December '02 - Planting with Style!
For many hobbyists, the mere fact that they've finally figured out how to keep plants alive is already a great victory, but it is important for the aquascaper to realize that just sticking in lots of random bunches of plants in a tank and letting them grow like crazy doesn't necessarily make it look good. I have received many submissions for this section that look much more like a plant repository than an actual aquascape. So here are some excellent examples of three popular planting styles - Dutch, Nature and Jungle - that may help you evaluate and improve your own aquascape.
Tolis Ketselidisīs 330 L Dutch Aquarium (Greece)
The Dutch style of planting is derived directly from the custom (popular in Holland) of creating orderly arrangements of flowers and/or terrestrial plants. The idea is to arrange the plants in large bundles, rows and terraces, in such a way as to create high contrasts of colors and shapes to cause a breathtaking impact on sight. A larger tank is preferred (200-500 liters) so there's enough room to introduce good amounts of many different species, and typically no other decorative elements such as rocks or wood are used. The tank should be essentially 100% planted, and a carpet near the center is almost always preferred. The plants need to be pruned regularly so that the composition always maintains an orderly aspect. When appreciating a Dutch tank we immediately realize that there is a human caretaker responsible for creating and maintaining that beautiful, orderly arrangement.
Alex Fanīs 160 L Nature Aquarium (Hong Kong)
The Nature Aquarium style was popularized by Takashi Amano, who has a strong photography background, and is meant to capture inside an aquarium a representation of some beautiful natural scenery that you might encounter while walking through different niches of nature. It is strongly influenced by the oriental approach towards landscaping such as in Japanese gardens...the final result should look as if it was always there, and should impress on the observer a feeling of tranquility, harmony and peace of mind. Although it should look as if nature created the aquascape by itself, the result is only achieved through a significant amount of intervention and maintenance by the tank owner. Plants need to be pruned quite regularly and carefully, so that they don't look like they've been pruned. Water control and frequent partial changes are a also a must. This style will often make use of rocks and driftwood to enhance the natural appeal, and it should typically be 100% planted in the sense of having any visible gravel surface covered by carpet plants such as Riccia and Glossostigma. The style is very flexible in terms of tank size and number of plant species. Takashi Amano has done everything from 1 liter to several thousand, and from one plant species to several dozen.
Tom Izsakīs 200 L Jungle Aquarium (USA)
The Jungle style is a more loosely defined way of planting the aquarium. The flexibility of the style lies in allowing some plants to overgrow and reach the surface, different species to mix with each other, and any amount of rocks and driftwood as well. The final result should look as much as possible like some unexplored piece of forest, with no human intervention in the scenery. Carpet plants can be used but in most cases it looks actually more natural if you leave some open spaces in the gravel. Here's some comments sent by Tom Izsak, owner of the tank above:
"The best advice I can give anyone who wants to set up a planted tank like mine is to really give some thought to the layout. Rather than just putting the plants in random areas, think about where each plant will go and how it will look next to the other plants. Use rocks to create hills and valleys - this
creates a mini-landscape rather than a flat plateau. In my tank, although it's not so visible in the picture, I used petrified wood to create a two-tier hill on the left side and a one tier hill on the right side. The plants are planted on these hills and hide the edges of the rock to create a natural effect. Driftwood is also a very important design element, and should be chosen carefully. I got lucky with the main piece in my tank, it looks just like a miniature sunken tree. This creates a sense of scale that makes the tank look bigger than it actually is. I also like to create tunnels or arches that the fish can swim through. There is an archway in this tank at the bottom center. It leads to the back of the tank, behind the foliage. Besides the fact that this adds intrest to the tank, it also gives the fish somewhere to retreat to if they are being chased or if they are sick."
If you'd like to submit an aquarium for Tank of the Month, just contact me.
Photos taken by their respective authors and displayed here with their permission.