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...and it's led me into a few questions floating around.

I think we all can relate to having a day, doing research on something, or just watching all the fish community videos on the hobby.  Bouncing from one topic to the next or letting the youtube robots point you towards something interesting from the creator you're currently enjoying.  It's all good stuff!

(I'll just leave this here for your future enjoyment)

This is the video I'm on currently.  I loved the beginning where he shoved a hose into the tank, swirled the substrate all around to release all the gunk, and then cleaned it as best he could.  I bet it was a lot of fun.

Anyways, it's been a day of watching people stand in front of a tank and pluck plants in.  It's been a day of watching rocks and wood get set into a tank, paintbrushes at the ready to smooth substrate around the surface or into a crevice.  It's been an enjoyable day, a calming day, but it's also been a day that has led me to a few questions and a few thoughts I wanted to share.  Some of these are definitely my own, while others were statements made by those aquascapers.

One of the more interesting things is the perspective of purpose.... Why do you want to have an aquascape?

Is it a centerpiece tank? Is it a community tank that is aesthetically enjoyable for you?  Is it a tank intended for plants that happens to have some fish or livestock?  Are you trying to have a certain style of tank or simply putting together something that "looks good"?

In the video above, about halfway through Filipe mentions that he doesn't like to have a plan.  He puts the hardscape in and just goes with his intuition and what feels to make sense in the moment as he is doing the work.  I think that is the same way I tend to work on my tank as well. 

There are so many rules and calculations for something that may have been intended for a much different mindset.  I woke up listening to a technical talk about the 3:2 rule and talking about golden ratios.  The next conversation was about how you must plant a certain way or the tank will have no depth and isn't visually pleasing.  When I spent the day watching all of these technical works I saw the same thing over and over.  There is so much effort put into form, which I understand, but there is also a certain.... tightness that comes from that mindset.  It reminded me of the philosophy of absolutes and speaking in certainty vs. uncertainty.

Granted, there are certain techniques that we can trace back to conversations with Takashi Amano.  There are styles that define "rules" that are a guideline for a scape.  Does an iwagumi really need to be a single plant species for the sake of simplicity and beauty?  Does it really need to be 5 stones of specific sizes or is the intent really just to feature rock based hardscape?  There is a term for a rocky hardscape and there is a term for a wood based aquascape.  There is a term for certain formations and designs. Personally, when the focus is on defining something and trying to fit everything into a box, figuratively, you sort of miss out on the enjoyment of the thing staring right back at you. 

There is a popular discord and it has a "critique my aquascape" channel where you can post a photo and get some feedback.  One of the notions during a particular video of the day was people trolling others via feedback. But, one of the main requestst to the viewer from the aquascaper was for critical feedback about the tank as a whole.  It was mentioned that without the critical feedback that the artist couldn't learn or grow in their craft.  I'm a writer at heart.  When I write, of course it would be nice to hear that it's good and enjoyable, but I don't write something with the sole intent to go and ask for someone to rip it to pieces.  My hope is that the reader can appreciate the meaning behind the words, that they make sense, and that it tells the story.  When it comes to tanks, maybe the purpose is for that gratitude an admiration of someone's work.  One of the important questions to ask yourself, I think, is why are you trying to create an aquascape?  What is the purpose of this specific tank as you create it?  The answer to that question says a lot and I think sometimes you can tell by the end product.

During a few of the videos there was this constant pressure of time.  The process was done to a schedule, at a specific pace, and the same steps were followed every time.  I can understand why that make sense in some ways.  I can appreciate the correct procedure for building something.  I can also appreciate the sentiment that sometimes it's going to take days or much longer to finish a project.  Sometimes there is a beauty in using what is available to complete a task as opposed to waiting for everything to be perfect.  It might take a week or a month for the tank to be at the right starting point with certain methods. 

The comment at the end of a lot of scapes was, "it will fill in and then..."  It was sort of this automatic notion that the tank isn't ready to be viewed.  At the end of so many aquascaping videos on youtube the last few minutes is often a video of the tank, weeks after completion, showing the tank acting and looking like a normal aquarium.  The plants are pearling, co2 is bubbling, the light is on, the fish are swimming around, and it's this quick hit of dramatics.  I've watched someone scape a tank and the video was 10-20 minutes long.  I've also seen someone scape a tank and it's a 7 part series of 35 minute videos.  I've seen builds of IAPLC tanks that took months to construct.  I just go back to that comment above about criticism from the creator and it floats around my head and makes me wonder.  It makes me think about this notion of asking what people think and in that same moment expecting refrain because it's not there yet. Because it's a glass boss of limitless potential and that ultimately the trim on the plants, the conditions for the plants will determine so many things about it's value?  One of the creators mentioned pushing towards this perfect moment where you have a fan blowing on the surface of the water and you're waving your hands to get the fish to react a certain way for a perfect photograph to post to the social media platforms.

