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Are we aquarist or aquatic gardens??

Discussion in 'General Plant Topics' started by Tom Barr, Jun 10, 2010.

  1. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    A discus breeder whom I'd known for many decades recently commented that many aquatic gardens seemed to lack much in the way of livestock. " Yes, pretty plants, but where are all the fish?" He asked me why they had lost their interest in fish. "Seems to me most of the planted aquarist started out as simple freshwater tropical fish hobbyist". "Why do you think planted aquarist gravitate to few fish?"

    I still love fish and tried to balance my interest between these two aspects of the hobby. I swore "I'd never become like those plant people." I'm pretty sure I failed that part, but I am still the fish loving aquarist. Do aquatic gardeners lose their interest in fish? Or are they initially so overwhelmed with the new plants they lose sight of the other aspect that initially got them involved in the hobby? After mastering planted tanks and aquascaping, do we only then return to fish? Are we trying to force our taste to change away from the fish and towards a larger holistic ecosystem? Perhaps so. I've seen very few top rated planted tanks with large communities of fish. A small school of midwater tiny fish all artificially pointing one direction, tank is packed to the gills full of weeds.

    This is intimidating to non planted aquarist. They like the idea of natural live plants, they like the idea of hiding places for the fish, the removal of nutrients by plants and the production of O2. They do not like the idea of one single small group of fish that they will likely not see much of and a weed choked glass box. Plants or no plants, a good well balanced stocked aquarium is still something that takes personal discipline( curing oneself of dreaded disease "fish collectoritis") on both cases. The same is true for planted gardens and their selection of plant species. So why not apply both ideas to both the aquarist aspects and fish keeping along with aquatic gardening? Do we really need to master each or one before moving on to the other parts of the hobby? Or can we master them both together?

    Do we "love the planted tanks more" because we add few fish and thus are not concerned at much, adding fish as a mere after thought?

    I have to wonder myself. In some aquariums, the fish where after thoughts or few where added. I simply did not care much at that time. Today, most every tank focuses of a good sized nice fish community and plant community together. In top rated ADA and Dutch aquariums, each lacks fish by most any aquarist standard that keeps fish. There are exceptions, but we all know there is certainly a high percentage that have very few fish.

    Is this an aesthetic aquatic gardeners feel is best or better? Why? It seems to me that the love of both aspects should weigh equally, and the scurge of "collectoritis" should be applied to both plants and fish species.

    Many fish only and planted only hobbyists I think have the same goals, but are scared of the other.
    Some planted hobbyist feel the system is too unstable and "against the rules" to have more than a few fish. Many fish only hobbyists are unsure how to go about managing the jungle, many having terrestrial brown thumbs.

    Should such rules be broken? Should we focus more on bring these two goals together as we gain competence? We 1st mastered fish, next the plants, now both? Many planted hobbbyist do good sized frequent water changes, this is similar to fish keepers and breeders with good balanced communities. That's where I got the idea from after all, not from planted hobbyist! Discus breeders mostly.

    Is this a good direction to go?

    Does this same philosophy also apply to the aesthetics of the aquarium set up itself and the placement in the home where it will be best enjoyed? Is this not also part of being an aquarist and aquascaping? In otherwords, does all design and aesthetics apply from the aquarium ...to the living space? It's often like a messy home with a few nice well done aquascapes that adds contrast? Many of the nicer examples of planted aquariums also have nice design placement and integration into the home itself.

    Of course for most of us, we lack such permanent living space, or the economic means to have a design based around the aquarium or general theme, we may collectoritis in other areas, like knick knacks, old cars, books, cats, dogs, computer equipment or other hobbies. Still over time, I have sought to apply both aspects to my hobby and use the ideas I've gotten from aquariums to apply to many other aspects beyond the aquarium itself. This is not a sudden process, rather, a more gradual process of growth and integration. Piece by piece, step by step, question by question.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  2. dutchy

    dutchy Plant Guru Team
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    I had a nice discussion with some people about the same subject. Most Dutch style tanks lack a lot of fish. Most of the owners are aquatic garderners, fish play a secondary role. The hobby diverted to keeping aquatic plants. Being able to keep plants looking good gives them some kind of status, because not everyone can do it. Keeping beautiful fish isn't the same. It doesn't involve much personal abilities. Keeping a beautiful planted tank is still surrounded with a touch of magic here. "How do you do it?"

    The yearly aquarium contest is just really a contest about creativity. If I'm able to create something new and I know how to combine plants, contrasts and colours, there's a good chance I will be highly qualified. The tank only reflects the status at that specific moment and doesn't say anything about it's status as a functional ecosystem and health. I measured some of these tanks' CO2 and nutrient levels, and found out that if I had the same levels, my tank would be filled with algae and stunted plants. So why is theirs not?

    The answer is simple. In another part of the house there are sometimes 3 or 4 big tanks just for the purpose of growing plants. If a plant in the show tank shows any problem, it is replaced by one from the other tanks. They don't start with a little 2 inch long emersed plant that has to grow for two months to reach respectable size. I have seen a tank that was empty on saturday and on sunday it was a true show tank. It won.
    Still I admire those people for their creativity and to be honest, the tanks look very good, at least at the moment they are displayed.

    Personally I think a beautiful tank is a tank with good looking, clean plants and enough beautiful fish, but a tank with bad looking plants and beautiful fish is still an ugly tank. To keep plants looking good, we have to put in a lot of work. A beautiful fish will keep looking good as they don't get algae ;) In that perspective I'm not surprised that our focus goes to plants, as this is partially unavoidable. But is this out of worry or out of interest? Maybe one is consequence of the other, at least for some of us.

