Enchanting Aquascapes: AGA Aquascape Winners 2017

23 Mar, 2018

He Yi of Suzhou, Jiangsu, China, secured the top spot in 2018's 200L ~ 320L category with this entry, titled "Feng Ming Tree Ring."

He Yi of Suzhou, Jiangsu, China, secured the top spot in 2018’s 200L-320L category with this entry, titled “Feng Ming Tree Ring.”

“Almost a poetic image. It reminds me of fairytale scenery…”
—ANDRE LONGARCO

A diversity of perspectives, materials, and styles rose to the top in this year’s Aquatic Gardeners Association Annual International Aquascaping Contest; sunken trees and underwater forest dioramas were a predominant theme. A prime example of the style is China’s He Yi’s ethereal 300-liter (79-gallon) aquascape, above, which prompted judge André Longarco to write: “Almost a poetic image. It reminds me of fairytale scenery. I can feel the breeze and the smell of the wet grass on the hill. The perspective is perfect but subtle. Actually, everything in this layout is subtle, discreet, and pleasant. The light in the image is perfect—strong and intense in the center, highlighting the important points of the layout, and smooth, almost diffuse in the outer areas…this one brought lightness and subtlety to the contest. I loved it.”

Excerpt from May/June 2018 AMAZONAS Magazine.

The Aquatic Gardeners Association is an international nonprofit organization of aquatic plant enthusiasts, open to beginners and experienced hobbyists alike. The annual AGA Contest is the only one of its kind to showcase different categories based on size and style. This sets it apart from other international contests, and it is the longest-running online contest in the hobby. The contest is divided into nine categories—six Aquatic Garden categories broken down by tank size, and three specialty categories: Biotope Aquascape, Paludarium, and Dutch Aquascape.

2017 was a banner year for the aquascaping contest, with the most entries entered in the contest since its start in 2000 and more than 600 aquascapes submitted. Each year, a different panel of experienced aquascapers judges the contest. This year, André Longarco of Brazil, Kam Wong of Hong Kong, and Shawn McBride of the United States were the esteemed judges for the contest. Marco Aukes judged the Dutch Aquascape category, and the AGA’s own Phil Edwards and Karen Randall assisted in the Biotope and Dutch categories. Major sponsors included Seachem and Complete Aquatic Systems.

For more information about the AGA International Aquascaping Contest and to view all of this year’s entries, as well as entries from past years, visit the AGA website at www.aquatic-gardeners.org.
—Bailin Shaw & Cheryl Rogers


AGA AMAZONAS GALLERY
All images Copyright © the AGA 2016 entrants. Click image for larger view.

AQUATIC GARDEN, Smaller than 28L (7 US gallons) category

“One Faith," 2017 Winner of the Smaller than 28-L category. Aquascape ny Matthew Israel O. Manes from Paranaque City Manila, Philippines.

“One Faith,” 2017 Winner of the Smaller than 28-L category. Aquascape by Matthew Israel O. Manes from Paranaque City, Manila, Philippines.

Aquascape Details
Tank size: 45 x 21 x 26 cm (18 x 8.3 x 10 inches)
Volume: 24 L (6 gallons)
Lighting: 9W 6500K DIY LED lights x 2
Filtration: Jeneca hang-on-back (HOB) filter, 680 L/h
Additional Information: Controsoil, AquaVitro Envy fertilizer
Plants: Hemianthus callitrichoides (Cuba), Hydrocotyle tripartita, Christmas Moss, Mini Pellia, Water Sprite, Rotala sp. “Green,” Anubias nana “Petite,” Echinodorus tenellus
Fishes/animals: Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi), Red Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina davidi)
Decorative materials: Ryuoh stones, Tweety wood, local driftwood

Judges’ Comments
André Longarço: “Great work! It is almost impossible to believe that all of this could fit in this size tank! The proportions and details are perfect. The layout looks like it should be much bigger. Just one detail: in my opinion, an empty area in the front with sand would be better for perspective.

Kam Wong: “Beautifully arranged, detailed like a tank much larger…may have chosen another type of fish. Great job!”


AQUATIC GARDEN, 28-60 L (7-16 US gallons) category

“Sense of Nature," 2017 Winner of the 28-60 L category. Aquascape by Jirawong Laopiyasakul from Pattaya Chonburi, Thailand.

“Sense of Nature,” 2017 Winner of the 28-60 L category. Aquascape by Jirawong Laopiyasakul from Pattaya Chonburi, Thailand.

