Quality Aquascaping: Planned or Evolved?
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Old 03-26-2005, 12:31 PM   #1
scolley
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Quality Aquascaping: Planned or Evolved?


Being typical of a number of people on this forum, I find myself on the precipice... about to take the leap from my first small planted tank, into something more. Most of my preparations have been around the technical details of the new tank - the stuff that's easy for me to tackle. But the aquascape! Ahhh, the raison d'etre of the new tank! That's a tougher problem.

I find myself having great difficulty moving beyond the very first step - deciding on a simple layout or design. So I'm wondering are quality layouts the product of a plan? Watching a few videos of Amano in action demonstrates that he definitely begins with the end in mind. Or can those of us with less experience let a quality aquascape evolve over time, and still be successful?

For the purposes of this discussion, I'd ask that this not devolve into a discussion over what quality is or means. Go read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance if you want to see how long and slippery that slope is! For a working definition of quality, as it relates to an aquascape, I'm referring to aquascapes that take your breath away, or at least cause you to stop and just say "Wow!"

So do quality aquascapes have to be planned? Or can they evolve?


(Note to the reader - I've modified this original post to let the first time reader know that there seems to be a bit of interest in my post titled "I thought this would peak a bit more interest..." So, if you are pressed for time, you might skip to that post.)
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Old 03-26-2005, 01:02 PM   #2
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I would suggest they may come from either direction, but planed would be the obvious choice as not to negate the course of trial and error. Mine is what's know as a jungle tank and has a certain appeal, but when ever I browse the galleries I find the tanks with mass groupings of simplicity to be most striking. Find the inner scolley and the aquascape will emerge from within. Hows that for a load of crap!
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Old 03-27-2005, 12:07 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 150EH
Find the inner scolley and the aquascape will emerge from within!
Thank for the advice. But I've found the "inner scolley" And he's pretty clueless about whether he can let inspiration take it's course over time, or if true greatness in planted tank aquascaping takes a plan from the start.

Hey Tony! Gomer! You out there? You put a couple of good ones under your belt this year with ADA! What's the answer?

Short of that, any other opinions are much appreciated! Thanks.
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Old 03-27-2005, 12:42 AM   #4
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I look at other people pictures and get a feel for how the plant will grow and try to make a smooth layout from tallest plants to shortest. I like a lot of planning before I impliment it, even drawing the layout to get a visual in my head.
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Old 03-27-2005, 02:39 AM   #5
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For me this is how its been lately. I start with a general idea of the look that I wanna develop in the tank.
Then I go about aquireing the plants that I need to get to accomplish this.
I usually go thru a lot of compromises, because I don't have enough of a certain plant, but I plant anyway in the hopes that I can propogate enough for my vision. When I finally get enough specimens to finish my dream scape my vision for the tank changes. I've learned that the beauty of my tank comes along the way to the supposed "destination". I snap a picture of the tank when I feel that it's breathtaking, but in 2-3 days time it'll look different. Most of my scapes are happy accidents along the way to some destination that I never get to.

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Old 03-27-2005, 06:37 AM   #6
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I am greener than green at the art of aquascaping. But I do a lot of art in my vocation. I think most musicians/composers, writers, and artists of all stripes spend alot of time looking at what other folks are doing, for ideas and inspiration. Yeah, I guess thats a no brainer. But just the other day I saw a big 180 gallon tank at the LFS, and seeing the vals swaying in the current with a really fat piece of bog wood in front and some pearl grass in the foreground gave me an idea for my new endeavor.(it was full of Bosemani Rainbowfish).

Problem is, the beauty of that tank... is its simplicity. And I want to put too many different plants in. So restraint is probably a good thing. Which probably requires some kind of plan, even if its mostly in one's head.
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Old 03-27-2005, 07:05 AM   #7
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For me it happens like this, I see something somewhere, a rock, a stream, feild anything really from this I get some general idea that hey this would cool as a fish tank. From there I sort of decontruct it. When building I like to go one step at a time, I add the rocks or driftwood and I may let that sit for a few days while my idea formulates and evolves.

In general I think if you take your time and don't try to force it by just buying a bunch of plants and throwing it together you will be happy.
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Old 03-27-2005, 07:36 AM   #8
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Many gardeners plant everything they can get there hands on as densely as possible and then let nature sort it out. This can work well in the planted tank if you ruthlessly shoot the wounded. The remaining strong plants can guide you as you further prune, cull, and rearrange. From chaos…order.
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Old 03-27-2005, 09:51 AM   #9
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Each person is different depending on their own taste and interest. There are many stages to this hobby, and for many people it is constantly evolving. Do what makes you happy and gives you enjoyment. Allow it to evolve and discover what you like and don't like. Look for inspiration, but have fun doing it.
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Old 03-27-2005, 12:37 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scolley
Thank for the advice. But I've found the "inner scolley" And he's pretty clueless about whether he can let inspiration take it's course over time, or if true greatness in planted tank aquascaping takes a plan from the start.
scolley I landscape for a living, so for me they are all planned. Even so the best ones I've ever done are a accident, because no matter how much you plan they don't all turn out to be the best you've ever done. I'd say start with a plan, usually it's a twist on something you've already seen or a style you like and if it doesn't turn out just the way you like it, rearrange it or remove what you don't like and replace it with something else.

