The history of planted aquariums, goes back to the beginning of the hobby, which began seriously in the early 1930’s. I managed to gather in my early years in the Hobby magazines, such as Water Life, the Aquarist and others. I remember well reading advertisements for Everglades Aquatic Nurseries. This nursery was founded by A Mr.Greenberg, who ran this company for years, and lived I understand to the age of 90 odd years. They offered a large selection of plants, and presumably many stores and hobbyists bought from them in those and subsequent years. The company still exists today in Florida, and supplies aquatic plants to the trade.However the really serious development of the highly planted aquarium, with a large variety of plants, along with their specialized individual requirements began in the Netherlands, a few years after the war. This development took place with a two or three leading plant growers and importers. Holland was especially well placed to create and be a pioneer in this kind of venture, for two major reasons. Firstly they had the connections from their former colony of what today is Indonesia, where a great many interesting aquatic plants come from. Secondly, the country is foremost in greenhouse cultivation of house plants and much else, so the progression to aquarium plants was natural and a good opportunity. As the production increased, they exported them all over Europe and further a ?eld. Naturalists who discovered new plants and made a specialty of same such as Arie de Graaf, also made their impression on the market, and Holland soon became the premier country for this trade. There are still large producers in Holland, although other developments have taken place from the early seventies onwards. The Hobbyists along with some of the Naturalists, and the Aquarium magazines promoted the keeping of highly planted tanks, and this became known as the Dutch system. However not everyone was able to successfully reproduce the beauty of these aquariums, this no doubt due to the lack of many critical inputs, which were discovered later on by other researchers. Suf?cient numbers did succeed however to keep the interest alive and even to enlarge it.In the early 70’s a Dane by the name of Holger Winderlov began what was at ?rst a small company in Ega Denmark. Holger brought a tremendous attention to detail, and scienti?c
method in rearing a very wide variety of plants (more than 150 species at last count). This company began exporting high quality plants worldwide, and continues to grow to this day. They raise and sell over 2 million plants a year and employ a staff of some 40 persons. This company with it’s excellent quality, made a pro- found impression on the hobby, and in?uenced many developments which were to follow.
Today many if not all of the plants cultivated by the company, begin life using the latest techniques of tis- sue culture, which brings a further re?nement to the quality, for which Holger Winderlov, and his company Tropica has become famous.
Tropica has also made another contribution to the hobby, in having created some important hybrids, some of which are now an accepted part of mainstream plant catalogues all over he world. This is because these -created additions- like so many ?owers, that man has bred genetically, are beautiful and have great appeal to a wide spectrum of hobbyists.
Tropica also made an innovation, in passing on to the aquarists much more detail about what was required to maintain the plants they sold. Needless to say serious hobbyists appreciated this kind of technical advice and help. The next major milestone came a few years later, when a German aquar- ist by the name of Horst Kipper decided to create a company devoted to high technology in planted aquariums, as well as Reef Aquariums. This company is called Dupla Aquaristik., He had cooperated with a Kaspar Horst in the development, of several important new innovations, and this cooperation continued over the next 15 years or more.
Kaspar Horst had been a keen devotee of plants for aquariums, and has several important discover- ies to his credit. These include the problem of iron de?ciency, as well as the use and method of in- troduction of CO2 gas to the aquarium, in a practical manner. In 1976 he with others created a Plant register in Germany, and until 1981 edited a magazine for specialists called Aqua Planta. He went on many expeditions to Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, with devoted hobbyists and sometimes Horst Kipper, with whom he was on excellent terms. Together with Horst Kipper, they wrote a milestone book on planted aquariums called Das Perfekte Aquarium.
Horst Kipper, was a keen aquarist since early childhood. He met Kaspar Horst in 1966, and they cooperated together for several years. At that time Horst Kipper, was running a German Aquarium company which was subsequently taken over by Tetra. In 1977 Horst Kipper founded his own com- pany Dupla Aquaristik in his home town of Melle, and Horst Kipper became a partner. It would seem that it is no coincidence that Melle is not only the home of Tetra, but also of many other famous names in the German Aquarium scene, even today
Anyway the Dupla company had an enormous success for several years, as their high quality and beautiful planted aquariums, and Reef Aquariums, which were shown worldwide at every im- portant trade show, were the envy of the competition and rapidly had devotees in all the important countries. However as Dupla did not produce plants, it made a strategic alliance with Tropica, with the result that in many countries where Dupla sold it’s products, the same agent would also vend the Tropica plants. This cooperation was bene?cial to both parties, as it ensured that high quality technology would be avail- able to those dealers and hobbyists who wished to maintain long lived and beautiful planted aquariums. This coopera- tion led to the next major development in the history of Landscaped Aquariums. Regrettably in 2002 the company Dupla went into bankruptcy. In Germany there was a major grower of aquarium plants called Dennerle. This company was probably the leading producer of Aquarium Plants in what was at the time West Germany. They began to feel a major impact and potential long term threat to their business by the alliance of Dupla & Tropica. Therefore in the early 80’s Dennerle began to create an alternative range of products to Dupla, and of course was then able to offer their customers, the advan- tage of plants and equipment all from the same source. The approach of Dupla and Dennerle differs in some aspects in their suggested technological approach, but it not the purpose of this book, to make a decision for or against either method. Suf?ce it to say, that the major inputs such as CO2 systems, and lighting are not all that different from each other. Both companies have their devotees, just as we do in America, between the consumers of -Coke- or -Pepsi- and other similar competing brands.