Aquascape Details
Tank size: 45 x 30 x 30 cm (18 x 12 x 12 inches)
Volume: 41 L (11 gallons)
Lighting: Chihiros A-Series LED x 2
Filtration: Eheim 2213
Additional Information: Controsoil, AquaVitro Envy fertilizer
Plants: Vesicularia ferriei, Fissidens fontanus, F. nobilis, F. splachnobryoides, F. zippelianus, Hyophila involuta, Fontinalis antipyretica, Plagiomnium trichomanes, Taxiphyllum sp. “Flame,” T. sp. “Spiky,” Riccardia graeffei, Crepidomanes auriculatum, Limnophila heterophylla
Fishes/animals: Least Rasbora (Boraras urophthalmoides)
Decorative materials: Local driftwood and river rocks

Judges’ Comments
André Longarco: “What a lovely layout! I feel like I’m inside the forest. Very detailed and careful work. Maybe the reflections could be more worked, and the weak point is the blue rock on the right side. What is the purpose of this rock? But a very impressive job.”

Kam Wong: “Beautifully done forest layout.”

Shawn McBride: “Excellent forest scape. The dusting of green on the wood combined with the detail and the nice mixing of plants and mosses make this scene very natural.”


AQUATIC GARDEN, 60-120 L (16-32 US gallons) category

“Follow Me 2," 2017 Winner of the 60-120 L category. Aquascape by Heri Amir from Malang, East Java Indonesia

“Follow Me 2,” 2017 Winner of the 60-120 L category. Aquascape by Heri Amir from Malang, East Java, Indonesia

Aquascape Details
Tank size: 60 x 35 x 30 cm (24 x 14 x 12 inches)
Volume: 63 L (17 gallons)
Lighting: DIY 100 watt high-power LED
Filtration: Eheim 2215
Plants: Mini Christmas Moss, Flame Moss, Weeping Moss, Bucephalandra sp., Rotala wallichi, Echinodorus tennelus, Marsilea tankeshi, Eleocaris sp. “Mini,” Mini Bolbitis (Bolbitis heteroclita)
Fishes/animals: Cardinal Tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi)
Decorative materials: Rasamala wood, Seiryu stone

Judges’ Comments
André Longarco: “Layout very natural and balanced. The health of the plants is superb and the use of shadows amazing. The natural atmosphere is definitely alive in this layout. Maybe if the background were a little bit lighter it would increase contrast and perspective. Congratulations—almost perfect.”


AQUATIC GARDEN, 120-200 L (32-53 US gallons) category

“Montseny," 2017 Winner of the 120-200 L category. Aquascape by Bernat Hosta Rovira from Barcelona, Spain.

“Montseny,” 2017 Winner of the 120-200 L category. Aquascape by Bernat Hosta Rovira from Barcelona, Spain.

Aquascape Details
Tank size: 90 x 42 x 43 cm (35 x 17 x 17 inches)
Volume: 162 L (43 gallons)
Lighting: 75W LED
Filtration: Fluval 406
Additional Information: “This scape emulates a view of a mountain range named Montseny, located near where I live. A perfect place to enjoy nature!”
Plants: Bolbitis heteroclita “Difformis,” Mini Bolbitis, Bucephalandra sp. “Green Wavy,” Bucephalandra sp. “Mini Needle Leaf,” Ceratopteris thalictroides, Cryptocoryne parva, C. lutea “Hobbit,” Fissidens fontinalis, Riccardia chamedryfolia, Christmas Moss, Hemianthus callitrichoides, Alternanthera reineckii “Mini”
Fishes/animals: Cardinal Tetras (Paracheirodon axelrodi)
Decorative materials: Briar wood and slate stones

Judges’ Comments
Kam Wong: “Lovely forest layout and great attention to detail. Great job!”

André Longarco: “Very interesting proposal to present one more forest layout. I miss more and assorted plants in the middle ground. Only mosses are too obvious. The reflections are okay and the perspective too, but the foreground could be better. In my opinion, the small rocks could be smaller, and if white sand or something like this could be used in the first plane, we could have one more layer, more perspective and highlights. Great work, congratulations.”

Shawn McBride: “Fantastic forest scape. There is a lot of detail, and the sense of scale is superb.”


AQUATIC GARDEN, 200-320 L (53-85 US gallons) category

“Feng Ming Tree Ring," 2017 Winner of the 200-320 L category. Aquascape by He Yi, Suzhou, Jiangsu, China.

