Saturday, October 27, 2007

Creating a Waterfall Illusion Underwater

I was curious as to how the tank above, which took World Ranking 7 in the ADA aquascaping contest this year, created the waterfall illusion. I had seen similar effects created by rising bubbles, but this seems to end before reaching the surface, meaning it is created using a different method (or there was a good deal of Photoshopping involved). However, an anonymous comment tipped me off to a website that explains exactly how it was created, and it is quite creative. To start off, the illusion is created with falling sand, not rising bubbles. However, bubbles still play an important role. See the diagram below:

This is a cross section of the "waterfall." A tube and airstone blows bubbles up through a space behind the wall, and as a result, pulls water and tiny grains of sand (blue dots) from a sloped reservoir (sloped so that gravity pulls the sand down and into the bubble stream) up the narrow space. Once the grains reach a second opening, they forced out the second opening with the water current and fall back down the front of the wall back into the reservoir. Here's a picture of what this looks like before any plants are added:

As you can see, very fine sand must be used for this to work. Additionally, where the sand falls is affected greatly by other currents in the tank, and it will inevitably fall outside of the reservoir. This means this effect is not the most practical for everyday use, as using it with a filter would probably blow the falling sand everywhere else in your tank. I'm sure much tweaking and adjusting is necessary to find the best type of sand suited for this application, and what size space behind the wall works best. How the sand is ejected from the top of the bubble column is also probably a problem area that requires a lot of attention and adjustment. It's hard to tell from the diagram, but the bubble column space most likely extends above the water line. This forces the water pulled up by the bubbles out the sand-ejection opening. Otherwise, the sand would continue to follow the current of bubbles and water up and out the top of the column (and you'd have a messy volcano effect instead of a waterfall!). The final effect, if done correctly, looks absolutely stunning in pictures.

Monday, October 15, 2007

ADA 2007 Aquascaping Contest: Top 10 Rankings

Finally got some time to throw these together with a little commentary; these are the top 10 aquascapes from the 2007 Aqua Design Amano Aquascaping Contest. The contest, held yearly and open to anyone, is the most significant award in the hobby and garners international recognition. The entries are judged by Takashi Amano himself and other renowned judges. There are some fairly original and interesting ideas in some of these and they are great inspiration!

World Ranking 1
This is a classic Nature Aquarium style tank and the contrast between the heavily planted left side and the open right side create a tranquil border scene complete with sandy foreground. The use of rock and driftwood help to add structure to the aquascape.

World Ranking 2
A lovely hillside scene with rocky outcroppings and schools of tiny colorful fish create an idyllic scene in this iwagumi inspired layout.

World Ranking 3
The carefully placed petrified wood in the foreground of this beautiful aquascape combined with the lush, overflowing green vegetation create the atmosphere of overgrown ruins deep in a jungle. The nearly terraced midground creates a beautiful "staircase" effect up to the dip in the plants where a school of fish hover like a flock of tropical birds. This is my personal favorite of the top 10.

World Ranking 4
Diagonal layers of ferns on driftwood create a stunning effect coupled with the contrast of the orange-tipped plant on the right side of the tank. The grassy, pastoral foreground complete with a school of fish completes the scene.

World Ranking 5
This aquascape looks like a lush mountain, with the two background groups of plants overlapping, creating a valley-like feeling. I love the contrast in colors and textures in this one.

World Ranking 6
An "island" aquascape, the driftwood adds a lot of interest and I especially like the hint of red peeking over the midground plants. The white sand foreground must be a pain to keep clean though!

World Ranking 7
This is a particularly interesting aquascape. I'm not quite sure how the designer created the illusion of a waterfall, but it could have been done with sand or air bubbles. Either way, the visual interest of this aquascape is amazing. It's such a beautiful tropical scene, with lush plants and mosses surrounding a clearing filled with grasses. The slope of the entire aquascape also adds such depth to the scene that it makes it seem much bigger than it actually is.

World Ranking 8
The most striking feature of this aquascape is the vertical rock formations. They are perfectly placed and dotted with all sorts of plants, creating an overgrown, natural look.

World Ranking 9
The black background of this aquascape helps to bring out the brilliant green colors of the plants, and the two red plants, on either side of the "valley" provide contrast.

World Ranking 10
Filipe Oliveira's entry, this is such a unique and wonderful aquascape. The moss "tree" and the pastoral setting beneath are fundamentally relaxing and pleasing to look at. It's also the only entry in the top 10 rankings from outside Asia.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Top 27 2007 ADA Contest Aquariums

Here they are finally! The top 27 aquariums from the 2007 ADA Aquascaping contest are listed along with comments from the judges over at Practical Fishkeeping's blog. The picture above is the winner of the contest, but some of the others are extremely interesting as well. Go have a look!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Internet Explorer Viewing Difficulties

The issues have been fixed, sorry for any inconvenience it may have caused!

I've just noticed that in Internet Explorer, the sidebar seems to be pushed way down the page for some reason. It looks fine in Firefox, however. I've done a bit of research and it turns out IE is just really fussy and it could be any little error in the code. So I have to sort through the entire code and see if something is tripping up IE. I apologize to all those who use Internet Explorer, I'll try to have it fixed as soon as possible, but bear with me, it's going to take a long time to figure this out! In the meantime, you may want to look at getting Firefox instead...

Aquascape Analysis #8: J. Reece's "Iwagumi Rock Garden"

This Aquascape Analysis is for Jordan Reece's beautiful "Iwagumi Rock Garden," which was also the tank of the month at Aquatic Plant Central. The tank is an ADA 90P and it's a perfect example of Japanese style (Amano inspired) aquascaping.

First, the profile is a pleasing "V" shape with two uneven peaks on either side. This creates a natural valley in the middle, carpeted nicely with Hemianthus callitrichoides. The two rocks help create the height, aided by some taller stem plants. They also act to separate the aquascape into three distinct areas: the left, the middle, and the right. This is aesthetically pleasing to the viewer.

The focal point is clearly the rock on the right side of the aquarium. The bight green plants around it help to create a draw for the viewer's eyes, contrasting with the darkness of the rock itself. There is a secondary focal point on the left side of the tank around the other rock, which draws the viewer's eyes because it juts up into the background.

Both rocks form the basis for the flow present in the aquascape. Since they are mostly vertical, the viewer's gaze naturally flows down the rock from the focal point and towards the opposite focal point, crossing the middle of the tank.

The foreground, which wraps around the front of the aquarium, is separated from the background by the Blyxa japonica. The contrast in textures between these two plants makes the area where they meet and overlap very interesting and pleasing. The taller plants behind the rocks help to create a deeper sense of depth to the aquascape, enhancing visual interest.

Overall, this aquascape could very well have come straight out of the ADA gallery. Congratulations to Jordan for creating such a beautiful and mesmerizing aquascape!

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