AquaScaping Interview with Chris Lukhaup

14 May 2013 11:55 - 15 May 2013 11:30 #1 by Andrew
Here is the interview in full (in case it is moved or the link is lost from the host site) - translated by Google - Alex might assist with a better translation !!

Interview by Alex Veres. Publishing admitted only with written approval by author.

After 2 years of work, I know that you have finally launched, in cooperation with Oliver Knott, a book about Aquascaping: Aquarienlandschaften gestalten. I hope that we can meet as soon as possible at your next conference, but until then, as we were both delighted with the response our former interview has met with, I decided to proceed with a second part... especially for aquascaping hobbysts.

AV Few people know that you are an aquascaper as well. So I decided to ask you a few question regarding this issue.You are in connection with one of the great scapers of the world such as Takashi Amano, Oliver Knott...have you been influenced about them style?

CL : Hello Alex, first of all i want to tank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about aquascaping. Most people think that i am just busy with shrimps but that is not the whole truth. Before shrimps i kept fish and i did some scaping as well. I have visited T.Amano in Japan and the Aquascapers in Hong Kong and also i worked with Oliver Knott a lot. Actually we have the new book out with Oliver about Aquascaping. We have worked in more then 30 aquariums and show all the steps in the book. I believe that there are more than 800 pics in the book showing nearly every step.The scaping has been done by Oliver and i did the photography and the text about inverts. we called it Extreme Aquascaping because in some days we scaped 7–10 Aquariums. I guess i am influenced by all of them as well as i think that T.Amano probably has been influenced by the dutch style even if he always says that he is inspired by nature and Oliver has been influenced by T.Amano. Everybody is influenced by someone or something if we are honest.

AV.It`s a very complicate debate regarding the style of aquascape....

Iwagumi (stone arrangement)
Nature Style (focuses on balance)
Wabi-kusa (flower arrangement theory)
Dutch (lush aquascapes with perfectly trimmed stems)

…you can call me an me old school, but I only know two = "Dutch Style Aquascaping" and "Nature Aquarium Layouts". Do you feel attract about one of them?

CL: I know these styles and all of them have their justification and i think in the future we have to handle even some more. I find all of them interesting and as a promoter i will promote all of them even if i see that the dutch style has been overtaken by the Japanese Style.This is modern right now and people follow it a lot. I would be happy if we would find admirer for all the styles and keep people interested in Vivaristic. All of it has to do with nature and as a nature lover and photographer i am happy with that.

AV Even if I am a big admirer of the work of Takashi Amano some times I feel far about the concept of reproducing scapes representing mountains, trees, sunsets in the aquascape tank. What is your opinion about how should it looks a scape for your personal tank?

CL: Well, like i mentioned before. Different styles, different taste, different art.I personally see it more as underwater gardening with a touch of art. Of course it is nature and it is a way to approach the hobby. I would call T. Amano and his style the "Japanese Style" and not Nature Aquarium Layouts. This could be misunderstood. Very rarely i have seen something like the high end aquascaping of T. Amano in Nature. I have photographed a lot underwater but as far as i remember only in Brazil in a little creek i have seen something that could be close to T. Amano and his style. The dutch style i have seen similar in Florida in the springs. I like what T.Amano is creating ,even if some of it reminds me to mountain landscapes. as far as i know trees and sunsets have been created by followers of Amano and not by him. They went a step further.I am not sure if Amano would like that kind of things. It is creative - yes ,it is art –maybe,it is nature–well - just the components but in nature you will not see that kind of things.No doubt the Japanese Style looks great but to be honest to reproduce it and keep it like that is for people that are more or less professionals. This is high end Aquascaping and 90 % of the Aquarium hobbyist will stand in front of it thinking– great stuff but i can never do it like that. It is great stuff for sure but i prefer to go with the other 90 % of the people that will tell me – looks good and i can do that as well. Modern Aquascaping dont need to be difficult. Just take a look in the book that Oliver and me have done. It is Aquascaping for everyone with hard scape material that you can buy everywhere.plants that you can buy everywhere and fish and shrimps that are popular. I would call this "Popular Aquascaping" . My personal tank should look natural and close to a underwater scene that i have photographed.

AV At the moment that I write the interview I do not know the answers at the previous 3 questions but knowing you a little bit I think you have strong influence of "biotope scape". I know some of your pictures of scapes, real maps of a future aquascapes... Is this the way you start a new tank… making a picture on the fild and then produce the replica scape on your tank?

CL: I dont have a picture in my head like i know that other scapers do it. I have more or less the idea of a general imagine and pic in my head but not so fix like some of the scapers have it. It also comes with the creation..its a process. Some of the well known scapers have a layout of the tank on paper with the plants that they need and the hardscape. I go more like selecting a good looking rock or a good looking wood. They are usually a start of a new idea. The plants usually i set around the rock or the wood. I try to create it as close to nature as possible.

