A portion of what was once the habitat of Ambystoma mexicanum, Lake Xochimilco

The 3rd place in the final stage of the Biotope Aquarium Design Contest 2015

mexico Mexico. Victor Manuel Ortiz Cruz

Volume: 180 L
List of fishes: Ambystoma mexicanum
List of plants: Fissidens sp., Fontinalis sp., Bacopa monnieri, Eleocharis parvula, Riccia fluitans, Ludwigia palustris, Eichhornia crassipes
Biotope description: This aquarium is inspired by a portion of one of the margins of the system that forms Lake Xochimilco, as it was in the early twentieth century. It is one of the five lakes that form the basin of the valley of Mexico, in central Mexico. The habitat of the axolotl is lacustrine environments covered with terrestrial vegetation consisting of halophytes, rhizomatous herbaceous grasses and succulent plants of saline, alkaline and poorly drained soils, where corn, flowers, and vegetables grow. The 100% aquatic vegetation is sparse with spontaneous vegetation along streams (Alnus and Salix), Juncus balticus in very small areas, and Bacopa monnieri, Eleocharis parvula, Ludwigia palustris (introduced), some bryophytes in the humid margins (Riccia fluitans, Fissidens sp. and Fontinalis sp.).

Good idea that could be executed better. Planting is thick, but plants look they could be positioned better. On this type of contest it’s important to make an aquarium that looks like it was here for at least a month, so paying attention to details like how Eleocharis looks can bring you higher points. This aquarium would certainly look better when it gets older. I dont like gray substrate, it would be better if the contestant used brown colour, wich could be achieved by mixing various substrate types.

Petra Bašić (Croatia)

Really nice and quite natural, even if we can’t compare it with the original lake near Mexico City anymore, because the lake has been destroyed. But many habitats look like this Biotope aquarium. Great set up!

Heiko Blessin (Germany)

It’s nice to see an axolotl biotope, and good for a record to be made of a habitat and species which is so critically endangered and so likely to disappear. Ignoring the aquascape above the waterline and judging it that way does make this scape more ordinary, but I like the way Axolotls are lurking in the shallows and the haphazard wood and rocks which to me imitate a lake shore which is used by both man and nature.

Jeremy Gay (Great Britain)

This tank, together with Australia & Oceania, had the best composition of animals – I mean, only one species, which can live very well in aquarium of such size. Victor also had a very good idea about stocking the tank with axolotls, instead of fish. Decorations and composition were quite well balanced, however there was one drawback – the plants were grown underwater, and Victor planted them as emersed ones. Of course he couldn’t know that he will receive underwater-grown plants, but anyway – he could try to adjust the composition according to this situation (as he did in the “New Design” at Ecological Center). Plants grown underwater planted as emersed ones didn’t look good – especially Eleocharis and Bacopa. Besides, Victor could also have learned already that it is not a good idea to readjust decorations after the first night – moving the substrate caused the water to become cloudy again…

Piotr Kierzkowski (Poland)

Good work, but the small brown gravel doesn’t fit with the other hardscape material. The mosses could be more arranged.

André Longarço (Brazil)

On the second place I put Víctor (North America), although he set up biotope aquarium in the style of aquaterrarium. There was no fish there, only axolotles. I read somewhere that they live on a very dark ground. Most likely, it is not sand, but earth, but where do we get the earth in the final from? Víctor clearly showed the coastal zone, and plants were planted pretty correctly. I liked one small detail – a certain amount of dried leaves floating on the surface, as in nature. It is the very small detail, but such details make the overall impression. I gave only 2 points less than to the first place.

Alexey Malyshev (Russia)

Great setup with a great conservancy message. I always respect people that take their time to spread eco-awareness and this is exactly what this set up expresses. This is an extremely elaborate aquarium biotope replica. Victor made an exceptional job creating different “levels” or “sections” in the underwater habitat which blend inconspicuously into one another. This is hard to pull off. I would have dimmed the lights to make the whole aquarium darker. One of the only things that I did not like about this aquarium was how crowded and packed the aquatic plants were placed in the back.

Ivan Mikolji (Venezuela)

I think this is a very natural looking tank subtly featuring a beautiful and interesting animal. I love the creative indent in the substrate for the filter inlet and the approach to layering. Been very effective at concealing filters pipes etc. Nice work!

Paul Talbot (Australia)