Editors of Aqua JournalEditors of Aqua Journal
Place of origin
Aquarium Size W1,500×D600×H600(mm)

Aquatic Plants
Bolbitis heudelotii / Hymenasplenium obscurum / Helanthium tenellum / Rotala mexicana ‘Goias’ / Marsilea drummondii / Riccia fluitans / Hydrocotyle verticillata / Eleocharis pusilla / Hemianthus callitrichoides ‘Cuba’ / Micranthemum sp. / Cryptocoryne parva / Bucephalandra sp. ‘Melawi’ / Rotala rotundifolia ‘Green’ / Vesicularia ferriei / Riccardia chamedryfolia / Taxiphyllum barbieri / Riccardia graeffei / Taxiphyllum sp. ‘Flame Moss’ / Fissidens fontanus

Fish & Invertebrates
Paracheirodon axelrodi / Ancistrus sp. / Crossocheilus oblongus
Recently we have seen an increasing number of works imaged on forests, of which this year’s Grand Prix winning work, from the workmanship that’s gone into its details to its careful finishes, may be said to be the ultimate one. You feel the artist’s mastery in the sensation of being drawn into a deep forest, born of the subtle compositional power of its layout. An aquascape which stood out in the contest for its command of the techniques recognized in Suikei layouts, such as how cosmetic sand is used; the expression achieved with driftwood; the way epiphytic plants are used; the expression of depth; the positioning for photographing fish. On the other hand, to offer some constructive criticism, a little is left to be desired in terms of novelty and uniqueness from the winning work. Our expectations for the future work of such a master to have won both second place last year and first place this year are now only heightened further.

Tsuyoshi Oiwa
Chairman of the IAPLC Steering Committee
Zhemin Fan
Country: People’s Republic of China
Age: 54 years old
Occupation: Supervisor at an electrics company
Aquarium experience: 14 years
Hobbies besides aquarium: listening to music, cooking Chinese dishes
Record of awards in the past IAPLC:
IAPLC2014 27th
IAPLC2015 154th
IAPLC2016 120th
IAPLC2017 173th
IAPLC2021 40th
IAPLC2022 2nd

“The plants and scenes inside an aquarium show their natural form and bring joy to the viewers”

AJ   Tell us how you feel now that you won the Prize in the IAPLC 2023.
On the evening of August 26, I returned to my factory to watch the live broadcast of the 2023 IAPLC results announcement. And I watched the content while drinking a cold can of beer. I was confident in my work this year and knew it would do well. As my friends’ works appeared on the screen and each one was introduced, I saw several Chinese participants’ names until the 27th place was announced. As I watched the announcements, I kept thinking, “Not me, not me yet,” and kept saying that my name would not appear until the 8th place was announced. It was time for the top seven to be announced and by then I was already yelling “don’t show up”. Sure enough, 7th place was not me, 6th place wasn’t me either, it wasn’t 5th place, it wasn’t 4th place, and it was already time to announce the top three, and I wondered if the God of fortune was coming down. 3rd place was not me, 2nd place was not me either. Finally, it was time for this year’s Grand Prix to be announced, and I couldn’t help but stand up and drink a can of beer in one gulp. When the beautiful and pretty emcee was about to announce the world ranking number one and the Grand Prix, she took a short pause. My heart was racing. Then on the screen, my work, which I had seen almost every day, was introduced. I had finally won the Grand Prix. This year, I had reached the pinnacle of my long-cherished dream. I immediately received a call from my colleague, Mr. Chao Wang, congratulating me, and after that, I was filled with joy as I received one congratulatory phone call after another.

AJ   Tell us what you wanted to express with your layout work; layout theme, motif, ideas behind your winning work.
In November last year on a video site called bilibili, I saw a lecture given by Josh Sim at an aquarium shop ‘Green Aqua’ in Budapest and my understanding of Fukada Takayuki’s IAPLC 2015 first prize winning work deepened, and I got the idea to make a multilayered piece. It is relatively easy to create using driftwood like this. As for why- for the viewer, scenes created with driftwood and the perspective relationship between driftwood pieces give the most direct impact to the viewing image. And then, conveying natures capacity, more possibilities can be fulfilled using the concept of grass matching.
Through earnest maintenance we can raise the quality of aquascapes.
AJ    What are the key points when you select aquatic plants and fish species?
When choosing aquatic plants one must match with the laws of the natural world. Here I used two moss types, Riccardia chamedryfolia and Riccardia graeffei, on the main driftwood to make a scene expressing the coexistence of moss in the natural world. I chose Micranthemum sp. for the left and right of the foreground and added Rotala mexicana ‘Goias’ for a richer color. In the midground and background, matching with Eleocharis pusilla, I used leaf sizes and shades of colours to make many differing layers. Additionally, I chose Paracheirodon axelrodi because it bunches well and is easy to create a dynamic picture with.

AJ    What fascinate or attract you the most about the planted aquarium hobby?
My biggest attraction to aquatic plant layouts is how, by creating a composition and planting aquatic plants, the plants and scenes inside an aquarium show us their natural form and can bring joy to the creator and the viewer.

AJ    What kind of aquascape do you want to create in the future? Do you have any dreams relating to the aquarium hobby?
The work by this years 3rd place winner, Josh Sims, surprised me. In his piece, a simple framework and abundant aquatic plants are used to create a fluid underwater world. He took this style to an extreme with this year’s work. I felt I could call this work the Nature Aquarium 2.0. Studying Josh Sims’s thought process, I want to take my own work to a new level.

AJ     Do you have any tips for winning in the IAPLC?
After imagining a piece, I think it’s best to draw a sketch of it. By rendering it so, you can ascertain its inadequacies and proceed with measurements before making your aquatic plant layout. It may seem like you are increasing prep work, but that one page perfect rendering will make building your final framework and growing plants easier, a shortcut to completion.

The design of a composition. Slow and steady scrutiny is a shortcut to perfection.
AJ    If you belong to any aquarium circles or clubs, please tell us about their activities.
I joined the CAA China Aquascape Association, every year we meet up somewhere to talk about aquatic plant layouts and the IAPLC, etc.

AJ    What do you think about the IAPLC?
That it is a contest with greater anticipation each year, and that it is a world class event. I think it is my chance to appeal to all the world’s lovers of aquatic plant layouts.
The CAA crew. Heads together to raise the bar.