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When taking part in this unique project, you contribute to promoting biotope aquaria and help learning harmony, from nature. When doing your fascinating research on a biotope of freshwater aquatic organisms, you show the beauty of the underwater world and at the same time draw public attention to the problems that threaten the ecology of natural waterbodies.

Prize pool: € 3,000 + diplomas + certificates + magazine
Accepting entries:
 September 1st – 30th
Evaluating entries: October 11st – 31st
Results: December 1st

This year all contestants should provide a video of their biotope aquaria.

Blank catalog, magazines,book mock up on wood background


After the contest a commemorative catalogue will be issued with all the contest aquaria, as well as several informative articles devoted to biotope aquaristic. Your aquarium can be published there!
The catalogue will be presented to 10 top participants and the members of the jury.

You can get inspiration in the works of the previous contest, by purchasing the 2017 edition for only $ 10 including delivery by post. You can pay via PayPal.



JBL Company is the world leader in development and production of goods for terrarium, aquarium and pond. The company’s success is based on a scientific approach to product development. JBL Company annually organizes research expeditions to different parts of the planet and explores natural habitats of fishes.

JBL GmbH & Co. KG

Heiko Bleher


For the Biotope Contest  I would like to give some advice for all lovers and enthusiasts of these contests, for the lovers of nature, as well as to conservationists and aquarium hobbyists. When you participate to such a prestigious event and want to do it correct to nature, correct to how fishes and invertebrates live in harmony together, in most aquatic habitats, often in a tiny biotope all their life, please make sure of the following: 1. Before you start do a thorough research about the place on Earth you want to make a biotope from, and look up the following, step by step, but please not only in the internet. Make sure to compare what is written in published books, in magazines articles and during conferences on biotope aquaria, already taking place worldwide every year, as well as biotope aquarium contests of the past and present. One can also find some on my web site www.aquapress-bleher.com under “Bleher’s Biotopes” and look for: – Continent; country; river or lake; and a small bay or habitat you want to decorate. – Check correct names for fishes* and plants, which you can find in many publications. – Verify if the place is a shady or sunny area where the living forms dwell. – And check what the species community of fishes and sometimes plants is, which live together, and possibly also floating plants and invertebrates. 2. Once you have accumulated this information, check the size of the aquarium you want to decorate and the light you want over it, or from the front, best in an angle, and naturally the materials to be used. And remember, that many natural biotopes have fine sandy grounds, some only rocks and gravel, and others dwell over soft ground or over leaves and submerged branches of trees. Also it is important to know that some species in such a biotope have their particular niche. 3. Once you have done your home work, have decorated your aquarium and are ready to send it in for the contest, make sure: – That you have made excellent photos from all sides, and some of your fishes. – That there is a good (even short but correct) write up of the biotope, with a precise location – never write words like “Amazon”, “Rio Negro”, “Mekong”, “Murray”, “Volga” or “Rhine” rivers, and much less South America, Africa or Asia for your biotope aquarium. Such poor information will make you lose judging point, as well as wrong fish names or plant names**. Naturally it is good to write which continent, country, river or lake, your biotope can be found (belongs to), but make it as precise as possible, also the use of GPS for the location is very helpful. Mention what lives there (also what you may not show), and something about the environment. If possible also water parameters. These are my sincere suggestion, and if you follow those and make a nice natural biotope – which is really easy to do and not as difficult and time-consuming as aquascape decoration, you have very good chances to win, and to have a beautiful biotope in your home for ever. I will also participate in the contest, separate from the other judges, and my winner will receive a special prize. Now get started, all the best from the jungles and biotopes in Vietnam. Always Heiko Bleher * Correct fish names – 100% updated – you can find at Catalogue of Fishes web site. ** Correct plant names are available in good plant books or catalogues.

Ivan Mikolji


When I was a kid, my father and I used to keep Siamese fighting fish, Mollies, Ram cichlids and Eel loaches all together, in the same tank. We filled the aquarium with coloured sand, bleached corals and plastic plants. Boy, it all looked so great back in the day! Back then the hobby was a very small circle consisting of my father (who paid), me and the pet store. Today things have gotten a lot more interesting. I am now part of a bigger circle, consisting of an uncountable number of hobbyists worldwide, like you. We still visit the store for gear but look for knowledge and answers elsewhere, online, in books, in nature, like scientists. Together we are creating a new path that is leading us back to the origin of where all of our plants and animals come from. Haven’t you all realized this? I am proud to see so many of you participate and honoured to go along with you all in this cool ride. This year we had a record of 105 biotope tanks registered. This inspires me; being a part of something that is like a plant or animal, alive and growing. I salute all the participants, judges and specially the organizers and sponsors of such an important event.