AV A great biotopist and habitat lover, Heiko Bleher(a friend of you also) was in 2012 a judge at the 1st International Biotope Aquarium Competition Athens Greece. Do you think that he will win supporters of this style instead the so called Nature style in the future?

CL: Yes Heiko is a friend of mine and i have a lot of respect because i know that was he has done was some pioneer work and also he inspired me in going on expeditions. Since young kid i had the idea of going out to collect and i did this in Romania in my childhood but Heiko and his Aquageo Magazin showed me that it is possible to explore more then just the neighbourhood. I know what it takes to do this things since i already have more then 40 trips to collect and photograph wordwide. I know that Heiko has many many more and to more remote places. About his style of setting up a aquarium i know that he is going as close to nature as possible. This has a justification as well and i see that many people like it also. The aquariums may look natural but not always are attractive for some people. Even if people like to have nature in their house they want it stylish.This is some kind of contradiction but it is the same with the garden and gardening.They like nature but not so natural..more like nature trimmed by man. Heiko is first thinking in the fish,then in the styled living room.I dont know what the fish think about it. Probably they prefer the Heiko designed living room.

AV. One of your advantages in the correct reproducing of Biotope Aquarium is the fact that you travel a lot and that you have the a precise information regarding the way it look that biotope on reality. Only a few hobbyists have this privilege. Do you have any suggestion about how this gap can be avoided by the rest of aquarists that are not able to travel as much as you do?

CL Its true, I tavelled a lot but i am far away to have preciese info about the biotopes. I always can show some fragments or parts of it. Anyway i think this is a good source to be inspired and also to know how the place looks like from where our pet fish come from. If someone is interested he can get info about it if he wants. Thanx to google we have the possiblities of explore the world on our won and at least look at the videos and pics that people like us make. Also we give lectures and workshops they can visit. And i all that dont help they can talk to us on facebook.

AV I saw that your friend Oliver Knott make a lot of scapes and many of them are pictured by you… How work this relation between you both? Who learn what from the other?

CL: We found out that we can work very well together.Sometimes we spend hours of working together not talking too much. Not because we dont like to talk it is just that i think that we think similar and things go well between us. I dont think Oliver will learn some aquascaping from me,this is more when it comes to promo or the way to present things. If we inspire each other that is already a good start. Always when we sit together we develop some new ideas. The only problem we have is that both of us are very busy and we need to find the time to do things together. Ideas we have enough, sometimes its just money and time that is missing.

AV I think that your filed trips can help a lot in developing aquascapes. What happens when you discover a new fish or plant? Who is the first person that benefit about your discovers?

CL: Until now i have just discovered new freshwater invertebrates and some insects. The crabs, crayfish, snails or Shrimps will go to a jar with alcohol where they get preserved and then later i will work things out. I am not so familiar with the fish that i could tell that it is a new species this i better leave to others. In the case of fish i will consult Heiko Bleher. About the plants it is more easy. I will talk to Stefan Hummel from Dennerle and Christel Kasselmann. About the benefit in general i hope that all of us do when these plants or animals are available for the Hobby.

AV Everybody from the forum knows that I am big fun of the Dutch Style. I know that you have some nice pictures with Dutch style tanks, can you tell us more about this happening?

CL: About 2 years ago i decided to go on a trip to the Netherlands to learn more about the Dutch style of setting up a aquarium. I was in contact with Han Witzel from the NBAT (Nederlandse Bond Aqua Terra) who helped me get in touch with the masters of the Dutch Style. I have visited about 8–9 people ,all of them very friendly and open to show me the aquarium they have. The Dutch Style is dating back to mid 20th century and in my opinion was a inspiration for the Japanese style. This style is focused on the plants that are arranged in rows with lower plants in front and taller plants in the back to achieve a better depth.The dutch call it streets or avenues of plants. All of the people i have visited had very similar arranged aquariums with almost the same plants. The aquariums have been well trimmed and defined. All of these aquariums have been larger than 120 cm. The fish have been very classical like Neon Tetras,Angelfish, some Barbs even Mollies and Platies.

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Last edit: 15 May 2013 11:30 by Andrew. Reason: update on translation

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14 May 2013 12:04 - 15 May 2013 11:38 #2 by Andrew
AV Almost 30 years ago I saw in an old DATZ magazine the first authentic aquascape tank of my life…the good old Dutch style, big tank. Since than, many changes... Do you think this style still survives? What’s about the new generation of Dutch aquascapers do they still make dutch style aquascapes?

CL: I hope it will survive because is one way to arrange a is important for a hobby to keep the variety,this is what makes it interesting. If everybody goes one style it would be boring after a while. Also new styles will be invented. I know there is a strong community of dutch aquascapers in Holland and they have a club called Miroshaki ( Most of these young aquascapers follow Takashi Amano with his Japanese style of setting up a tank but i hope that at least some of them also keep the tradition of the dutch style and try it out.