“Feng Ming Tree Ring,” 2017 Winner of the 200-320 L category. Aquascape by He Yi, Suzhou, Jiangsu, China.

Aquascape Details
Tank size: 120 x 50 x 50 cm (47 x 20 x 20 inches)
Volume: 300 L (79 gallons)
Background: White wall
Lighting: T5 H0 54W x 6
Filtration: Altman CF1200, CF100
Plants: Hemianthus callitrichoides, Glossostigma elatinoides, Echinodorus tenellus, Vesicularia ferriei, Vesicularia montagnei, Staurogyne sp., Bolbitis heudelotii, Ludwigia sp., Rotala wallichii, Heteranthera zosterifolia, Hemianthus micranthemoides, Rotala rotundifolia “Green,” Rotala rotundifolia “Red,” Riccia fluitans, Hygrophila pinnatifida, Cryptocoryne parva, Ludwigia inclinata var. verticillata “Tornado”
Fishes/animals:  Otocinclus sp., Rosy Tetra (Hyphessobrycon rosaceus), Green Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon simulans), Black Neon Tetra (Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi), Siamese Algae Eater (Crossocheilus siamensis). Shrimp: Caridina japonica
Decorative materials: Rhododendron root, landscape and volcanic stone

Judges’ Comments
Kam Wong: “Great concept. I can feel the power of the current against the trees in the picture. Excellent work!”

Shawn McBride: “A very creative aquascape that seems to be flowing in the water. A nice use of perspective and shadow give the scape a mood to match the scene.”


AQUATIC GARDEN, 320L or larger (85 US gallons or larger) category

“Breath of Wind," 2017 Winner of the 320 L or larger category and BEST IN SHOW. Aquascape by Roger Goh Yu Quan, from Singapore.

“Breath of Wind,” 2017 Winner of the 320L or larger category and BEST IN SHOW. Aquascape by Roger Goh Yu Quan, from Singapore.

Aquascape Details
Tank size: 150 x 60 x 55 cm (59 x 24 x 22 inches)
Volume: 495 L (131 gallons)
Lighting: ADA Solar RGB x 3
Filtration: Eheim Pro series x 2
Additional Information: Dosed with Seachem + AquaVitro fertilizers
Plants: Micranthemum sp. “Monte Carlo,” Fissidens sp., Riccardia chamedryfolia, Taxiphyllum sp. “Spiky Moss,” Staurogyne repens, Bolbitis sp.
Fishes/animals: 30x Glowlight Danio (Danio choprae), 50x Ember Tetra (Hyphessobrycon amandae), 20x Otocinclus Catfish (Hypoptopoma gulare)
Decorative materials: Branch wood, black aged driftwood, tiny wood vines, grey river rocks, lava rocks. Substrate: ADA Amazonia Light, ADA Power Sand, ADA La Plata, ADA Congo Sand, ADA Mekong Sand

Judges’ Comments
André Longarco: “Amazing, amazing, amazing. What beautiful work. Very natural and balanced. Great natural atmosphere and perfect perspective. Many points of interest make the eye wander through the layout. Maybe the driftwood in some places is too much and there could be a little bit more detail in the path. This is the kind of work that inspires me to keep working with aquascaping. Thank you for this awesome job.”

Kam Wong: “Awesome flow to this work of art. Great job!”

Shawn McBride: “Excellent use of perspective and scale. The scene moves from darkened underwater forest to the brighter unknown, which we are given just a glimpse of through the well-placed windows in the scape. The strategically-placed open spaces are accented well with small details of hanging branches or vines.”


AQUATIC GARDEN, Biotope Aquascape category

“Submerged Melaleuca Forest," 2017 Winner of the Biotope aquascape category. Aquascape by Tran Hoang Nghia from Can Tho, Viet Nam.

“Submerged Melaleuca Forest,” 2017 Winner of the Biotope Aquascape category. Aquascape by Tran Hoang Nghia from Can Tho, Viet Nam.

Aquascape Details
Tank size: 120 x 60 x 60 cm (47 x 24 x 24 inches)
Volume: 432 L (114 gallons)
Lighting: Fluorescent 96
Filtration: DIY
Plants: Nymphaeaceae, Pistia stratiotes
Fishes/animals: Blue Gourami (Trichopodus trichopterus), Sparkling Gourami (Trichopsis pumila)
Decorative materials: Melaleuca wood

Judges’ Comments
Karen Randall: “I love this!”

