The future of planted tanks is here

Paludarium

There are four basic criteria which we wish considered in the judging of the paludariums entered in the contest. These are what we ask the judges to consider when reviewing each paludarium aquascape:

  • Overall Impression — maximum 60 points
    • Does the aquascape make a significant positive visual impression upon the viewer?
    • Do all parts of the aquascape work together to present a harmonious whole?
  • Composition, Balance, Use of Space, Use of Color — maximum 70 points
    • Most important, is a significant amount of the enclosure devoted to land and a significant amount devoted to water? This does not need to be 50/50 or even 25/75, as different tank sizes and shapes will dictate different ratios. But neither the land nor the water should be treated as a superficial “add on” or “feature”. Both MUST be a well developed and well planted part of the whole design.
    • Is the entire paludarium layed out well? Does the land flow naturally into the water?
    • Does balance exist between the various components of the ‘scape? Is space within the aquarium used effectively? Do open areas exist and do they balance and complement more enclosed spaces?
    • Are the colors of the various elements of the paludarium (including animals) complementary and do they work well together?
  • Selection and Use of Materials — maximum 40 points
    • Are the materials selected for use within the aquascape appropriate for use in a paludarium? While it is common to use artificial materials when building a paludarium, are they well-hidden so as not to distract from the display?
    • Are the various materials harmonious with one another? I.e. if several rocks and/or pieces of driftwood are used, do they compliment one another or do they produce a discordant effect?
    • Do the animals compliment or detract from the selection and arrangement of hardscape and plants? The paludarium planting should be well developed above and below water. Whether to include animals is up to the entrant, though beautiful, appropriate species can never hurt a display!
  • Viability of the Paludarium Aquascape — maximum 30 points
    • Paludariums should never be a short-term arrangement like an aquascaped aquarium. Therefore, the ability to maintain a paludarium for a length of time is to be encouraged. Is the paludarium set up in a manner which, with proper maintenance, is likely to lead to long term (one year or more) success of the paludarium?
    • Are the plants selected for the paludarium appropriate for long term use in the land or water portion as they are used? Are the plants chosen likely to over-run the enclosure, or will animals be too large at their adult size?
    • Are the animals selected as inhabitants of the tank likely to cause damage to one another or to the paludarium itself? Are the animals appropriate to the size of the tank that houses them?

Biotope Aquascape

A biotope is a habitat originating from a specific location. It has
particular environmental characteristics specific to the area and a
native population of plants and animals. A single stream or lake may
include numerous biotopes. For instance, a stony riffle in a stream
may be one biotope while a nearby silt-bottomed pool on the same
stream may be a different biotope. On the other hand, the same biotope
may occur in numerous streams in a region where all stony riffles or
silt-bottomed pools support the same community of plants and animals.

In its purest form, the biotope aquascape is a microscopic
representation of a naturally-occurring particular geographical area
in the wild.

An entry that accurately represents a biotope through
species selection and arrangement of hardscape and living elements
will receive a higher score.

Rules for acceptable entries in the AGA’s Aquascaping Contest Biotope Category:

  • Material used including wood, rocks, and other hardscaping material should, as closely as possible, represent the appearance of natural materials found in the specific location.

    Example: Mopani driftwood would not be used in an Asian rainforest biotope aquascape. However, manzanita wood could be used effectively to represent branches and roots in an Amazon biotope.

  • Plants and animals should be indigenous to the specific location.

    Example: Guppies should not be used in a Lake Malawi biotope aquascape. However, a few non-native fish or shrimp included for algae control will be overlooked.

