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Aquascaping question

I just looked at the AGA aquascaping 2000 contest photos.
Wow! Most of those images are absolutely spectacular, the
judges must have had a delightfully difficult time doing
their job.

One of the things that fascinated me about some of the
aquascaping was the height of many background plants.
I've had trouble with that because, while the upper parts
look good, the lower parts of the plants that are shaded
from light always get stringy and unhealthy.

- I'm wondering if the background plants in some of
    those tanks have a raised substrate in the back. If so,
    how is this done?
- Does a very thick substrate cause anaerobic conditions
    that could be unhealthy?
- Other than driftwood, are there other ways of raising
    the height of some plants (riccia, Java fern, Java moss,
    etc.)? Large rocks could cause weight problems! Does
    anyone use realistic-looking lightweight "fake" rocks
    made of plastic or styrofoam that provide a good
    clinging surface for some plants like riccia, Java fern,

For someone who does not use CO2 and fertilizes sparingly,
I'm fairly happy with the plant growth rate. But my tanks
look too 2-dimensional. It would be nice to have more
vertical landscaping to create the illusion of hills and valleys.

Thanks in advance for any tips,

Shireen Gonzaga
Baltimore, MD
whimbrel at home_com