Star of the Month
An Aquascapist with a Difference
Mr.Somen Banerjee, an Ardent Aquascapest - A Hobbyist who has won many awards in India and also participated Internationally in Aquascaping championship talks to Mr.Sunil Dcosta founder of www.aquafishcare.com. His burning desire, passion to excel and hardwork can be seen in his nature Aquascapes.
1) Tell us how did you venture out into Aquascaping ? Take us into your Journey?
Somen :- I was always fascinated from my childhood to Aquarium and fishes. In 2013 I decorated an aquarium with plastic (Fake) plants and shared it in few of the online aquarium websites. People liked it a lot. They encouraged that the placement s of the plants according to the hardscape was done nicely. They advised me to try with real plants. I did not have any idea of aquascaping at the point of time. I started to research from various website both Indian and abroad to understand things of Aquascaping and the various aspects associated with it. Friends who was into it prior, helped me to understand things. Few of them I want to name are Parthapratim Chakraborty, Sushant Sagar and few others from Delhi. I developed my first aquascape in 2014, and with a bit of courage applied for TGAIC competition that year.
Luckily I won the North India (Regional runners up) award. I don’t have any mentor, but get inspiration from Aquascaper’s across the world from their work.
2) There are different types of aquascapes ? Like Nature, Iwagumi and Dutch? What is your Technique?
Somen : I would classify my scapes to be nature style oriented, though I have tried my hand to Iwagumi as well. I have tried to depict nature as closely as possible with whatever sense I have developed from the amazing nature around us. One has to visualize the outcome of the scape with time.
3) Before aquascaping a project ? What is that you take into Account? Or do you carry some inspirations from the nature you visit?
Somen : I try to get a “theme” and try to work with it. Secondly I visualize the hardscape material required for it. I use materials collected from Nature to develop my scapes, and few purchased when needed. The Size of the tank and accordingly the amount of hardscape material required is crucial. I would always prefer to have a good amount of hardscape material, as during the process of development of a scape a lot of combination is done both with rocks and woods to give the scape the look one is looking. So always that extra material is beneficial. It can always be a treasure for future scapes.
4) what are the tools you use frequently for aquascaping? what is the substrate you use ? Any bottom Layers ? some grow in river sand ? some use brands like ADA, Tropica etc...what are the benefits of using a good brand like Tropica or ADA?
Somen : The basic materials like tweezers and scissors is required as we all know. Apart from it we always use things available at our house to use them when required either for maintenance purpose or small help during the starting process. With time those small maintenance tools becomes a part of your ongoing journey. I have used garden soil in my initial scapes with a topping of branded Aquasoil. Certainly renowned branded products have a whole lot of benefits for the growth of plants, and give them the initial thrust to take over.
5) I get the frequently asked question, should I go for a lowtech tank or a high Tech Tank ? what is your answer to this? Importance of Co2 in any scapes?
Somen : n individual’s choice, and varies from people to people. I have started from a Hi-tech setup from my initial aquascaping days. If people want to keep it as a piece of small nature can opt for low tech, but it would never be a scape for competition purpose. Apart from competition people usually go for a high tech setup as the result and outcome of an aquascape if far better with a Hitech setup. One can grow all types of plants in a hi-tech setup provided it meets the other parameters too. In a low tech it is not possible. Co2 is one of the prime factors for growing plants. It can be either in the form of Liquid/DIY Method or with pressurized Co2 System.
Without it one cannot imagine the growth of plants. Pressurized system gives far better results in terms of plants growth and overall health.
6) What is the advise for a beginner who is interested in plantation tank? what size he should think of? and should he consider going low tech or high tech?
Somen : I would advice all new comers to gather enough information regarding a planted aquarium and the various aspects associated with it. Reading of various articles in aquarium forums and discussion in group with help develop knowledge. Low tech or High tech I have already answered previously. Regarding the Size of Aquarium I would recommend sizes between 24 to 36 inches for beginners. A person can go with a bigger planted tank only if one has confident to handle it.
7) what type of lights do you consider ? And how long do you keep on ? Any fertilizer ? Dosing Regime? Macro and Micro nutrients?
Somen : I have used T5 tubes, PLL during my earlier years. It has worked and given amazing results. If one has got enough budget can opt for branded lights. One can use DIY methods to make lights. One can opt for LED lights too. There are many options currently available. I usually give lights for 6-7 hours a day. In the Initial stage I go for 6 hours and gradually increase as the volume of plants increases. Currently using fertilizers by Anurag Gupta (Aqua Vascular).The dosing regime is mentioned with the products.
8) Your Aquascapes stand out and what I have seen is that you follow nature Aquarium style? Have you tried other techniques ? what is your maintenance schedule say for a 3 ft tank?
Somen : Yes apart from Nature aquarium style, I have made Iwagumi scapes too. My preference is always Nature aquarium scapes, as I prefer to develop a scape with a good scope in terms of hardscape.
Maintenance is a key to a good and health planted aquarium. Weekly cleaning and water changes are very importance. It keeps the bio load in control. If there are any issue regarding algae, one can opt for more water changes and bring things under control.
9) What are the habitants you suggest in a planted aquarium in terms of fish, Ottocinclus , Nerite snails? And beginner Plants you suggest?
Somen : Cleaning crew like Ottocinclus, Nerite can be used.Assassin snails can be used, if there is boom in snail populations. I never used them in my earlier years; though recently use them in my aquarium. Regarding fish species I don’t have any particular choice. I prefer smaller fishes like Tetras/ Rasboras. A school of small fishes is always a treat to watch.
10) I am sure you have won awards ? can you eleborate on this ? Awards or participation in International or Domestic circuits?
Somen : As I already mentioned here earlier, I won my first award in 2014 the year when I participated in TGAIC competition first time. Later I won awards in the year 2015, 2016, 2017 as well in the same competition.
I enjoy participating in International competitions as well, like IAPLC, AGA, IIAC.
11) How are indian Aquascapists faring in comparision to international participants?
Have aquascaing in India developed? Are there many aquascapists?
what do you think of the competition in India itself?
Somen : Indian Aquascaper are doing well in the Internationl Competition in the recent 3-4 years. There are few Aquascapers from India whose work is really upto the International standards and they are improving every year. I see a bright future as far as Indian Aquascaping is concerned.
12) What is your advice to future budding aquascapists who want to make it big or just to start in a hobby?
Somen : I would advice all new aquascaper who want to enjoy this beautiful journey of aquascaping, to do their home work and gain as much knowledge as possible. If they are willing to take part in Indian or International competition, they should follow the work of renowned aquascaper. Try to figure out the various Golden rules of Aquascaping. Follow the works in the various competitions worldwide. Aquascping is an ART which evolves with time. One will always lean from their previous mistakes, and be a better aquascaper with time.