  • Choice and placement of plant and animal species should also represent the specific location.
    Example: Although both plants grow in Asian streams, it would be unlikely to find Cryptocoryne cordata, which likes shaded areas, mixed with C. crispatula, which is found in sunny areas.
  • Exotic, non-native, or invasive species of plants and fish should
    not be used in a biotope aquascape. All flora and fauna should be
    native species originally indigenous to the biotope being
    described.
  • Aquascaping methods used for Aquatic Garden aquariums are not
    applicable to biotope aquascaping. Design should be directed toward
    creating an authentic replication of a natural habitat. Arrangement of
    hardscape materials, and placement and grouping of plants, should
    mimic that found in nature rather than an abstracted image of a
    natural scene often used in Aquatic Garden aquascaping.
  • Salt marsh/marine planted aquaria are acceptable in the Biotope Category only. Plants/macroalgae should be the majority plant. Corals and other sessile inverts, if any, should be minimal.
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An expert committee will screen submissions in the Biotope Category and accept as entries those that in its sole determination, follow these rules. The committee’s judgment will be final. If there are questions regarding the validity of the biotope aquascape, the committee may ask for justification.

Based on the criteria, to aid the screening process, we strongly suggest that entrants provide the following information:

  1. A description of the biotope represented by the entry.
  2. A description of the materials used in the entry, including plants, fish, and hardscape materials. Include why certain choices were made.
  3. References to substantiate the appropriateness of the materials used. Books, articles, photos, and web links are all acceptable references.

If the committee rejects a submission because it does meet the Biotope guidelines, the AGA will automatically disqualify the aquascape.

After a Biotope entry has been approved by the screening committee, it will be judged by the AGA International Aquascaping Contest judging panel. Each judge will score the biotope based on the following criteria:

  • General impressions/ faithful reproduction of biotope — maximum 70 points
  • Accuracy of plants and animals for biotope — maximum 60 points
  • Accuracy of hardscape — maximum 40 points
  • Condition — maximum 30 points

Results of the judging will be made public at the appropriate times as determined by the dates predetermined by the AGA International Aquascaping Contest.

Photographs

The short version:

  • 1-5 Photos
  • Highest Resolution Possible
  • Color-correction, brightness only; no photoshopping
  • No identifying burn-ins; no selfies
  • No borders or frames, please
  • No collages (multiple photos in same image)
  • No photos of people

Entrants are requested to provide 1 ~ 5 images of their
aquascape, ideally showing both overall views and close-ups of details they wish to highlight.

While the focus of this event is on the aquascape shown in the images, entrants are
encouraged to try and provide the clearest, sharpest images possible. The better the
images that are provided, the better they will reproduce and display.

Please send the highest resolution and quality possible. We can handle most formats, even camera raw.

You may alter an aquascape’s image only for color correction, brightness, shadow/highlight,
contrast and/or sharpness. While the organizers realize that in an
event of this type it is entirely possible for an unethical person to
manufacture a digital image of a non-existent tank, it is our hope
that entrants will honor the spirit of sharing and friendly
competition upon which this event is based. We are counting on the
honesty and integrity of our participants to submit only images that
are truly representative of their work as aquascape artists!

Many entrants feel the need to add large frame borders around
their photographs; this detracts from the image, by making it scale
smaller than other entries. In all likelihood, we will just remove
the border. Please save us the work, and submit your images
borderless.

Images submitted should not have the photographer’s name or Copyright Notice
superimposed over the image. Images should not include the aquascaper in the picture (aka, a selfie).
Judging needs to be anonymous, and this information could
affect the impartial evaluation of aquascapes. We will add a copyright ‘burn-in’ in the final website.

When creating a planting plan, keep in mind that a blocky diagram works much better than something
with thin lines, and high-resolution graphic is just as important as
in the photographs. A simple sketch with a Sharpie pen on a piece of
paper will look better on the final site than a tiny 320×240 pixel
graphic done with a Paint program. Also make sure to list the plants
in the caption rather than in the graphic itself. This will
save us an incredible amount of retyping and graphic
retouching time!

All entrants must agree to a Photo Release before their entries and photographs will be accepted into the contest.

