2021 Biotope Aquarium showcase


While it was hard to roam last year, some pioneers still managed to research the wilderness and produce aquaria based on their findings. Here are some of the best of 2021.

The Biotope Aquarium Project (BAP) is an independent educational project aiming to motivate fishkeepers to commit to in-depth studies of aquatic environments and then apply their knowledge to a biotope aquarium of their own. As a way to showcase this, the Biotope Aquarium Project hosts an annual Biotope Aquarium Contest, open to participants from all around the world. 

The Biotope Aquarium Contest is divided into eight categories (geographic regions), with each category judged by two experts on that particular region — ichthyologists, biologists, and professional aquarists with knowledge of local ecosystems. The experts then grade each tank and advise participants on how to improve their setups to make them as close as possible to the natural biotopes. 

Participation in the contest consists of two parts. In the first, ‘Biotope In Nature’, participants are invited to share details of the research phase of the project. This part covers biotope exploration done either in situ or through online research with the assistance of other aquarists and scientists. 

The second part involves reproducing the investigated biotope as a closed ecosystem in an aquarium. This is the hands-on, creative part of the process as the aquarists are required to show their practical skills and biotope knowledge by putting together the right components — water chemistry, substrate, lighting, filter systems and décor — to provide a suitable home for all inhabitants. Of course, that also means selecting the right livestock — fish, plants, crustaceans and molluscs — to produce an accurate representation of the wilderness.

While this feature showcases the winners of the 2021 contest, 2022 is now gearing up with a pre-registration announcement due on April 20th, with registration opening on May 20th. Anyone can take part, with further information available at [email protected] 

Region 1: North America 

Everglades Wetland, Florida, USA, by Anikó Csanádi (Hungary)

Assessed by: Fritz Rohde (NANFA) and Lawrence Kent (NANFA)

Aniko says: “North American freshwater fishes are part of my life. Some of my favourites are in the genus Elassoma, especially Elassoma evergladei. With my 90-litre fish tank, I tried to create a natural habitat for them to feel ‘at home’. There are many submerged and floating aquatic plants to provide safe and shady places to hide. I planted some Juncus to recreate the emersed area, as well. There are some leaves and some small branches on the bottom, which also comprises sand and mud.

“The lightning is moderated – not too bright – and the outflow of the water is calm. Everglades pygmy sunfish do not only live in the Everglades, but I think that this is one of the most extraordinary places on Earth with its wonderful wildlife.”

  • Tank size: 100x30x30cm
  • Temperature: 23°C
  • pH: 7.0
  • Fishes: Elassoma evergladei, Physella acuta
  • Plants: Eleocharis vivipara, Najas guadalupensis, Pistia stratiotes, Lemna minor

Region 2. Central America & Caribbean 

Lower Rio Usumacinta sidearm, Mexico, by David Nørholm (Denmark)

Assessed by: Juan Miguel Artigas Azas (Cichlid Room Companion) and Jairo Arroyave (UNAM)

David says: “Close to the riverbank, on a small sidearm to the Rio Usumacinta, surrounded by dense jungle, you find this beautiful little spot. I have tried to recreate this underwater landscape with a combination of driftwood, branches, roots, leaves, pebbles and river stones. I have also tried to recreate the sporadic aquatic vegetation that characterises areas like this.

“I have dreamt of making a Central American biotope for quite a long time, and when I suddenly got the chance to buy some beautiful wildtype Poecilia velifera, I knew this was the time.

Most of the branches and driftwood are locally collected, just as the stones, with the exception of the large river stone to the left. This is an artificial module which is used as a filter for the aquarium — perfectly hidden.”

  • Tank size: 151x51x66cm
  • Temperature: 27°C
  • pH: 7.7
  • Fishes: Poecilia velifera, Thorichthys meeki
  • Plants: Salvinia auriculata, Egeria densa, Ceratophyllum demersum, Ludwigia repens

Read the rest of the feature in the March 2022 issue. Buy the latest digital edition and read instantly on your computer, mobile or tablet device.

Prefer the print edition? Subscribe today and get your first 3 issues for £1 each