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In-depth look at Luis Navarro: Forest of Crypts

Discussion in 'General Plant Topics' started by reiverix, Oct 4, 2006.

  1. reiverix

    reiverix Lifetime Members
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    In-depth look at Luis Navarro: A Rainforest of Crypts

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    Photo credited to Jay Luto at Greenstouch.com


    For this “Featured Scape” we will take an in-depth look at Luis Navarro’s recent 75 gallon Cryptocoryne tank. This lay out is one of my recent favorites, and while some may think of it as just a crypt scape, I see it as much more. Navarro has succeeded in creating a dynamic and unique lay out with great use of space.

    After seeing the matured photos of this lay out, I had the oddest sense of being back in the rainforests of Hawaii, surrounded as by green as in my home valley of Nuuanu. I was surprised to find later, that whether it be Hawaii or not, Navarro had made this layout with the idea of a rainforest in mind. Specifically, he said that his childhood was spent near both rainforest and reef, and that these are the images he uses for all his scape designs. I also grew up amidst forests and near the ocean, and felt these memories triggered by viewing this scape. The fact that Navarro’s scape has that memory-triggering effect is proof of this lay out’s masterful use of metaphorical representation.*

    While this scape is immediately moving, I found it odd that this strong representation could be done with crypts. After all, crypts look nothing like terrestrial trees. However, Navarro shows us that with good use of space and color, the same feeling can be made despite a difference in texture. Some things to note:

    A thin foreground: Navarro knows that with more levels, more depth and dimension can be created. By allocated only a slim area of the tank to the foreground, one will have a large amount of space in the mid and background to work with. Therefore, with a thin foreground, a stronger and more dynamic mid and background can be made that will give the tank more dimensions.

    Bring the plants up close and personal: Navarro’s aim was a sense of rainforest. When one is in such a forest, one feels surrounded by the towering trees. Navarro’s tank has well created this sense of emersion by bringing the plants up close and personal—having crypts that reach the surface of the tank in the mid-ground instead of the background (left side). Though there is negative space skillfully built into the fore grounds between the two sides, the majority of the space is filled with thick growth, reinforcing the illusion of being surrounded.

    Darken the Setting: Using a black background, and just crypts and dark green epiphytes, Navarro has given his tank a definite “Dark” feeling. Instead of the bright and open feeling used in many nature aquariums, this dark feeling is much better suited to this lay out. It also reinforces the feeling of being closed into this forest.

    Use what texture you can: While crypts may not be like trees, anubias, moss and ferns definitely do have a very like resemblance to epiphytes that grow in tropical rainforests. By using them heavily in thick groups (giving them the best impact) Navarro’s tank builds back in some of the right texture to guide the viewer to the idea of a rainforest.

    Well, enough of my observations. Let’s get to the interview stuff!

    GMF: Did you have any goal or inspiration in mind when designing the lay-out? Did you come up with plans based on such a goal/inspiration?

    LN: Well I was lucky to grow up in a place where the rain forest was behind and a reef less than 3 minutes away so I always use this as inspiration if you will.

    GMF: How did the particular wood and stones you used fit into your vision, and ultimately your plans?

    LN: Well at the time driftwood was extremely difficult to find so I have to work with some manzanita branches donated by one of my club members, they are not my first choice but I had to work with what I have.
    The rocks I just love them and they are very affordable since they are from Texas.

    GMF: How did the particular plant species fit into your vision, and ultimately your plans?

    LN: This particular tank is in my office so time is limited, and after many years of playing with stem plants, and having 4 more planted tanks to maintain in the office. I made the decision of using plants that will allow me to stretch time and maintenance as much as possible, so Cryptocorynes were perfect for this job.

    GMF: The arrangement of the rocks is very linear, and I think there were a few forumers (including myself initially) who questioned the lack of dimension to the rock lay out. However, after the plants filled in around and on the rocks, the mid ground seemed to gain incredible complexity, and the rocks no longer seemed linear. In retrospect, did you know this would happen, or do you think even more could have been achieved with more varied rock work?

    LN: If you look at the picture from the top you will find out that they have a concave shape and it bows in the center. This together with the different sizes rocks allowed me to create exactly what I wanted. I have been doing this for many years, so call it experience or just plain luck but I can foreseen the look of my tanks in a good 85% so this gives me a good idea where and how to plant using the available space. I planted 2/3 of the tank and leave the front open.

    Cryptocorynes can grow very tall if space is provided for them to receive good water circulation and light. But the most important thing is that plants grow! Most people forget this.