Wabi-Kusa

Wabi-Kusa is defined here as a creative layout of
primarily emersed grown aquatic plants. Judges will award points
respective to the criteria categories listed below:

  • Health and Condition: maximum 100 points
    • Is the layout healthy and free from any undesirable elements? (30%)
    • Are all plants used aquatic in origin (even if they are in emersed form) ? Terrestrial-only plants are not allowed. (30%)
    • If animals are incorporated in the layout, are they healthy and in a suitable environment to be maintained long term? (20%)
    • Is there a water portion of the layout? Layouts without a water feature will be disqualified. (20%)
  • Artistic Skill, Impression, and Creativity: maximum 100 points
    • Does the layout demonstrate artistic skill through the use of arrangement, colors, textures, and hardscape? (40%)
    • Is the layout especially creative or impactful? (40%)
    • Do any other elements of the Wabi Kusa add to or detract from the impression? (20%)
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Dutch Category Judging Guidelines

Overall Impression — maximum 50 points

  • Does the aquarium as a whole; plants, fish, and hardscape, create a positive visual impact?
  • Do all parts of the aquarium work together to present a harmonious and cohesive whole?
  • Do the plants and animals appear healthy?
  • No hardware should be visible.

Composition: Balance, Use of Space, Use of Color — maximum 60 points

  • Is the aquascape layed out well?
  • Does the aquarist make effective use of the “Rule of Thirds” to create (a) focal point(s)? (Tanks 36” or less in length should not have more than one focal point.)
  • Are the plants well grouped, and are the groups well defined? (Traditional NBAT rules dictate a small space between groups)
  • Does the aquarist make good use of differences in color, leaf size and shape, and height (growth habit or trimming) to maximize contrast between groups of plants? (Groups of neighboring plants should clearly be of different heights)
  • Does the aquarist effectively use differences in height and plant group shape to create a sense of flow and depth?
  • Is there a plant “street”? If so, is it easily discerned and does it enhance the sense of depth of the aquascape?
  • Are the back and sides are planted? Do the species and planting enhance or detract from the sense of depth and scale? (Traditional NBAT rules dictate the portion of the walls not covered by species in the substrate be planted.)

Selection & Use of Plants, Hardscape Materials, and Animals — maximum 50 points

  • Has the aquarist selected plants appropriately?
  • Traditional NBAT rules dictate use of no more than 1 plant species per 10 cm/4 inches of tank length (sometimes up to 2 more species per tank if their use doesn’t detract from the aquascape; judge’s discretion). Has the aquarist effectively used a limited number of species?
  • If a Specimen Plant is used as a focal point, does it blend well with the aquascape or is it overpowering? i.e., does it draw and hold the eye too strongly or is it simply too large?
  • Do the colors, shape, and size of the fish chosen harmonize with the plants?
  • Are schooling fish present in sufficient numbers to make a suitable school? (Traditional NBAT rules dictate at least 12 fish per schooling species)
  • If hardscape materials are present, are they used sparingly as a stand alone element? (A single piece of wood or a rock may be acceptable according to NBAT rules if it enhances the aquascape. Wood and/or rocks used as structure and mostly covered by epiphytes does not count.)
  • Are planted sides and rear panes present or absent? There should be no visible glass except for the front viewing pane. (This criteria only addresses the presence/absence of planted walls as a hardscape/design element for clarity. If planted walls are not present or if glass is visible deduct points. Use of walls should be considered as part of Composition.)

Viability of Aquascape — maximum 40 points

  • With appropriate grooming and maintenance, are the plants selected suitable for use in the aquarium if maintained as-is for a long period?
  • If visible, are the fish and other animals likely to be too large for the aquarium, cause damage to the aquascape, or each other at adult size?

Aquatic Garden Categories

The vast majority of the aquascapes are entered in the Aquatic
Garden categories. So much that there are 6 or more size divisions!
If you are unsure which category is correct, it is very
likely Aquatic Garden. There are four basic criteria which we wish
considered in the judging of the aquascapes entered in the contest.
We further ask the judges to consider the following when reviewing
each aquascape:

