Landscape architecture, landscaping, mostly involves formal gardens, parks, golf courses, and other similar surfaces. Going beyond simple gardening, it is perhaps an expression of our desire to demonstrate human control over the nature around us, or at least to make it a work of art. However, it is possible to apply the same concepts to environments that don’t surround us, for example those inside an aquarium… That’s what aquascaping is.
What is aquascaping
“Aquascaping is the art of creating or decorating one’s own aquarium with evocative settings, of great scenic impact in the eyes of the passionate aquarist; the combination of lush plants, the arrangement of rocks up to the choice of animals (in exceptional cases) are part of an overall aquaristic philosophy that is becoming more and more popular.“
It is very common to elaborate the environment inside the glass bowl where our goldfish live by placing a colored sand bottom and, if you want to overdo it, even a rock or two, even with the addition of a small sunken pirate galleon, so as to give the fish a place to play hide and seek.
There are those, however, who go further, creating what are often described as “natural aquariums”, even though there is obviously little that is “natural” about them, characterized as they are by painstaking, not to say maniacal, work.
The composition depicted here below, called “Whisper of the Pines”, is by the famous Turkish “aquascapist”, Serkan Çentinkol, a master of the discipline very well known at the international level, because there is an international level, with organized competitions and carefully regulated competitions.
Çentinkol’s admired work, for example, was awarded in the “150-200 liters” category, the size of the aquarium…
The “Olympics” of aquascaping are the International Aquatic Plants Layout Contests. Because it’s difficult to travel with full aquariums, the competition, based in Japan, is held “photographically.” The first editions were,Serkan Çentinkol organized by the inventor of the genre, Japanese photographer Takashi Amano, (1954-2015). To celebrate his important contributions to aquariophily, a species of freshwater shrimp (Caridina multidentata) was named “Amano’s shrimp” in his honor.
How to get started
Creating an aquascaping setting with the techniques and tools of aquascaping is not very difficult as long as you follow some simple rules that allow, with time and experience gained with various settings, to create magnificent natural views, with great satisfaction of the enthusiast.
In order to set up an aquascaping environment, we use specific techniques as well as special tools, consisting of scissors, pliers, palettes and other special accessories, used for the preparation of various environments or as a support for the arrangement of accessories or elements (eg rocks, substrates, etc.) or for pruning aquatic plants.
Tools of the trade
The “sand flattener” is used in the early stages of setup, in the creation of the hardscape, to level the substrate giving it the right slope and to adapt it to the furnishings so that it fills the empty spaces and the composition looks more natural. But in reality it is always useful because often both after water changes and after siphoning the bottom there is a need to recompact the substrate and decorative sand when present.
Planting tweezers are indispensable; there are tweezers of all sizes and shapes to be used depending on the aquatic plants to be planted. The smallest, pointed tweezers are for foreground plants that have a very slender root system and must be planted stem by stem. Those with larger and more rounded tips are useful for planting plants with larger root systems such as Cryptocoryne and Echinodorus, but also for stem plants since they have a wider and better grip on the tip and it is possible to insert more than one stem into the substrate at a time. Some tweezers have a slanted tip to allow planting near rocks and roots.
When pruning plants, it is important to use high quality, strong and sharp scissors so that the cut is clean and precise so that healing occurs as quickly as possible. This consideration is valid for all species and especially in the initial phase when pruning is a bit more structural, looking less at aesthetics and layout. Scissors with wider blades are mainly used for stem plants and for training and containment pruning, for example when shaping large Rotala bushes. Short bladed scissors can be used where more force is needed, such as cutting roots of epiphytic plants or the leaves of anubias.