Phil Edwards: “This is a natural-looking aquarium! I love the use of Cypress; it adds to the sense of scale.”

Bailin Shaw: “Extremely impressive biotope design of a flooded Melaleuca forest. The fishes and plants fit the biotope well. Well done!”


AQUATIC GARDEN, Dutch Aquascape category

“Down the Rabbit Hole," 2017 Winner of the Dutch aquascape category. Aquascape by Joe Harvey from Athens, Alabama, United States of America.

“Down the Rabbit Hole,” 2017 Winner of the Dutch Aquascape category. Aquascape by Joe Harvey from Athens, Alabama, USA.

Aquascape Details
Tank size: 122 x 61 x 61 cm (48 x 24 x 24 inches)
Volume: 454 L (120 gallons)
Background: Plastic mesh covered with Christmas Moss (back and sides) 
Lighting: 6x T5 HO, 54W each: 1x 3000K, 1x 6500K, 1x 420 Actinic, 2x TrueLumen Flora, 1x Zoo Med Flora Sun
Filtration: 2 large canisters with built-in surface skimmers
Additional information: Fertilization using DIY dry salts (KNO3, KH2PO4, Ferrous gluconate, Fe DTPA, custom micro elements). Tap water, pressurized CO2, 50% weekly water changes
Plants:
Myriophyllum sp. “Guyana,” Acmella repens, Isoetes la-custris, Ludwigia sp. “Red,” Didiplis diandra, Pogostemon helferi “Red,” Hydrothrix gardneri, Penthorum sedoides, Barclaya lon-gifolia “Red,” Hygrophila corymbosa “Siamensis 53B,” Bacopa colorata, Oldenlandia salzmannii, Limnophila aromatica “Mini,” Persicaria sp. “Sao Paulo”
Wall Plants: Christmas Moss, Bucephalandra sp. “Brownie,” Hydrocotyle leucocephala
Fishes/animals: 8x Harlequin Rasbora (Trigonostigma heteromorpha), 21x Neon Tetras (Paracheirodon innesi), 11x X-ray Tetras (Pristella maxillarus), 9x Otocinclus Catfish (Hypoptopoma gulare), 3x German Blue Ram, 15x Amano Shrimp
Decorative materials: Blasting sand, Manzanita (Arctostaphylos sp.) branches covered with Fissidens “Fox” moss

Judges’ Comments
Marco Aukes: “Several entries have too many plants in their tanks, but I feel this one is a bit too empty. However, the plants look good, the groups show clear variations in contrast and height, and it is a really nice tank to look at. Maybe with just a bit more time the groups will grow a bit bigger and take away the empty feeling. All plants are very well placed, but please replace the red Persicaria sp. ‘Sao Paulo’ with a green plant.”

Phil Edwards: “Near perfect grouping, contrast, and spacing between the plants. The mossed sides and back add a lot to the whole aquarium.”


AQUATIC GARDEN, Paludarium category

“Valley Secret," 2017 Winner of the Dutch aquascape category. Aquascape by Liu Yong from Fuzhou, China.

“Valley Secret,” 2017 Winner of the Dutch aquascape category. Aquascape by Liu Yong from Fuzhou, China.

Aquascape Details
Tank size: 180 x 70 x 110 cm (71 x 28 x 43 inches)
Volume: 378 L (100 gallons)
Background: Plastic mesh covered with Christmas Moss (back and sides) 
Lighting: 40W NAL Colorful LED x 2, 10W NAL Colorful Mini LED x 19
Filtration: Eheim 600
Misting System: Large NAL sprinkler x 3
Plants:
Bromeliads (Neoregelia sp. “Mini Fireball,” N. pauciflora “Baby Linda,” N. drungsiana, N. sp. “Green Mini”), Rhipsalis baccifera, R. ramulosa, Davallia bullata, Saxifrage, Hypnum plumaeforme, Leucobryum bowringii, Linter Moss, Sphagnum Moss, Java Moss, Mini Peperomia, Mini Water Banyan
Fishes/animals: Green Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon simulans)
Decorative materials: Black lava stone, Rhododendron sinogrande (Du juan) root


CREDITS
AMAZONAS Magazine
May/June 2017 (English Edition)
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Reef To Rainforest
Reef To Rainforest

Reef to Rainforest Media, LLC is the publisher of award-winning magazines and books in the fields of aquarium keeping, aquatics, and marine science. It is the English-language publisher of CORAL and AMAZONAS Magazines and is based in Shelburne, Vermont, USA.

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