and
Doshin Kobayashi, was originally published in Japanese as "Aquatic Scene",
and translated into German as well. the English edition that I have was
"updated" by Dr. Axelrod and is printed using the special "glossy" images
that TFH does so well on their pricier books (although it wasn't expensive -
I only paid $29.95 Cdn. for my copy several years ago).

The book presents habitat tanks for Central and South America, Southeast
Asia, and East and West Africa. they provide full set-up details, from the
selection of the tank (size and proportion to match the aquascape),
substrate and plants, and appropriate fish species. While the results are
still "gardens" as opposed to true "biotope" tanks, they are firmly based
upon what (supposedly) you would find in each type of location. The set-ups,
while perhaps not as esoteric as Amano's highly stylized layouts, look like
they could last for longer than the time it takes to set up a view camera.

James Purchase
Toronto


Aquascaping

by =?iso-8859-1?Q?St=E9phane?= ANDRE <steaqua/dds.nl>
Date: Wed, 07 Jul 1999

Robert H <robertph@best.com>

I looked at your web site and read the Wim Heemskerk's story
(http://www.ecn.net.au/~atappin/Planted.htm). Very interesting.
Do you have his E-mail address?


>From an artistic critique, even his displays seem somewhat 2 dimensional to me.

Not for me, maybe it is the quality of the pictures.

> Nieuwenhuizen describes this method. Try it! Just stick your hand in the tank and push
>out the gravel in front so that the gravel line is below the bottom trim of the tank. Walk
>back and take a look! Huge difference! He actually reccomends a depth of not more than an
>inch at the front! Now what I did was cheat a little, I couldnt get the substrate to stay
>that shallow, so I used 3 inch wide decorative tape that matched the color of the wood
>frame and put that across the front of the tank. My gravel in front comes just above the
>tape, so it gives the illusion in perspective of accomplishing the same thing.

Like lots of Dutch do.

>Well, I don’t know if that’s true or not, there has been conversation on this subject
>before, and people in Japan who follow Amano have responded that his set ups have been
>going for long periods of time. I know that  his carpets of riccia and glossostigma,
>willow moss, are not something that can be easily set up and broken down at a moments
>notice. They take time to grow, mature, and be groomed. What I do see however is a
>definite difference in style between the japanese and dutch

Ok but Amano often gives the age of his tanks. It is never very old. Often about 1 month.
When you put lots of light, CO2, and fertiliser it can be very fast. In a French
magazine (optim'aqua), there is an article which explains how to start an ADA aquarium (Text
translates from Amano comments). The result after only one-month is a very thick grass of
Glossostigma.
Maybe, he also grows Glossostigma emersed (in the aquarium but without water). When the substrate
is
covered, he can put water, fishes and other plants. Riccia also grow very well emersed.

Tom.Wood@ci.austin.tx.us wrote
>While the Amano tanks are beautiful, there is nothing natural about them and
>the amount of labor involved to keep the contrivance looking good is
>definitely un-American. <g>  One of his books even shows a tank that mixes
>Discus with Madagascar lace plants. A fish that needs higher temps with a
>cool water plant? I don't buy it.  And tying a floating plant down to create
>little bushes is just plain dumb.  IMHO, IME, YMMV, etceteras.....

I wouldn't like to be a suffocating fish in an Amano's tank...


aquascaping competitions

by Wright Huntley <huntley1/home.com>
Date: Wed, 07 Jul 1999

> Date: Mon, 05 Jul 1999 06:24:48 -0700
> From: Robert H <robertph@best.com>
> Subject: Re: 
> 
> >>First of all I am
> French. Last year I was student and
> decided to make a 6 months training period in Holland in order to learn more about the
> fascinating Dutch aquarium. 
snip...
> 
> Wow, I have heard about these competitions. This is the difference between Dutch and
> Americans. We hold no such contests, nor is there anywhere in this country where you can
> "study" aquascaping. I wish pictures of these competitions were on the internet.

There used to be such competition. I recall coming back from Harry's War and
first entering the hobby seriously about 1954. I was simply blown away at
the beautiful planted tanks in the Los Angeles County Fair at Pomona. They
were in a special fair class and were awarded prizes. [I believe, but am not
sure, that they were there through an aquarium society sponsorship.] They
certainly had a lasting influence on me. I have never liked bare tanks,
since.

The style was heavily toward built-up rockwork covering much of the back,
and was very different from modern Japanese or Dutch styles -- natural, but
less lush and more sculptural. Since they had to be moved to the site, I
think the tanks tended to be much smaller than what we usually see in the
Bay Area -- more like Amano's typical sizes.

My memory is my second shortest thing, but I think they were competing for
fish and plants both -- that is, overall effect was what was judged, again
much like Amano, as I understand it.

We could do the same thing again, if we wanted. It's a lot of effort, but I
would like to see it done in a very public (high traffic) place to make it
pay off in education. County fairs might be ideal. SFAS does have annual
home show competition in various classes and video entries, too. If we could
set a standard size, like 10G, it would be more influence on the public and
the local shops if we did it in a single busy place, annually or even
semi-annually.

Wright

- -- 
Wright Huntley, Fremont CA, USA, 510 494-8679  huntleyone at home dot com

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed --
and thus clamorous to be led to safety -- by menacing it with an endless
series of hobglobins, all of them imaginary." -- H.L. Mencken
***http://www.self-gov.org/libertarianism.html offers some solutions.***


Aquascaping: Aquarium Composition

by Elliot Williams <ewilliams/ucsd.edu>
Date: Wed, 7 Jul 1999

Long live the aquascaping thread!

We plant-keepers have a lot of sources out there for good compositional or
design ideas.  As food for thought, pick up a good book on photographic
composition in addition to all the aquarium tomes.  I'm sure any library
would have something--recommendations forthcoming.

