AGA 2008: Takashi Amano: ADA Tank Critique

November 18th, 2008

Takashi Amano

The obvious headlining speaker at the Aquatic Gardener’s 2008 Convention was Takashi Amano. Aided by his translator, Mr. Amano gave a very insightful view into the mind of a judge for his ADA Aquascaping Contest. As someone who has entered these competitions before, this information is very helpful for when I design my future aquascapes. Therefore, I wanted to share a number of slides from his presentation, as well as, his comments for what the entrant could have done better to receive a higher placing.

ADA Entrant Tank

#31: The driftwood is too centered. If moved to the right a little bit, it would be been more balanced.

ADA Entrant Tank

#32: The large rock is too far to the left, throwing off the balance of the aquascape.

ADA Entrant Tank

#43: The wood is too centered, and too close together. Spacing the wood further apart would have helped.

ADA Entrant Tank

#44: Not enough negative space in this aquascape. It looks too cramped.

ADA Entrant Tank

#48: There are too many stem plants around this tree stump.

ADA Entrant Tank

#49: The photographer used a wide angle lens when shooting this tank, making the driftwood appear distorted.

ADA Entrant Tank

#61: The rock on the right is laying down too much. It should be pointing up at more of an angle to be balanced with the other rocks.

ADA Entrant Tank

#63: The rocks are too much in a line. They should be staggered a little bit to look natural.

ADA Entrant Tank

#69: The plant selection in the foreground and background are too different, making it look like the two don’t go together.

ADA Entrant Tank

#72: The plants on the left don’t match the plants on the right. While both look very nice, they don’t go together.

ADA Entrant Tank

#75: Nice scape, but the two pieces of driftwood nearly touch, which is distracting and unnatural looking.

ADA Entrant Tank

#79: The left side is too heavy, and not following the principles of the golden ratio. Also, the slope of the trimmed plants on the right and left don’t match. The right slope is too steep.

ADA Entrant Tank

#81: The moss is overgrown, and needs to be trimmed.

ADA Entrant Tank

#85: This scape would be better if the skinny piece of driftwood just left of center was removed entirely. Lots of entrants used too much hardscape to their detriment.

ADA Entrant Tank

#87: The mossy rock on the left is too close to the front of the glass creating a dark area.

ADA Entrant Tank

#94: The driftwood is unnatural and doesn’t match. The left pieces are skinnier than the right — they should be the same size.

ADA Entrant Tank

#98: Nice pieces of wood, but the whole scape should be shifted, as the wood is too centered.

ADA Entrant Tank

#106: The left side is too heavy, too oppressive.

ADA Entrant Tank

#110: Very progressive layout, but it’s lacking much open space.

ADA Entrant Tank

#117: Too much rock was used in this aquascape.

ADA Entrant Tank

#122: Lacks focus, with no particular place being the focal point. Plus, the rocks are misplaced.

ADA Entrant Tank

#123: The driftwood is far to large for this aquascape.

10 Responses to “AGA 2008: Takashi Amano: ADA Tank Critique”

  1. Phillip Brown Says:

    I don’t personally agree with all his comments but this is fascinating, as are all these reports – many, many thanks for doing them.

  2. Mallory Says:

    I was very disappointed that I couldn’t hear Amano speak, so thanks SO MUCH for sharing! He has an amazing eye.

  3. Mark F. Says:

    Wow – you’re whipping out these dispatches from the AGA conference so quickly, it’s hard to keep up: no sooner had I sent in my response to the last post (the talk on mosses), then you posted this!

    I kind of agree with Phillip: I find myself seeing Mr. Amano’s point here about 80 percent of the time – and I strongly disagree with the other 20 percent. His personal vision, discipline, attention to detail, and dedication to his craft have all rightly earned him the respect of a true pioneer in his field – all that said, however, his opinions on matters of composition sometimes seem to lack the authority of a formal visual arts training (admitedly, I don’t know if he actually has any formal visual arts training or not; obviously, that’s not necessary to have a “good eye”).
    I guess my point here is, yeah, the guy’s great at what he does, and definitely earns the respect of the hobby, but some of the adoration goes a bit over board: he’s not the last word in aquascaping – nobody is. Sorry to use your blog to vent all that, but I don’t yet have a blog of my own, and felt that opinion had to be voiced somewhere!

    I’ve got so much more I could say here – not so much about Mr. Amano specifically, but about where the hobby as a whole is going with his inspiration … but this is your blog, not mine! Keep up the good work, dude.

  4. guitarfish Says:

    I was hoping that this post would garner from debate. I’m of the same opinion as you guys that he’s a great talent and pioneer, of who’s opinion I often agree with, but don’t necessarily agree with 100% of the time. In his talk, he also did mention that fact, and mentioned the influence that culture plays in determining the beauty of a tank. For this reason, he tries to employ other judges from around the world with equal weight, to judge all of the ADA entries. I believe he mentioned that his top choice is not always the winner of the competition for this reason. That was certainly the case in the AGA contest this year.

  5. AGA 2008: Takashi Amano: His Tanks-- Guitarfish Says:

    […] critiquing the ADA entrant tanks during his presentation at the 2008 Aquatic Gardener’s Association Convention, Takashi Amano proceeded to discuss […]

  6. Mallory Says:

    Hmm… I guess you can’t agree with anyone 100% of the time, but I consider myself a huge fan of his work and NA. I agree that he’s not the end all, be all, but I also think that sometimes fans of ADA and NA are misunderstood. We are not all doe-eyed groupies. 😉

  7. Monkeys typing Shakespeare Says:

    […] searching the net to find a site to buy a mini M and I found this, if you are looking for a scape.…-tank-critique And something i think would be cool to stock such a big aquarium with would be a school of SAE’s, […]

  8. sEE uS flyING Says:

    Aquascaping is art and while there are obvious mistakes one can make (overdoing the hardscape, overstocking with plants etc) I belive that there is no hard and fast handbook of rules (chisled in stone…or driftwood 🙂 ) that can be applied, no golden ratio or rule of thirds will create a scape that speaks to the spirit of the viewer. Art is the expression of the cumulative experience of the artist and cannot be quantified by neat little laws. I salute Mr. Amano for his contribution to the hobby (and for introducing us to those glorious shrimp), but if we all applied ratios and rules then all our scapes would look quite similar which is the exact opposite of what we should strive to acheive…individual expression. Besides not all of Amano’s scapes have spoken to me.

  9. guitarfish Says:

    See Us Flying, I agree with you that aquascaping is an art, and that rules will only get the scaper so far. I also agree that it’s good to break the rules. That said, if you look at most appealing scapes, you will find that the ratio contained within them are consistent with various ratios. They may not be 1/3 to 2/3, but 5 and 7 or 4 and 1, or various other proportions. I still thinks it’s helpful to beginners to point out a few obvious mistakes to help them on their way. After that, it’s up to their creativity to take over.

  10. wordkid Says:

    Great site and post… I just discovered “aquascaping” today, but the interplay between good photography (rule of thirds, etc.) and the “aquascape” art form is really pretty neat.

    A lot of the comments he had for the various “aquascapes” I agree with from a photographic perspective. Especially in terms of lining up shots and perspectives

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