Nathan Hill talks to aquascaper Volker Jochum about his winning set-up in the Hanover 2012 Aquascaping Contest.
Sharp minded readers will recall the name of Volker from a feature we ran in the October 2011 magazine when he visited us, along with Dennerle’s Stefan Hummel and Crayfish legend Chris Lukhaup. He came, he aquascaped, and he blew us away.
We’ve followed his movements with interest since that day, expecting big things from this aquascaping prodigy. Now, we’re pleased to say, he hasn’t disappointed as he scoops first place at the Hanover 2012 Aquascaping Contest – The Art of the Planted Aquarium.
I took the opportunity to catch up with Volker and ask him a little more about his progress in this highly competitive sector of the hobby. Although we ran into a few troubles with translation along the way, I think we managed to get something together…
Volker, how long have you been aquascaping for now?
"Nearly two years. That sounds like a very short period. But regarding my work at Dennerle and the support, guidance and know how I found there these two years have been very intense."
How many professional level competitions have you entered? Is this your first win?
"Last year I entered the ‘Art-of-planted-aquarium’ competition for the first time. So this was my second competition and my first win."
What feedback did you get from the judges? And who was judging the event?
"In all criteria I was given the top rating. What they liked most were the quality of the submerse pre-cultured plants, the harmony of the chosen plant types – because of colour and forms - and the crystal clear water of my tank.
"The judges were Prof. Ole Pedersen (Denmark), Roland Strößner (Germany ), Bartlomiej Lipczynski (Poland), Oliver Lucanus (Canada), Ralf Gerlach (Deutschland), Stefan Hummel (Germany) and last but not least Takashi Amano (Japan)."
Can we expect to see an entrance from you to the IAPLC any time soon?
"For this year’s contest it is too late to setup a proper aquascape. But especially after being asked by Mr. Takashi Amano I am in duty to take part – presumably in 2013."
You use natural inspiration a lot in your work. What was your inspiration with this piece?
"Most of the time I get inspired by the natural ambience of my home country – the Palatinate forest. Especially when you look at the rocks I used in my aquascape you will see that it is Bunter sandstone which is a typical type of rock for that region. The Palatinate forest provides awesome views in a deep green landscape highlighted by sandstone rocks and viewed from near you will find amazing sceneries of lush mosses, quaint and complex roots or strange wood structures. As a mixed forest you can find here a great variety of leaf shapes and colours. I guess you recognised that I really love my homeland."
How long did it take to put this aquascape together? How much time was allowed to put the tanks together?
"The preparation – looking for the right hardscape and maturing the plants – started in September. At the contest everyone had 1.5 days to arrange the aquascape."
Does the aquascape have a title or a name?
"I think that an aquascape activates each beholders fantasy in a different way. So I am always shy of pre-setting a fixed way of viewing by chosing a title. This time I was forced to give a title. It is 'Natural Art'."
What are the dimensions of the aquarium? What equipment has been used on it? What food and CO2 was used to get it looking that good?
"The tank was 100 x 50 x 50 cm. My tank at home to mature the plants was equipped with a Dennerle CO2-System. Fertilisation was Dennerle V30 Complete, E15 FerActiv iron nutrition, S7 Vitamix and A1 Daily NPK."
What species of plants have you used in here? Did I see Stefan Hummel involved in this tank? Were there any new kinds of plant that I might not have seen before?
"Stefan Hummel is a person I can always ask for support in my daily work and we often discuss plants, designs etc., but this aquascape was my kind of journeyman's piece that I completely designed on my own.
"The plants I used for designing the aquascape were:â€¨Vallisneria nana, Anubias nana, Anubias nana “bonsai”, Bolbitis, Helantium tenellum, Echinodorus bolivianus (formerly Helanthium bolivianum).
"Then I used different mosses: Ricardia , Fissidens, Vesicularia montagnei (Christmas moss). If you ask for new plants there is Hygrophila pinnatifida. With its unique and distinctive fern like look it blends very well with wood and roots. And I used Pogostemon erectus which is relatively new and reminiscent of pine needles. So we come full circle and are back in the Palatinate Forest."
And what hardscape have you used? Was it stuff that you’ve been sourcing yourself? Did you have to use hardscape that they supplied or were you allowed to bring your own?
"For the hardscape I combined red sandstone and red Moarwood. All the stuff I brought with me. There was no supply from the organiser. The stones I found in the woods, the roots I bought from the dealer I trust."
Is this project entirely your own, or are you working with Dennerle on it?
"This was a private project I did on my own. In most projects I do for Dennerle I am in the pleasant position to be completely free in my work. Only if there is for example a tank to be prepared for a photo shooting that aims on supporting new products, then given requirements need to be met."
What was it like to meet Takashi Amano? What did he say about the tank?
"What can I say, it was very special. I mean this man is a celebrity in the aquascaping world. Regarding my tank he said in Japanese simplicity "Very good." I guess he liked it."
Are you working on any other designs right now?
"Working on new designs is my daily work, but I also have several private projects."
It’s fair to say that we look forward to seeing what Volker can come up with next, and wish him the best in spending the 2,000 Euros prize money for his efforts!
Check out some of the other great planted tanks in the Your Tanks section.
Mark Evans, part one
Mark Evans, part two
Mark Evans, part three
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