All the standard beginner-photo composition assignments could be
re-created for the tank.  Compositional ideas I can see at work in tanks
include:
	Converging lines creating "depth"--especially in Dutch Aquariums.
	Height in plane (taller seems further)--again Dutch Aq.
		(though traditional in Japanese scroll paintings)
	Composing with negative space--Amano's carefully sparse setups.
	Composing along golden sections or thirds--everyone since Greeks.
	Contrasts of all kinds: color, number, height, texture, etc.
	Lines of plants or borders between species creating patterns or
		movement, not necessarily perpective.  (Overlooked?)

What do you think?  By next Wednesday, I want to see at least one tank
based on each of the above principles from each of you.  We'll have a
critique and share our compositional planting experiences. :-)

- ------------------------------------
Elliot Williams	(ewilliams@ucsd.edu)
Economics Department, UCSD
San Diego, CA  			


Tank aesthetics? or anesthetics?

by lovell <lovell/drizzle.com>
Date: Wed, 07 Jul 1999

	What about going the opposite direction from the natural aquarium to
something that embraces artifice? (Ooh!  I sound like an art critic!) 
I'm not talking about plastic treasure chests... a friend once was
talking about taking a big octagonal tank and putting a homemade (fired
clay) Stonehenge in the middle.  Or someone the other day on
rec.aquaria.tech was talking about tubes connecting tanks that fish
could swim through -- a fishy habitrail home.  I know this is the
slippery slope, but I'd be curious to hear about any of the more
imaginitive tanks that people have done.
- -- Sherman Lovell


terracing

by "Roger S. Miller" <rgrmill/rt66.com>
Date: Thu, 8 Jul 1999

Folks,

Relief on the substrate surface is a very important part of the layout in
many of the tanks in Amano's books - or at least in the larger tanks.
Robert H. pointed out that terracing to get relief on the surface is an
important part of Dutch aquaria too, though I have to admit that I've
never actually noticed it in the few photos I've seen.

My problem is that I've never found a natural-looking way of building
terraced substrates so that the terraces don't flatten out after a while.
Every one of my attempts has gone completely flat; it usually takes only a
few months.

Can anyone here give me ideas on how to build terraces or other sorts of
relief into a substrate so that it both looks natural and stays in place?


Roger Miller


terracing

by George Booth <booth/frii.com>
Date: Fri, 09 Jul 1999

>Date: Thu, 8 Jul 1999 18:42:32 -0600 (MDT)
>From: "Roger S. Miller" <rgrmill@rt66.com>
>
>Relief on the substrate surface is a very important part of the layout in
>many of the tanks in Amano's books - or at least in the larger tanks.
>Robert H. pointed out that terracing to get relief on the surface is an
>important part of Dutch aquaria too, though I have to admit that I've
>never actually noticed it in the few photos I've seen.
>
>My problem is that I've never found a natural-looking way of building
>terraced substrates so that the terraces don't flatten out after a while.
>Every one of my attempts has gone completely flat; it usually takes only a
>few months.

I don't bother to terrace any more because, as you noted, once the plants
fill in, you can't see the terracing! It much easier to create different
heights in a tank by selecting the plants you use to create the effect.

But, if you must terrace, I once used some clear acrylic to create a
barrier. I wanted some extra depth for a large E. bleheri sword so I cut a
strip of clear 1/8" acrylic 5" high and bent it into a U shape. A couple of
rocks held the U shape at the rear and it provided a nice "seawall" to hold
the extra 2" of gravel for the plant. It also kept the massive roots from
spreading across the tank. 

I hid the wall with some low A. barteri var nana but even if you saw the
plastic, it just looked like gravel.
  
George Booth, Ft. Collins, Colorado


RE: Terraced Substrates and Aquascaping

by "Thomas Barr" <tcbiii/pacbell.net>
Date: Fri, 09 Jul 1999

Hi Roger,
      I just finished an article on just such an idea! Anyway, here some of
the ideas:

By using a glass slats say 6x12 inches say 1/4-1/2 thick and gluing cork to
one side(the side facing out or the front of the step.......... so to speak)
and attaching Anubias,java fern etc to the cork which works very easily 
you'll get a beautiful terraced step that LIVES! Bolbtis is great but can
get ominously large. Trimmed down it can be trained somewhat...........but
it makes an ideal plant due to the dark contrasting color. 
      These cork backed slats can be made out of any sinking  material that
is suitable for aquarium The cork is very cheap and easy to use. There are
many other uses for cork to give a 3-D effect. The cork is the dark brown
stuff about 3/8 to 1/2 inch thick sold in arts and crafts stores or hardware
stores. For attachment, I use bendable steel wire cut in an "U" shape nail
at any needed length, place the plant inside this "U" and insert into the
cork gently.  
       By gluing a rectangular box say 3x3x16H of cork and attaching
Anubias(or whatever grows well attached) to these "columns" of cork one can
achieve very dramatic effects growing say a low growing plant such as
Glossostigma on the ground and have these columns poking out like trees is a
Bonsai forest. Please do odd numbers of "Trees" for the true Bonsai effect
<g>! 
       My whole back wall on my own tanks have cork on them and are packed
with plants. No need for Amano's black backgrounds. I'm American and more is
better<g>!!! No , I do have a tank with a black back ground also. It's ALL
good IMHO. The sky's the limit with using the cork.

