Journals ~ Interview with Aquagora - Le Bac De L'hiver 2007-2008

Planted Aquarium - WaitingIn February, Kookaburra from Aquagora, a French Planted Aquarium forum, conducted an interview with me on my "Waiting" layout. The interview was conducted in English, but has been translated to French for their forum. Below is the original interview before it was translated to French. The French interview can be view by clicking French interview on the "Waiting" layout.

How old was this tank when the pictures were shot?

Exactly 3 months old.

Was there a specific inspiration source or a purpose in this layout?

This was my first attempt at a client/office tank. The goal was to create something peaceful and easy to maintain.

Did you encounter some special difficulties to bring this layout to what you intended?

The tank is in an office waiting room. I knew that I would not be able to work on the tank much more then once every 2-3 weeks. With this in mind, I really needed to be careful about the plants I chose. I wanted plants that would be easy to maintain over a longer period of time. Most of "easy" plants are pretty green and slightly boring, I used GE 9324k bulbs on this tank. These bulbs really make red plants "Pop" so I knew I wanted to get a colorful stem in there to break up the green. A club member had some ludwigia brevipes.....I had never tried that species, but I always had luck with grows moderately fast and always seemed to do well with extreme trims.

The hardscape was a challenge as well. The wood and rock you see in the final hardscape was absolutely everything I had left. Aside from one very nice piece of driftwood, the rest was sort of just a leftover mish mash from other projects. It was a challenge to use many "not so excellent" pieces of material to create something peaceful.

Can you indicate the technical specifications of this tank (dimensions, light, CO2, nutritive ground,filtration, etc...)?

Capacity: 75 Gallons
Dimensions: 120x45x55cm

Lighting: 4x55 Power Compact(2x6700k + 2x9325k) On a timer for 7 hours a day.

CO2: Pressurized C02 with reactor

Substrate: Soil Master Select

Filtration: XP3 Canister Filter

Flora: Taxiphyllum alternans, Bolbitis heudelotii, Anubias Barteri, Anubias barteri var. nana 'Petite', Anubias barteri var. nana, Lilaeopsis, Pogostemon stellatus 'Broad Leaf', Didiplis diandra, Cryptocoryne pontederiifolia, Cryptocoryne parva, Cryptocoryne wendtii 'bronze', Cryptocoryne wendtii 'green', Cryptocoryne wendtii 'red', Ludwigia brevipes

Fauna: Rasbora Hengeli, Otocinclus, Caridina japonica, Puntius titteya

Can you indicate the water parameters of this tank (temperature, KH, GH, PH, CO2 and NO3 rates) and what are your water changes (quantity, frequency, type of water)?

Honestly, I don't know what the KH, GH or pH are, I never tested for them. I do 20% WC every 3-4 weeks with regular tap water.

Can you explain how this tank is fertilized?

The tank is dosed with NPK in a 10:1.5:20 ratio and micro nutrients daily. It is dosed leaner then I usually dose due to limited water changes.

You seem to be a great photographer … What type of equipment do you use to accomplish your shots? Have you advice to be given to the beginners to make nice photographs?

I use a Nikon D80 DSLR for my shots. In almost all situations, extra flashes on the top of the tank will make the photo much more clear. I would like to experiment with studio strobes one day, but they are just too expensive for me right now:( I believe most of Amano's pictures do not use any of the actual aquarium light, just strobes.

I think the two most important parts to digital aquarium photography are White balance and exposure compensation. The "auto" modes of cameras just don't seem to have "Planted Aquariums" in their micro computers, so the meter will almost NEVER get it right. Some of the DSLR's will fair better with a spot meter, but most people do not have DSLR's so you will need to adjust these things yourself. First, play with White Balance. Take a bunch of shots with each setting and see which looks the most natural to you. Chances are you will get it pretty close but it will still look very bright. Next adjust your exposure compensation. I have had to go all the way to -6 on some cameras until things looked right. Don't be afraid to really underexpose if the final look is what you want.

