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World Class Aquascaper George Lo PDF Print E-mail

One of the premier aquascapers in our hobby, ASW gets a one on one with George Lo (far right). He is the co-owner  with his brother Steven of AquaForest Aquarium in San Francisco, California.   A true hobbyist oriented entrepreneur and an expert in the Nature Aquarium Style,  George Lo is a regular speaker on aquascaping and planted aquarium topics across the world. 

Worldclass Aquascaper George Lo 

George, please tell us more about yourself. 

A: I was born and raised in Taiwan.  My family immigrated to Toronto, Canada when I was 13 years old.  We lived in Canada for about four years and decided to come to America when I was 17 years old.  I graduated from San Francisco State University with a Bachelor of science degree in Cell and Molecular Biology.  I have always been interested in nature, especially nature surrounding water.  When ever I see a pool of water or a small stream flowing by, I would always take a closer look and try to see if there are fish or aquatic plants living in it.

I have always kept fish since I was little but I can not remember exactly when I started.  I remember that I had a small plastic container that I kept a few feeder gold fish in it when I was 10 years old and I wanted to put some aquatic plants in it because the image of fish and plants always goes together for me.  However, I couldn't find any aquatic plants at that time so I decided to pulled out some plants growing in my mom's garden and put it into my little aquarium.  As soon as I put in the plants, I saw tiny oxygen bubbles started coming out of the plants and was totally amazed by the "phenomenon".  Since then I would always try to keep plants with fish. 

I really got into seriously planted aquarium when I was 18 years old when I saw Mr. Amano's book of Nature Aquarium World in Boarder's bookstore.  I was shocked by the beautiful pictures of Nature aquariums created by Mr. Amano in the book.  Since then, I started and began my journey in creating Nature aquarium style planted aquarium.

Q: Wow, many people can probably relate to becoming inspired by the Nature Aquarium World Books.  How did you know you wanted to follow this style which you have been doing for over ten years?

A: The images in Amano’s Nature Aquarium World sunk deeply into my mind when I first saw them.  I have always liked keeping plants with fish, however, I was never satisfied by the look of my planted aquarium and always thought they should look more natural but did not know how I could make them look more natural.  And Mr. Amano's creations of Nature Aquariums gave me the answers and directions on how I could make my aquariums look more natural.  This is the main reason why I decided to follow Mr. Amano's Nature Aquarium Style. 

Q: Can you remember when you first time met Takashi Amano, the man who inspired you?

A: I first met Mr. Takashi Amano on my first trip to the ADA Nature Aquarium party in year 2004.  I placed 56 when I enter the contest for the first time and received an invitation from ADA to the party.  When I first met Mr. Amano I did have a little "star" stuck and was a bit nervous, however, it soon went away because of his friendliness, humorous, and straight forward character. 

Q: What aquascapers do you look up to or find inspiration from?

A: There are many other aquascapers that I look up to and find inspirations from. I don’t recall many of their names, but I have learned a lot from a Taiwanese aquascaper Chan Shih Hsien, who's work placed 2nd in the 2007 ADA Aquatic Plants Layout Contest.  Another Taiwanese aquascaper Lin Yu Chen, who's work ranked 117 in 2007 ADA aquatic plants layout contest also gave me a lot of inspirations.  Mr. Lin owns a shop that also specialized in Nature Aquarium style and has many amazing display tanks in his shop.  Oliver Knott's work also provided me a lot inspirations in the creativity aspect.  His work is top notch in terms of plant health and originality.

Q: How hard do you think it is to aquascape?  Does aquascaping skill come naturally?

A: In my opinion, aquascaping is not easy.  It’s not just about placing the stones and driftwood in positions that will look good, an aquascaper also need to have a good understanding of different growth patterns and growth conditions that plants require. One of the most important elements in aquascaping is to be able to anticipate what your aquascape will look like when plants grow out. 

I do not believe that some people naturally have aquascaping talent.  To aquascape, one needs to have a very good understanding of the characteristic growth pattern of plants and also have a good understanding of maintaining a planted tank and these knowledge does not come naturally.  It needs to be learned and acquired.  I believe what makes an aquascaper good is his/her passion for the hobby. 