    Most of us are trying to imitate those show tanks on a permanent basis. Of course we want everyone to recognize us as being able to create a beautiful tank. I can clearly notice that it has a kind of status enhancing effect. If I scape my tank according to Diane Walstadt's nature aquariums, the people that visit me will just ask me: "didn't trim lately?" Now when they come in they spend the first 15 minutes looking at the tank before even sitting down. It's the plants that create that.

    And of course we all want to look good to others ;)

    regards,
    dutchy.
     
    #2 dutchy, Jun 10, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 10, 2010
  3. nipat

    nipat Guru Class Expert

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    Umm... personally I'm leaning toward few fishes, many plants. It looks more natural,
    more beautiful, more mysterious (when fishes swim into the bushes) and calmer.
    My 80 liter tank is now overcrowded, looking toward a 300 liter :).
     
  4. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Amano mentioned that he sees fish as the actors upon the stage which is the garden and natural scene we create. I liked that assessment.
    While this aesthetic is good for the fish(only a few small fish in a large tank with lots of plants) compared to many fish only aquariums, I wonder how far this has been taken to the other extreme. I also wondered if this my aesthetic or if I liked a community that was not just what ever I saw others doing. For many aquatic gardeners, fish have become secondary additions. I think there should be good balance between both, I would give a poor score to an aquarium as judge if the fish element was lacking, even if the scape was off the wall.

    For Amano, he stated his goal and perspective, but should that be everyone's? Should everyone copy and conform to that aesthetic?
    Should not there be more balance to the aquarist aspects and not so heavy solely on the plants?

    If we add the aquarium, the components outside of the scene inside, its placement in the home, the glass, rimless, open tops, nice filters, stands etc, should it not also include the fish at least?
    Seems more balance should be given to both the fish and the plants, and all the elements.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  5. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Not much choice with 80 liters, you can add a few, but even a non planted tank, there's not a lot that can be added.
    300, now you can do a decent community.

    I'm not saying to jam the tank with fish, rather, give good consideration and balance to the planted and fish aspects.
    I think that tanks can be overloaded certain, and the same is true for too many untrimmed plants.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  6. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Having 2-4 tanks in the back full of plant grow out, it is a bit like gardening using annual color in your front yard. It can and does work a bit like this. I do not think many would like this goal and it does seem a bit of a cop out. Most seek to keep the display going for a long time. ADA does this longer term approach.

    These are biological systems that are more than a landscape to me.
    I like me a nice well designed landscape that is appropriate and well thought out as a biological system as well. Drought tolerant species here(Sacramento climate), good flowering and insect attraction, easy to care for, etc.......to me shows more thought and wise choices, a holistic approach rather than the recent planted color scheme with annuals each year. Many do the color with annuals still, but those landscapes do not impress me, the owners like it and like to garden that way though.

    Others remove the lawn and pack it with nice long term species that attract many butterflies, humming birds, very natural and interesting to me. Less work, cheaper and more sustainable too:cool:

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  7. hani

    hani Lifetime Charter Member
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    I think some pepole (including me) are after the challenge, keeping plants is more difficult than keeping fish. more things to do and adjust, if one fish dies you buy anotherone and it will look the same, if a plant die , your aquascaping look diffrent, replacing the plant more involving, you have to make it grow and so on.
     
  8. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    I like to question things, often the very basic elements. Why do we do what we do? Some things are fairly philosophical.
    Some simply obvious and practical. I do see many planted gardeners spending little time focused on their fish and the benefits plants offer to their livestock.

    And yet I hear plenty of debate over excess nutrients causing harm, rarely excess light or the big killer, CO2 or OD-ing Excel. Why?
    I mean if you have hardly any fish to begin with and those are tougher than say Discus and shrimps? Why bother much? They are added as an after thought it seems.
    If we care for the livestock we should give them a good a home as we can, but it's not just about low nutrients. O2/CO2 management, light, redundancy, good over all care, good food, husbantry etc.

    I like a challenge as well and as much as the next aquarist, but can I have it all?
    A nice tank aesthetically and garden wise?
    A nice fish/invert population?
    Good production of plants/farming?
    Good production of livestock?
    Relatively easy to care for?
    Good location in the home where I can enjoy it?
    Goal for the time and energy I have?
    Do I like to watch more school of hungry Cards grow and fatten up even more? Or hack the Starougyne back and try and figure out how I'm going to sell the next 100 plants I'll need to whack this week?
    Does high current help fish and their health?

    What makes a good community of fish?
    What test do we have for fish/inverts that shows we have mastered their care?

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  9. Crispino Ramos

    Crispino Ramos Guru Class Expert

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    Will mosquito larvae survive and mature into an adult mosquito in an aquarium without fish?
     
  10. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Most likely, they do this in any puddle of mud

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  11. CL_

    CL_ Guest

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    Interesting thread. For a time I had moved away from fish. I mostly only kept aquariums for the plants (some people are plant people, some people are animal people, and some are both, right?) Over time I started missing keeping fish, and I have been gradually going back to my roots of keeping fish in my aquariums, but I don't think that I will ever be able to keep an aquarium without plants again. I can try, as I initially did with my most recent tank, because sometimes tanks do look better without plants (certain biotopes, etc.), but I generally can't help it because there is always some "cool plant that would look so good with this scape", but one thing that has changed is on my most recent tank, I got the tank for the fish, then planned plants accordingly, instead of buying the tank for the plants, then never getting around to adding the fish because I am too busy spending all of my money on new plants and scaping materials such as driftwood and rock.
     
  12. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    I think I'd have a rough time not having any plants, even in a marine situation.
    They are part of the aquarium, like gravel, filter, glass tanks.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
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