BAC2020 – Best biotope aquariums in 2020

By Natasha Khardina

Today we assist to a real disruption in the aquaristic field, especially with regard to environmental communication. New tendencies are transforming our aquatic hobby, pretending it to become more sustainable, more responsible, more biotope.

We, the modern aquarists are more then any other hobbyist are forced to recognize the irreversible changes in the local and global natural environments. And more than any other nature lover we understand the necessity to do something about it, in order to improve or, even, to avoid the global disaster. Starting from our own aquarium. Transforming it from a mass product to a unique piece of nature, well studied and beloved. The biotope aquarium.

The biotope movement is growing stronger every day. There are aquarists deeply in love with the biotope world, they see the uniqueness of each single aquatic niche and keep their fish and plants according to that small, sometimes tiny and fragile, piece of Nature. And they want to showcase what is really going on around the globe, trying to get as many as possible people involved. And what is the best way to do so? The international biotope competition, of course!

Such a competition as a BIOTOPE AQUARIUM Contest (BAC2020) organized by BIOTOPE AQUARIUM Project (BAP) helps to divulgate the idea of the biotope correct ecosystem and plays an important role in education and conservation. As we can only protect what we know.

BAC2020 has chosen its own way to support the aquarium hobby by introducing the biotopes from different geographical regions: our judging system is based on 8 distinct geographical units to be evaluated by the top-experts specialized on these regions. The categories of the BIOTOPE AQUARIUM Contest have been determined following the definition of the geographical regions by the United Nations, and then adjusted by BAP Experts in accordance with the main drainage basins:

BAP experts are professionals, who have visited these biotopes, collected in situ, and have studied the local ecosystems. That is why they are competent to evaluate the correctness of the research done by the participants and the final “product” of this research – a setup in terms of the artificially recreated long running ecosystem, which we call biotope aquarium.

Jury members in 8 categories (gegraphical regions) at BIOTOPE AQUARIUM Contest 2021.

The participation in the contest consists of 2 applications:

1. BIOTOPE IN NATURE (BIN) – the personal biotope exploration done in situ or through extensive online research with the involvement and contribution of other aquarists and scientists. This kind of cooperation allows to create a network of people interested in the conservation of aquatic environments and leads to concrete projects. The bibliography/sitography of the BIN might play a decisive role – being a demonstration of profound research, it can be helpful for other biotope fellows to understand that precise ecosystem.

2. BIOTOPE AQUARIUM MODEL (BAM) – the reproduction of the original aquatic biotope as a closed micro-ecosystem in the aquarium. This is probably the funniest and more creative part of the application, as the aquarists are required to show their practical skills and biotope knowledge by putting together the right components, such as water chemistry, substrate, light, filtering system, décor, in combination with the correct aquatic inhabitants in correct proportions – fishes, plants, crustaceans, mollusks – to give fish and plants species a home with appropriate niches for hiding and breeding. The most important thing here is to describe in detail one’s own practical experience with the biotope tank – to share their knowledge with aquarist colleagues.

The international aquatic companies like Fluval, Sicce, Hikari Sales USA and Intaqo understand the importance of transformation in the aquatic hobby and support BAC2020. These companies look forward to a positive change and embrace the biotope concept as inevitable and necessary development of the aquarium hobby.

FLUVAL, BAP sponsor
HIKARI, Sponsor of the BIOTOPE AQUARIUM Contest
SICCE, Sponsor of the BIOTOPE AQUARIUM Contest
INTAQO, Sponsor of the BIOTOPE AQUARIUM Contest

Let’s take a closer look at the work done by the contestants in the 1st position in each category and the evaluation they received.

North America – sponsored by Hikari Sales USA

Forested Ohio Headwater stream, USA, 71L, by Vinny Anderson

Approved by: Ken Boormann & Lawrence Kent

BAM, Rathburn Run, Ohio, USA. ©BAP, photo V. Anderson

Central America & Caribbean – sponsored by BAP

Stream in Masagua Escuintla, Guatemala, 290L, by David Rodriguez

Approved by: Juan Miguel Artigas Azas & Jairo Arroyave

BIN, Arroyo Tenixtepec, Mexico. ©BAP, photo G. V. Mendez

South America – sponsored by INTAQO

Rio Poranga, São Gabriel da Cachoeira, Amazonas, 500L, by Magdalena Szubska

Approved by: Heiko Blessin & Nathan K. Lujan

BAM, Rio Poranga, São Gabriel da Cachoeira, Amazonas. ©BAP, photo Magdalena Szubska

Europe – sponsored by SICCE

Aphanius iberus from Vinalopó River, 50L, by Alejandro Ríos Martin

Approved by: Alexey Malyshev & Philippe Chevoleau

Aphanius iberus, Vinalopó River, Alicante. ©BAP, photo Alejandro Ríos Martin

Africa – sponsored by INTAQO

Planted Shallow Biotope Tank, Kipili, Tanganyika, 536L, by Fatih Özdemir

Approved by: Ad Konings & Michael Salter

BAM, Kapumfi, Lake Tanganyika. ©BAP, photo Fatih Özdemir

Eastern Asia – sponsored by BAP

Fuwen river, a tributary of the Emei River, China, 175L, by Yang Erwa

Approved by: Fan Li & Zhou Hang

BAM, Fuwen river, a tributary of the Emei River. ©BAP, photo Yang Erwa

Southern, Central & Western Asia – sponsored by BAP

Shallow places of Lake Işıklı, Denizli, Turkey, 88L, by Mert Yılmaz

Approved by: Sven Kullander & Ingo Seidel

BAM, Isikli Lake, Denizli, Turkey. ©BAP, photo Mert Yılmaz

Southeastern Asia & Oceania – sponsored by FLUVAL

Eubenangee Swamp National Park North Qld Australia, 500L, by Magdalena Szubska

Approved by: Hans-Georg Evers & John Lenagan

BAM, Eubenangee Swamp, North Queensland. ©BAP, photo Magdalena Szubska

This 300-litres aquarium shows a fragment of the Son River bank near the world’s most powerful Son Doong Cave in the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Vietnam. The mysterious and unique atmosphere of this area inspired me to create a biotope for Macropodus opercularis, which inhabits this area. I thought I’d create a “paradise biotope” for the Fish of Paradise. It is the first exotic aquarium fish – after the goldfish – that reached Europe in 1869. The species that complements the cast here is Barbodes semifasciolatus.

The riverbank, modeled on nature, shows numerous roots and branches. A small stream of water placed small stones on the sandy bottom of the reservoir between the larger rocks. At the bottom of the aquarium, there are a lot of dry leaves and dried fruit, many organic materials that provide tannins and humic compounds. Delicate lighting, sufficient for the plants found here, creates a unique atmosphere and emphasizes the mystery of the recreated biotope.

We hope these unique biotope creations will inspire the hobbyist to look at Nature from a different prospective – we are only guests on this planet and it is our duty to preserve it. And pass this message to our children.

We challenge YOU to get involved in the BIOTOPE AQUARIUM Contest (BAC2021)!