Q: What was one your greatest challenges in the hobby?

A: One of the greatest challenges that I have faced was that we were invited by the Yerba Buena Center of the Arts museum in San Francisco to display one of our planted tanks in our store in the museum for two months.  It was challenging because we had to move our 90P (50gallon) show tank to a different location.  We had to make sure that the aquascape did not get moved or destroyed during the transportation.  Also, the museum is open to public daily so another challenge that we faced was to keep the tank in it's optimum condition at all times.

Q: How many tanks do you have at your home?  How often do you do maintenance on them?

A: I have 8 tanks at home and we have around 76 tanks in our store.  Usually I do maintenance once a week on our show tanks.  It consist of scraping the glass, water change, and sometimes triming the plants or cleaning the filter.

Q: Do you encounter algae issues?

A: Yes I do have algae problems.  There are different ways to combat algae, but I think the best way to combat algae is to prevent it.  I like to combat algae in a more natural way, instead of using chemicals.  A few things that I do is using a lot of algae eating creatures such as Amano Algae eating shrimp, Siamensis Algae Eating fish, and Otocinclus. 

Also, starting with a lot of plant mass in the aquarium with healthy growing plants seemed to be very effective in controlling algae. 

Another element that I think is important is filtration, I normally use double the recommended filtration flow that is stated on the filter packaging.  For example, if the filter is made for 40 gallons, I use it on a 20 gallon tank, and sometimes I use two filters.

I think the biggest challenge to a new aquascaper is algae control.  That is a common problem I found in most beginners.

Q: How do you feel about Dutch Style Aquariums compared to the Nature Style?

A: Dutch Style Aquariums have a different design concept and Stem plants are used commonly in Dutch Style Aquarium.  I have never attempted to create a serious Dutch Aquarium myself, however, that is something I would like to try someday because I am a fan of growing stem plants. 

Q: Where do you see Aquascaping going in the next 10 years?

A: I see a great potential of different aquascaping style going in the next 10 years. New materials and technology is becoming more and more available allowing more new designs. For example, natural materials like driftwood or rocks are irregular in shapes and sizes which can be combined with more and more new varieties of plants becoming available to the hobbyists each day. The possibilities and aquascaping potential are infinite.

Q: Do you feel today’s aquascapers are becoming repetitive and unoriginal?

A: In my opinion, I see a lot of new and creative aquascapes either on online forums or in contests.  I think creativity is a very important element in aquascaping.  However, as I remember from one of my science professors in school, who said “In science one needs to be able to think different in order to make new discoveries. But before that happens, one needs to first learn the basic fundamentals thoroughly and acquire as much basic skills as possible.”  So I would suggest beginner hobbyists to acquire the basic fundamentals of aquascaping skills first before trying to create a new style.

Q: What advice can you give a new aquascapers?

A: The most important element to having a successful aquascape is being knowledgeable about the different growing patterns of aquatic plants and keeping them growing healthy.  I would suggest to the asipiring hobbyist to read as much information about growing different plants and learn about their growth patterns.  Also, get close to nature as often as possible and observe how plants grow or how rocks and driftwoods are positioned in natural environment.

Q: Your brother, Steven, is deeply involved in planted tanks too.  I have to ask, who is the better aquascaper?

A: I think I am a better aquascaper, but my brother thinks he is the better one, ha!

Q: George it’s been a pleasure getting to know you better.  You have a what are your aquaria aspirations for the future?

A: I am always learning and trying new techniques to aquascape or to maintain my tanks, or finding different combinations of plants that will look good in an aquascape.  My current goal is to try and find plants that will look good and require as little maintenance as possible, and combine it with aquascaping techniques so that the tank requires as little maintenace as possible, trimming in particular! 

I hope to introduce the planted aquarium hobby to as many people as possible, because I personally think it is an amazing and enjoyable hobby. One can learn so much from it about nature and life.  I hope one day the planted aquarium hobby in America will be as popular as they are in Asia or Europe.


George and his brother Steven, operate AquaForest Aquarium in San Francisco, CA. You can visit their online store, specializing in ADA products at

 Cube Garden 60P

Cube Garden 120P 120P

 Cube Garden 180P  180P

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