Michael Salter


Over the years, I’ve watched as the Biotope Aquarium Design Contest has grown and evolved. When it began there were fewer entries, and some could not really be called biotopes. Many had to be disqualified for having themes that were too broad, like “South American”. But as the winners set the bar, more and more people from more and more countries entered every year and we began to set ultra-realistic biotopes from Mexico, Russia, Taiwan, and many other locations, often based on local habitats from firsthand experience. Each year we were surprised with more outstanding and original biotopes. There were some disagreements along the way that sparked healthy debate on what the true meaning and requirements of a biotope should be. Is it cruel to have a resident prey population, or natural? How important should aesthetics be? How sustainable should the system be? These questions have reshaped the judgment criteria profoundly. This year was more difficult to judge than any other due to the high number of truly exceptional biotopes. There were number of never-before-attempted habitats represented, with unusual inhabitants like crayfish, pipefish, and amphibians. It’s exciting to see that this passion to craft true biotopes is spreading and progressing.

Mert Aykuta


The biotope aquarium is a really important part of this hobby, for me the most important. The basic aim of this hobby is to train and nurture living aquatic organisms. For this reason, we must provide perfect conditions for these organisms. To do this, we first need to know well the natural habitats of these organisms. Every year Biotope Aquarium Design Contest is supporting and motivating people which are interested in biotopes. Everyone around the world is learning new information of habitats they don't know every year with this contest. This is really important attempt to develop biotope aquaristic. This year I am very pleased with the participants. I just need to say, I saw aquascaping style in some biotopes. They seem amazing but a little bit far from naturalness. Please note that visual beauty and naturalness must be balanced! Every year the contest is becoming more difficult, and this is really exciting. I can’t wait for next year. I have some advices for participants for next year. If you really want to finish this contest with good rewards, you need to care about these advices. - First you should choose little specific habitat you want to create biotope aquarium about. - You should choose specific title for your biotope. This title should describe the real habitat completely. - You should collect most correct information about this habitat (fishes, invertebrates, plants, materials, water parameters etc.) - Please be careful not to use prey and predators together. Otherwise this will reduce your points. - You should give us detailed and correct information about habitat and your aquarium. - To provide harmony of aquarium, you should choose materials you will use and colours of living organisms in best way. You should use every part of aquarium to give occupancy rate (this can change according to the habitat you choose, if a habitat has poor bottom, you should not use much materials). To use every region in aquarium you should choose correct fishes. - Your aquarium should not be overpopulated. Your aquarium should be suitable for size of fishes you feed. - Naturalness and visual beauty should be in balance. You should create natural aquarium, but at the same time every part of this aquarium should look perfect and clear. - You should spend enough time for taking photos and videos. This is one of most important parts of this contest. Capability of showing us what you created is important that much what you created. If you prepare good videos, we want to watch them until the end. If you take photos of all parts of your aquarium, we can see every detail. It means more points for you. - Please share every information sources. Information sources you share with us will be really important for us to evaluate your work. This will bring you more points. *Please do not forget. The aquarium you make must look as impressive, at least as important a real biotope is. Good luck for everyone next year!

Petra Bašić


Everything that I have said last year needs to be repeated and emphasized throughout the years to come. This time I would like to thank the organizers of the contest for reaching new standards in promoting this wonderful niche in aquaristic hobby. With this contest and the beautiful work from the contestants hopefully it will grow up to be not a niche, but a fully recognized part of aquarium hobby in the world. Now, more than ever it is important to catch a glance of the natural habitats, intact habitats, as they are disappearing at enormous rate. The contestants, applying for the BADC, for sure have learnt some new things about the organisms that they wanted to present to us and also about their habitats, and that should be a lesson for all of us. Knowledge is the power, and the only thing that sticks to us for the rest of our lives. Unfortunately, some of the habitats at some point in time will exist only as pictures in this contest. Then, the knowledge and ecology will have to work together to make those habitats as they are supposed to be. I feel proud and honoured to be the one of the judges and as my friend would say: “Keep biotoping”!

