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Re: Forgrounds

Tom Barr wrote:
"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."

The last sentence in the above paragraph is one I can agree with completely.
The other statements are Tom's personal opinions, and I'm quite comfortable
with them as just that - personal opinions. To extend them into "rules"
would be overstepping their intent.

The rest of Tom's post seemed to be a discussion of how a tank
could/should/would be "judged" against other tanks. Tom's bias for planted
tanks is clearly stated and explained within the context of his experience
in the hobby - like most of us, he came to plants after many years of
keeping non-planted aquariums.

"Overall I would think more should be given for the quality of
the thriving plants than of the aquascape."
"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."

Being a "plant person", I can agree that it should be taken as a given that
in any "good" aquascape, the plants, if they are included, should be in
great shape and maintained under conditions which are conducive to their
continued growth and health. However, I'm not prepared to claim that "plants
rule!" automatically when evaluating a tank. The AGA Showcase/Contest was
focused on AQUASCAPING, not on aquatic gardening.

Tom mentioned serveral times in his post about "taking off points" for
certain things (foreground plants pressing against the glass, etc.). This
gets very close to the "rules" he said that he dislikes.

When we were setting up the Judging Guidelines for the AGA Showcase/Contest,
there were a few things that we kept in mind -
- they had to be general enough to encompass both planted and non-planted
- they had to allow for personal bias and preference on the part of the
- this event was about AQUASCAPING, not about how good an Aquatic Gardener
the entrant was.

All four of the judges in this year's event were widely respected "plant
people", and it was natural for them to favour tanks which showed that the
entrant had the basics of plant care down pat. But they were also able to
move past that to giving some thought to how well growing plants can be
incorporated into a complete composition. I think that the judges did an
excellent job.

We _deliberately_ did not give the judges a set of rules which would dictate
how many points to add or subtract for the presence or absence of any
particular feature in an aquascape. If anyone was expecting this sort of
scheme they were sure to be disappointed, but unless someone can come up
with an alternative scheme which is fair to BOTH planted and non-planted
aquascapes, then the Guildelines will be maintained as they are (i.e. very

One thing which _might_ change is how the tanks are separated into the
various categories for judging and display. Since this was a "first go" at
this sort of thing, we didn't know in advance what people would submit so we
could only go with very broad and general divisions. Perhaps in future
events we can have separate categories for "Dutch", "Amano", "American"
style planted tanks. Of course, that also depends upon how many of you
decide to actually enter next year. If someone didn't even bother to
participate, for whatever reason, I'm not likely to give their opinion much
weight. This was about _sharing_ ideas, not dictating or championing any one
point of view.

Whether or not a person likes or "follows" the "Dutch", "Amano" or
"American" ideas about how an aquascape should be put together, I think that
it _should_ be possible to look at, compare and learn from a wide variety of
styles - planted or otherwise. To do so fairly, each "school" is going to
have to get over at least _some_ of their own (sometimes) restrictive
"rules". For example, I know for a fact that some of the "Dutch" plant tank
hobbyists love to deride Amano and his methods, and many "American"
hobbyists would feel bound up if they had to abide by even a portion of the
rules which govern a "Dutch" style aquascape. I don't think that anyone can
disagree that all three "schools" can achieve stunning results when handled
by a master. All three can also lead to confused and chaotic results if
approached incorrectly. To many "American" school hobbyists, the methods of
the "Dutch" plant folks would seem too much like a "paint by numbers"
approach - the rules are thought to be too restrictive and confining.

I have to agree 100% with Tom's thoughts regarding the health of any plants
included in an aquascape. Many people on this list are still struggling with
the basics of plant care. You have to learn to walk before you can run. This
does not mean however, that they should ignore learning how to make a
display attractive until they have become master gardeners. And I think that
the suggestions given by folks with an interest in design and art that
people learn to look at other art forms and incorporate some of those
approaches into their aquascapes are very valuable.

I think that is is also very helpful for beginners to submit their efforts
into events such as this - there is no need to wait until you feel that your
tanks willl automatically walk off with a ribbon. Getting positive feedback
on your efforts is very helpful when you are just starting out.

James Purchase