AV Through the eyes of an adolescent I remembered that some of those tanks from that magazine became a real model for my future display tanks. During that period of time lot of that tanks have not special type of soil, no CO2, no dedicated lights, no specialized fertilizer etc. Now even with all this gadgets it’s complicated to realize such a tank…what are the secrets of the old dutch scapers? A frequent water change seems to me the most important fact in relation to that…what do you think?

CL: Yes,that is true. These guys do a lot of waterchanges but meanwhile also work with fertilizers and Co2. Everybody of them has is special mix of soil and to be honest i dont remember all of it but i know that they also have a lot of light above the aquarium and none of them had a regular Aquarium top with 2 or 4 lights only. Some of the old guys showed me some alternative methods of producing Co2 with yeast and sugar.

AV You are a Romanian but a German as well. The German aquascape community is well represented. Names like Oliver Knott is famous all over the world…but I think the surprise of new aquascape style was close to be produce about an other scaper from Germany. His name, Harald Schneider. His revolutionary tank, Green Reef in 2006. His idea, different species of moss and ferns sticked aqualava. Then, piece by piece you can construct a reef just like the marine tanks. The single difference is that we are specking about a green reef. What do you think about this idea?

CL Before you told me about Harald Schneider i have not heard of him. I think this idea is great. I have the impression that Aqauscaping is splitting up in different styles. I can compare it to the music. Back in the 80 there was Heavy Metal and meanwhile we have so many different styles of Metal like Black Metal,New Metal or Speed Metal etc. I thik it will happen similar with Aquascaping. The more people get involved and interested the more styles will be developed. Also it is important that every Aquascaper develops his own style if he want to be famous.It is not enough to just copy T.Amano and this is what i see a lot out there. For example there is this famous Moss Tree that was created by Filipe Oliveira from Portugal.Meanwhile i would say that this is a new type of of scaping and was copied a lot.He created something really new. Like it or not that is another question. I think it is very interesting but i would rather name it gardening art under water. It is a kind of art. Of course there is Oliver Knott and i think he is one of the best and most experienced scapers in the world. I worked with him and he always surprise me with new ideas. This is what counts if you want to bring power into a trend or a scene. To copy well is not interesting for me. To create trends and bring new ideas - this it what counts especially when we want to bring new people to the hobby and keep the old ones interested and fascinated.

AV A perfect aquascape in the eyes of a shrimp guru as you are should include as a life fauna anything else excepting shrimps?…and if the answer is yes, what would be the perfect combinations between which species of fish and shrimps?

CL: I think all should be in balance that is the most important. Sometimes it is not necessary to have fish in a scaped tank and and only shrimps and snails are fine. I like also to use snails of the genus Clithon. THey are small and dont harm plants or shrimps.As the scapers prefer smaller fish it is also not a problem of the combination because the fish will leave the shrimps unharmed. I like both fish and shrimps and before i started with the freshwater shrimps and other inverts i was a fish guy. In my scaped aquarium i have some Nano Fish together with shrimps and snails.

AV Do you start from the beginning with a plan of planted tank or initially you planted the tank with species that helps on the cycling of the tank and then during the time you develop your aquascape? Do you have a preferred species of plant with what you have start any aquascape?

CL: To be honest i prefere Nano Tanks because less work. As i am on the road a lot i dont have anybody to take care of bigger tanks.. Usually i am gone for some weeks and when i return i just have to do some waterchange and cut the grown plants.Anyway it is difficult when you are away a lot to keep aquariums.
I like plants like Hemianthus and Lilaeopsis because they fit very well in my Nano tanks and i always get them for free from my sponsor Dennerle so i guess that is a reason too. I dont scape so much because of lack of time. I prefer to promote the trend with the scapes of other people like Oliver Knott for example. I guess i am more a promoter of the trend then a aquascaper.

AV The biggest enemy of the scape in the tanks judging by the current aquascapes rules is the algae. Maybe it sound crazy but I like some algae, they are extremely nice... In the natural aquascapes I am sure that algae can bring a tent of natural in a biotope tank as an example. What is your opinion about that…with or without algae in the display tank?

CL: My opinion is if it looks good it is good. It is always a matter of taste and i will not judge that. Most of the algae in fact look natural but usually people prefer it clean and without. Aegagropila linnaei for example is an algae that can be integrated very well in some scapes. I think judging the algaes is a form of see that the people care about the tanks and work a lot in them. For me personally it depends where we go. If we are talking about Nature Aquariums ( i am not talking about the Japanese Style of T.Amano ) where algae play a role and are part of the system i think that is more than ok to have some on rocks and wood.If you have some shrimps in it they will control them anyway and they will not overtake. If the rocks have patina and some algae it is fine for fact i prefer it before a super clean tank.

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Last edit: 15 May 2013 11:38 by Andrew. Reason: updated translation

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