The World Before Columbus is an impressive aquascape from Italys Pasquale Buonpane. This layout achieved high rankings in the International Aquatic Plant Layout Contest 2010 and is yet another one of the great masterpieces designed by Buonpone. Curious to know what the title of his aquascape means? We were too, so we asked him in this issues Aquascape in Focus Interview.
Q: Pasquale, what inspired this aquascape?
A: When I started working at the hardscape I did not have a clear inspiration. I just wanted to make something that was different from my previous aquascapes.
To do that, I decided to use these strange flat sedimentary rocks. I began in mid-March and the hardscape came together very quickly. In about two hours, the whole layout was complete in its initial planting and layout arrangement.
In the following days thereafter, I had no changes (unlike what generally happens with all my tanks).
As I observed the hardscape, I noticed that the main stone reminded me of the great rock you can see near the ancient city of Cuzco in Peru. The entire composition reminded me of a Mayan Pyramid. That is why I choose the title The World before Columbus.
Q: What types of rocks are you using and arrangement purpose?
A: I used sedimentary limestone rocks that I personally collected on a lake shore. Because of their layered structure, I thought that the best way to get a natural effect was to place them in parallel horizontal lines. Later, I could break the monotony of lines using moss.
Q: What is growing on the rocks, moss? How did you secure and maintain it?
A: The rock horizontal surfaces were covered with small bushes of Vesicularia ferrieri (Weeping moss ) and Riccia sp. dwarf.
Both species were tied to small flat stones with fishing line. I never use scissors to prune moss and Riccia because then it becomes difficult to eliminate all the small pieces from the tank. As these plants grow to a large bush and start to break away from the stones I only divide them and tie them down again.
Q: What plant is used for your ground covering and how did you maintain it?
A: In the foreground I used Hemianthus callitrichoides.
I usually plant it in small clumps of 5-6 stems at a distance of 3-4 cm. It is a big job and it takes a lot of time, especially in large tanks, but it is surely the best way to get a compact and uniform lawn.
The hardest part was covering the sloping sides of the foreground with H. callitrichoides. In first few weeks of the layout, I made water changes very carefully to prevent the collapse of the substrate.
Q: Describe the trimming or your maintenance techniques?
A: I think that to be successful with H. callitrichoides is very important to prune it frequently and the best way to do this is using long scissors with curve tips. Usually I make sure that the lawn never exceeds the thickness of 1 cm. In this tank I paid much attention to areas where H. callitrichoides touched the moss. I checked these areas frequently to avoid the two species mixing with each other.
Q: Describe the planting techniques for some of the other plants in the layout.
A: As I mentioned before, I prefer to never use the scissors with moss or Riccia. I wanted the clumps of moss hanging from the rocks, so I choose Vesicularia ferrieri for its weeping habit. I used Riccia sp. dwarf to create contrast with the dark green of mosses and simultaneously recall the light green of the lawn.
Additionally, I tied the moss to small flat stones and placed them on the rocks. This technique allows you to move the bushes from one place to another whenever you want.
Q: What are you using for your substrate?
A: For the substrate material, I used Akadama. I added some fertilizing capsules only in the areas covered with H. callitrichoides.
In the foreground the depth is about 6-7 cm while in the backside it reaches up to 30 cm. To maintain the difference in level I placed two boxes made of polystyrene under the stones; one for each group of rocks.
Q: How often you do regular tank maintenance?
A: Every week I change about the 40% of water and after water changes I add liquid fertilizers too. Generally, I prune Hemianthus callitrichoides every two weeks to keep it from growing to thick and intermixing with the moss species.
Q: Did or do you have any algae problems?
A: Not at all. In all my tanks, as soon as the water parameters are suitable, I add a good number of algae eaters such as Crossocheilus siamensis, Otocinclus, and Caridina japonica. I consider these species almost indispensable. If you put them in at the right time this cleanup crew can completely eliminate all the algae problems from the start.
Q: What is your favorite part of your aquascape?
A: I really like the canyon between the two groups of rocks. I think it gives a good sense of depth to the tank.
Q: What was the most difficult task for this aquascape?
A: Probably the greatest challenge was to give a natural look to the rocks I used. If you look at the hardscape it looks like a building made of bricks. Using moss I tried to hide the gaps between one rock and the other, so that each group of rock seemed like a single large rock.
Q: Where did you place in the IAPLC 2010?
A: The World Before Columbus ranked 106th in IAPLC 2010. Last year my previous tank East and West reached 22nd position, so initially I was a bit disappointed with the 2010 result. Then considering the large number of participants of the 10th edition of the competition (more than 1800 entries), I realized that the 106th position was still a good result. After all, there were about 1700 participants who obtained a worse result than me.
Q: What would you change to this aquascape to make it rank higher?
A: Honestly, I never think about the contests while Im creating my planted aquarium layouts. It would be like imprisoning my creativity and my aesthetic sense in a cage. Certainly if I had more time I could take care of more details, but I think I would not change anything.