En el foco BEYOND THE NATURE de Gary Wu

                                                                   152 x 51 x 58 cm

How you got inspired to create this scape?
This idea in my mind for a long time, it is inspired by a Japanese cartoon movie "Laputa" or translated name "Castle in the sky" by Mr. Hayao Miyazaki, the movie first launched in 1986.  However, when my layout released, that is the year when movie “Avatar” showing and there also have some floating land in the movie so some people thinks my idea is come from that movie.

Why did you choose this name? what was the purpose?
The series of Hayao Miyazaki's cartoons are full of environmental concern. The movie describe the flying cites is the remained part of an unknown civilizations after the unspecified catastrophe. Without human disturb, the flying city become part of the nature with tree covered and full of vegetation.  By that time, human are happy and back to a basic living standard without a lot of high technology and living in a peaceful world.  However, because of discovering this flying city, those governors like to own this high technology city and begin to fight and finally destroy everything. From the background of the movie, you could imagine that without human disturb the city. Even the city full of technology but it is peacefully in the nature environment. The human's selfish and greed destroy this peaceful world.  (The illustrated picture shows the three stages of the flying city) After human destroy, it gradually merge with the nature and peacefully living in the sky.
Thinking of this peaceful flying city without human disturb, it would become part of the nature and everything harmonize together. My idea of this aquascape just wants to present this condition in the scape. What the movie describes may be happen in the future very soon if we keep on destroying our global. The name Beyond the Nature likes to address something beyond our age and something happen that higher related to our nature. 

 Have you prepared any kind of draft or drawing previous to set-up?
This layout stretch some rough layout, the ideas just want to replicate this peaceful flying city in the nature environment. But sometimes when an idea turn to a picture, there is something in your mind, every part in the movie is the outline of my scape that include a full of vegetation flying city, A gentle breeze on the grassland, a blue sky……
A proportion is very important to a nature style layout, the size of every component in the tank have to consider carefully. The flying land is on far end, so all the leaf shape should be small. On the flying land I choice moss as the major plant. On front end, even a small plant, the visual proportion are bigger, so even I choose hair grass at the front end, it would look like weed at the slope.

Can you tell us how you make the flying land? It was allways in the aquascape or you add it for the pic?
The flying land are on the day one when setup, I would not do a fake photo touch up to my scape, When I decide to replicate this flying city, actually I already have idea how to make this flying land by create an illusion effect to hold the flying land on the glass of the backside. I often have some excess plant after trim or some plant that I not use for the layout but want to keep. I have a spare tank to keep these plant, there are a lot, I cannot plant all at the substrate so I would use some sucker to hold some plant on the glass surface. Those sucker actually is for fixing the tube in the tank, it have different diameter so I could hold a bundle of plant together and suck it on the glass surface.  

The sucker that I use to hold the base of the flying land is the type for partition the tank. Sometimes, people would use this accessories and with a piece of acrylic board to divide the tank into two to avoid the fish fighting. I use three of this type of sucker and two piece of plastic grid form a reverse triangle shape that already provided a sufficient support to the flying land. (see attached image) After the base formed, the next step is to position those small stone and those moss and Anubias.

 In what style would you rate the design of your aquarium?
It hard to define, may be Imagination, Creative with Nature, the only thing I would stick the rule is theme driven, if just layout an aquarium without any theme associate, that aquarium for me are without soul and just an aquarium or picture. I like to express sometime from my layout, which is something like a picture could communicate with you. I write up something that related to this rational behind in our Aquascape Book to express this idea, The whole concept and style of an aquascape I call it CAST of aquascape that contain four basic dimension "Creative", "Aesthetics", "Setup" and "Timing".

Why you choose this fauna for this set-up?
A basic clean team like shrimp, Beehorn Snail, Otocinclus Affinis and Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi. The basic clean team is a co-living fauna in a healthy tank that help to balance the eco system in your tank.   

Did you get any algae in any moment? Why you think it happened? How did you eliminate it?
Very lucky, this setup without any algae issue, I think this is the most easy maintenance layout other than what I create before. After I arrange every plant into position, I just wait for the front end hair grass to spread, only trim few time on the flying land because of over grow. I think regular water change help a lot. I also observe in winter time, an aquarium easier to control than summer, especially in our location. In winter time our room temperature is about 22˚C without using any heater, it is very suitable for most of plant grows and this layout was setup in Autumn.  I don't think algae can be eliminated, especially in tropical zone, higher water temperature will activate a lot of reaction that include algae and bacteria, once the water parameter is suitable for their reproduction, they would grow. I don't think we could control every part of our aquarium to keep in an ideal condition, especially for aquascape, we put everything together are base on aesthetics not let plant naturally grow with proper density. We trim it, the fauna we choice may pollute water and our filter system cannot 100% remove all the wastage effectively. All these uncertainty would turn the water parameter out of the safety zone. How to fix it? Start to think how to control algae grow rate, once the algae grow rate is lower than what the procedure you remove them, algae would gradually gone. It could by your cleaning fauna team, water change, reduce fertilizer and reduce light power. However, you have to aware that the change in water parameter should be in acceptable condition, because in some location, the tap water parameter is not suitable for plant grow, like the GH is too high, under this situation, a water regulation have to apply like proper pre filter process.

