For years people have been confused about the so-called "biotope/natural" category. Half the entrants actually submit things that are clearly more appropriate for the "Aquatic Garden" category. To help clarify things, we have clarified the category to "Biotope Aquascape" and added this section:
A biotope is a region that has particular environmental conditions and a native population of plants and animals. A single stream or lake may include numerous biotopes. For instance, a stony riffle in a stream may be one biotope while a nearby silt-bottomed pool on the same stream may be a different biotope. On the other hand, the same biotope may occur in numerous streams in a region where all stony riffles or silt-bottomed pools support the same community of plants and animals.
A biotope aquarium models the physical conditions in a biotope and is populated by plants and animals that are found together in that biotope. In an accurate biotope aquarium, the water temperature, water movement, water chemistry, color and turbidity mimic the natural habitat. Stones, wood and debris, if present in the biotope, are also present in the biotope aquarium. The substrate in the biotope aquarium is similar to the natural substrate.
Most biotope aquariums are not accurate. The aquarist does not need to slavishly reproduce every feature of a biotope to provide a natural home for the inhabitants of a biotope aquarium. Many features of natural biotopes may be undesirable in an aquarium. On the other hand, features that distinguish a particular biotope from other biotopes should be represented in the biotope aquarium.
Some typical inaccuracies are:
* Failing to represent the physical conditions of the biotope (for example, water color in a blackwater stream biotope aquarium).
* Including species from different habitats to fulfill an aquaristic need, such as algae eaters or plants that grow well in low light.
* Including species from a common region that do not inhabit the same biotope.
* Including specimens that are related to native plants or animals but are hybrids, inbred strains or horicultural varieties not found in nature.
The AGA Aquascaping Contest is concerned with the design of the aquascape shown in the biotope aquarium and much less with the accuracy of the representation. However, the Biotope Aquascape category is reserved for those aquascapers who accept the challenges and limitations of a biotope aquarium.
No entries will be disqualifed based on inaccuracies. However, judges are encouraged to give less accurate entries a lower score for selection and use of materials. An entry needs to score well on all judging criteria to place well in the competition. Aquascapers who are concerned with their placement in the competition, and whose aquariums exhibit several of the inaccuracies above are encouraged to enter their aquariums in the Aquatic Garden category.