I have used and collected driftwood for well over 20 years now and the
cork/plant style makes everything dulpicatible. Often, I'd find a great
piece of driftwood but it was one of a kind. I needed something I didn't
mind covering with plants and also I didn't mind parting with if someone
wanted to buy it or do it themselves. But it has grown into a style of its
own. Caves, walls, terraces, topiary, glued to pipes, filter equipment,
heaters etc can be built cheap, beautifully, by anybody. Most of your
attached plants grow slow and don't need much light so they are ideal
candidates for the darker recesses of your tank and this cuts down on extra
trimming and maintenance 

Hope this gives some ideas for you folks to play with!
Regards,
Tom Barr             AGA


   
        


Substrate terracing

by FISH2R/aol.com
Date: Fri, 9 Jul 1999

In a message dated 7/9/99 3:51:35 AM Eastern Daylight Time, 
Aquatic-Plants-Owner@actwin.com writes:

> 
>  Can anyone here give me ideas on how to build terraces or other sorts of
>  relief into a substrate so that it both looks natural and stays in place?
>  
>  
>  Roger Miller
>  

One way I found that works quite well is inserting pieces of roofing slate 
into the substrate. I level about 2 inches of substrate and cut pieces of 
roofing slate in strips of 2 1/2", 3", and 3 1/2" wide. Cut enough pieces to 
each width so they will fit across the length of your aquarium.

Insert the pieces vertically into the substrate in ascending order from front 
to back. Fill the aquarium with the necessary substrate to achieve a slope 
from 3 1/2" in the back to 2" in the front. The slate will act as a barrier 
to prevent the substrate from leveling out. They will also act as stop to 
prevent plant runners (under the substrate) from spreading forward or 
backwards. 

Tom Bates


Aquarium style (was American style)

by "Roger S. Miller" <rgrmill/rt66.com>
Date: Sat, 10 Jul 1999

Oh lordy, this got long...

On Sat, 10 Jul 1999 Thomas Barr wrote, promoting personal vision over
established style.

Different artistic styles evolve through different mechanisms, some might
be based on cultural similarities and some on market-place pressures.
There could be any number of reasons for the development of a distinct
regional style.  Does the existence of a style suppress individual
expression?  Yes and no.

The Dutch aquarium is probably the product of the Dutch competition.  
Competitions create a consistent standard.  Those who want to be
recognized in the competition become very good at meeting the standard.  
A style develops.

The growth and spread of the Japanese style seems to be driven by the
marketplace.  Amano is (presumably) financially successful with his work,
so other's copy his style in hopes of copying his success.  The result is
a regional style.

Is that bad?  Certainly the common standards in a competition could act to
suppress new styles.  Certainly financial imperitives in a market place
force artists to rein in their self-expression.

On the other hand it is true in both the east and the west that an artist
must master existing styles to gain recognition; with recognition they can
then create new and truly original work.  Neophytes train at the knee of
the master and the student's contribution is acknowledged only after he
learns the master's art.

Neophytes and students have always protested that system.  Now with more
age and experience behind me I see it as a good system.  The value of
free artistic expression is diluted by its effortless availability.

What does that mean to our competition?  We have few acknowledged masters
of the aquarium art - none in the New World.  Here we have no-one to teach
us, to reward us or to pass harsh judgement on our work.  We have no
long-established rules of competition and no constraints on our style.

I want new Masters and I want to see a new and vibrant style.  I want to
see the art step to a new plane.  That is what we can get from a
competition.  Once a style is recognized and the Master's are known our
market place will keep the art alive.


Roger Miller
 


Contest/Showcase Thoughts

by krandall/world.std.com
Date: Sun, 11 Jul 1999
To: aga-contest/thekrib.com

At 12:16 PM 7/11/99 -0400, Ken wrote:

>As this contest/showcase progresses, it will be interesting to see how many
>entries we receive. Does anyone know how many people are on the APD now? 

I'm sure Cynthia could and would tell us.  

>I would also like to emphasize that I believe the idea of this
>contest/showcase originated when someone (was it you James P?) wondered out
>loud about whether an American-style aquarium, as opposed to a Dutch or
>Amano style, had evolved over the years.  Although, I think we really do
>need to make the contest/showcase international, I sure would like to see us
>explore the possibility of whether an "American style" does exist, and, if
>so, what it is. Maybe strategic subgroupings in the contest will be able to
>bring this out. I think this should be a very important by-product of this
>contest/showcase, maybe even its theme.

I can tell you my "take" on that question.  I certainly haven't seen all
the tanks everywhere in the U.S., But I have seen a good many, from both
coasts and in between.  I think we _do_ have a style.  It's not as
"trimmed" as the "Dutch" tanks I've seen photos of, and it is certainly not
a disciplined as the Amano style tanks.  Actually, I think the American
"style" if you want to call it that is so familiar and comfortable to us
that we don't really recognize it as a style except by comparison with
tanks from other places.  My personal style I liken to the terrestrial
cottage garden.  A feast for the eyes of textures, patterns and colors,
certainly not to rigid, maybe a little overstuffed.<g>  I love looking at
Amano's tanks, but I couldn't live with them day to day.  Nor could I live
with some of the "Dutch tanks I've seen photos of, where fast growing stem
plants are meticulously pruned to produce a "street" through the aquascape,
though again, I enjoy looking at them.  

My life is too busy.  I maintain my tanks the way I maintain my gardens.  I
live with them.  When I walk through my gardens, I pull a weed here, stake
a flower there.  When I'm out and about and see something interesting, I
find a place to shoe horn it in.  With my tanks, hardly a day goes by
without me getting an arm wet, whether to pick out a leaf, or scoop some
Salvinia off the surface.  I don't want to feel that I CAN'T buy an
interesting new plant I come across because it doesn't belong in my
perfectly pre-planned aquascape.  And I enjoy watching my tanks change and
mature through the years.  I'm a perennial sort of person, not into annuals.<g>

I love the idea of this contest, and will very much enjoy seeing the
entries.  But I think we _do_ have a style, and it's just fine ;-)

Karen 


terracing

by Robert H <robertph/best.com>
Date: Tue, 13 Jul 1999

Roger,

I thought I would bring to your attention Duplas article on terracing. It describes
methods of building retainer walls, as well as using styrofoam sheets attached to side
and back glass panels and covered with Anubias! It is quite a picture! It actually
gives fine examples and instructions for dutch and german aquascaping. In the picture
you will see the effect of terracing which I dont think can be made equally by varied
plant height on a flat plain.

