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Improvement of the art

I make no beans about the art part, to me it's a feeling and to each their
own there. But something far more concrete are things like improving the
colors, the contrast, the execution, plants choices, reduction is algae,
finalizing that brief moment when the picture is taken. I can be much more
useful there. Less room for subjective opinions(in some cases!). And this
focus helps improve the art itself without addressing the content of that

 One can accomplish more and help folks get to this point that we are
finally now at. Many folks now have mastered keeping most plants with few
problems in North America. Now the art portion is coming more into center
stage! This is good. I knew this was coming. It simply had too.

Art and beauty are very subjective. Training people to use the skills in
order to get to that point were they become artist is my goal when helping
folks. They have their own ideas and concepts. I'll be damn if I'm going to
influence them much if I can help it in that area. I'd like to be influenced
by them! By not influencing folks I find some very creative ideas and
notions are produced. Fusion is always popular. Going against the grain is
popular. New techniques are popular.

So how does one strive to achieve a better tank? Open houses, getting
involved in clubs, trying new things, lots and lots of work and tank set ups
etc. These things will help.

Focusing your energy for that one or two day window when the tank looks
perfect is a skill in it's self.

Some tricks to achieve this moment without sustained intense work load:
Print this out BTW.

Water changes!
Water changes!
Do 2-3 a week(50%) and add the nutrients back each time.
Do one that morning before viewing early and always show a tank in the late
evening before the lights go out.
Remove all detritus that you see. Use your hand to "fluff the plants" to
remove any settlement of algae, detritus etc or any floating around still.
Use a net and remove all of the floating junk.

Crank the CO2 and keep on top of your CO2 levels. Test often to be sure
during this time.

Feed fish well during this time.

Look for plants that grow in fast to fill in any weak spots(Riccia, stem
plants etc) about 2-3 week before the viewing.

Up the nutrients, PO4, Traces, K+. Run the NO3 down the day or two before
showing(this can be difficult is some cases due to fish loads etc) but not
to zero. I add a fair amount of traces that last few days.

Pick off any bit of algae that even thinks about showing up. Run a UV,
Diatom a day or two each week.

Prune judiciously. Never prune that day or the day before. Give at least 3-4
days "fill in" time. Last minute planting height adjustments, don't trim
just push the whole plant down a tad etc, don't pull it up and cut etc.

Clean the glass algae as much as you can during this time(2-3 x a week-even
if it appears not to need it).

Shape the slope of your gravel/terraces etc as far in advance as you can.

Keep filters running good and clean.

High nutrients etc work well since your in your tank quite often and are
really keeping up on algae presence and taking prime care of your tank. Most
folks would never want to care for their tank like this all the time. Hint:
most don't! We all have slacking periods. Getting geared up for a pic is not
one of those times.

This should help at least one person become a better artist.

One thing that the North Americans will be know for is the physiology and
abilities to control algae, use sound principles in addressing a universal
method rather than an ADA or a Dupla system but yield the same results,
perhaps better in a wider range of waters. Use of less unneeded equipment,
better modeling etc.
So while the art is less developed, we do have many areas that are perhaps
even more advanced than other places. Oh, yea, we can do it much CHEAPER
also. With all the Homers and the church of the cheap here, this is perhaps
paramount beyond any sense of art or other considerations! Can't lie about
that one.   
Tom Barr