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>>We've long had "dutch-style" aquariums which seem to feature prominantly
dense plantings teired very formally from low in front to high at the back
and sides.  Is there much more to the style than that?  Who best describes
the techniques?

More recently we have the Japanese style best illustrated by Amano's
tanks, but also shown in Yoshino and Kobayashi's "The Natural Aquarium".
The principle elements I see in the Japanese style are the assymetry,
"3-dimensionality" and vertical relief in the substrate -- all with the
overriding intent to present something that appears "natural".  Are there
important elements there that I've entirely missed out on?

Is there a uniquely American style - some body of work that represents
something unique in American (or any new world, for that matter)
aquascaping?  If so, what are its major elements and who provides the best


This is a subject that I have had great interest in, and have done some research and
experimenting in. I am certainly no artist, but I am striving to incorporate those

There are distinctive differences between german and japanese artists. Unfortunetly
there are only a few available examples of german work. One that comes close  are
pictures by Wim Heemskerk, as seen on the rainbowfish WEB site,
http://www.ecn.net.au/~atappin/Planted.htm From an artistic critique, even his
displays seem somewhat 2 dimensional to me. The best examples I have seen of german
aquascape was in a TFH publication this past year, Aquarium Quarterly by Arend van
den Nieuwenhuizen. It gives detailed instructions on how to build and aquascape
using terracing, focal points, and what he calls the golden intersection, (amano has
a simular concept)

The differences I see between the two are as you mentioned, amano incorporates more
open space, limited number of plant species, and usually one focal point.
German/dutch have a more densley planted display with several focal points from
different viewing angles. Terracing, or a sloped substrate is essential in both
approaches. German displays that I have seen slope the substrate so low in the front
that there is no gravel against the front glass. This one simple thing makes a huge
difference in the viewing perspective. Although many amano pictures clearly have 3"
of gravel against the front glass, if you look closely you can still see an incline
from front to back German/dutch  use a combination of high terracing, attaching
things to the aquarium walls, and using potted plants on terraces and raised areas.
Nieuwenhuizen describes his method of attaching cork sheets to the glass. The other
key I see is using color and contrast effectively. I suggest you write to TFH and
get a copy of this magazine/book publication, (15.95 US) The pictures alone are
worth the price. They come out with 4 a year. I dont think there is an "american"
style! Amano made a commercial success of his work, and had everybody wanting to
know how he did it. Many people wanted to know what kind of substrate he used, what
kind of fertilizer, lighting, and so forth, but the truth is in my opinion, he
accomplished his picture perfect displays by his artistic understanding of depth and
perception, not by anything magic in his growing technique.

My own attempt at this has been muttled. Years ago I used to be somewhat of an
artist, but I could never get it right the first time, and would constantly be
painting or drawing over my work. My display tank has been no different. I have
re-arranged the plants several times, and even added more gravel to raise the back
higher and added terraces. I suppose I could spend the rest of my life doing this,
never being satisfied, but I get enjoyment in doing so!

Robert Paul H