Post production is always needed with digital. Just by technology, digital cameras do not take "sharp" photos. You will need some type of sharpening to achieve the look you want. The burn tool in Photoshop is also great for really making those black backgrounds look black. I used this method in the final picture above.

How long have you been a “planted tanks addict” and how did you come to this special field of the aquaristic hobby?

I have been doing planted tanks for just under 3 years now. I grew up with aquariums. Through my life I would go through periods of having tanks and not having tanks. Back in 02' I went into a LFS and saw plants? I started to do some searching and found these wonderful images!! I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Unfortunately I was moving a few months later, so it wasn't until 05 that I was able to really try them.

Do you have other tanks that you would like to show us? (+ shots, of course ...)

"Valley to the East" - This one has perhaps created the most discussion. This one seems to create quite a bit of emotion in people. Some people love this tank and are simply struck by it, while others do not like it at all. It seems that those that love it, really enjoy the colors. Those that do not, find it too busy and unfocused. This was an interesting layout... I only had a limited time to let this one mature, so it will always appear unfinished to me. That aside, I think this one is really a compilation of what I love most in the natural approach (solid hardscape and peaceful uses of moss and crypts) and what I love about dutch (colorful contrasts). I certainly see this tanks shortcomings (even if its just my skill set at that time), however I am always proud of this layout.

"Open" - This one was sort of an after thought. I wanted to used Dwarf Riccia to create a very simple layout. Unfortunately it did not come out quite as I would have liked, the rocks are not complimentary, and the tank is wrong for this type of layout. The composition is OK and would probably be served better in a smaller tank.

"Serenity" - This is my first aquascape, and while its not amazing or anything, I find it peaceful.

When designing a new layout, what are usually your main inspiration sources?

Inspiration comes from anything. I have quite a bit of artist understanding. I went through most of my High School as an art major. I always approach art (painting, music, photography) from a feeling stand point. I try to create something that will make me or others feel a certain way. I love colors. I love busy, and technical. I love to try to balance busy with tastefulness, color with gaudy, its very challenging.

I think I have a very strong influence in both the natural style and the dutch style of aquarium. I think you will see strong influence from both camps in my work. It seems to create quite a bit of emotion and thought from people with very different approaches.

Have you been influenced in your work by famous aquascapers?

Absolutely, these people are constantly pushing the hobby in new directions. Taking a look at the top 10 of the ADA Aquascaping Contest every year will always get your mind going in a different direction. It only takes one different approach to change everything and usually ADA is somehow involved with that:) I admire anything that can create a feeling within me.

What piece(s) of advice would you give to a beginner in planted tanks?

Our hobby is one of the most difficult in the aquarium realm. It took me a good year to be comfortable with saying, "I can grow plants." Even now I still have problem tanks and issues I can't figure out. So patience is key in the early stages. In the early stages, don't focus on how your tank looks, focus on how your plants grow. Once you feel comfortable with growing plants, you can move to creating layouts and ideas. This will bring on a whole new set of challenges. Suddenly you will find your plants are growing too fast!! You will learn how to pick plants that grow a certain way. If you are unsure of how to approach a layout, copy one you like. I know it sounds crazy, but the beauty of our hobby is it is alive. Even if you tried you could never duplicate a layout. The plants don't allow it....they move the way they want to...creating their own space and home.

Do you have a project which you would like to tell us about?

Currently, I am working on a 90cm tank and 120cm tank. I hope to have them finished within a month or two. For the 120cm I had to build a stand to fit the tank and a stand to hang the lights. Here are two shots of that process.

"Meander" - ADA 120H

How To - Build an ADA Style Aquarium Stand

Do you want to said to us something else? (What you want ...)

I want to say thank you to all of those who have taken the time to write and respond to interviews, tutorials, and forums. These are the reasons that we are successful. I hope that my work and words can inspire at least one person like I have been inspired by many others.


Happy Planting!!




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