    You can have an amazing layout with fast growing plants and achieve a great look for how long? Two, three months? Before you have to replant again? I have been there and done that and it's fun when you have only one tank, but I just have one tooo many plus 2 kids and 2 dogs.

    Regarding the last part of your question I don't thing I could have achieved the same look by "opening" more the foreground at least not with Cryptocorynes.

    GMF: It is my opinion, that the matured tank looked much better with the Danio chiopore than the tank had looked with the rainbows. How did you come to this switch of fish choice? Also, I have not come across many planted lay outs that use danios over rasbora or tetras. Did you have to increase the current in the tank to please them? Any other comments on the fish choices?

    LN: The tank runs with a professional 3! So they are happy don't you worry! Unfortunately getting fish is a problem here in Houston, not because we don't get them but because they are never the same so what I can get at the time is what I use. Just to give you an example the fish I wanted for this layout was Rasbora waterfloris and I just got then 2 months ago! So I couldn't wait that long, besides my boss is a lady and should I say more?

    Recently I made the decision of just buying fish and keeping them for the "future layouts" and God knows I don't like fish!

    GMF: One of the biggest problems that neophytes to the aquascaping hobby have is to envision the end result of a lay out. Actually, this is a difficult skill to master even for experienced Aquascapers. With this lay out, I read doubtful comments even from experienced hobbyists about how it would turn out. That is partially why I think this tank is a great example of planned vision—a lay out that, not necessarily is picture perfect at the start (like something Amano tries to do), but has a grand result planned for the end. Do you have any advice on how aquarium designers can improve their vision? Any other comments on the subject?

    LN: Patience! And then some! Know your plants and know them well! I don't care how much experience you have "keeping plants," if you don't give them the space they need they will not do what you want them to do, it's easy to make a quick design for a picture or a contest, and this tank was not designed for that purpose. People come in and out every day and look at the aquariums so I have to think of them first than anything, besides my boss is a lady! And we have 5 planted tanks! And she can be cold! When it comes of how the tanks look!

    My advise is just keep aquascaping and have fun don't try to achieve perfection because you never will (unless you are Amano) and keep it simple.




    So there you have it; Luis Navarro, a great aquascaper with attention to both idealistic goals, and realistic limitations. As a conclusion, I would like to conclude by highlighting the things Luis said that I think we should all come away with:

    -You don’t need to open too much foreground
    -Give the plants space!! Lay out the plants at the start with anticipation for where they WILL BE, not where they are.
    -Patience, patience, and then more patience. A lay out is not made in a day.
    -Have fun. :D

    Thanks for the insight Luis and good luck with that boss of yours. :D



    *Metaphorical Representation: The use of one material to represent (in metaphor) another material. I.e., using crypts to represent trees. For more in-depth explanation (if you are a subscriber), read "Aquascaping Philosophy 101" in the advanced aquascaping section.
     
  2. George Farmer

    George Farmer Lifetime Members
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    Fascinating interview Steven and your review of the aquascape, in my view, is spot on.

    You guys are lucky to be surrounded by inspiring environments. The nearest I get is the odd trip away or walking my dog to the local park!

    Luis is a true talent. I've recently seen his reef, also photographed by Jay Luto, stunning (I'm not normally a big reef fan, so many look awful).

    Do you have more interviews with other 'scapers in the pipeline?
     
  3. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    So, hop on a plane.
    The AGA is only a couple of weeks away.

    Get out and travel.
    See the world.

    The Florida trip is cheap, I do it each year.
    You'll see so much aquatic plant, you'll be bored of plants after we are done with you.


    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  4. reiverix

    reiverix Lifetime Members
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    That might be hard Tom as he lives in Britain. ^^;

    Now me, I got no good excuse for not making it from So-cal to North-Cal except that I got mid-terms during that time . . .

    Anyway George, I think Tom's right that you just gotta get around! Those photos you posted earlier in Advanced Aquascaping were beautiful! I also can't wait to go to a place like that one day. :D
     
  5. George Farmer

    George Farmer Lifetime Members
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    Sure, I will travel but family/work commitments prevent me at the moment.

    Tropica in Denmark will be my next trip, then hopefully Japan.
     
  6. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Luis likes Florida too:)
    Come to that and meet him!!

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  7. Austinv

    Austinv Junior Poster

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    This tank looks amazing, love the sand in it
     
  8. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Luis has done a few talks so see if he'd come to your neck of the woods for your club.

    Nice guy.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
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