Ivan Mikolji


To me, the creation of biotope aquariums, is one of the greatest movements in the aquarium hobby today. Aiming to recreate what most closely resembles the conditions found in the homes of our aquarium occupants can be super fun, entertaining, and fascinating. Researching and investigating what the habitats of our favorite fish really looks like can be an eye opener to many people. The natural look of a habitat could be completely different than what we think it would be. Simulating a killifish puddle in Africa or that of a fast flowing river in Canada opens up a whole new world of opportunity in our aquarium hobby and design. Such a pursuit can make you fall in love with the hobby all over again. Biotope aquariums encourage us to investigate, learn, and mimic the design that nature provides for aquatic life. Biotoping has driven many aquarists to go out in the wild and explore these rarely sought out environments. With the aid of new accessible underwater cameras, images and videos of natural habitats can now be found more abundantly on the web. Every year, more and more aquarists realize that there is a whole world beyond their aquariums and join the biotoping fever. They also realize that the rivers, streams and other bodies of water near their homes are much more interesting than what they thought. Exploring your local area brings a sense of value to your natural world and makes the whole world know and appreciate what you have found and learned. The knowledge derived from this process can lead us to be better aquarium life keepers and breeders. Biotope aquariums give us the insights into what optimally suits the plants, animals and fish within our aquarium while expanding our knowledge and having fun.

Alexey Malyshev


There are many areas in aquaristic. Biotope aquarium occupies a special place. Recreating natural waterbodies includes copying not only natural biotopes with similar natural decorations, water parameters and live fish and plants that live in a certain biotope together, but also best conditions for keeping and breeding fish. In the last few decades on the aquarium market, there is a huge variety of rare fish caught in nature, and they can not be called home fish. Savages can not adapt in a non-standard environment and live in constant stress. It is therefore recommended to create conditions in aquaria, similar to the waterbodies where fishes were caught (neighbors, decorations, plants). It is proved that wild-caught fish placed in a biotope aquarium start quickly feel at home, begin eating just 1-3 hours later and quickly feel better after a long quarantine and transportation. There were cases when fish spawned directly at the exhibition within a few hours after beibg put into an aquarium. In addition, biotope aquarium can be very beautiful. It is known that Nature is the best designer. Undoubtedly, the biotope aquarium competition contribute to the development of biotope aquaristic, and therefore, the conservation of many rare fish through acclimatization and breeding. Biotope Aquarium Design Contest is one of the most popular and largest, it has been held for several years.

Víctor Ortiz


Why are biotope aquaria so important? The aquaristic can be a very important step in understanding and conservation of aquatic species, because to get people interested in learning and protecting habitats and species, they must known first, what are they going to take care of. Biotope aquaria allow people to research those species of interest (fish, crustaceans, amphibians, etc.), without disturbing the habitat, so it became an important part of environmental education and environmental awareness. The same was in the case of Profundulus oaxacae, an endemic fish of the Valley of Oaxaca in Mexico, which was unknown to people, even forgotten for science. Scientists did not known many aspects of their basic biology. In a biotope aquarium their habitat was recreated as real as possible, so that people could see it, get interested and promote protection. Also when recreating their habitat we learned about their life and generated strategies for captive breeding and release into habitat, and to promote their protection. Today 2 years after recreation of their habitat in a biotope aquarium, P. oaxacae, commonly known as Oaxacan Killi, from unknown fish became world famous. Now we know many aspects of its life cycle, and it can be bred in captivity for conservation and - why not? - also to be introduced in the world of aquaristic. And now the work with new species is being started, those that have been neglected for a long time as live food, because to highlight their beauty and importance, they must be known, and that is where biotope aquaria play a very important role.

Jeremy Gay

Great Britain

I'm so glad that this competition goes ahead, and that it's reach spreads further through the hobby every year. For these are the real Nature Aquariums, the real aquascapes, the aquariums which are designed to replicate and mirror the natural underwater world, and ones which are designed to make our captive fish feel at home. For in biotope aquaria fish can live and behave as they do in the wild, the wild they have adapted and evolved over millennia to survive in, where every unique species of flora and fauna is niche, yet interconnected. Due to the internet and digital photography there has never been a better time to set up biotope aquaria. The great living explorers or native peoples can be contacted at the push of a button, and can instantly provide pictures and data for each habitat and its inhabitants. This data can be vital to helping us understand not only how to keep, feed and breed fish in captivity, but also why and how to protect their habitats in the wild. In order to create an accurate biotope aquarium it’s the detail that counts. Proper research will reveal not only the substrate and aquatic plant types, but also the terrestrial plants, which may also directly play their part by providing cover with their submerged roots but also indirectly, via fallen seeds, leaves and nuts. It’s the detail that will provide the answers as to why certain fish look or behave a certain way, or are prevented by reproducing in captivity as they do routinely in the wild. The detail matters when creating the perfect biotope. Water temperatures, chemistry, colour and decor can differ even between stretches of the same river, and each will be preferred and inhabited by its own intricately adapted, biotope correct species.

