First Place Aquatic Garden Large and Best
of Show: "Sleepy Hollow" James Hoftiezer, Boiling Springs,
South Carolina USA - Details
For getting through the bleak months of winter,
an indoor planted aquarium might be just the thing!
by John Glaeser, Madison, Wisconsin
Click images to enlarge
A familiar joy to ponders --
John cleaning his pond.
As things begin to grow and lilies bloom, the pond out back
is a joy. But fall approached and daylight hours became fewer
in the northern hemisphere. Winter is here, and for a while we'll
have to wait until spring to begin nurturing our special paradise
For temperate zone "Ponders" who desire year-round
aqua gardening experiences, an indoor planted aquarium might
be just the thing. How pleasant it is having an aqua garden tucked
into the living room! A miniature dynamic aquatic ecosystem can
help us keep in touch with the soothing powers of growing plants
and aqua creature antics. Small schooling fish dance through
clusters of delicate plants touched by gentle water currents.
Though the actual size of the tank is relatively small, to the
minds eye, the total design appears to be a vast scenic
vista. This is a fascinating illusion--aquascaping charm.
The sensitivities of pond artists and planted aquaria designers
are similar in some respects, yet different in other ways. We
use many of the same plants, brand products, and design concepts.
We can go low-tech, low maintenance; or high-tech with lots of
gadgets and gizmos. We learn a little botony, a little chemistry,
and a little animal husbandry.
This 100-gallon tank is low-tech:
2004 First Place Aquatic Garden Large: "Easy
Does It" Gordon Hartmann, Monona, Wisconsin USA - Details
Photo by John Glaeser
Quote from the aquascaper: "Well-established tank that requires
very little maintenance. Set up three years ago. CO2 added via
DIY soda pop bottle with an airstone. KNO3 added as needed. Weekly
water changes using tap water provides necessary traces. Recent
water parameters are KH=15, gH=22, NO3=12, P=.8, Fe=.5. I was
trying to create a nice display for a long tank with low light/power
levels using corresponding plant species. This results in a stable
and viable aquatic garden that beginners can accomplish using
minimal resources and upkeep."
This tank is only 8 gallons, but it is a very high-light,
fairly high-tech aquarium:
2006 First Place Aquatic Garden Small and Best
"Summer Dance" Law Kai Chun, Hong Kong - Details
This aquarium by Sang Peiris of Dallas, Texas USA,
is 150 gallons, and is almost completely automated. If the pH changes,
the tank's computer sends an e-mail to Sang's PDA! He can then
log on to his website and adjust the tank even if he is in another
Planted Aquariums - More Than Just
a Fish Tank!
Still not convinced? For inspiration, check out the AGA International Aquascaping Contest. These
picture galleries illustrate exhilarating creative diversity.
Most designs has a synoptic appendix identifying plant and fish
species, plus technical details such as lighting, substrate,
water quality, filtration and the like. DVDs also available.
The contest is for both beginners and experienced aquarists:
in 2003, someone won Best of Show with his first planted aquarium!
Advancements in the Hobby
First Place Aquatic Garden Large and Best of
Show: "Sleepy Hollow" James Hoftiezer, Boiling Springs,
South Carolina USA - Details
In 1977, authors Karel Rataj and Thomas Horeman in their book,
"Aquarium Plants" presented an early serious discussion
supporting the growing interest in aquarium plants. The 1985
English version of the Horst and Kipper title "The Optimum
Aquarium" excited the hobby with lush color photos and an
emphasis on a technological approach. In the 1990s, Takashi Amano's
large formatted "Nature Aquarium World" collection
of books, enhanced with stunning photographs of exquisite designs,
has undeniably been a major influence worldwide. In addition,
many excellent titles by talented authors are becoming increasingly
Other advancements in the hobby include more lighting options,
better filtration, plant-specific substrates, and wider availability
of aquatic plant fertilizers.
Aquarium lighting is moving from the old standard T-12 fluorescent
tubes to much brighter power compacts, to T-8, T-5, and even
diodes. For the longest time undergravel filters were standard
fish tank equipment. Now there are all sorts of filtration strategies--even
no filter at all, depending on the plants to "filter"
waste products out of the water. Many different companies offer
nutrient-enriched natural substrates for the planted aquarium,
as well as aquarium plant fertilizers.
These days in the hobby, with such a plethora of information
spinning from the web, beautifully illustrated books appearing
on the shelf and product diversity galore so accessible, it can
become overwhelming for those wanting to get started. With all
these intertwining changes in process, it is reassuring to have
the AGA as a guide.
2004 First Place Aquatic Garden Extra Large and
Best of Show: "Resting Place"
by Oliver Knott, Germany - Details
This 30-gallon aquarium never won anything,
but it pleases Cheryl Rogers, Membership
Chair of the AGA, because she gets to play with it year 'round!
Interested in year-round aqua gardening? The Aquatic Gardeners Association is the place
to get started. Articles, links, resources. Don't forget to join!
Forum: Gets to the basics about plant species, fertilizers,
water chemistry and algae issues. Ask questions ... get answers.
Membership is not required to participate in the forum.
Aquatic Gardener": This gorgeously-illustrated quarterly
print journal, called "TAG," is free to all
AGA members. It is replete with excellent articles on the art
and science of freshwater planted aquariums.
As an example, the October - December 2006 issue has an article
by Dr. Troels Andersen of Tropica Aquarium Plants in Denmark. Here's
a peek. "Rooted aquatic plants take up nutrients both via
roots and leaves, but often the highest proportion of nutrients
is taken up by the roots from the substrate. Aquatic plants leak
oxygen from their roots to the substrate. This oxygen helps to
bind nutrients chemically to the substrate and thereby prevent
nutrients from being released to the water where algae could
AGA Bookstore: Here you'll find a treasure
indeed! Diana Walstad's "Ecology of the Planted Aquarium"
contains scientific information on aquarium ecology and practical
insights on working with aquarium plants. You can also order
back issues of TAG.
AGA Convention: DVDs of AGA convention proceedings from 2000
- 2006 are available to AGA members. What an opportunity to witness
illustrated presentations by experts in the field! After seeing
these, one might consider attending the next event.