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Thomas Barr wrote:
"Clear foregrounds are a bad sign IMO, as these are the key to a
nice tank I
feel. Often one of the more difficult elements in a tank."

James said:

I arched an eyebrow at this statement when I read it, then I
went and
checked out those Discus tanks from Belgium. While I saw some
nice "fish
tanks", I didn't see any impressive "aquascapes".

There is not (nor should there be) any requirement that every
square inch of
substrate in a planted tank be covered by plants. Open areas of
bare gravel
can be very effective compositional aids. Insisting on every
tank having a
"lawn" of some sort in the foreground is just as bad as the
Dutch habit of
insisting that plants be placed in "rows" - you end up with
tanks which look
like perennial borders.
I say:
I guess I need to expand my **opinion** here:
I got James to raise an eyebrow:)

I don't say that every square inch should be planted - just the
foreground. You can bend "the rule" and do a very neat tank
without foreground plants as well or no plants at all- but in
general terms of what I've seen regarding foregrounds, most
folks don't give enough attention to it, often leaving it bare
due to having trouble with foreground plants or no access to
them inexperience. I still stand by my comment in general terms.
They were only opinions not insisting on one thing or another. 
Sorry, I like plants over No#3 sand:)
I've seen this bareness of space used quite well here in SF with
a few of the member's of SF plant group doing great things.A few
use large river stones as a "row" of sorts.
I can set up a tank with stem plants and a clean/clear
foreground and have it look very nice in a day or so with
nothing but some pruning work. That doesn't take time to "grow
in". I see less long term work and growth with these styles. It
could be up for 10 years or ten days. 
A nice clean lawn does take some time to have it look good.
Try that with Gloss for example. It will take a few weeks
and maybe longer to have it look good. You must envision what
this will look like and plan it. A foreground of Crypt parva is
not an easy one to have look good and requires patience. That
takes some of the impluse haphazardness out of it don't you
    I think it takes more planning and timing using the
foreground plants than the stem plants. Crypts are even worse
and are my favorites. Now add those mixed with stem plants and a
foreground plant and get them all together "thriving" in a tank
at the same time.
    Now if I was "limited" to stem plants, and mostly easy stem
plants at that,is this now "limited"? You can do one method or
all of them. I like a foreground packed full of plants, I do
like plants after all:)Gravel has it's pleasures but having keep
plantless tanks for many years I like not seeing the gravel
anymore. I like plants more than gravel so it is the primary
element in my opinions. Using only plants for your aquascape
area is challenging and perhaps more so from a grower's
perspective.But where do you draw these perspectives? Should
they be from one school of thought? A growers or an aquascapist
or a gradener's or a pruner's perspective or for easy plants or
hard plants?
    Adding rock and wood and other elements are great ideas that
I use as well. They tend to get covered with plants though:)
I really love rock myself but I have done quite a lot when I had
AF cichlids for many years as a kid. Not enough tanks to go
around though:)But you add or delete these as well like the stem
plants. The rocks seem to look much better with foreground
plants though. 

I'll make no bones about it. I like all the plants. I don't care
much for rules but understand there needs to be some standards
perhaps....but what are those going to be? More on that later.

Tom Barr

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