Dimitris Ioannou


Biotope aquaria are an apex of aquarium hobby. It is so easy, but so complicated to create a biotope aquarium, a picture, a little piece of nature in your home enclosed in a glass box. I like biotope aquarium because with the way we set up such an aquarium we offer to our fishes the most comfortable conditions and we try to create a real home for them, a home that they probably have not ever seen before as they were born in captivity. And when we put them in a proper one, they will immediately recognize that it is their home. Only then fishes will show us the most beautiful colours and their actual nature. But in order to succeed in this, we have to study a lot, to look, to ask. For all these reasons Biotope Aquarium Design Contest is a great opportunity to see many beautiful biotope aquaria together, and meet habitats that we did not know before.

Michael Salter


Why make biotopes? What is the point? Why do we care if the fish and plants in our aquaria come from the same biotope? Well you might ask. Life everywhere has coevolved for millions of years with other life forms in incredibly intricate webs of symbiosis and interdependency. Thus when we look in a section of a jungle stream in Borneo or a Cenote in the Yucatan peninsula, what we find is anything but a random collection fishes and plants. Each is uniquely adapted both physically and in terms of its behavior to that specific ecosystem, and also to living with the other inhabitants. It is this special balance that we strive to emulate with biotope aquaria. And the more precisely we are able to achieve this, the more extraordinary and often surprising emergent qualities of that Biotope manifest before our very eyes. For in this situation the inhabitants exhibit their natural instincts and behaviors to the fullest - courting, displaying, schooling, constructing nests, foraging, spawning, and defending territories. The result is endlessly unfolding knowledge right there and is the real attraction of biotope aquaria. What you are witnessing is just as it would be in nature, or very near it. Add to this the fact that many Biotopes are incredibly beautiful to look at, just as the natural habitats often are, and it is no wonder that more and more hobbyists are smitten with the biotope approach. We have watched the entrants to this contest grow and improve their efforts every year, until they have reached levels of realism that we never imagined possible. It is our great pleasure to introduce to you the 2016 biotope contest, and we await this year's offerings with great anticipation. Take up the challenge and join us on a journey to recreate unique microhabitats from the furthest reaches of the wilderness.

Mert Aykuta


Biotope aquariums are an important part of the hobbie that we are inside. Because I believe that the aquarium hobby is much more than fish maintaining. It is our most basic duty to provide the most suitable living environment for the species we wish to feed. lf the hobbyist have a biotope aquarium in their special living space, they can see natural behavior of species they want to feed and a part of those nature. What an amazing idea! İn this way we can see the natural colors,relations and behaviors of the species and at the same time we can have a natural space we can watch together with all parameters and materials which these species need which are necessary for… Of course it is not so easy to have all these things. The concept of biotope is a very clear concept that seems mixed and contains many rules. Above all, biotope aquariums relate not only to a visual simulation of natural habitats, but also to the underwater structure of the habitat, to the water values, and to the symbiotic and non-symbiotic relationships of species in the habitat, so the ability to collect accurate information is as important as the ability to design biotopes. lf you want to create a correct biotope, l have some recommendations for you, first of all, you have to choose which region the biotope aquarium belongs to and you have to reduce the biotope to a specific small area in this region. For example you can not make biotope for whole Malawi Lake or Amazon River even if your aquarium is 20.000 liter.To create a biotope, you must select a specific area in Amazon or Malawi such as Chizumulu Island or Rio Nanay. Then, you have to find all living things (plants, invertebrates, fish, etc.) in this area and choose to use species that can live in harmony with each other. You can find information on almost all of these habitats in the internet, books and magazines. The natural appearance of a biotope aquarium is always a step above visual beauty. For this reason, you should pay attention to the placement of the materials you use and the suitability to the biotope(for example, using a rock with sharp lines in a fast flowing stream biotope is a major mistake etc.). If you want to win this competition, you must have a good-looking biotope aquarium. While you imitate nature in your aquarium, you must also present a visual feast. It's all your talent and imagination. Biotope aquarium design competition is becoming more and more common and hobbyists are building more biotope aquariums each year. With this competition, it is obvious how important this information is and that the sharing of information is growing rapidly. As biotope aquariums are multiplied, fish are fed on more favorable conditions and the time spent on aquarium care is reduced. I think this is a very good example to follow this hobby correctly and we are very happy to be part of this competition.