Here is a short quote,
"When designing the aquarium foreground one should consider a plant row or
        street which should run diagonally from the front to the rear in a terraced
        arrangement. Such a grouping of plants not only increases the depth effect of
the
        aquarium, but also has quite a visual impact." This is a key theme I have seen
in many dutch or german pictures.

It also describes how to draw a floor plan.

Regards,
Robert Paul H
http://www.aquabotanic.com


What makes a fabulous tank?

by Elliot Williams <ewilliams/ucsd.edu>
Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999

On Wed, 28 Jul 1999, Aquatic Plants Digest wrote:  
(or was it Roger Miller?)

>A use of recognizable elements or themes in a tank - a sort of scenic
>metaphore - can give a viewer a sense of familiarity with an aquascape and
>invoke senses and emotions that originate not from the aquascape itself
>but from the viewer's impressions or memories.

Like my undersea pirate's chest with diving dogs theme?  :-)

Seriously, one thing that struck me about some of the first Amano
compositions I saw (in the magazine issue on rocks?) was how much they
looked like a plain covered with grass with a mountain or hill or boulder,
i.e. a terrestrial scene--with which we're certainly more familiar.

When I was asking my girlfriend (a real artist) for layout/compositional
ideas for the tank, she also gave me a rolling-hill-kinda design with a
big tree of an E. Blehri on the top.  Looked like a great place to take a
rest in the shade!  

So, yeah, I think familiar scenes appeal to people.  And may not be all
that bad for the fish, either.  Some of my fish might like taking rests on
shady hilltops too.

- ------------------------------------
Elliot Williams	(ewilliams@ucsd.edu)
San Diego, CA  


RE: Dutch tank and aquascaping style

by "Thomas Barr" <tcbiii/earthlink.net>
Date: Sat, 22 Jan 2000

>Tom Barr wrote:
>What then, if not a Dutch tank, is it<g>? Utiliterinism or American weed
>choked swamp technique?
Robert wrote:
>I dont know what those big words mean Tom...:) but definetly not American
>weed swamp...Maybe you are setting the standard for the "American" style!
>
>Robert Paul H

Utility=I keep only certain odd plants rather than the conventional nice big
uniform groups. Emphasis is placed on species and ability to keep those rare
plant collections together and have them still look somewhat decent. It's a
little bit like a zoo. Only a few of each type rather than the "herd" which
is also impressive IMO. Looking into a tank and judging a tank many things
need to be considered rather than the preconceived notions **many** have
regarding planted tanks.
Purpose:
I have 70 species in that 90 gallon. It could look great with one or two
species also. My main reason for doing this is not for artistic
purposes........I don't want to have to search for these rare plants no one
else has but still have enough of them to play with to grow out into a large
group if I want to in the future sometime. It is based on the getting the
most out of the tank but still have it look fine. It can have a "flow" that
at the surface might not seem evident but upon closer inspection might have
a certain rhythm rather than the wild mish-mashed collection of rare plants.

Some folks look into a tank for a bunch of nice rare plants, perhaps lots of
them or ones they've never seen before. They would judge a tank with Riccia
only as "limited" perhaps due to the lack of species and Riccia being quite
"easy". On the other hand, most folks that like the Big Group effect. The
beginner tends to like the big groups and Riccia tanks more. The seasoned
veteran might like the collection of Crypt species better("I've seen all the
same big groups of the same plants before!" they may say.).  The different
effects seem to have different effect on the viewer. There's a larger
emphasis on detail with the smaller groups and more species. It can easily
become far more confusing than larger groups. There can be many small
"windows" offering the viewer a glimpse of what a larger group or contrast
might hold. When you first see a nice Big group tank you get an impression
from a distance. The smaller groupings, more a close up and a detailed look
that sucks you in. Both of these blend together in some tanks, if not all. I
look for success in the tank myself. A healthy "easy" plant is worth more
than a so-so "hard" plant. But you'd get more points for trying the hard
plant if it worked. Then there's the plants themselves. The big group may
hold an interesting plant and details within the group itself too (Riccia is
a great example). The plant is the detail rather than the grouping itself.
The group frames the details(the plants) basically in the (Big group) and
the reverse is the details framing the group(s). Guess which one's harder to
pull off<g>?  

I approached plants from trying to  how to grow healthy plant species first,
then doing grouping later. This is opposite from many folks. I think there
are many that do this opposite approach though. At least you can grow them
and have something to work with when you concern yourself with this more.
"Oh well, that plant just couldn't make it in my tank" is not something I
can live with.
 Duplication is a great way to try out these different ideas. Try some of
those Amano tanks. You may find them not as hard as you might think! 

 Being able to expand your technique and mind beyond the simple same sized
groups is a great skill. Planting a nice "street" or "stairway" is a great
gardening skill. Picking that odd plant for it can be even harder. Combining
these can be even more difficult. Adding rocks,wood, different colors of
gravel, spaces, backgrounds,cork & what ever else can keep us busy for years
and years. A really big group will be difficult for most of us. We get set
in  our ways to being use to seeing something a certain way as "acceptable"
or "conformist". Please do not adhere to these ways! Go forth and create!
Amen!
Regards, 
Tom Barr






   




  


Design and Aquascaping for a novice

by "Roger S. Miller" <rgrmill/rt66.com>
Date: Thu, 21 Jun 2001

On Thu, 21 Jun 2001,  Andres Mumma wrote:

>     I have a 37 Gallon tank that has been in operation since Feb, 2001.  It
> is doing quite well, and so far I am very pleased, and thoroughly enjoy just
> to sit there and look at the many elements in the tank.  Unfortunately I but
> a novice to this art of aquascaping, and I think the tank shows it.
> something is just not right about the arrangement, and being the nevertiring
> tinkerer that I am, seem to move objects and plants to find a good design.

