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Aquascaping Planted Aquariums: Is it worth it?

Discussion in 'General Aquascaping and Planted Tank Discussions' started by John N., Jul 7, 2008.

  1. John N.

    John N. Administrator Staff Member

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    If you look at the number of planted aquariums entered into the biggest aquascaping competiton in the world, the International Aquatic Plant Layout Contest, there is about 1200 entries from all over the world (stats from this thread). In a global population of over 6 billion, 1200 entries doesn't seem to be alot when you look it in that perspective.

    Are planted aquariums worth the effort? Are they worth the time dedicated into aquascaping it?

    Well, most of us will probably say wholeheartedly "YES!" but despite the fact planted aquarium hobby has been around for years, local fish stores in the United States and perhaps in other areas, have not embraced the products and plant inventory necessary for hobbyists to have a great planted aquarium and aquascape. The demand for a planted aquarium doesn't seem to be there. Why is that?


    Off the top of my head, here are a couple of potential reasons from a newcomer perspective.
    • Planted aquariums are seen as not worth the time and effort.
    • Growing aquatic plants is complicated and takes too much outside scientific knowledge i.e. chemicals, plant metabolism, photosysthesis, etc.
    • Aquascapes are too difficult or require too much time to maintain.
    • Fish stores owners/employees aren't able to grow/aquascape display tanks to get new hobbyists interested, results in lack of interest.
    • Planted Aquarium aquascapes are overshadowed by Saltwater Reef Tanks.
    Although I do think it's true planted aquariums can be as complicated as any other hobby, the result of a well done aquascape is an rewarding experience for anyone. It's really unfortunate that a newcomer to the hobby is stopped by the preconceived difficulties of growing aquatic plants in an aquarium. When compared to a Saltwater Reef tank, I think planted aquariums are simplier to maintain, less expensive and certainly has a unique beauty to it.

    With only about 1200 entries submitted in the largest international contest event in our hobby to me that seems like a small number. Do people not feel like it's worth the time or energy to submit their aquascapes?

    I also often wonder how to increase the demand/participation for aquascaping and the planted aquarium hobby among local fish stores, newcomers, and individuals entering aquascaping contests. There's got to be a way to make aquatic gardening more appealing.

    Your thoughts? :-?

    -John N.
     
  2. Dan Pellegrini

    Dan Pellegrini New Member

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    I have often wondered the same thing (or at least a similar thing). Why is our hobby so poorly represented in the LFS scene and how could we change that.

    I think you hit all of the main points. I reiterate:

    I believe that a big part of it is dollars and cents. LFS can simply make more money selling SW livestock and hardware. $40 for a small coral frag or $4 for a plant, etc. The buying audience is also bigger for the SW hobby, making it that much more appealing.

    FW on the other hand suffers from the goldfish/betta bowl stigma - and is generally considered the lesser side of the hobby. Few SW and even FW hobbyists have ever even seen a well scaped FW setup - and even if they have, they likely thought it was SW. Even fewer LFS owners would be capable of setting up a demo tank that they would need to make the endeavor profitable.

    Then there is maintenance. Having a small Reef setup for about 9 months now, I am convinced that the Planted FW tank is much more work. All of these gorgeous tank pictures we see represent only a day or two at the climax of months of effort - but they lack the semi-permanent feeling of an established SW Reef and require a lot more weekly effort.

    All of that said, I believe that a well done FW scape is more stunning, attractive and appealing than any SW setup and I think we would see more SW hobbyists then FW fish hobbyists move into our niche if we had more local exposure.

    It would be nice to see some of our local clubs put together some kind of an assistance program with LFS's. For instance plan one meeting a month at a local retailer and help them setup a demo tank (on their dime). Encourage them to setup a plant trade-in credit system with your local group and get them on your local forums asking questions and learning how to keep their systems up and happy. I am sure it is more complicated than that, but maybe help get the juices flowing?
     
  3. Roy Deki

    Roy Deki New Member

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    Problem is, who is going to maintain it the way the aquascaper had intended it to look like? As some of you know I "practically" volunteer to help out Pet's inc in Tempe one night a week. They so desperately want me to setup a high light, high tech ADA 90p but, I will resist. They just can't get it into their heads that one night a week is not enough for a setup like that, and I am barley able to make it one night a week. We all know what it takes to have a beautiful tank but, without someone working there full time and has the knowledge it takes, forget about it. I tried to setup a dosing schedule for the employees and most of the time it never got done or it was done incorrectly. It is hard enough just to get them to do weekly water changes. In a perfect world it would have to be like Aqua Forest, where the full time owner / operator is very knowledgeable and willing to take care of these tanks. Another example is Aqua Touch where Scott works full time and has the knowledge and expertise it takes.

