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Interview with Jeff P. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Editorial Staff   

When we asked Jeff P. "what’s the key to having a successful planted aquarium"? He told us we need three things. A Vision, plant knowledge, and a diverse inventory.  Well, from the looks  of his current aquascape, Jeff certainly had all three of those tools when he created this month’s Aquascaping in Focus, Shimmering Hills.

Shimmering Hills 

As we take a closer look at his aquascape, Jeff  shares with us some of his aquascaping philosophies and past aquascapes.

Q: Hi Jeff, before we get into your aquascape, please tell us a little about yourself.

A: I’m 45 years old, live in New York and have a very, very understanding family who allow me to have fun with this hobby.  I always enjoyed keeping fish as a kid and although there might have been a few plants in the tank, it was the fish that were the primary focus.  The plants or shall we say the “scape” were secondary.  I really hadn’t keep a fish tank in probably 20 years until I was influenced by seeing pictures of Takashi Amano’s Aquascapes in the his Nature Aquarium World books.   I was amazed that a “fish tank” could be transformed into a beautiful slice of nature, and it renewed my interest in the hobby.

Q: Since you saw Amano’s aquascapes first are you more interested in Nature Style Aquariums?

A: I don’t really favor one style or another.  I can appreciate an Iwagumi scape as much as a lush forest type layout.   I do like aquascapes that feature a good amount of  hardscape.

Q: Where do you find your aquascaping inspiration?

A: I’m inspired by many different types of nature scenes.  It really could be a famous vista or simply a small meadow that happens to have interesting character.   Most of the time the inspiration is just exactly that: an inspiration.  The initial design of an aquascape takes on a different look once I get a feel for the space and layout of the aquarium.  Over the long haul of the aquascape, it’s really a trial and error thing until the scape feels right.    As I mentioned before, one of my original inspiring aquascapers was Takashi Amano.   Another name that comes to mind would be Oliver Knott.

Q: Let’s talk about your scape, Shimmering Hills. How did you develop this layout? 

A: One of the most interesting  things about this aquascape is the use of Boblitis heudelotii in such a small space.  The three plants used have completely different leaf patterns and growing habits.   This combined with the rocks gives the tank a lot of contrast, but also keeps it very blissful with just shades of green and stone. 

The title of the scape, Shimmering Hills was derived from the way the moss looks as it grows (and sometimes pearls) against the lava rocks.

Q: How did you choose your plant species and fish for this particular scape?

A: For this particular scape, due to its size it was going to house shrimp so deciding what fauna was going in the tank was easy.    Based on what I had available I went with Cherry Shrimp.   I definitely go by feel more than anything else and what I types of plants I can get my hands on. I do kind a think almost any plant species can fit any tank if it’s arranged and trimmed properly.

Q: What does it take to  maintain your layout?

A: Maintenance consists of 50% water change weekly.  During the water change I dose dry ferts Macros (NPK) and I use Liquid Flourish for Micros.   Trimming is as needed for the moss and other plants.  These little scapes are great, since a 10 minute clean-up here and there usually does the trick.   This tank is sourced by soft tap water.

Q: Jeff, you maintain your tank very well. I can’t even see a spot of algae. Did you have any algae problems?

A: The only real algae that develops in this tank is on the glass and rocks, which is quickly remedied during one of the 10-minute clean-ups.    For me I’ve always been successful in combating algae by defending the tank on several fronts.    I recommend keeping as large a bio-filter as possible (both in the tank and in the filter).  Also try to limit amount of fauna and instead maximize flora mass.  Keeping up with water, filter media changes, and of course having limited light duration are important elements to having an algae free tank. 

At startup I think it’s essential to assist the stagnant plants and immature bio-filter by using organic removal products like carbon, Seachem Purigen, and keeping the photoperiod duration to around 6 to 7 hour. Increase the lighting time as the tank matures.  If one does all these things, I believe algae issue will be kept to a minimum.

Q: What’s the secret to being a successful aquascaper?

A: I’ve always thought there were three things you need to be a successful aquascaper:  Vision, plant knowledge and inventory.   Vision and plant knowledge are pretty obvious, but inventory can not be discounted.  The more rocks, wood you have on hand the easier it is to make them work.  It’s much harder for example to create an Iwagumi style scape if you only have three rocks to work with.

Q: Do you have a favourite aquascape?

A: One of my favorites, which I consider my first real aquascape where everything came together was Petrified Valley.  As I mentioned I like a lot of hardscape and with this tank the hardscape was front and center literally.  The tank was created in early 2007 and was the Tank of the Month for June on Aquatic Plant Central. 

Q: Where is the future of planted aquariums headed in the United States? 

A: I actually think the future for planted tanks is pretty bright in the US.   I do think from my experiences that most still look at an aquarium as a place to house fish and not as an aquascape or do I say a piece of art.   So it’s no coincidence when looking at the high-end of the hobby most expenditure is on saltwater because of the fish.   

Takashi Amano’s influence, through his books and feature articles in main stream aquarium magazines, should definitely help to expand the planted tank end of the hobby. More distributors/retailers  will provide specific plant products on the shelves of local fish stores as the hobby grows.   

In terms of American style, I don’t know if that has come about yet in the same way the Dutch style developed and the Iwagumi style.   But I won’t be surprised if we see contest entries in the near future that state “American Style”.

Q: Where would you like to see the hobby go?

A: I would like to see the planted tank hobby get to a point where someone who sees one of my scapes, refers to it has “Nice Scape” and not “That’s a hell of a fish tank”. I think once that happens the hobby has truly arrived.  

Q: With this layout complete, what will you be doing next?

A: In terms of my future, I look forward to creating more scapes. I’m always looking for something that will be truly unique.   Not sure what aquascape I will do next, but I’ll definitely need vision, plant knowledge and the inventory to get it done.

 ADA Mini-S Shimmer Hills ADA Mini-S: Shimmering Hills 


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