  • Overall Impression — maximum 70 points
    • Does the aquascape make a significant positive visual impression upon the viewer?
    • Do all parts of the aquascape work together to present a harmonious whole?
  • Composition, Balance, Use of Space, Use of Color — maximum 60 points
    • Is the aquascape layed out well?
    • Does balance exist between the various components of the aquascape? Is space within the
      aquarium used effectively? Do open areas exist and balance and complement more enclosed
      spaces?
    • Are the colors of the various elements of the aquascape (including animals) complementary and do they work
      well together?
  • Selection and Use of Materials — maximum 40 points
    • Are the materials selected for use within the aquascape appropriate for use in an
      aquarium?
    • Are the various materials harmonious with one another? I.e. if several rocks and/or
      pieces of driftwood are used, do they compliment one another or do they produce a
      discordant effect?
    • Do the animals compliment or detract from the selection and arrangement of hardscape and plants?
  • Viability of Aquascape — maximum 30 points
    • Is the aquascape set up in a manner which, with proper maintenance, is likely to lead to
      long term (one year or more) success of the aquarium?
    • If used, are the plants selected for the aquascape appropriate for long term use in an
      aquarium?
    • Are the animals selected as inhabitants of the tank likely to cause damage
      to one another or to the aquascape itself? Are the animals appropriate to the size of the tank that houses them?
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General Entrance Guidelines

The AGA Aquascaping Contest generally is open for entries from June through mid-September, with the results and winners announced in early- to mid-November. Please check the contest entry page for the exact dates for this year.

This event is primarily a friendly way for hobbyists to share their
aquascaping efforts with each other, and to learn better techniques
through the display and evaluation of those efforts. The contest will
also allow hobbyists to compete for awards. The event is
open to all hobbyists, regardless of age, national origin or degree of
experience in the hobby.

The focus of the event is on Aquascaping in freshwater aquaria,
brackish water aquaria and paludariums. Brackish and Marine aquaria will be acceptable in the Biotope category only.

Aquascapes shall be sorted for judging into the following categories:

  • Aquatic Garden
  • Dutch Aquascape
  • Biotope Aquascape
  • Paludarium
  • Wabi-Kusa

All but one of the categories require that you use live plants in your aquascape.
The Biotope Aquascape category is reserved for
aquariums that are attempting to recreate a particular natural
environment, and as such will be judged accordingly. Biotopes
may or may not include plants, but should be made of primarily
natural materials.

Within each type, aquascapes may be split into multiple size
cateogries. The choice of splits is based on participation, and up to
the discretion of the judges and organizers.

Each entrant will need to:

  1. Complete a form with their personal information (including their real legal name and a return address)
  2. Agree to the photo release (part of the above form)
  3. Supply basic information for each aquascape (maximum three aquascapes per entrant)
  4. Upload photographs (1-5 per aquascape)

Entrants are forbidden to ask advice or show entry photos to members
of the AGA Board of Directors or current contest judges. The first
offense will result in a warning, and the second offense can result in
disqualification of the entry. Continued attempts to contact the
members of the AGA Board of Directors or judges will be considered an
attempt to influence the entrant’s score and will result in banning
from the contest for that calendar year.

Further questions may be answered by the organizers at
[email protected]

Judging and Awards

Judging will be conducted with each aquascape identified only by
number; i.e. the judges will not know the identity of the entrant
whose aquascape they are considering. Judges do not communicate with each
other when scoring each aquascape.

Within each category, each judge’s ranking (not raw score) for the aquascapes
will
be harmonically
averaged to determine the overall placing of
aquascapes within the category. Awards (1st, 2nd and 3rd place)
will be given to the three highest placed aquascapes. Overall
placings 4~10 be acknowledged as «top ten» (presented in tank
volume order, not place order!). There is no physical award for
top ten.

After the winners are tabulated, the judges will also choose, by
vote, a Best of Show Aquascape and a Most Innovative Aquascape. They will communicate with
each other over this decision.

Judges are asked provide feedback on the qualities of each
aquascape in the contest. These comments will be placed on the
website associated with the appropriate aquascapes. After the
winners are announced, judges may be available (at their
discretion) on the AGA
Facebook group where entrants can post a photo and request
commentary.

The decisions of the judges are final.

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