    This hobby still takes a back seat to SW coral reef tanks. A salt water coral reef setup can remain the same for months with only water changes, where as a FW planted tank needs far more attention than that.

    As Dan has said FW planted demand far more maintenance than a SW Coral Reef, but the general public believes that salt water tanks are for more difficult than fresh water.
     
  4. Dan Pellegrini

    Dan Pellegrini New Member

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    Roy, you and Scott do a marvelous job and have helped make those two stores the best (and really only) LFS in Phoenix, AZ -worth the visit if you are looking for plants or planted tank equipment.

    If one of the half-dozen other LFS that I have to drive by on the way to Pet's Inc or AquaTouch would do something similar to what you have done I would be thrilled and I think we would see the hobby expand.

    Maintenance is the problem though and I think you might be right - perhaps nothing less than a personal commitment from ownership will ultimately make it work.
     
  5. J House

    J House Moderator Staff Member

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    I do agree with Dan and Roy that maintenance is an issue, but I think the slow adoption of aquascaping in the mainstream is a cultural phenomenon. Most young hobbyist start a simple fresh water tank because of the fish. If they "throw" a few plants in there, its because they believe the plants are good for the fish, not becuase it looks good. Herein lies the problem and the proverbial "fork in the road." At this point, most hobbyists who have success can either go toward more plants or can go to more fish. Most will choose the fish and move to salt water and the planted tank gets left behind. Again the basis of getting into the hobby in the first place was the fish and the plants where just a small component of the setup. In order to change this, one would have to have this flipped around where the plants are the main attraction and the fish are a small component or should I say "Paint Stroke" (Steven Chong). This is not easily done in America. Most public aquariums still sell the attraction of the "Big Fish" and not necessarily the beauty of it's environment. This might be a jump but look at sports in America, we like the big homerun/touchdown pass (big fish), but aren't as impressed with a scoreless soccer game where all the components on the field have resulted in a great game (Aquascape).
     
  6. akmal

    akmal New Member

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    I've lived (undergrad studies) in the States for a while, now back in my hometown...i think this is one of the best sociological description of America (generally, of course)...I wasn't into this hobby when i was there, so can't really comment things..:lol:
     
  7. Dan Pellegrini

    Dan Pellegrini New Member

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    I dunno. I think seeing a well done planted FW tank is about all you need to determine if you are going to get the bug or not. I think the problem is that you will most likely never see a high-tech FW planted tank by accident, or otherwise happen upon one.

    As J House accurately described, I started with fish, went to plants because they were good for fish and always dreamed of a SW setup. Well after 15 years I was ready to throw it all away, when I stumbled on a online photo of a marginally well done planted tank that caught my imagination, quite by accident. In retrospect that tank was not all that great, but a couple of years and many thousands of dollars later and I have no regrets.

    FOWLR (fish only with live rock) setups are still more popular than reef tanks, but the Reef hobby is quite a large subset of folks who are not focused as much on fish. I would love to see the same happen in the FW hobby.

    I may be completely wrong, but I have a hunch that the most effective way to grow the hobby is to expose more people to it.

    I got at least a dozen people PM'ing me on ReefCentral after I posted pics of my FW tanks in my SW Reef build thread, asking for advice and pointers on setting up FW like mine - all floored and awestruck at the possiblities in FW that they had never been aware of.
     
  8. waterfaller1

    waterfaller1 New Member

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    I get the same. I think one of the aspects that noone has touched on as far as the competition goes, is the photography end of it. Not only do you have to be good at creating and managing the planted tank, but you have to be an accomplished photographer to compete. This is an area where I am very weak.
     
  9. J House

    J House Moderator Staff Member

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    "I dunno. I think seeing a well done planted FW tank is about all you need to determine if you are going to get the bug or not. I think the problem is that you will most likely never see a high-tech FW planted tank by accident, or otherwise happen upon one."

    That is very true, but as you and I both pointed out we both got into aquariums first for the fish, probably when we were both much younger. This IMO is why it's more likely for a person to venture into saltwater since their basis in the hobby is the fish and not the scape. I think what you said about seeing a well done planted tank is true, but it would more likely attract a somewhat order person who's tastes might have matured from when he/she first entered the hobby. I think the very attraction of the hobby to an art form the way Amano has done with his galleries is no coincidence. I think it appeals to a more sophiscated taste that would look at this as art, rather than a healthy environment for fish. It's this elevation to art both inside and outside the aquarium that has an appeal to another level of aquarist. Making it mainstream will take a large grass roots type effort, by mainstream manufacturers, retailers, educators and others to change the very culture of the aquarium industry.
     
