Fantasy aquarium, story aquarium, fairytale aquarium

Nowadays the old good aquarium is no longer just a container for pets, already long ago it turned into a whole section of art, this was particularly noticeable last decade.

Like any art, aquarium design - aquascaping - causes the most opposite and mixed reactions of the audience. Evolved in a modern form from underwater gardens of nature aquarium to landscapes of landscape aquarium in all their detailed splendor, the aquascaping development at the moment seems to be already frozen in time.


However aquarium designers never stopped looking for new ideas to develop their art. There is no wonder that the International Aquatic Plants Layout Contest (IAPLC) in 2014 has already turned towards biotope aquarium design (within the meaning by Takashi Amano).

These findings in the aquarium design relate to the high art. And what do we often see in a house of an ordinary amateur aquarist? In rare cases it is a well-maintained planted aquarium or a geographical (and even more rarely biotope) aquarium for fishes. The greater part of the home "tanks" is a pseudo-sea with cichlids, or a compote with a mixture of undemanding plants, algae and pets (not always suitable for keeping together) with various little divers, boats, castles, skulls and other strange stuff.

And the question arises: why having the possibility of creating stunning natural layouts people still did not refuse these sometimes strange products of aquarium industry? The answer is very simple: everyone wants to be the Creator of his Universe, the visualizer of his fantasies.

Some of these amateur aquarists, moving to a new level and mastering the art of aquascaping, is simultaneously influenced by severe rules of classic aquarium design and angrily throws the plastic garbage. Someone, skillfully balancing on the edge, continues using artificial decorations in aquarium, but taking into consideration all the rules of composition, rules for combining colours and the overall impact on the viewer. Such works almost never win prizes in aquascaping contests, but always get response of ordinary viewers, from young to old ones. In an attempt to win wider recognition such aquarium designers increasingly use natural elements nontrivially, creating new fantasy objects with the help of available tools.

This article is likely for those who makes timid little steps in aquarium design than for the professionals, to make them understand: there are no boundaries in art.

How long you will enjoy your creation is the only thing that matters.


In the circle of aquarium designers the general idea for the characterization of these planted aquaria was given by Stefan Walter, director of special projects of DENNERLE GmbH

Story aquarium is an aquarium, which tells his own story to the audience, an aquarium, which with its content can show a complex image to a person looking at it; and this image can be read so distinctly that some events happened to the caracters of the story become very clear.


Like any art, it is for anyone who likes it, above all, for its author. Persons who will like such an aquarium for sure are a little girl dreaming of magic, a little boy conquering the Universe, any adult who did not lose his ability to be a child and see the world through the prism of a miracle.


But they are similar in their general creative techniques of using elements strange for usual underwater world. There are two types:

1) Fantasy aquaria with artificial elements "from the store." You can use non-toxic, undegradable under water, suitable by quality children's toys, elements of interior decor, special products for aquaria etc. An aquarium with a little panda or tiger from Kinder Surprise, with a bit clumsy plastic castle hidden in the shadows of plants will be appreciated by younger aquarists.

2) Aquarium with man-made fantasy elements of stone, clay, sand, driftwood, plants etc., bound together in different ways, when performed in high quality by the strength of perception approach to classical aquascape, and it will make happy even the senior aquarists.


The first and most important rule is the story, that can be easily read by audience. There will be a certain freedom in perception, of course, but no more than when reading a book of a famous author.

Concerning the way of creating, of course, the same rules of composition, color effects like in any aquarium, in any form of visual art should be taken into account.

However, there are two basic principles of the use of artificial elements. They can be easily replaceable, small objects that fit into aquascape: today it is a tiger's den (photo 1), and tomorrow there are other toys, for example, The Mystery of the Third Planet.


And they can be a single entity with all composition: Dragon by Oliver Knott (photo 2), Princess Castle (photo 3) as a strong point. Take them away, and not only the story, but also the aquarium itself will end.


We will show some more works in this controversial field of aquarium design, that we believe deserve attention:

NEW YEAR AQUARIUM is perhaps the most striking design in this style, actively manifested at the annual Ukrainian aquarium contest "New Year AQUA-Firtree" (photo 4), and confidently took its place in the hearts of famous aquascapers (photo 5). Aquaria with a similar design of a variety of artificial, often toxic elements definitely are intended only for interior decoration.


USE OF TECHNICAL TOYS (cars, trains, rails etc.) is the slippery slope in aquarium design, because mechanisms conflict with nature at its core. You need to skillfully balance in the ratio of natural and artificial masses so that aquarium even slightly resembled a living organism rather than postapocalyptic landscape (photos 6 and 7).


CASTLES are most fabulous and alluring for adults and even babies. The special charm is not just to put a castle (purchased or made from clay and baked) in the green world of the aquarium, but to create a story, make a composition with it. Whether it's a grim Helm's Deep (photo 8), or a gothic castle with a waterfall (photo 10) or a house of the witch (photo 11), and maybe Hobbit hole (Photo 9). This is the real fantasy, in which fishes, shrimps, aquatic plants are an artist's palette. If there is a balance maintained in an aquarium, the inhabitants feel good, what may prevent the owner to enjoy this picture?


DIVERS AND SHIPS are especially little used by designers in their aquascapes, unlike by owners of home and office aquaria. Maybe it is because in the real world these things are associated with the sea? However, we managed to find in Internet more or less successful example of using the sunken ship.

USE OF NATURAL ELEMENTS IN DESIGN, telling a story, e.g. arches, stone sculptures, shaped and textured driftwood to make fabulous trees, stones in the form of animals, human faces, layouts in the form of recognizable characters; it is perhaps the most harmonious option of designing a story aquarium. They are distinguished by a clear visualization of the plot, the viewer imagination is limited by imagination of the author.


Some time ago, when artists have begun using digitizer and computer in their work, their colleagues, while continuing to remain in the world of real paints and papers, together condemned creativity of the "renegades." But time has passed, and now digital art is in demand not less than paintings on canvas. So the question arises: is selection of tools in art so important, if they achieve their goal in the end? Are boundaries in art necessary, if there are so much alluring and unknown beyond?



St. Petersburg


St. Petersburg

Dec 10, 2014