Planted aquariums never stay the way we put them; plants wax and wane and
(most often) spread.  That guarantees that we always have something to do
in our hobby.  I suppose that anyone else who is concerned with the
aesthetics of their tank also tinkers with it more-or-less constantly.
Hopefully, in time we settle on a framework for our layout, and our
tinkering mostly stays within that framework.

> So I bring this up to  you, as I have been purchasing several books on
> aquatic plants and gardening, I would like to find some books on the subject
> of the design element of the hobby.  How to aquascape from a design
> perspective, techniques, elements, and the whys and why nots of design.  Any
> specific books would be helpful.

Amano's first book ("Nature Aquarium World") contains very good
information on layout, without going to the point of giving actual
diagrams.  A later book (called something dubious like "Aquatic Plants
Paradise") contains a few more concepts and hints.  "The Natural Aquarium"
(sorry, the authors' names are not with me now) gives actual layout
diagrams, but seems otherwise a little short on design concept.  All of
those examples are of the Japanese style.

"Aquarium Style" (Matthews I think, published by Barrons) is a book of
British origin that shows some very creative designs for artificially
decorated aquariums.  Some of the aquarium-keeping advice in the book is
goofy beyond belief, do don't get it for anything but the designs.

I think there's at least one good source for information on aquascaping in
the Dutch style.  I don't remember exactly what it is, but I think that
Robert H. included references in some of his earlier posts.

> I KNOW there must be something printed on
> the matter, last time I visited the AGA yearly contest Showcase for
> aquascaped aquariums, I looked at every single picture and noticed the judge
> had made very specific design and aquascaping notions that their judging was
> based upon.  I want to know what those notions are.  Any help for this
> novice?

If you really want dogma to go by (as opposed to concepts, suggestions and
guidance) then maybe you want to look into the Dutch style.  Japanese
aquarists may be just as dogmatic as the Dutch aquarists, but they don't
seem to be as straightforward about their rules.



Roger Miller


focus and aquascaping

by "Roger S. Miller" <rgrmill/rt66.com>
Date: Wed, 20 Dec 2000

Folks,

I can think of two things that might leave an aquascape with a lack of
focus.  

One is that the aquascape simply lacks an evident intent on the part of
the aquarist.  That is the sort of result you would get if (for instance)
you just collected plants and tried to fit them into the tank so that they
were visible and didn't kill each other.

Another is that the aquascape isn't unified -- it lacks something that
would hold the composition together and create the sense that its parts
formed a whole.  Whether or not this type of focus is really necessary is
- -- I suppose -- a matter of taste.

My problem as far as the length of the tank is concerned (I'm not worried
so much about the volume of the tank, just it's length) is that it may be
more difficult to get the 2nd kind of focus -- the sense that the parts
form a whole.  The Dutch competition site (http://www.nbat.nl) provides a
number of examples of unfocused compositions.  In fact, a fairly large
proportion of those tanks are composed like a vegetable garden.  They
consist mostly of rows (or elongated groups) of plants running from the
middle of the tank to the back of the tank, leaving the obligatory clear
space in the foreground.  Nothing but the sides of the tank itself hold
the compositions together.

While I'm on the topic of the Dutch tanks...  I found the display on their
web site to be a little disappointing.  The tanks are certainly
well-maintained, healthy tanks, but golly, I felt like about half of those
tanks could have been the same tank photographed over-and-over a few weeks
apart.  There was a remarkable lack of variety, probably forced by the
rigors of years and years of competition under strict rules and standards.
The site gave me a much better understanding of why Amano seemed to think
so little of the Dutch style.

For original compositions and inspiring results, I think that the AGA
showcase offers far more than the Dutch competition site.

The quality of the light in those tanks is also an issue.  I originally
assumed that the odd (to my eyes, anyway) yellowish cast to the light in
most tanks was just an artifact of the photography.  Ivo's summary of the
lighting used in the tanks makes me think that my problem is caused by the
lights themselves.

Perhaps my complaint about the color of the light can be written off as a
simple matter of personal taste.  But the color *rendition* from those
lights is also terrible (or is it from the film?).  I know what color most
of those plants should be, but they appear in the photographs in shades
that bear only a passing resemblace to their natural colors.

Incidentally, Steve Dixon treated me to some pictures of his beautiful new
6' bowfront tank, and I understand that the SFBAAPS site may soon have
some of those photos on display.  If you really want to see a spectacular
aquascape in a really neat setting then you have to see what Steve has
done.


Roger Miller


Composition and Aquascaping (was focus)

by "Mark Stahlke" <mstahlke/inetdial.com>
Date: Wed, 20 Dec 2000

As an amateur landscape painter I feel compelled to add my two cents to the
thread on focus and aquascaping. There is much more to an effective
composition than creating a focal point.

For example, one of the things I try to do in my landscape compositions is
draw the viewer into my painting. To begin, I make it easy for the viewer's
eye to enter the composition. Once I have the viewer's eye, I want to keep
it moving around without leaving the composition. I create lines for the eye
to follow and use stops to keep it in the painting. I want to lead the
viewer around the composition to the focal point. If the focal point is too
strong, the eye is immediately draw to it and it's over. The viewer moves on
to the next painting.

