Would Takashi Amano, Oliver Knott, & ADG (just to name a few) be able to achieve their magnificent aquascapes without their premium equipment (lights, filter, co2) & supplies (substrate, ferts, flora + fauna, hardscape)?
I have looked at this for a couple of days now, and don't understand exactly what is meant by "premium" equipment. You haven't completely defined premium to me.
There is also an assumption that the mentioned aquascapers solely use these unnamed and undefined, "premium" products. We know Amano uses his own product, but we (or at least I) can't say with any certainty that the others mentioned don't use most or some of the same things the average hobbyist might. What type of filter does Oliver Knott use most often? I couldn't tell you!
Lights? Filter? CO2? I really don't know of many "premium" forms of these items, or forms that are not available to most of us.
Lights? What would you consider premium? Power compacts? MH? All of those things are available to both the average or experienced hobbyist.
Filter? Again, what is premium? I have seen beautiful aquascapes filtered with all sorts of filters available to all of us. I am not sure what you would consider to be premium filter. The glass lily pipes? They are cool. Does it make a difference? In function? No. In aesthetics? Yes. I look at the 37G I set up with an ADA intake Lily pipe. I stand back and don't see the intake at all. It look great. I look at my 75G I set up with the standard Eheim gear. I stand back and see a green intake pipe. The aquarium looks good, but the pipe just sticks out. I am going to add an intake Lily pipe and am sure the 75G aquarium will look much better.
CO2? What would someone consider to be a premium CO2?
Follow my line of thought?
Under supplies, substrates are mentioned. Flourite and Eco-Complete were once considered premium substrates! Now they are pretty common place. Like Tom has said, ADA substrates are becoming quite comparable in price to Flourite and Eco-Complete. Take a look at ADG website. The pricing is quite reasonable! In fact, I believe as more people start using the ADA substrates, the price may even come down a bit more. I would no longer consider Aquasoil to be an unreachable "premium" substrate. In fact I would hazard to say that the "premium" cache is wearing off pretty quickly as the product price has come down and the number of people using it has gone up.
By "premium" fertilizer I would imagine it is inferred to mean ADA fertilizers (I have to assume the original poster means ADA fertilizers when they mentioned "premium" as these are the only products that can be considered "premium"). I don't know who is using them. No one has ever really told me they are using the "premium" products.
Premium flora and fauna seems silly.
Hardscape? Again, I am at a loss as to what is "premium". I will again assume the reference is to Amano's products. They are rock and they are wood. What sets them apart and makes them "premium" ($) is the price you pay for them. You pay the high price because it is pretty expensive to ship tons of rock and wood half way across the world. I am sure the closer to the point of origin for the particular hardscape components the cheaper they will be.
However, that being said, the stone is
beautiful. I can't get stone like that around here. The rocks types are uniform in color to each other and interesting in shape and texture. The wood is the same. The color is consistent between pieces. That uniformity in color and texture in the wood and stone created a tied in relationship between those pieces of stone and wood that really makes the aquascape work because those pieces belong
together. They match! There is no hodge podge. That does make a difference.
Also, these men do this for a living. They have access to these things each and everyday and more of it than we could imagine. They probably look at more wood and stone in a day than we do in several months.