Aquarium & Tropical Fish Site
December '06

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December '06 - Filipe Oliveira Special!

This month's special pays homage to the talent of one of our most outstanding participants in our discussion board, who recently gave us great pride and joy when he won the 2006 International Aquascaping Contest promoted by AGA - Aquatic Gardeners Association. On this first page we have a brief interview with him, and on the following pages a visual delight of some of his best setups. In the description of each tank there's a link to the forum topic where he keeps a journal of that aquascape's evolution (in Portuguese)...great sources of reference and inspiration. Congratulations and thanks FAAO! :-)

612_Filipe_Oliveira_1a.jpg (20kb) Who is Filipe Oliveira?

I'm 31 years old and I'm an Information Technologies director in Porto - Portugal. I've been practicing the hobby since 2001 and obviously started like everyone else. As years went by and with successive tank setups, I perfected my technique as an aquascaper, improving details like depth and hardscape layout, aspects that began to gain importance with each new setup, as well as extensive preliminary planning.

What led you to specialize in the aspect of aquascaping within the hobby?

My concept of an aquarium changed from the moment I decided I wanted more than a tank with fish. I slowly started to add a few plants and to study a lot about caring for them; growth speed, color, texture, volume...etc. After much experimentation, I thought: "Why not make something more elaborate, simulate a natural scenario or even landscape?" From then on I started seeing the aquarium as a decorative piece and not just a tank with plants.

612_Filipe_Oliveira_1d.jpg (20kb) Some of your setups were made in other localities (shops, etc). Do you setup tanks by contract or are you only an amateur aquascaper?

I've done a few works for a shop in Porto by order. I was just told the tank dimensions, the present lighting system and whether it had a CO2 system or not. Given the resources available by the clients, I chose the flora and exchanged a few ideas with them to get to know their personal tastes. After setup I gave them some orientation on the respective maintenance. Some of those tanks I still visit and help out whenever possible.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of practicing this aspect of the hobby in Portugal?

The greatest problem in Portugal is finding quality fish shops. Aquascaping has started to become more publicized thanks to specialized internet forums, which have greatly contributed to a better selection available in shops. I remember, some time ago, having resorted to a small shop that didn't even carry plants in stock, and placing a 70 order on Tropica plants just to receive a few little vases. This was the type of price you had to pay to get uncommon plants. The usual plants for sale in shops were the less demanding ones such as Anubias, Java fern, Echinodorus...etc, plants that could survive in the poor conditions available in the stores.

Nowadays and due to greater advertising, the shops have begun to show some interest in improving their conditions. They present a variety of plants that allows the final consumer a better choice at a more attractive price. The same happens with acessories related to aquascaping, although in this case there's the option of ordering in the international market, at similar prices but better variety.

612_Filipe_Oliveira_1b.jpg (15kb) Some critics of the aquascaping fad complain about the ephemeral character of these setups...claiming that they're created only until a good photo can be taken, then dismantled. What do you have to say about that?

In the beginning, when you're studying the plant behaviors and trying to perfect your aquascaping techniques, it's normal that the layouts are not long-lasting. As soon as the tank reaches its best condition, photos are taken for your portfolio or for contests, then it's on to a new setup. I'm somewhat past that phase, not that I don't want to create something new, but I feel sorry to tear down a tank just when it's at its best maturing state. The greatest problem ends up being the lack of space in my fishroom, otherwise I would absolutely love to let the tanks evolve for a much longer time, while creating new ones in parallel. Obviously, more setups means more maintenance time and money spent. If we opt for quality products, the money spent ends up being a relevant factor, but when the expected results come we can consider the money well spent! If you're not able to cope with all of these factors, then it's normal to dismantle an aquarium and start a new creation cycle.

If you'd like to submit an aquarium for Tank of the Month, just contact me.

Photos copyright © Filipe Oliveira and displayed here with his permission.
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