Piotr Kierzkowski


Biotope aquarium is a tank which imitates natural conditions in which our aquarium fishes live in the wild. Most natural underwater habitats do not look like brightly illuminated, densely planted aquascapes, supplied with CO2. In the wild there is a lot of mud and dead plant matter on the bottom (like leaves and twigs fallen from trees growing over the water), and light is often subdued, so plants can grow only close to water surface. Such environment may seem to be “dirty”, but this is not true. When skilfully arranged, biotope aquarium can be very beautiful. What is more important, however, is the fact that it also provides optimal conditions for the fishes, allowing them to fully express their natural, innate behavior. It's not only about water parameters, but also about careful selection of decorations, adjusted to the needs of a particular species (or set of species) of fishes. Doing a careful research before selecting a particular species of fish is important – to know where it comes from, and what exactly are its requirements. Fine sand, brown water and lots of debris on the bottom for black-water tetras and dwarf cichlids, stones and fast current for fishes living in streams, lots of shells for shell-dwellers from lake Tanganyika – all this makes our fishes feel truly at home. The master class of biotope aquariums is Biotope Aquarium Design Contest, organized every year. Aquarium designers from all over the world send photos of their tanks, along with detailed description of the natural biotope which they recreated in their aquarium. This allows to spread the knowledge about biotope aquariums, and to learn more about true conditions to which our aquarium fishes are adapted. Don't hesitate – apply for the contest, and give yourself a chance to win!

Petra Bašić


In today's world we are witnessing a continuous destruction of the environment. Nearly 3,000 species of fish are endangered and the same number of species is not sufficiently explored in order to know their status. Biotope aquaria provide us with a glimpse into the world as it once was, perfect and unchanged. And the possibilities are endless. You can choose from rocky lakes of Africa, shallow tributary of the Amazon to the brackish water with interesting species. When you say that you have a biotope aquarium, it means you have a window to a piece of nature. And it can’t get better than this. But some people may say "Ah, biotope aquarium is easy, just put in a pile of leaves and branches with an appropriate combination of fish and that's it." Are you sure that in this habitat you can find so many leaves on the bottom or the water flow is too strong for the leaves to accumulate? Even if you get right plants, are you sure that they grow underwater and not on banks above water? There are so many questions that must be answered in order to copy a true natural habitat in the aquarium successfully. One way to get better at biotope aquaria is participating in contests. Biotope Aquarium Design Contest made a major shift in the aquarium hobby. The contest has strengthened and popularized biotope branch of hobby and is currently the strongest international competition. Every year, the biotopes become better and better and there is a lot to learn from them. I can't wait to see what interesting biotopes contestants will prepare this year!

Heiko Blessin


Dear aquarium and biotope aquarium keepers, We are happy that biotope aquarium keeping is increasing all around the world! Many aquascaper switched to biotope scaping because it is much more challenging. You don’t just design a beautiful layout, but you have to combine beauty with natural facts and elements from the natural prototype! Biotope scaping starts already with your choice of a natural biotope: You need to google information and pictures. You have to find out, what fish, inverts and plants are living together – and this already is pretty difficult. For me, biotope scaping is the ultimate challenge in aquarium keeping – and it’s more fun than anything else! There is another important effect: I am involved in political discussions with animal right activists and the german government. The activists have no realistic knowlegement about aquarium fishes and inverts but they claim that aquarium are not suitable for fishes and inverts. With biotope aquariums you can stop them, because there is absolute NOTHING, what they can say against it! It is the most natural animal keeping in this world, sometimes even better than in the natural biotopes! Therefore JBL company supports the biotope aquarium contest! We want to support our aquarium keeping. Aquariums are defintily one way to enthusiast kids and people to protect our worldwide nature. Is there anything more important than this on this planet?

Yuriy Yancher


In my opinion, biotope aquarium is the root, fundamental type of aquarium. The first aquaria appeared in England and gradually spread throughout Europe. In fact, they were all biotope. In them there were fishes and plants exclusively from local water bodies. Aquarists of those times sought to create a home model of a natural body of water, to repeat what they had seen somewhere outside the city. Frankly speaking, they had no choice. Import of exotic fish did not exist yet, as well as special equipment. This encouraged hobbyists to study the characteristics of ecosystem of their regions deeply. Today popularization of biotope aquarium is very important. It broadens mind, makes to google, to analyze, to compare received information. The study of habitats is the key to keeping and breeding of problem species. Many incorrect stereotypes associated with keeping fishes are in the past now. For example, for a long time it was thought that most killifishes need old water with a few water changes and a slow flow. Thousands of aquarists had fails, following these rules. The study of the habitat of these fishes indicated that the period of active growth and maturation of these fishes is during the rainy season. So, there should be frequent water changes. Unfortunately, aquarium owners often do not pay attention to fishes and plants of their area. They may seem to them not so colourful or too common. But those aquarists who took chance to go with a hand net to a local pond and catch a fish, choose plants, rocks, sand, they begin to learn fishes of their region more carefully, to take care of native nature, to protect it.

TOP50 Biotope Aquarium Design Contest 2016