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Foregrounds II

Often I see a begginner's tank looking okay and decent in the
middle and background with stem plants but a ratty foreground.
Most folks can whip a middle and background into shape but
foregrounds have other issues that show front and center if they
don't look good.If anything is slightly brown, it shows up. If
the foreground plant is overgrown you cannot use the same old
topping method you use for stem plants either.Or is covered in
hair algae, or isn't growning up to snuff etc etc.

Perhaps there's not enough light from overgrowth for the the
foreground plants. There's lots of detritus all over the plants
there(fish tank owners cannot stand this so that is a big issue
on why the foregrounds are left bare...not because they cannot
do it/grow it etc- cleaning purposes). 
It takes more skill to cultivate a foreground carpet than a bare
spot. Perhaps more self discpline to leave it empty one could
argue as well but certainly less work and skill with plants. You
could do this bare spot on purpose to show an effective use of
space rock texures or wood etc. You could also just have trouble
growing a lawn of Glossostigma.

I think a good reason for this bareness is due to the
maintenance of foreground plantings. It's a lot of work. Why
don't we design a lower maintence foreground instead?
Incorporate this bareness into the style and still have a nice
looking planted tank that requires the far less "difficult"
pruning of the stem plants which are easy by most standards
compared to the foreground plants. If your not adding CO2 or
only small amounts then this packed to brim plant tank is not a
good idea for you. There's always exceptions. Some folks like
the space to keep the growth at bay and keep the plants from
invading the other groups. 

I would give some points to such a planting but I would give
more to one that had more gradening and growing skills in the
design. If you could/can do both you'd get bonus points:)One
with and one without etc.

There's also a skill in designing a lower maintenance aquascape.
Many great planties are lazy. Very much so.
I add crypts to many of my tanks since they grow slow and don't
need the pruning that Hygro's need. But too many stem plants you
get lots of work. Too few, not enough nutirent uptake and algae
has a better chance to attack. A nice balance of slow growers
with the fast growers seems to be a good mix.The slow growers
can give the basis of the design and you can move your stem
plants all over(like when the same tank is redone and
rephotographed-Amano/Dutch etc styles you can see this being
used.)as you wish any time or on a whim. The foreground stays
the same and the background gets changed some.

I don't like to be limited to bare foreground or planted
foreground but IMO the lawn of hair grass looks better than the
lawn of No#3 gravel. But what of the larger stones or scree or
mini rock gardens? I see potential in all the spaces as well as
the emptyness. Being stuck into a convention of rules or an
Acadamy style rules of standard bugs me.
Some folks would take off for foreground plants press against
the glass a little. I like that to certain degree. As long as
the angle going up into the tank looks good and it's general
appearence overall looks good, I don't think it is a bad thing.
Looks better than the gravel IMO pressed up against the glass.
If you have a nice stand of hairgrass, you don't even realize
there's gravel in there often. If you slope all the way down to
wood/black trim so the gravel is extremely shallow in the
foreground this effect is enhanced and less of the plant will
press against the glass as well.
Overall I would think more should be given for the quality of
the thriving plants than of the aquascape. A good example of
healthy plants is the first step then you can work on the
aquascape later or change/try out different
foregrounds/backgrounds styles etc. This requires a detailed
look rather than a far away picture.
Of course I'm a bais person regarding plants over aquascaping
skills. A well designed tank with a great aquascape with so-so
plant or in poor health ruins it all for me. I think that shows
a lesser emphasis for the living elements in a tank which I feel
take precendence over the nonliving elements of the aquascape.
Plant health first then the design is secondary. I feel that I
would like to learn how to paint and use the colors well before
I try a whole composition. I think many folks go down this same
road. The foreground can be one of the last "holes" in the
These are just my opinions. 
Tom Barr 

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