#205: 243L Aquatic Garden Flame River Cristales

Steven Chong Chino, Japan

Aquascape Details

Dimensions 120 × 45 × 45 cm
Title Flame River Cristales
Volume 243L
Lighting ADA Solar I x2
Plants caloglossa sp.、Taxiphyllum sp. (probably "Singapore Moss" and "Java Moss," sold in Japan as "Southern Willow Moss" and "Willow Moss"), Eleocharis Parvula, Eleocharis acicularis, Echinodorus tenellus, Fissidens Fontinalis, Blyxa sp., Lilaeopsis brasiliensis (used to extend "grass" into shaded areas-- a standard technique in Japan), Hemianthus callitrichoides "cuba" (Not visible, but used to make the light green water reflection above the left side hardscape)
Animals Hemigrammus rodwayi
The off-stage crew: Caridina multidentata, Ancistrus sp., Badis badis (a surprisingly good snail eater, often used this way in Japan. Look for them next time at Lisbon/Sumida)
Materials Plate Lava (Sold to me under the name "Flame Rock")
Additional Information The layout's inspiration comes from caño cristales, the rainbow river in Colombia. The idea of taking this inspiration was with me for a long time, but I needed to find just the right stone and plant to make my inspiration come alive. When I found them, I knew I had to try. Of course, caño cristales was just a starting point-- there was no way I would be able to recreate it faithfully. Focusing on the color red, devoting my work to it, and doing all I could to give a platform for the caloglossa's unique color and qualities to come through, I was able to create a vision all my own-- combining lessons from modern georama, traditional iwagumi, and biotope style aquariums. While not a faithful recreation, having a real river as the source of my inspiration, and having Chris Lukhaup's book by my side anchored the concept and provided a constant source of learning from nature to fill in needed details or inspiration (actually had a friend from Sweden buy it and bring it to me in Japan when he came for the Nature Aquarium Party 2016, just so I could make this scape-- it was worth it!). For instance, the background color was definitely inspired by Mr. Lukhaup's underwater photos, and the choice of fish as well. While Golden Tetras are from nowhere near the waterway or region (unfortunate!), I knew I needed a thin-bodied, light-colored characin of about this size to complete the image. I think the Golden tetra's body shape and lineage (connecting it to the inspiration) and purity/brilliance of neutral white color, make it uniquely suited for this layout's concept. Overall, I'm very proud, and it's an aquascape that surpassed my imagination for it. As my first serious layout representing the Tokyo Aquascaping Union, it was definitely a journey of many many firsts. I had great teachers that deserve more gratitude than words can express, but the greatest lessons were the ones they refused to teach me-- it was a constant challenge of teaching myself to think and do differently. I relied on effort and experimentation to try to overcome inexperience, and I'll never forget the many, many lessons this aquarium taught to me. For everything I gave to it, it gave me back much more-- to take to next year!

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