One of the last things I'll mention was one of the most striking comments made by the aquascaper.  It wasn't meant in a negative tone at all, but it was an honest and direct response to a question posed.  When asked about balancing the need for the aquascape vs. the aquarium needs the creator responded, "this isn't an aquarium, this is an aquascape.  It's not meant to be that sort of a thing."  The explanation went a bit further and elaborated that you can build a tank many ways, but in this aspect there are two considerations.  Do you want to choose plants that make sense for the fish (like a discus tank) or do you want to choose a fish that makes sense for the environment you're building?  One of the common things shown is having one or a few small schools of nano fish to go with your aquascape.  Essentially that you don't want to have too much traffic to obscure the view of the artistry.  I'm not sure how to think about that, but it's something that stuck with me.

I see a few dozen plants opened to put together a tank.  I see bags of soil being dumped in.  I see that ever constant, "sponsored by" disclaimer during the scape and the list of equipment.   "This isn't a cheap hobby, but it is a rewarding one."  I think we can all agree that cost is relative sometimes. 

I just sort of was taken aback by some of the differences in how tanks are enjoyed in different locations.  There's something to be said for a rack of plain, bare bottom tanks that brings you a lot of joy.  There is also something to be said for that perfect cut of nature that makes you feel calm and at ease.  The therapeutic benefit of the hobby can be this powerful thing.  There is that mindset of a tank being finished when it's done being aquascaped and it's time to go start the next project.  Ultimately, it's not a post about trying to say that there is one way to enjoy a tank or the method of putting together that tank, but I was left with a few lingering thoughts after my day watching that style of content.

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I've wasted entire days watching these videos. 

It is true that aquariums are for the fish, and aquascapes are for me. Somewhere in the past when reading about pruning Bonsai, the author mentioned the "American Style" which is essentially "anything goes".  While there are rules to be followed in aquascaping, ultimately it is a subjective opinion on the part of the creator or viewer.  I can occasionally offer an opinion based on rules, but it is still only my opinion.  Ultimately, If you like it, it is good.

I am going to leap to the assumption that the scape in the video was allowed to look like that in order to make the video.  It brings up more of a pet peeve than a lingering question.  Why must 10 minutes of useful content be stretched into a 45 minute or longer video?

My lingering aquascape question has always been: Why do some of these creators seek out the perfect substrate, driftwood, rocks, shapes, size, texture, color, and alignment, and then bury them in plants?   I'm not intending to be critical here, but considering the time and effort involved, it seems to defy logic.



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On 6/24/2023 at 11:19 AM, Tanked said:

I am going to leap to the assumption that the scape in the video was allowed to look like that in order to make the video.  It brings up more of a pet peeve than a lingering question.  Why must 10 minutes of useful content be stretched into a 45 minute or longer video?

...or a 45 minute video condensed to a 30 second video with a tank on a turntable.


On 6/24/2023 at 2:47 PM, Pepere said:

Indeed, the empty spaces are as important as the filled, just like in music.  The areas of fading sounds and silence are important to the music…


I understand and agree with the concept in planted aquariums… but I have an awfully hard time putting it into practice….


”Oh look!  An empty space…. I know just what I can shoehorn into there….

Ah that reminds me of the "playing the pauses" quote.  I think each setup is unique and can be it's own thing.  Ultimately, some tanks really need to have some open space, others can go full carpet and look amazing.  I can seriously appreciate both methods.   Considering most of my tanks will always have a corydoras species, I do tend to "setup" the tank for them by having overhangs, shadows, hides, and ope areas for them to swim around. 

I remember one of the "master series" green aqua talks where the person speaking mentioned a specific plant choice.  "If I put this here, when it grows there will be no room for fish."  The same thing applies to hardscape and everything else.  Biotopes, "nature style", and so many of these different things are intended to be a certain visual aesthetic and maybe there is a scenario where having a plant only setup makes sense!

There's always so many perspectives and that is compounded when you're talking about a very subjective hobby.  Watching the IAPLC results I would "judge" the works and decide which I liked more than others.  The conversation of why is an interesting one!

Ultimately, even the content and statements of the aquascapers I watched all day does change over time.  You watch a scape from years ago compared to the videos released recently, with contrasting or.... evolved.... more clarity on the statements made.  It's like everything else with the hobby.  Find who you admire or who has a similar mindset to yourself, then learn what you can.  Never stop pushing yourself to learn.

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  • 5 months later...

Just wanted to share this for the sake of the first minute of the video and maybe you'll enjoy seeing the rest of the video.

I really do appreciate the therapy aspects of having a tank you need to work on over time, or better stated, a tank that you motivate yourself to keep working on improving (much like yourself).


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