Aquascaping discussion - fast, slow and styles

Discussion in 'Aquascaping' started by George Farmer, 17 Jul 2008.

  1. George Farmer

    George Farmer Founder Staff Member

    There's been some rather unsavoury discussion recently about how aquascapes take longer than six weeks to develop. There was also some mention that many of us are trying to copy the 'Far East' styles.

    Rather than dwell on the negative aspects to that discussion, I figured I'd turn it around an start a positive thread, as it's an interesting topic. So let's leave the negativity behind...

    What are your 'slowest' and 'quickest' aquascapes?

    Where do you draw your inspiration from? What style do you prefer, or do you have your own unique style?

    Do you have vision of what to expect, or are you more a gardener that like to let things evolve on their own accord with minimal interaction?

    What would be your ideal aquascape or aquascapes, in terms of speed of development and creative input?

    I'll start...

    My longest aquascape took 18 months to mature. It was called 'The Shade' and consisted of classic low light tolerant plants - Crypts, ferns and Anubias. Light was just 2 x 18w (1wpg) but I did use CO2 and TPN+.

    Here it is -


    My quickest aquascape took less than six weeks - Harlequins' Haven.


    Personally I like to create a lot of aquascapes in a relatively short time. For me there are just too many fish, plants and design ideas I need learn from.

    Personally I don't try to imitate any particular style, but also never critisise those that do 'copy'.

    Aquascaping is an art and very personal form of expression.

    If you like the Far Eastern aquascaping-styles, whatever they may be - Nature Aquarium, CAU, Taiwanese etc. etc. then so be it.

    Art is art, and can look good whether it's 'copied' or not.

    I'd suggest that many decent UK aquascapes draw heavily from Amano's work. Is this a bad thing? I don't think so.

    My ideal scenario is to have one large, long-term aquascape in my living room. I intend to implement this with a 180x60x60cm opti-white with 6 large blue diamond discus (I wanted Heckels, but the wife insists...), nice hardscape and Amazon swords. I won't even use CO2. It won't re-scape it for many months, if not years.

    Then my 60cm opti-white, in my hallway, will be my 'play' tank where I can experiment with any new ideas and continue to churn out aquascapes to my hearts desire. Loads of light and CO2/nutrients where I can grow things super quick.

    Please feel free to discuss all or any of the points mentioned.
  2. Good thread George :D

    Quickest aquascape was "At Forest's Gate", at around 70 days.

    Next was "Javanese Paradise", about 75 days.

    Longest, is the low tech I set up for my parents, at about a year old so far, and going strong.

    I draw a lot of my inspiraiton from Mr. Amano, but also the guys at CAU - particularly Justin Law and Wayne Sham. I like Norbert Sabat's work too. I try and combine the things I like most about those aquascapes, and put them into mine. I tend to use more "slow growing" plants, such as Mosses, Ferns and Crypts too.

    I definitely have a vision of what I expect, but it will more than likely change by the time I've finished. "Javanese Paradise" was actually meant to be an iwagumi layout, but hey :lol:

    The ideal aquascape would develop quickly, with minumum creative input once layed out and planted - but thats me, I'm lazy! Probably why I don't use stem plants too! ;)

  3. Ray

    Ray Member

    I agree George. If you look at the history of art there have always been groups of artists who copied and influenced one another. Somtimes the copiers were just that and never amounted to much, other times they refined and improved and moved on to the next level. But if your scape brings pleasure to you, then who cares where it is derived from?

    Also, lets not forget Amano also copies - he spends a lot of time looking at nature and trying to derive from that into his aquariums. The Nature Aquarium World books are full of scapes inspired by particular things he saw in nature. Other artists (Oliver Knott springs to mind) produce more stylized work that is certainly not derived from nature.

    Its easy to say "that's a copy of x" but not so easy to say "here is something different I did that you might like". Nor is that always necessary - if I could paint even half as well as Monet I would be well satisfied with myself. There would be no need to try to paint even better or different.

    As for time - a scape is finished when it is finished. You used crypts in 'The Shade' so it took time. I actually feel that Harlequins Haven was never finished on account of the leaks and would have looked even better if given a few more months. But no serious critic looks at art and judges it on how long it took. Watercolours dry quicker than oils - but so what? You could make a stems only scape in 2 or 3 weeks or use XXL mother plants and be done on day one. Its the end result that people judge.

