A Brief and Incomplete History of Aquascaping

Ed Wiser

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Being along time reef keeper I have never seen one that was an actual representation of a reef. As reefs will see one type of coral take over an area do to the conditions of the wave action and the depth of the water effect what corals can live there. Reef tanks are a Hodgepodge of corals from all over the reef and from all over the world really with no planning at all by the reef keeper.
 

TOO

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The Nature Aquarium style in my view has never pretended to be a replication of nature (this is the domain of the Biotope Aquarium style). It rather takes creative inspiration from nature and insists on using natural materials like wood, stone, sand, etc. These are then subsumed to distinctly human aesthetic and visual principles like golden ratios, focal points, contrasts, etc. The obvious analogy here is the difference between a wood and a garden. It is no coincidence that the Nature Aquarium style came from Japan with their sophisticated garden tradition. Japanese gardens are sensitive and venerating human condensations of the beauty of nature. I see the Nature Aquarium style in much the same way. The diorama style is a pretty extreme deviation from this philosophy. I think there is a future need to clearly separate these styles for competions as they are not really comparable in terms of their philosophical basis. A few thoughts.

T
 

zozo

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Well thank you too Tim... I'm much obliged and honered that some of my contribution features in the update.

And reading some comments i can't help feeling the need to say.

"One should view art for what it is and not discuss it for what it's not." :)
(Eric Hebborn)
 

tiger15

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It is no coincidence that the Nature Aquarium style came from Japan with their sophisticated garden tradition. Japanese gardens are sensitive and venerating human condensations of the beauty of nature. I see the Nature Aquarium style in much the same way. The diorama style is a pretty extreme deviation from this philosophy. I think there is a future need to clearly separate these styles for competions as they are not really comparable in terms of their philosophical basis. A few thoughts.

T
Nature aquarium is essentially miniature aquatic Japanese garden. Diorama is essentially aquatic Chinese landscape bonsai, not a deviation of nature aquarium. Both have been around for a very Long time, but only recently adapted to aquatic setting due to availability of technology. It is actually easier to maintain a Nature or Diorama aquarium than a bonsai as the latter needs to receive a few hours direct sunlight daily, delicately manage proper moisture levels, and to winterize.

https://www.bonsaiempire.com/inspiration/top-10/chinese-penjing
 
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TOO

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Nature aquarium is essentially miniature aquatic Japanese garden. Diorama is essentially aquatic Chinese landscape bonsai, not a deviation of nature aquarium
Good point. It may be unjust to speak of the diorama style as a deviation when you see things in this broader historical perspective. At the same time it is hard not see the diorama as a kind of further development of NA when you look at the sequence, but yeah, it could be argued that it actually draws on its own tradition. Thanks for the link.

T
 

Tim Harrison

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I think some examples of diorama are grown emersed for competitions and then flooded just before the photoshoot, and then torn down immediately afterwards. There's no attempt at longevity nor making them in to a functioning system of sorts, mainly because it's not particularly practical nor sustainable.

So it's not just the aesthetic that's divorced from Nature Aquarium its also the guiding principle. Personally, I think Diorama has more in common with model making than aquascaping, hence the term diorama, which is borrowed from the model making world, and why it fell in to popular use soon after the diorama style started to become popular https://www.ukaps.org/forum/threads/aquascape-awards.36972/#post-398879
 

zozo

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Have you seen the last years AGA entries?
https://showcase.aquatic-gardeners.org/2018/categories.html

:eek: Amazing, but this part of the hobby is still evolving. I few years back i though i've seen it all and stopped following it..
But hell no, yet not seen half of it i guess, it still gets more jaw dropping each year again. Especialy if you realize the true dimensions it is actualy what the picture doesn't show.
With a lot of scapes i think, how is it even possible to create it. To think of it to make it. It requires something i do not posses..
 

Tim Harrison

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Have you seen the last years AGA entries?
There are a lot of talented scapers out there. However, I must admit I'm not feeling it, nearly all the entries are diorama :meh:
What I'd give to see more decent Nature Aquarium scapes...

I like Nuno's scape...

2420.jpg
 

tiger15

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In every size category, the top 3 and 10 winners are diorama. There are a few Iwagami and Nature style down the list but none won any place. Japanese art is renown for beauty in the simplicity. Japanese bonsai, rock garden, flower arrangement, packaging, etc involve a lot of removing to simplify. Diorama is the opposite of simplicity as the style attempts to condense an entire landscape in miniature.

Diorama is not easy, as the hard scape alone can take weeks to months to build before planting, and maintenance is even harder. I like the simple style which is prettier and easier to build and maintain.
 

Tim Harrison

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Well, if diorama didn't evolve directly from Nature Aquarium it has certainly influenced the direction of the NA aesthetic over the last few years. It's easy to categorise the more extreme diorama examples, but I often see hybrid type scapes, or NA scapes that have some diorama aspects, my own included, which perhaps don't really fit either label.

Looking back over the entries of the major competitions like IAPLC and AGA's IAC I reckon there is a pretty clear development from Nature Aquarium to diorama, and then a point where it just takes over completely around 2013. This is one of a few discussions about it.
 

zozo

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I was never much impressed with the Iwagumi style dioramas, the mountain peaks in front of the blue skyes and fish flying like birds around in it. More as not my kind of tatse and always missing the model train in it trucking by. But some jungle style dioramas still can knok me completely off my feet with aw.. As said above, the time spend to create it with all the details in such small footprint and than the time spend to maintain it. It's completely out of my ball park and don't even dare to criticize it. Wouldn't even know where to start, i always wonder where they find the materials for it. I guess i also lak the budget..
 

TOO

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As said above, the time spend to create it with all the details in such small footprint and than the time spend to maintain it. It's completely out of my ball park and don't even dare to criticize it.
I think there is every reason to admire these diorama works. They really are impressive artistic creations. The problem for me is not that there is such a style, but rather that they compete against more classical NA styles. It is just pears and oranges. Also, as the diorama dominance becomes stronger in the top places of competitions (see Tim's post above) it tends to become a sort of self-fulfilling propehecy where proponents of classical NA are likely to refrain from entering their scapes because they consider them to not stand much of a chance. In my view competions need to separate these categories. One way of doing this might be to judge the "sustainability" of scapes. As some one else mentions above, one has the suspicion that dioramas are often very temporary creations timed to peak within a very short time frame. It also seems to me (although I am not sufficiently skilled in photography to say this with any conviction) that dioramas owe a good deal of their effect to photographic techniques and post-production effects. But making distinctions is obviously easier said than done, not least because, as Tim notes, many scapes are in reality hybrids between NA and diorama.

T
 

tiger15

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I reread the article and good that more info is incorporated.

A green house is a glass box similar to an aquarium. A densely planted green house can be depleted of CO2 that limit growth, and some greenhouse operations use CO2. So CO2 use in aquarium may not be the first and likely inspired by green house use.
 
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