Aquascaping is an art form and the same principles of composition that I
apply whenever I sit in front of a canvas can also be applied to
aquascaping. (I just realized this! Time to redo my tanks!) These principles
are not difficult to learn. I highly recommend that anyone interested in the
art of aquascaping pick up a book on artistic composition. My personal
favorite is Painting Better Landscapes by Margaret Kessler, but any decent
book on the subject will teach you concepts such as balance, artistic
grouping, depth, movement, speed, eye stops, and even creating and locating
a focal point.

Mark Stahlke
Colorado's premier grower of fine algaes


AGA conference report and pics

by Lazarus Miskowski <lazmiskowski/yahoo.com>
Date: Thu, 15 Nov 2001

James,

I'm sorry that I wasn't able to meet you at the
conference.  I was hoping you would be there.

I enjoyed your response to my report.  And it fits
exactly into the sort of conversation I am interested
in.

With regard to the future rights of images...I don't
know what ADA's policy is, but it shouldn't be too
hard to find out.  But assuming you are right, that's
the sort of bargain you make when you have the
opportunity to win thousands of dollars.  After all,
how many of us are actually ever going to make money
on the photos of our aquariums?  Hmmmm, now that I
think of it, maybe TFH could use some sprucing up...

I understand that the entry fee for the next ADA
contest will be 18$, with the top 300 placers
receiving a published copy of the top aquariums.  In
2001 that was a 1/6 chance if you were American, but
approx. 3/5 chance for all entrees.

But having said that, I don't wish to defend ADA, or
don't even mean to imply that ADA has anything to
defend.  *My guess* is that ADA is not making much if
any money off of their contest.  But that is just a
guess.

When I criticized the AGA contest (which in my opinion
was pretty meek criticism) I didn't mean to imply that
I didn't 100% appreciate the efforts of everyone that
made it happen.  The contest is exactly what we need. 
And the point I want to make is that we can all work
together to make the contest better.  We can raise the
level of our own art.

And one note on the ADA contest:  there were many
styles included in the contest.  Amano-style,
Dutch/European, and also an immaculately manicured
figurine/models style.  I believe the third place
winner was a pretty barren river-biotype tank.  There
was definitely inspiration beyond just pure Amano
aquascapes.

Now, to the subject that is more interesting to me. 
Art vs. plant collection.  Or the way I would put it: 
art vs. hobby.  Stamp collecting is a hobby, and not
an art.  Oil painting is an art, if it is approached
in the correct way.  If you are a "hobbyist painter"
without pretense to art, then you are not really a
painter.

There is room for hobbyists in aquatic gardening. 
They are mainly interested in collecting new and
interesting species, describing their growth
requirements, experimenting with new
equipment/technology, etc.  Aquarium layout and
presentation is not a priority.  On the other hand,
artists wish to make statement and impact with the
visual presenation of their aquariums.  They develop
an aesthetic, they are concerned about style.  The
process of setting up their aquarium is a creative
matter, that brings the satisfaction inherent in all
creative activity.  To them, it's art.

My feeling is that North Americans are hobbyists
first, and artists second.  Perhaps this is because we
are newer to the hobby.  Or perhaps there is something
in our culture that lends itself to more of the
hobbyist approach.  More likely is that many folks
have jumped into planted aquaria from fish-keeping (a
hobby), and do not have the mindset of creating art.

As to the oriental approach versus European style. 
Yes, my personal preference is the nature aquarium
style, although I keenly appreciate the beauty of
dutch-style tanks.  But beyond that, I would like to
create my own unique style.  I hope that others on
this list push the boundaries and create styles that
are interesting, motivating, and provoking.

To my taste, dutch tanks are too regulated.  Like a
sonnet.  Amano-style tanks have a serene beauty, but
sometimes I find the zen-style a little suffocating. 
Haiku.  I was discussing the issue of an American
style with Mike and Jeff Senske.  What would that be? 
Is it even necessary or useful to have one?  Could
such a thing exist?  My current idea is that an
American style would adopt the core tenet of "freedom
without restriction and boundless energy."  Free verse
poetry.  Now how that translates into actual
aquascapes is something that I have not settled.

I plead guilty to pushing my idea that we should be
more concerned with the art of aquascape than we
currently are.  But that's what happens in art
communities.  Someone lays out their views, and we
discuss them.  Not everyone will agree.  Such is the
nature of the beast.

Arthur
http://www.awaqua.com


art and the planted aquarium

by "Roger S. Miller" <rgrmill/rt66.com>
Date: Thu, 15 Nov 2001

Folks,

I read the conversation regarding art and the aquarium.  The exchange of
thoughts made for interesting reading.

I haven't had the opportunity to see the results from the ADA contest,
or to contrast them to the AGA contest entries.  Certainly I would not
be surprised if there were a large gap in the level of expertise
illustrated in the contests -- particularly when comparing to the
Japanese entries.  Aquascaping is a fairly simple extension of some more
traditional Japanese arts and pastimes -- bonsai, bonkei, suiseki and
ikebana for instance.  It seems that in Japanese tradition visual art is
pervasive -- it is in the trees and the flowers and the rocks; it is
vital and 3-dimensional.  By contrast, art in the European tradition
(and hence common US culture) is something apart from everyday life. 
Visual art is generally inanimate and most often two-dimensional.

We in the US have a long way to go before we reach the level of
refinement reached by aquascaping in Japan.

James mentioned that during the planning discussions for the first AGA
contest I brought up the subject of "art" in aquascaping.  In that
discussion I was surprised -- shocked actually -- to find that the word
"art" was a loaded term.  Maybe I was naive.  People regarded it as
something done by artists -- something that they as aquarists could
never, would never do.  Judging aquascaping as art may have been one of
the most polarizing subjects brought up in those discussions.