I have customers that spend big money on landscapes and on a couple of jobs I've come back to take pictures the following year when everything is in bloom only to find my beautiful landscape littered with clay cats playing with a ball of yarn or full of cheesy Home Depot landscape lighting. I can tell them to take it all out because it looks like $h!t, I just have to bite my tongue and realize that it's not my house, it's not my style, but it's what they like and it was there money.
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Old 03-27-2005, 12:53 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 150EH
only to find my beautiful landscape littered with clay cats playing with a ball of yarn or full of cheesy Home Depot landscape lighting. I can tell them to take it all out because it looks like $h!t.
So can I take that to mean, start with a plan, but just make sure it doesn't include day-glo castles and a Sponge Bob bubble maker?
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Old 03-27-2005, 01:03 PM   #12
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Well I would say start with a plan, but if you like Sponge Bob or you want to replicate the Crusty Crab in your tank I have no comment that's entirely up to you.
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Old 05-15-2005, 11:50 AM   #13
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Default I thought this would peak a bit more interest...

Though there have been some good responses here! Thanks folks.

I've got to admit, the "planned or evolved" question was a burning one for me. But I suppose that's just indicative of where I am on my planted tank journey at the moment. I have been trying to pay attention, and trying to answer this through observation of answers in this thread, and them many clues and evidence all around me. And as far as I can tell it all depends on:
experience
I think there are three basic groups of aquascapers: the hopeful, the informed, and the experts. And whether their aquaqscape is planned or evolved seems to change with each group, with the first group having results that are just shy of random, and the last being completely planned.
The hopeful group. I am in this group, struggling to get out. I originally called this group "the clueless", but that's not quite giving them enough credit. When I started my current tank I had done just enough reading to know:

Rudimentary concepts - "Big in back, little in front, and try to figure out how to deal with the mysterious mid-ground".

Focus - Neither aquascaping nor aquaculture.

Aquascaping strategy - Primarily to have plants that grow in a tank that's reasonably free of algae. All other aquascaping priorities are secondary.


The informed group knows a number of things the hopeful tend to initially ignore:

Water parameters - And how it works with the plants they are considering. This includes temp, pH, KG, and GH. They are also aware of the nutrient requirements of their plants, and where these nutrients are going to be satisfied, from the tap, built in the substrate, added to the water column, or added to the substrate.

Light - They know what kind of light requirements each of their plants have and plan for it. This include not only intensity, but shade and sometimes color or light "temp".

Growth patterns - They know how big something will get, how much maintenance a plant will require, and how its growth will affect both the look of the tank over time, and also how it will affect the growth of adjacent plants.

Success likelihood - They have enough experience to know if they should be able to be successful with a certain type of plant. Or at least can plan around those areas where they don't have experience.

Focus - These are experienced aquaculturists. They can make a tank work. But aquascaping, the art of creating an esthetically pleasing layout, runs the gamut in this group from rudimentary to inspired. So when planning a new tank, they all have enough knowledge to create a healthy tank, and all have enough aquascaping knowledge to create a nice looking tank. Some have the talent or knowledge to take a tank into the "breathtaking" space.

Aquascaping strategy - Create a tank that has a general layout in mind from the onset, with plans to modify as desired or required as the tank matures.


The expert group - they just plain know. They've been there, they've done it. They know what a tank is going to look like at maturity as soon as they finish laying out the tank. Not every stem and leaf certainly, but enough so that in their "mind's eye", they are seeing what will develop. These people are rare. But I think they are there. IMO we have some of them on this forum, but naming names could get me in trouble with those I don't name.

Focus - These people can focus where they want. Some will engage in learning exercises in aquaculture, where what it looks like is little concern. Those who focus on the quality of their aquascape, have enough talent, or enough knowledge, to have a high success rate in creating tanks in the "breathtaking" space.

Aquascaping strategy - create the endpoint, or at least the first point of full tank maturation, as the tank is initially planted.

Maybe this is a BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious) to many of you. Or I may be completely wrong. But I had to pay attention for a while to come to this conclusion. I'd love to know your thoughts. Thanks.
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Old 05-15-2005, 12:50 PM   #14
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Wow! That should go in an 'Aquascaping tips for Beginners' thread. We should sticky it and put it in General Discussion.

I think aquascaping involves planning of plants, driftwood, substrate and all that stuff, but you can't plant something for the first time in your life and expect it to look like an amano tank. The eye for what plants look good where is developed by many unsuccesful layouts. I've gone through a setup where I had 4 amazon swords bunched together, thinking it was the most beautiful thing ever, and then they started growing wierd leaves on me. At the time, I didn't realize petsmart grew their plants emersed.

Also, you need to be able to see what the plants are going to look like when they mature. Glosso, or any carpeting plant, for example. It may look good in one area of the tank, but sooner or later it will spread to everywhere.
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Old 05-15-2005, 04:40 PM   #15
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What an excellent thread!

Does anyone keep a tank, like say a 20G, that is essentially a farm tank for plants? i.e. Aquascaping is of no concern, it's simply a place where keeping a variety of plants growing is the primary focus. Just curious, as I could see my 20G evolving into this role as I move up to a large tank. Makes me really wish I'd bought a 20L rather than the 20H actually, but live and learn... should have read Rex's section on tanks before I bought mine.

As seems common with many starting out, I've initially suffered from collectoritis and have stuffed as many various plants in my small tank as budget and space have allowed. I think it has to be really hard to get away from wanting to try a variety of plants, hence, my desire to perhaps make this tank a farm tank so to speak, where I can swap plants in and out of as I evolve an aquascape in a large tank. Would seem a good use for a tank that is perhaps kept available for fry, or a hospital tank maybe. If a hospital tank, you'd want to be careful and treat any plants transfered back into your main tank obviously. Just thinking out loud here...

Anyway, I am definitely in Scolley's "Hopeful" category, but my instinct is to look for ideas, wherever those might be... others' tanks, nature, etc... and draw my inspiration. Start with inspiration and a loose plan, and let it evolve from there. But that's just my gut feeling, and I certainly have a lot to learn. Can't wait to move up to a big tank though! I'm sure my aquascape will change more than a few times when I finally do.
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