The Violet Fern

A Colorful Tale of a Garden in the Making



When I was a little girl my grandmother took me to a local fair. I threw a ping pong ball into a fish bowl and won a gold fish. Since then I have always kept fish. The bowl graduated into an aquarium – ten gallons at first, then twenty, then fifty five which I still have today.

I have kept many different kinds of fish over the years. I began with a typical community of freshwater tropical fish then dove into African cichlids and then, finding them much too territorial, to African cichlids specific only to Lake Tanganyika who were somewhat less aggressive. I have always kept freshwater fish feeling that up North, saltwater is a bit out of place. My passion for this hobby admittedly waned for awhile but then I discovered Takashi Amano and my passion was renewed. If you have not heard of him, as gardeners, I am certain you will appreciate his exceptional talents in “aquascaping” and photography. Just take a look:

Photo by Takashi Amano
Photo by Takashi Amano
Photo by Takashi Amano
Photo by Takashi Amano
Photo by Takashi Amano
Photo by Takashi Amano

I was completely awestruck when I first viewed Takashi’s photos of his heavily planted freshwater tank designs. How about you?

My tank is now inspired by Takashi. My choice of fish has come full circle and now includes many peaceful community fish such as tetras and loaches (who don’t typically eat or disturb the plantings). My meager tank cannot compare to his creations but I am not as dedicated as Takashi. I do not add CO2. I am certain I do not have ideal lighting. I do fertilize but probably not as regularly as I should. However, I do change my tank water fairly religiously and this is perhaps most important. (In the summer it makes a great garden fertilizer!) In spite of my shortcomings, I still find my tank rewarding. I had other plants but the java fern has taken over and that’s okay. This is an underwater garden and as you all know, gardens sometimes have a will of their own. Best to go with the flow. I love the way the ferns have adhered to the driftwood and sway in the water. I could watch my tank for hours. (The driftwood pieces are replicas molded from real tree roots because the real stuff will rot –  I speak from experience – and affect water quality.) Of course, my photos are not of the expert quality of Takashi’s. Fish are about as easy to photograph as birds, ha, but at the very least you should have a sense of my set up.

My tank.
Congo tetras and young java fern before taking over.
Streak of emperor tetra.
Diamond tetra – doesn’t he sparkle just like diamonds?
Growth of java ferns.

This is I suppose is “my pond.” Please be aware that if you are inspired by the works of Takashi, he has designed aquascapes as small as five gallons! No need to start big. He does have several published books and you can find out more about him and aquascaping with a “google.”


Author: Kathy Sturr

Cultivating art, growing soul, and creating plant-based food in the beautiful 1000 Islands, New York and Cedar Key, Old Florida.

5 thoughts on “Aquascaping

  1. What fun! I find tanks mesmerizing and do miss mine from many years ago. Great shots . . . looking into another world.

  2. His photos seem more like a posed installation – than living fish. But how skilled to create an inviting landscape, under water.

  3. These are amazing underwater arrangements. I bet the fish are extremely happy too!

  4. Having retired from owning a tropical fish shop for 16 years, I spent quite a few minutes admiring your tank. The Java fern is an old friend, but it is the Congo tetras and the emperors that took me back to a very pleasant place. Nothng is more gorgeous than an irridescent school of Congo tetras and the flash of blue on the side of an emperor is stunning. Photographing fish in the winter is great practice for shooting butterflies in the summer.

  5. Pingback: Day 1 Kanapaha Botanical Gardens | The Violet Fern

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