A couple years ago Karen Randall asked an open question to the list. 
Paraphrasing, "what are your priorites as an aquatic gardener?"  Most of
the respondents replied that their first or second priority was to have
a beautiful aquarium.  Karen, as I recall, was surprised by that.  I
think she expected most people to follow more traditional gardening
goals; growing more kinds of plants, or maybe growing plants bigger or
growing plants faster.

Those who are not only interested in having a pretty tank, but also
willing to put in the effort necessary to raise their tanks to the level
of art are probably a minority voice on APD.  There are also the
gadgeteers and the technicians, the gardeners, the botanists, the fish
keepers and the marketers. Probably most of us are in the middle,
wanting to enjoy many aspects of the hobby.  Between the extremes of the
hobby the divisions can be fairly deep.  

There's room here for all of us, but from my point of view I'd rather
hear more discussion of asymmetry and juxtaposition and maybe less
discussion of charts and fertilizers.


Roger Miller


Convention - American Art

by "Gary Lange" <gwlange/mindspring.com>
Date: Thu, 15 Nov 2001

Arthur said:
"But beyond that, I would like to
create my own unique style.  I hope that others on
this list push the boundaries and create styles that
are interesting, motivating, and provoking.
To my taste, dutch tanks are too regulated.  Like a
sonnet.  Amano-style tanks have a serene beauty, but
sometimes I find the zen-style a little suffocating.
Haiku. "

Arthur you couldn't have said it better.  Mr. Amano made a point that he
would come up with a new idea or theme and all of the Japanese aquarist
would then follow along and copy.  He made a suggestion about doing things
as you see it or something to that effect.  I had the image of sheep in my
mind although I don't think it was stated as such :-)  Wim's talk on the
Dutch style did suggest that things were somewhat rigid.  I kept thinking on
the long ride home about where a real "american art" could fit in that
"might" take something from one school, blend it with something from the
other school, add a bit of chili pepper and come up with a very different
look.  Oh yeah, and in my mind I shrunk many of the cliffs and valleys in
Tennessee that we saw on the ride back and put them in my aquarium.  Those
nice green pines set up the patch of red oak colors perfectly with a
powerful wall of rock leading our eye into the valley.  :-)  Well those two
speakers at least have me thinking in the right direction!


Official Ducth aquarium online...

by Stephane ANDRE <steaqu/netcourrier.com>
Date: Fri, 01 Dec 2000

The Dutch style is born throughout the annual national competitions (Landelijke
Huiskeuring) organized by the Dutch Aquarium and Terrarium Society (NBAT). On its
site (www.nbat.nl) you can find the results of the last years and few descriptions
of aquarium which finished in a good position. Even if you do not understand Dutch,
you can still find interesting information...

Here are the ways (">" = click on the link)

www.nabat.nl > het aquarium > WAT HIER EENS TE LEZEN EN TE BEKIJKEN WAS > Vivarium
in beeld > Gezelschap (8 aquarium descriptions!)

www.nabat.nl > het aquarium > WAT HIER EENS TE LEZEN EN TE BEKIJKEN WAS > Landelijke
Huiskeuring > Gezelschapsaquaria 1997, 1998, 1998.

Gezelschapsaquaria = planted Dutch aqaurium

Stéphane
Delft, The Netherlands


Aquatic Plants Digest V4 #734

by "Roger S. Miller" <rgrmill/rt66.com>
Date: Fri, 22 Dec 2000

James Purchase wrote:

> There is not (nor should there be) any requirement that every square 
> inch of substrate in a planted tank be covered by plants. Open areas 
> of bare gravel can be very effective compositional aids. Insisting on 
> every tank having a "lawn" of some sort in the foreground is just as 
> bad as the Dutch habit of insisting that plants be placed in "rows" - 
> you end up with tanks which look like perennial borders.

I think it was Amano who said that it's a sign of an unhealthy tank when
plants don't cover the entire substrate.  That can become dogma just as
easily as the Dutch tank arrangement has become dogmatized.

But...

I'm not sure I see any design sense in the big bare spot at the front of
some of the Dutch tanks.  I *could* explain it as an overreaction to the
rule (part of the dogma) that the plantings should not reach all the way
to the front glass.  Otherwise, I just don't get it.  I don't think the
bare spots are attractive features.  It's in the eye of the beholder, I
guess.

What I see in the Dutch tanks is rules, rules, rules.  I don't see much
variety or originality and precious little effective composition.


Roger Miller


Foregrounds

by Thomas Barr <tcbiii/yahoo.com>
Date: Fri, 22 Dec 2000

Thomas Barr wrote:
"Clear foregrounds are a bad sign IMO, as these are the key to a
nice tank I
feel. Often one of the more difficult elements in a tank."

James said:

I arched an eyebrow at this statement when I read it, then I
went and
checked out those Discus tanks from Belgium. While I saw some
nice "fish
tanks", I didn't see any impressive "aquascapes".

There is not (nor should there be) any requirement that every
square inch of
substrate in a planted tank be covered by plants. Open areas of
bare gravel
can be very effective compositional aids. Insisting on every
tank having a
"lawn" of some sort in the foreground is just as bad as the
Dutch habit of
insisting that plants be placed in "rows" - you end up with
tanks which look
like perennial borders.
- --------------------------
I say:
I guess I need to expand my **opinion** here:
I got James to raise an eyebrow:)

I don't say that every square inch should be planted - just the
foreground. You can bend "the rule" and do a very neat tank
without foreground plants as well or no plants at all- but in
general terms of what I've seen regarding foregrounds, most
folks don't give enough attention to it, often leaving it bare
due to having trouble with foreground plants or no access to
them inexperience. I still stand by my comment in general terms.
They were only opinions not insisting on one thing or another. 
Sorry, I like plants over No#3 sand:)
 