  10. Anti-Pjerrot

    Anti-Pjerrot New Member

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    I feel that the mail thing that keeps people from noticing aquascaping, is the lack of style and good taste for the equipment.

    In a LFS the selection is always (very few exeptions) some ugly, low quality setups and a poorly decorated tank. Tons of plastic decorations and giant - in the tank - equipment.

    It just dont appeal to people with a little style. People think - i can hide this thing in the basement or the kids room.

    Not - This will be the centerpiece of my living room, or look great in my office.

    So when people on occation get inspired by a great aquascape and wants to have the same in their aquarium - they look at the tank, the stand and lamp and think. Its not even worth to begin - since i can never get it to look as good as the "ADA" style setups.
    They just dont have the selection.

    I think the Senske brothers have a good entry to aquascaping by thinking about the aquascape setup as a part of the interior design and not as a seperate piece of equipment that stands out from the other designs.

    So i think all in all, that aquascaping appeals to people with an urge to create something unique and pleasing - but not only for the tank but the whole room where it stands.
    I have seen so many aquascapers use their tank as a main part of the interior design and really think about placement and constructing both stands and lamps ect. to get it all to fit together.

    And that kind of scapers really care about the scape and think its worth to put time and money into it.

    People that just have a tank somewhere just dont feel the same appriciation and dedication, and when they discover aquascaping, it might not feel worth the efford to learn, do and pay for the whole.

    But then - over time - some people can develope and discover another use of the aquascape, and be more dedicated.
     
  11. altaaffe

    altaaffe New Member

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    Hi all, I'm a relative newcomer to fishkeeping (3 1/2 years) and have recently set up what I considered my first 'proper' attempt at a planted tank. The main reason I went for an aquascaped tank was to give my Celestial Pearl Danios a nice 'breeding palace' for which they have returned me with a large number of fry. But it was down to a magazines coverage of tanks from last years ADA that really got me interested.

    You've all made some great valid points, when looking for plants I had to eventually settle for mail order, as the plant selection locally was not great, and had to trawl through pages of online sites with not too good photos to get what I wanted.

    Although not of a standard to enter competitions, it has given me the bug to go on and better it but this tank will hopefully continue on with pruning for much time to come for its inhabitants. But as to the point that people just need to see a tank to get the bug, I have to agree. Many of my fellow aquarists in the area have now seen my effort and are determined to do something similar themselves.
     
  12. John N.

    John N. Administrator Staff Member

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    It's like this here in the US too. As mentioned above, store owners/employees
    just don't have the ability to create good planted aquarium tanks.

    It seems to me they rely on and promote the easy type setups with the treasure chest and floating scuba toys. Maybe that helps in sells more (with the kiddies pressuring their parents to buy that). I haven't seen a young kid (toddler) say "Owww, Mommy I want a planted tank!" They say instead, "Mommy we need that bubbling pirates chest!" So from the perspective of a store owner I can see why they would just have those type of tanks. :pirate:

    Even though, it's not exactly a planted aquarium, it is good for the aquaria hobby overall if very young people get into the hobby early on. Maybe planted aquariums are only for hobbyists that want to take their aquariums to the next aesthetic level?

    -John N.
     
  13. John N.

    John N. Administrator Staff Member

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    Jeff summed it up perfectly.

    I unfortunately don't see a global change in the future towards planted aquariums in stores. I think the fact that planted aquariums are difficult and more involved then the traditional type freshwater tanks are keeping stores, manufactures, etc. from moving towards this trend. The major stores (not the local fish stores) have to make the change first before anything can change...

    New small stores dedicated towards the planted tank niche will pop up, but it will be very few and far in between.

    -John N.
     
  14. J House

    J House Moderator Staff Member

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    John, yes I do agree. Interesting story, I actually sent a letter/proposal to a "Major Pet Chain Store" detailing how I would like to introduce aquacaping to their customer base and how the chain would benefit, etc. I did receive a call back and we discussed the idea in several phone calls. The idea was presented to upper management by a developmental team, but they decided not to implement it. Although it didn't go through I felt I did break some ground and they did take it seriously. Any shift like this will certainly take more time.
     

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