 Have you done a regular photo-follow-up of the set-up? Photography helps you to have a clearer image of the development of the aquarium?
Usually, I only take photo in the setup stage to check if the components are on the right position, I seldom take step journal of my creation. About two week before the final photo, I would take a snap shoot to check if there is overgrow or any final adjustment has to apply. Some people like to take step journal to review every stages, however I seldom make a lot of adjustment at the middle stage and I like to let the plant grow freely a while to enhance some nature feel, so for me not necessary to rely on photo to make change.

What technique you used for the finish picture? The flying land give you problems with the lighting?
As usual, I would prefer professional spot flash instead of using the original aquarium light, the flash could support me with the flexibility to adjust different combination of lighting requirement, like this layout, the shadow area under the flying land have to consider, I have to use a standalone spot light to let the shadow area not too dark. I also use a strong power at the right hand side to enhance the depth of the layout.

Have you added or removed any fish for the final picture?
This group of Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi already in my tank for four year, I cannot remember how many generation they delivery. Every year, I saw some small fish born and some old fish pass away. It is around half hundred in my layout. There is no need to retouch the photo for adding extra fish or remove them. Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi is one of my flavour fish for aquascape, once they scare, they school easily, the only decision I have to choice is the schooling direction after photo.

What techniques you use to group the fish for the photo?
To make them scare or unsecure is the easiest way to let them schooling, but sometimes you don't have to do anything they would feel unsecure. When I set up the lighting, usually I would use black cloth to wrap around the tank to avoid reflection, when the surround area suddenly turn dark, they would start schooling, when using flash light, they would even scare and often schooling during I take the picture.

 This set-up was created for contest purposes and will be “dismantled” after the last picture or do you have the intention to keep it for the long run? Do you submit to a contest again this year?
I would not label my creation only for contest, however to gain awareness and to join the community, to participate contest is a plus. Usually, the life cycle for my creation  are six month to about a year, this is not because I don't want to keep them, the major issue is whether you could have infinity tank to setup new layout and you have time to maintain all. In my house, I already have four tanks but only one or two would have layout, the rest are keeping plant, so after the layout is matured, you would have decided how long you keep it so you could have resource to design your new layout. I would not turn it over after the picture, because it is the best moment at that time. I would try to slow down everything, reduce the light and less fertilization so to control the grow rate. This best moment could keep about a month then if by that time I have new idea, I would turn it over, if not, I would keep it at a low consumption level.

How old was the tank when you ran the photo contest?
I cannot exactly remember the life cycle of this layout, I just remember that I start in Autumn and take the photo around summer time next year. When I know I get the second prize of AGA, I still keeping that layout.

Once you finished the scape and after the final picture, what do you think could be improved on the set-up?
My review process always during the development cycle, it is seldom after photo. If I really find something I have to adjust, I would take another photo after the adjustment and that become the final picture. If you are an experience planter, you could control the plant grow to your desired condition. If you are a good aquascaper, you could visual your final layout when you sketch your layout. Planning is very important to me. If really want to find some improvement, I would replace the mid-ground Blyxa japonica. Originally, I want to put something there to balance the floating land on the left, but the leaf shape is too large that spoil the proportion of the visual

Every year we see better hardscapes, with fewer plants. Think you are forgetting the real essence of the planted aquarium?
I think I still keep the balance of hardscape and plant. My latest two layouts "Angkor Wat" and "Great Fall" almost with full vegetation.
To balance the hardscape and plant is one of tactic of a layout, but it is not necessary, I saw those African Cichlid's tank just decorate with stone are also with good visual. In my opinion, plant are not necessary in all aquascape. The term "Aquascape" not just means fresh water planted tank. It only present beautiful decorated aquarium, a sea water aquarium also have good aquascape without any plant but coral.
However, I also observe a lot of layout start replicate different landscape into the aquarium, their objective already not to use aquatic plant as main component; they just want to show a landscape in the tank. Whether it is a good trend or bad, I am open-minded. What I against some of the hobbyist start to build a model in the tank just for their interest and create an eye catching layout, they just use plant and hardscape as media to build that model not to create a beautiful and balance aquatic world for plant and fauna.

It was a pleasure for me to have the chance to interview you, would you like to add anything else?
Thank you for your interview, hope my view would help the other and like to see more people enjoy this activity.