Dennerle not only offered a range of products as well as high quality plants, but began to offer sche- matics to their dealers and hobbyists, which showed how to plant in varying combinations to achieve a really spectacular effect. This made it possible for many whom may have lacked artistic skills to reproduce selected scenes with reasonable accuracy. While Dupla entered the market ?rst, and was initially very successful, later on they made many major marketing mistakes, by working with agents who were not reliable, and also by lack of follow through which is vital in a technology based group of products. This was probably accelerated when Horst Kipper, went to live in Australia, and to some extent lost the day to day control of his compa- ny. Dennerle however, was very thorough in his marketing approach, and by the end of the 80’s and early nineties, had an enormous market , not only in Germany and Europe, but also throughout most of the countries of Asia, such as Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, and many others. This tremendous success, led to the next major development.
Japan has a special interest in house plants and related subjects. These plants are ubiquitous in the tiny houses and apartments that are predominant in that country. Japanese housing is typically miniscule compared to US or European, and this minuteness, leads them to be especially creative in decoration to compensate. It is the Japanese after all that developed the art of Bonzai. Japan also had several stores which sold only aquarium plants, these shops do not sell ?sh. This was to the author an astonishing revelation, as nowhere else in the world had I come across such specialized stores. When in 1993 I visited two such stores in Tokyo, one could see immediately that they were doing very large dollar sales, and of course were selling a great many Dennerle, and Dupla products, as well as quite a number of Japanese made items. In Japan, which was possibly after Germany Dennerle’s largest market, a former professional cycling champion, and world class photographer, by the name of Takashi Amano watched carefully at the impact of Dennerle on the Japanese market. He also had an aquarium store in a small village near the town of Nigata on the North West coast of Japan. Amano decided that he could improve upon the offerings of both Dennerle and Dupla. Around 1994 he burst upon the Japanese scene, with a vengeance, having created not only a range of products which paralleled Dennerle/Dupla etc, but also came with a couple of very important innovations of his own which made the aquariums even more beautiful. He was able to promote his products, with tremendous success, Above all because of his ability as a photographer, which he utilized to promote his range of products with brochures, a magazine, books and more, to a degree and quality which competitors could not match.
Amano also brought to the hobby, an exceptional capability in terms of artistic landscaping of the plants. Neither Dennerle nor Dupla could compare to the aesthetic beauty of his creations, nor his publications, three of which were later published in the USA in the series of books by T.F.H. under the titles of Nature’s Aquarium World..
Possibly one of the most dramatic innovations of Amano, was his discovery that the ?oating plant Riccia ?uitans, could be made with applied technology, to become an submersed plant covering rocks etc, and creating a lawn effect which was outstanding in it’s beautiful appearance. Other plants which Amano also perfected the use of were Glossostigma elatinoides, Micranthemum mi- cranthemum as well as several others. Of course Amano being Japanese could bring products and promotional material to the dealers and hobbyists, in Japanese that easily surpassed the efforts of Dennerle or Dupla. Within a short period of time, some 4000 stores in Japan were dealers in Ama- no’s products, and Dennerle’s market was considerably impacted, in Japan and some other Asian markets.
Amano also with his wonderful artistic ability coupled with his outstanding capability as a photogra- pher, brought creativity in Landscaping to the hobby, which no other company to date has managed to equal. These photographs, as shown in his various books and magazines, without any doubt stimulated a new wave of enthusiasm for Landscaped Aquariums, as they brought the art to a new niveau. Amano’s success was naturally assisted by the Japanese attraction to small plants such as Bonsai. The Japanese artistry as a people made this new offering an obvious attraction, especially as Amano mar- keted properly in a professional manner and added a special approach which is the embodiment of his company.
However Amano’s efforts to expand his base to Europe and the USA, were not so successful. Firstly the products were excessively expensive, due in some part to the high cost of the Japanese Yen, but also because few if any of his products are actually made by his company, but made for him to Amano’s designs. Furthermore in Europe, Amano made the same error that Dupla had made in earlier years in other markets. He selected as an agent for all of Europe, a person who had a history of not following through, and this coupled with the very high cost of his products, has made Amano, a marginal player in the European theater.
In the USA, a similar story took place, when Amano gave his agency to a person in Florida, who al- though very enthusiastic about the products and the future of planted aquariums, failed for a variety of reasons to make any serious headway into the US market. That same company was folded in 1999, after only two years of operation.
Amano however has become known to the American public, by the large coverage given to his com- pany and design of Landscaped Aquariums, by the genius of Dr. Herbert Axelrod, who arranged to publish a series of books by TFH under the title of Nature’s Aquarium World. This short history of the planted aquarium, sets the stage, for what I sincerely believe is about to become an important part of the aquarium hobby in the USA, and hopefully in some part at least, to do away with the use of plastic plants. In this book we illustrate some of the products that can be used to create and maintain a beautiful Aquarium Landscape. Many though not all, of the products are one’s that we have developed over the years in the growing of our plants, and which worked best for us. There are many other good products out there, and a few that are not so good. We hope the reader will understand this. We invite you to read on.
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