Interview with George Farmer
by Óscar Pereiro
Before anything, I would like to thank you for the time you dedicate to answer this interview. You are welcome. Thanks for interviewing me!
Can you please explain us a little bit how is your daily life? My full-time career is with the Royal Air Force (RAF). I am a Weapons Engineer and have done lots of jobs from fixing ejection seats to fitting laser-guided bombs. I am also a freelance aquatic writer and photographer specialising in planted aquariums and aquascaping. I do a lot of work for Practical Fishkeeping magazine. I am married to a wonderful woman and have two beautiful daughters. We have two horses, lots of fish, guinea pigs and rabbits. I live in a rural village in England and I am very happy!
I would like to know how and when you got into this world of aquariums. I started keeping fish in 2002 when I saw a friends Malawi cichlid aquarium. I preferred the look of a planted tank and made all the usual mistakes leading to dying plants and algae. I learnt quickly and read all I could on planted tanks, especially on the Internet where new techniques were being described all the time. When I discovered Takashi Amano’s work my world changed forever. Growing plants is relatively easy. Aquascaping is a challenge that I really relish.
Can you tell me something about UKaps.org (UK Aquatic Plant Society) We were formed in 2006 by a group of four planted tank and aquascaping enthusiasts. Tom Barr let us use his website – www.barrreport.com until we got our own set up – www.ukaps.org. Our forum has around 3,500 members and is growing all the time. We hold regular events where members get together and talk plants and aquascapes. We have had demonstration days held at The Green Machine shop in Wales where the likes of ADA Europe, Oliver Knott and myself have set up tanks for the audiences. We have aquascaped display tanks for Hagen at their UK trade show and next year we are showing at the Interzoo in Germany. Our primary mission is to promote the planted tank and aquascaping hobby in the UK. So far we are succeeding very well. It is a very rewarding experience.
Do you collaborate with any other forum or magazine? Perhaps also a trademark of aquarium hobby? What underlying their collaboration with these companies? I write regularly for Practical Fishkeeping magazine. I have had articles published every month for over the last three years and have successfully promoted the planted tank and aquascaping hobby through their magazine and website. I am a member of most planted tank forums such as Aquatic Plant Central, Aquascaping World, Planted Tank etc, but spend most of my time dedicated to UKAPS. I also judged the AGA Aquascaping Contest with Takashi Amano in 2008. I have worked with many manufacturers testing out their products and giving them feedback. I work closely with Tropica, as they are forward-thinking and have a lot to offer the planted tank hobby. They were one of the first companies to produce an all-in-one liquid fertiliser that includes N and P. They also bring out new plant species regularly for the hobby. I like to be involved with any company or organisation that helps to promote the planted tank and aquascaping hobby for the benefit of the hobbyist and enthusiast.
How many aquariums do you keep actually? How much time a day you dedicate to maintain aquariums? I currently keep four aquariums. 1 x 60cm planted, 1 x 60cm biotope, 1 x 30cm planted nano, 1 x 80cm marine. I spend a total of around 3 hours per week on them. More time is spent writing about them and photographing them!
Where do you get the inspiration from when creating your aquariums? Anywhere. At the moment I am doing a lot of biotope aquariums for Practical Fishkeeping magazine. One aquarium was based on a local lake where I actually dived in to gather data about plants and fish. I am often inspired by other talented aquascapers. Takashi Amano has been a huge influence on me but I think I now tread my own path. Sometimes I will dream about an aquascape and follow that. I did this with a White Cloud Mountain Minnow biotope. It is one of my favourite aquascapes, even though there are no plants!
Do you follow any norm of standard proportion when you create you hardscape? I usually use the Golden Ratio or Rule of Thirds when positioning hardscape. But apart from that I just select the material that I feel looks right and place it where I feel looks best. I am not a natural artist so sometimes this is not the greatest, but I am getting better with practice, like most things.
Now, if you don’t mind, a few technical questions:
Which kind of substrate do you use? It depends on the set up. Sometimes I will use plain sand. In planted tanks I like to use ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia. It looks great and grows plants very well. I have used over 20 types of substrate and it’s the best yet.
Do you consider filtration as an important part? Filtration is vital but circulation is also very important. Ammonia/ammonium spikes can trigger algae so having good biological filtration is essential for the fish and to prevent algae. I use a “10x” rule. So a 120 litre aquarium will be filtered by a 1200lph filter. Sometimes I will go higher. The more light, CO2 and nutrients there are the more circulation and filtration is required.
What else do you consider a must when setting up an aquarium? Research is more important than any one piece of equipment. Figure out what you want from your aquarium and buy the appropriate equipment.
What kind of fishes and plants are your favourite for your creations? Big shoals of small fish. It looks more natural and usually presents less bio-load than larger fish. My favourite plants are the easiest – Cryptocorynes, Microsorium, Anubias, Moss. I need to set up a proper moss aquascape!
Can you please briefly explain how you setup an aquarium from zero?
Clean the tank.
Select and position hardscape. Take time to do this. Sometimes days.
Prepare and plant your aquarium plants. Take time to do this and use a spray mister to prevent plants from drying out.
Fill water carefully.
Run filter, CO2 and lighting. Minimise lighting for first month or so. Keep 20-30ppm CO2.
Change lots of water in first 3 weeks. Minimum 2x 50% per week.
Stock algae eaters (Otos, shrimp etc.) after 3 weeks.
Carefully select display fish and add after 5 weeks.
What kind of fertilizer do you use? Tropica, Easy Life, ADA, dry chemicals. Depends on set up. Dry chemicals for big tanks due to cost.
Regarding you aquascaping vision:
which is the aquarium style you prefer? Probably Nature Aquarium but I am becoming more interested in Dutch. Iwagumi is nice but very common. It takes a very special Iwagumi to stand out from the rest. Decent biotope aquascapes are rare but can be the most beautiful.
What do you think about terrestrial landscapes in aquariums? It looks stunning but unnatural.
In your opinion, in which country you see a bigger interest in the aquascaping? Japan, Hong Kong, Vietnam etc. Most Far Eastern countries. Their philosophy is very different to the Western world. We have a long way to catch up.
How is aquascaping in United Kingdom? Getting better all the time. Recently there have been some very impressive aquascapes from relative newcomers due to the information and equipment now available.
Do you know anything about the aquascaping reality in Spain? I have heard of Acuavida and Acuario rosa… Unfortunately I do not speak or read Spanish.
Can you tell us a couple of aquascapers you like the most?
In no particular order:
Dan Crawford, Graeme Edwards, Takashi Amano, Oliver Knott, Jeff and Mike Senske, Jason Baliban, Norbert Sabat, Steven Chong, David Chow, Cliff Hui, Luis Navarro, Roy Deki, Andrew Mack, Peter Kirwan, James Starr-Marshall
I’m going to give you a list of word and you comment what comes to your mind:
Apart of aquariums, do you have any other hobby? Photography, table tennis, running, gym
That’s all Mr. Farmer.
Thanks again and best regards