I've seen this bareness of space used quite well here in SF with
a few of the member's of SF plant group doing great things.A few
use large river stones as a "row" of sorts.
I can set up a tank with stem plants and a clean/clear
foreground and have it look very nice in a day or so with
nothing but some pruning work. That doesn't take time to "grow
in". I see less long term work and growth with these styles. It
could be up for 10 years or ten days. 
A nice clean lawn does take some time to have it look good.
Try that with Gloss for example. It will take a few weeks
and maybe longer to have it look good. You must envision what
this will look like and plan it. A foreground of Crypt parva is
not an easy one to have look good and requires patience. That
takes some of the impluse haphazardness out of it don't you
think?
    I think it takes more planning and timing using the
foreground plants than the stem plants. Crypts are even worse
and are my favorites. Now add those mixed with stem plants and a
foreground plant and get them all together "thriving" in a tank
at the same time.
    Now if I was "limited" to stem plants, and mostly easy stem
plants at that,is this now "limited"? You can do one method or
all of them. I like a foreground packed full of plants, I do
like plants after all:)Gravel has it's pleasures but having keep
plantless tanks for many years I like not seeing the gravel
anymore. I like plants more than gravel so it is the primary
element in my opinions. Using only plants for your aquascape
area is challenging and perhaps more so from a grower's
perspective.But where do you draw these perspectives? Should
they be from one school of thought? A growers or an aquascapist
or a gradener's or a pruner's perspective or for easy plants or
hard plants?
    Adding rock and wood and other elements are great ideas that
I use as well. They tend to get covered with plants though:)
I really love rock myself but I have done quite a lot when I had
AF cichlids for many years as a kid. Not enough tanks to go
around though:)But you add or delete these as well like the stem
plants. The rocks seem to look much better with foreground
plants though. 

I'll make no bones about it. I like all the plants. I don't care
much for rules but understand there needs to be some standards
perhaps....but what are those going to be? More on that later.

Regards, 
Tom Barr








Foregrounds II

by Thomas Barr <tcbiii/yahoo.com>
Date: Fri, 22 Dec 2000

Continued...  
Often I see a begginner's tank looking okay and decent in the
middle and background with stem plants but a ratty foreground.
Most folks can whip a middle and background into shape but
foregrounds have other issues that show front and center if they
don't look good.If anything is slightly brown, it shows up. If
the foreground plant is overgrown you cannot use the same old
topping method you use for stem plants either.Or is covered in
hair algae, or isn't growning up to snuff etc etc.

Perhaps there's not enough light from overgrowth for the the
foreground plants. There's lots of detritus all over the plants
there(fish tank owners cannot stand this so that is a big issue
on why the foregrounds are left bare...not because they cannot
do it/grow it etc- cleaning purposes). 
It takes more skill to cultivate a foreground carpet than a bare
spot. Perhaps more self discpline to leave it empty one could
argue as well but certainly less work and skill with plants. You
could do this bare spot on purpose to show an effective use of
space rock texures or wood etc. You could also just have trouble
growing a lawn of Glossostigma.

I think a good reason for this bareness is due to the
maintenance of foreground plantings. It's a lot of work. Why
don't we design a lower maintence foreground instead?
Incorporate this bareness into the style and still have a nice
looking planted tank that requires the far less "difficult"
pruning of the stem plants which are easy by most standards
compared to the foreground plants. If your not adding CO2 or
only small amounts then this packed to brim plant tank is not a
good idea for you. There's always exceptions. Some folks like
the space to keep the growth at bay and keep the plants from
invading the other groups. 

I would give some points to such a planting but I would give
more to one that had more gradening and growing skills in the
design. If you could/can do both you'd get bonus points:)One
with and one without etc.

There's also a skill in designing a lower maintenance aquascape.
Many great planties are lazy. Very much so.
I add crypts to many of my tanks since they grow slow and don't
need the pruning that Hygro's need. But too many stem plants you
get lots of work. Too few, not enough nutirent uptake and algae
has a better chance to attack. A nice balance of slow growers
with the fast growers seems to be a good mix.The slow growers
can give the basis of the design and you can move your stem
plants all over(like when the same tank is redone and
rephotographed-Amano/Dutch etc styles you can see this being
used.)as you wish any time or on a whim. The foreground stays
the same and the background gets changed some.

I don't like to be limited to bare foreground or planted
foreground but IMO the lawn of hair grass looks better than the
lawn of No#3 gravel. But what of the larger stones or scree or
mini rock gardens? I see potential in all the spaces as well as
the emptyness. Being stuck into a convention of rules or an
Acadamy style rules of standard bugs me.
Some folks would take off for foreground plants press against
the glass a little. I like that to certain degree. As long as
the angle going up into the tank looks good and it's general
appearence overall looks good, I don't think it is a bad thing.
Looks better than the gravel IMO pressed up against the glass.
If you have a nice stand of hairgrass, you don't even realize
there's gravel in there often. If you slope all the way down to
wood/black trim so the gravel is extremely shallow in the
foreground this effect is enhanced and less of the plant will
press against the glass as well.
Overall I would think more should be given for the quality of
the thriving plants than of the aquascape. A good example of
healthy plants is the first step then you can work on the
aquascape later or change/try out different
foregrounds/backgrounds styles etc. This requires a detailed
look rather than a far away picture.
Of course I'm a bais person regarding plants over aquascaping
skills. A well designed tank with a great aquascape with so-so
plant or in poor health ruins it all for me. I think that shows
a lesser emphasis for the living elements in a tank which I feel
take precendence over the nonliving elements of the aquascape.
Plant health first then the design is secondary. I feel that I
would like to learn how to paint and use the colors well before
I try a whole composition. I think many folks go down this same
road. The foreground can be one of the last "holes" in the
composition.
These are just my opinions. 
Regards, 
Tom Barr 




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