Editors of Aqua JournalEditors of Aqua Journal
The International Aquatic Plants Layout Contest 2019 received 1,867 entries from 72 countries and areas around the world. TOP OF THE WORLD 2019 features top 7 works and interviews with the winners.


World Ranking: 1

Josh Sim
Malaysia /Dream On

Aquatic Plants
Ammania gracilis
Bucephalandra sp. Catherine
Cryptocoryne Parva
Fissidens fontanus
Micranthemum sp. Monte Carlo
Eleocharis sp.
Hydrocotyle vulgaris
Hemianthus callitrichoides ‘Cuba’
Ranunculus papulentus
Rotala rotundifolia

Fish & Invertebrates
Paracheirodon Innesi
Crossocheilus oblongus
Otocinclus Affinis
Caridina multidentata
2 large pieces of driftwood are boldly arranged in this work. But the placements of those driftwood pieces are exquisite and powerful creating perspective, and they determine the impression of this aquascape. Recently, layout works with pieces of driftwood like thin branches creating detailed scenes have been quite popular. But by using these bold and large pieces of driftwood in this work, it is considered that the creator was aiming to express a different ambiance from such a trend. It can be said that it was possible because the creator was familiar with the contest. And the rough cut ends of the 2 driftwood pieces were brilliantly used to create the wildness and the intensity. How he finished the layout with Micranthemum sp. Monte Carlo hanging down emphasized his excellent layout sense. Without purposely making too much impact or being too skillful, his own expressions were brilliantly achieved by incorporating some of the Nature Aquarium techniques into the layout. The work is absolutely a result of “the highroad to victory”.

The representative of the IAPLC Steering Committee    Tsuyoshi Oiwa

AJ: Please describe the moment when you first found out your ranking in the IAPLC 2019. 

I was with my family when I saw the news that IAPLC result letters had been send out from ADA HQ, so I told my 3 kids, I would open my letter with all of them this year, something that I have never done before. They probably would not understand how important the content of this “letter” to me, but they happily said OK. In the following week Wednesday, to my big surprise, my “letter” came in the form of EMS. I felt very happy that I am in the Top7 again!! The urge of opening the EMS immediately is very strong but I kept my promise to my family, I would like to open the letter only when everyone is around. As I will only see all my kids in another 3 days, I endured the most difficult 3 days of my life, while seeing friends around the world revealing their results on social media. On the day before my “open ceremony”, 5 places of the Top7 were taken, the last 2 spots left, were Grand Prize and #7, so it means I will be either Champion or Number 7!! It is not a bad situation to be in….but I believe you would understand how I felt! Finally on Friday…I let the kids opened the EMS and I want them to read my ranking to me while I was holding my wife’s hand. They could not find the result page so it took them some time to search for it…and my heart almost jumped out from my mouth during that few seconds. Suddenly, I heard them screaming at the top of their lung “Number 1….Number 1….Number 1…..”  We hugged each other and I feel grateful that I have my family around me to celebrate this amazing moment in my life!



AJ: Tell us what you wanted to express with your layout work; layout theme, motif, ideas behind your winning work. 

It was during a very dry season when I visited a local forest area, most of the small streams and rivers were dried up. I saw some big tree trunks in a dried up river, the fallen tree in the river bank were badly eroded but it gives the trunks some very beautiful shapes and textures. Even though the tree trunks were in a dried up river, I would like to create something that has strong underwater feel. So I tried to imagine, how would the fallen trees look like in raining season when the rivers were flooded and aquatic plants were thriving again, how the mosses would grow on the wood underwater and how the shadow from the huge fallen tree would provide comfortable hiding places for the fishes.
As for the title of this layout, “DreamOn”, I just want to express the dream that Sensei Amano left for us to continue – let us dream until the dreams come true!


AJ: What was the most difficult aspect of creating and maintaining this layout work?

The most difficult aspect in creating this layout is to create a big visual impact to the viewers by constructing 2 huge driftwoods following the image of the fallen tree trunks I saw in the dried up river, but not to make the layout too heavy and congested! Using shadows and strong perspective helped me in achieving my goal. Maintenance of this layout is another big issue. I tried to use a new type of rock that has beautiful texture, without realizing that these rocks have very high content of calcium that caused the water to be too “hard” – very high TDS. This hard water is a problem to grow aquatic plants, in the first 2 months, the plants condition were very poor, even mosses could not survive! In order to salvage this layout, I decided to do 50% water change EVERYDAY, for 2 months. This frequent water change helps to reduce and stabilize the water hardness and make it possible for the aquatic plants to grow again. It is one of the hardest tank I have ever done due to the water hardness problem, but I am glad that I manage to overcome it with the crazy water change routine!

AJ: Tell us about the layout materials (Rock and driftwood) which were used for this layout work.

The driftwoods used in this layout were local Malaysian driftwoods. I used a few smaller pieces of woods to combine and create the eroded effect as close as possible to the fallen tree I saw in the river bank. It took me about 2-3 weeks to construct my main wood structure.
I used a new type of imported rocks which has very nice texture. I have never tried these rocks before and they caused the water hardness become 3 times more than the usual hardness in my aquarium! The visual effect is nice but the maintenance issues caused by these rocks were nightmare!!


AJ: What fascinates or attracts you the most about planted aquarium hobby?

The ability to recreate nature in a small aquarium is fascinating! To challenge the limit and create something new every year is hard, but it gives me the motivation to keep scaping and move forward.


AJ: What kind of aquascape do you want to create in the future? Do you have any dreams relating to the aquarium hobby?

 I hope that I can push Nature Aquarium to the next level, I would love to live the dream of Master Amano and continue to create Nature Aquarium that will be remembered for a long time. My dream would definitely be seeing this hobby getting more popular around the world, to be able to motivate people going into this hobby and bring everybody closer to nature.


AJ: What do you think about the IAPLC?

To some, IAPLC may be just an aquascaping contest, but to me, IAPLC is the heart and soul of this aquascaping hobby! It is the engine that motivates many aquascapers around the world to produce layouts that challenge the limits again and again every year! It is a platform that allows us to showcase our hardwork to the world and connect every aquascapers around the world together. IAPLC is like a family, a religion and a dream!
Expressing dynamism and perspective by using impressive driftwood

Friends from all over the world bonded by aquatic plants

This year’s Nature Aquarium Party was held on October 19th at ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel Niigata and on October 20th at the ADA headquarters for 2 days.
The top prize announcement and the award ceremony of the International Aquatic Plants Layout Contest 2019 (IAPLC) took place on the first day. “Mr. Takashi Amano has left us many legacies. But the most important thing he left behind was to dream. That dream for us is to enjoy aquatic plant layouts. We are living this dream every day, every second and every moment. Dream until our dreams come true!” said this year’s world ranking number 1 (Grand Prix), Mr. Josh Sim from Malaysia in his acceptance speech. True to his words, all the incredible works are results of everyone’s passion, and they have powerful energy. Because of the influence of social media in recent years, there were comments questioning the definitions of expressions and evaluations of the contest works. But we believe that expressions and evaluations for aquatic plant layouts should be free. We would like all the contest participants to create layouts freely and truly enjoy the aquatic plant layout hobby. And regardless of whether being professionals or amateurs, fellow aquascapers from all over the world should accept and respect each other so that expressions and styles of aquatic plant layouts and ways to enjoy aquascaping will be advanced even more. The IAPLC will celebrate its commemorated 20th anniversary in this upcoming year, 2020. We look forward to receiving many entries from everyone who loves the aquatic plant layout hobby.