Backwater of a small forest tributary of Itenez River in Noel Kempff Mercado National Park in Bolivia

The 1st place in the final stage of the Biotope Aquarium Design Contest 2015

russian_federation Russia. Svetlana Kirillova

Volume: 180 L
List of fishes: Mikrogeophagus altispinosus, Carnegiella strigata, Corydoras sterbai, Gymnocorymbus ternetzi, Hyphessobrycon megalopterus
List of plants: Lilaeopsis brasiliensis, Ludwigia inclinata, Ludwigia sedioides, Cabomba aquatica, Echinodorus xingu
Biotope description: Noel Kempff Mercado National Park is located in the Province of José Miguel de Velasco in northeast Santa Cruz Department in eastern Bolivia. Forests of the park are not affected by humans. Itenez (Guaporé) River separates it from Brazil. Of about 250 species of fish living in the river 25 are endemic. In the area of ​​rainforest streams flow into it, forming backwaters inhabited by small fishes, for example, Carnegiella strigata and Hyphessobrycon megalopterus. The water is clear, fairly soft and brownish due to humic acids dissolved in it. Aquatic plants form a shelter for small cichlids, such as Bolivian butterfly. Parts of sandy bottom covered with fallen leaves attract catfish Corydoras sterbai.

I would say this aquarium represents traditional style of biotope aquarium, because it has alot of fish species and various plants that live in certain biotope, but all that is put in small volume of water, arranged like aquascape. As part of the research for my new project, I saw submersed “dutch gardens” in nature, but usually one plant species is covering atleast 50 x 50 cm. The biotope would be better presented if only 2-3 species of plants were used.

Petra Bašić (Croatia)

It’s a beautiful aquarium, which most people would like to have at home. But it doesn’t look very natural. The plants are arranged like in an aquascape and a few leafs on the bottom doesn’t change an aquarium into a biotope aquarium! 90 % of the roots in natural biotopes are comming from the top and not from the bottom. Only single and sunken parts of roots are laying on the bottom. The arrangement of the plants look to artificial. Again: Nice tank but not much a Biotope aquarium.

Heiko Blessin (Germany)

This is the best of the finalists for me as it combines biotopically correct fish species with modern aquascaping techniques, which work together to make both a biotope and an eye catching planted aquascape in one. We don’t often see Bolivian biotopes verses other south American recreations and I think the fish would be happy to live long term in that tank, and thrive.

Jeremy Gay (Great Britain)

Very nice tank, but in my opinion it was not a biotope aquarium – but an aquascape. So many species of plants, concentrated on such a small area of bottom – it certainly doesn’t look like this in the nature (or at least – doesn’t look like this in natural biotopes which I saw). Also, in my opinion there were too many species of fishes for such a small tank. So many species would look natural in a tank of about 2000 liters size, or more. Each species could be represented by a large group, like 50 individuals or so, as they occur in nature. But in tank which was only 180 liters – hmmm…

Piotr Kierzkowski (Poland)

I like the plants arrangement, but the overall arrangement is too “over planned”. I think that in the nature the scene is messier than this. But I like the balance and harmony between fishes and environment. The Tetras are very happy.

André Longarço (Brazil)

The best aquarium in my opinion was Svetlana’s one (South America). It was decorated not bad. And it is most important that fish correspond to the selected region. All they are from Bolivia and the Guaporé River Basin. It is highly probable that in the wild they can live together. Moreover, I took into account severe restrictions of choice of decorations and aquatic organisms in the final.

Alexey Malyshev (Russia)

Svetlana created a state of the art biotope aquarium setup. I do not know how she did it, but she did it! The accuracy and similarity with the actual biotope is amazing. I have underwater habitat images in the wild that look just like this incredible masterpiece. When I saw the video and images of this biotope I was amazed. I just sat in front of my computer staring at it… smiling. The plants used and the way they were placed have a great impact on the biotope setup quality. The hatchet fish swimming on the top, the tetras in the middle and the rams and Corydoras in the bottom create a balanced and interesting to see “aquarium show”. Svetlana has set a new level in the biotope aquaria with this aquarium. Congratulations!

Ivan Mikolji (Venezuela)

This tank is beautifully done highlighting a lovely combination of interesting fish and décor. This tank displays excellent contrast, dynamics and texture. Masterful colour blending. Very natural unmanufactured look, great job!

Paul Talbot (Australia)