    I look forward to your discus scape - that would be like one of the ones in the Senske brother's book? The ultimate living room tank...

    PS - not familiar with the Taiwanese style - any pointers?
  4. jay

    jay Member

    Harrow, Middlesex
    I am new to forum based planted aquarium discussions, to be honest I never knew they were around until last year!
    All I ever knew of aquascapes were Amano's books and I feel these are still my main source of inspiration.

    The newer ADA styles seem very stark to me, too clinical, as I've grown with the original books.
    I do believe i am of the slow growing methodology with set ups and plant choice, as i love the aspect of setting up and planting for a final goal, and suddenly i look at my tank and think 'thats it, got it'.

    Although, the amount of times I've uprooted my main tank and re-scaped it is testament to my impatience.
    But i think this has something to do with the amount of inspiration i get from these forums.
  5. Dave Spencer

    Dave Spencer Member

    N. Wales
    TBH, I am still in boy racer mode, and don`t plan any long term scapes. I have a hell of a lot to learn, and think I can gain this through turning out as many scapes as I can for the duration, rather than sit back and wait for Crypts to grow. No doubt this will change one day, but for me, my main problem is getting all the different plants at their peak at the right time.

    I would have to say that current circumstances have meant that aquascaping has taken a back seat. Things are on the up again, but my two "competition tanks" are not up to spec, but I hope to be churning more scapes in the not too distant future, although photography appears to be my first love at the mo, and taking up my money.

    My inspiration comes from TA mostly, without a doubt, and the Far East in general. I don`t think any of my tanks have been direct copies of these styles, but I am in the process of setting up a 120cm at the girlfriend`s, so I shall play it safe with a Nature Aquarium look, rather than anything experimental, especially since it will be in the public eye more than my own tanks. This will be my first serious play around with wood.

    All my tanks start with a clear vision, influenced by nature around me, but end up looking different. I find I just steer them in a general direction. I haven`t yet produced a scape I am remotely satisfied with, although my Riccia scape did look stunning at one point. Shame I never got that final photograph. This scape was influenced by a small meadow with undulating mounds of grass, and lined by trees.


    In terms of aquascape types, an Iwagumi in my 120cm or something bigger is my ultimate goal for now. I just love the minimalism, but then I do love pratting about with rockwork.

    There is nothing wrong with copying, or being influenced by other people`s tanks AFAIAC. I like to try and convince myself that I was original in using Riccia as the main plant, rather than just for effect, and that the rockwork in Distant Echo had an original look.
  6. George Farmer

    George Farmer Founder Staff Member

  7. aaronnorth

    aaronnorth Member

    worksop, nottinghamshire
    I think it is ok to copy when you are starting off, get the feel for it then go on to your own style.

    Longest - 7 months

    shortest - 1 month and very fast growth (still filling in)
  8. GreenNeedle

    GreenNeedle Member

    Lincoln UK
    I suppose the moaning about TA will be me. lol sorry but each to their own etc, he he.

    Mine are basically all long term. First was 7 months and was me learning what to grow and how to grow etc. Then rehashed it and tried a proper scape which lasted 8 months (was cut short by a 3year old and washing up liquid.)

    The current scape will go on for as long as the tank will stay together hopefully.

    p.s. None of mine were copied from anothers styles, all original BUT none have been copied either which probably says something in itself (like noone appreciates my style he, he ;).) I do however copy George and JamesCs methods quite often.

  9. Brenmuk

    Brenmuk Member

    Just come to this thread from the Good algae article thread. I have to say that the 'Harlequins' Haven' scape has to be one of the best scapes I've seen and I have seen loads in the past few weeks. Is there a journal/gallery post for this scape?
  10. aaronnorth

    aaronnorth Member

    worksop, nottinghamshire
    no, but for some reason my mind tells me there was a post lol - i think there might of been a blog on PFK, it only showed you the hardscape position
  11. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

    Chicago, USA
  12. aaronnorth

    aaronnorth Member

    worksop, nottinghamshire

    I knew there was - my mind was right :lol:
  13. a1Matt

    a1Matt Member

    I meant to post on this thread when George first started it, but never got around to it...

    I only have one tank at a time so all my scaping takes place in that one tank and my style (with everything in life, not just scaping) is undoubtedly a SLOW one.

    My current tank I have had for 2.5 years and the scape evolves bit by bit over time. Each change is only a small change from the one before, but if you take a picture every year it will look quite different from the one before!

    It took me a year to get the hardscape that is in there now. A month before it went into the tank, then another few months of repositioning inside the tank. I still move gravel about making new hillsides every couple of months. (Thats not to say I am not happy with the tank, I just don't stop seeing little improvements I can make ;) )

    I've been hi-tech for 2 years and have learnt lots in that time, but will happily admit that I am still learning how to grow the plants. I'll put a plant in, watch how it changes as it grows in, then once it is established 'jiggle my scape about' with it.

    I like trying out new plants, so that forces me to tweak my scape often to keep a balance. You know the balance where you look at the tank and think. hmmmmmmm. that looks nice to me, lets stop there for now and see if keeps that feel and balance as it grows in. Yet at the same time I know it will never be 'complete.' ....and that is why I love aquascaping! :D
  14. oldwhitewood

    oldwhitewood Member

    In terms of slowest and quickest aquascapes I can't really answer as I've had a lot of trouble over the years, and most of the things I've done have ended in failure and disaster. The first planted tank I saw which really got me hooked was an amazonian river tank in Fishkeeping Answers (still have the issue) which if you guys remember was like the sister-mag of Practical Fishkeeping. After that I got a few more aquarium books, one by Dr Peter Bradley The Complete Aquarium I think it's called which I maintain still has some exciting biotope type layouts and another one, The Natural Aquarium, which again was very good, especially with the mbuna setups, but Nature Aquarium World just grabbed me and I wanted to have a lawn of riccia and echinodorus tennellus from then on. That idea of a lawn type effect stayed with me for years but I never really got one to work, I tried everything but I didn't really know what I was doing so I guess so many of my layouts over the years have failed due to algae and neglect, as a result of my inexperience. I have never really been able to come up with anything totally original I've always tried to replicate what Amano has done; his tanks are what inspire me above everything else.

    I can't say I have my own unique style at all, far from it! A good example of this is me trying for years to achieve a lawn effect as I said before, I finally cracked it about 5 years ago using glosso in a Rio 125 setup, using pressurised CO2 and 5 T8's. Great I thought I've done it, then later I started seeing ADA setups using bright sand for a foreground! Sand?!?! The idea was preposterous to me, why have a bare foreground? but the more I saw the more I realised Amano had come up with a new style again! There was simply no way I could have made that jump from a planted foreground to completely turning it on it's head and using bare sand in it's place. Now of course we see loads of layouts using sand it's commonplace, but when I first saw it amazed me, it just seemed 'right'.

    The aquascapes which inspire me are the ones you see using wood which juts out from the surface of the water, often with stem plants breaking the surface too. I have always loved layouts using rooty driftwood shapes dressed with moss and ferns, I guess I can never get away from that.

    Having an idea of what to expect comes with experience. When you first 'scape' a tank and look at the finished results it looks rubbish really, until it starts to grow in and you get that lushness happening that is, then the tank takes on a lucid, almost magical feel. I believe aquascapes have a high point where they never look as good as what they do at that moment, I think it's this moment that Amano chooses to photograph the tank. Mine is still running at the moment, but it was probably at it's best around 12 months ago. I do though think disorder is good in terms of plants and I would like to move away from the ordered, regimented clumps of plants and try something different, mixing different types together or just letting them grow out to see which one becomes the dominant plant, this would be more in the area of stems, I've seen it mostly with foregrounds before such as using glosso and e tennellus together, but you also see it with elocharis mixed in with background stem plants to soften the appearance.

    Anyway like a bramble I ramble on too much.
  15. joyous214

    joyous214 Member

    This is really interesting, My parents got a tank when i was young and i was always changing things, never really serious, but it was 2 years before i got all the plants in place and wood correct. Because most local fish shops didnt stock the plants i wanted in my book.

    I have since taken the baiscs of that tank as they are moving over seas and had mature plants so the arrangment only took a matter of weeks to get the look i was after. Now im getting more and more into landscapling i have a couple of plans and judging by the time scales and details on the forum going to take me a couple of months to get the look i want. But i will end up changing it 100 times before then.

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