Jan 30, 2019

The Top 25 Ranked Freshwater Aquariums in the World

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Since 2001, the International Aquatic Plant Layout Contest (IAPLC) has been the largest planted aquarium design competition in the world. Hobbyists from all over the globe enter their aquariums in hopes of winning the grand prize of 1 million Yen (approx. $12K USD). However, more important than the monetary reward is the global ranking granted to each contestant. With over 1,819 applications from 55 countries, the competition is fierce.

2010 marked the most successful year to date for total submissions as well as number of participating countries around the world. Below you will find highlights of the top 25 ranks freshwater aquariums in 2010 along with an explanation about the judging criteria/process.

Every year the Sifter is completely blown-away by these living artworks. Maintaining the aesthetic (and sustainable) beauty of these aquariums requires incredible skill and dedication. All of the ‘aquascapists’ deserve tremendous credit for their incredible work. The Sifter salutes you and your craft!


1. Grand-Prix winner – Paul Boutin (Russia)

150x50x50 cm “Forest Scent”


2. Gold Prize – Zhang Jian Feng (Macau)

90x45x45 cm “Loess plateau”


3. Silver Award – Xuan Thuy Nguen Thi (Vietnam)

120x45x40 “Colour of life”


4. Silver Award – Yutaka Kanno (Japan)


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120x45x45 “The view”


5. Bronze Award – Zeng Qing Jun (China)

150x60x60 “Karst”



– The highest score of grading is 200 points; judging criteria mainly consists of “Artistic Impression Point” (maximum 100 points) and “Technical Point” (maximum 100 points divided into 5 categories for 20 points)
– In 2010, the judging panel consisted of 18 esteemed experts from around the globe
– In this contest, aquascapist’s skill of a long-term maintenance of layout is also in judges’ great concern
– Since the planted aquarium hobby involves various forms of life, judges don’t just appreciate the beauty of a layout shown right after its completion, they also pay careful attention to observe how long the layout has been kept in a healthy condition
– In that context, the following aspects of layout were, especially, strictly screened by the judges: The use of emerged plants and house plants which hardly survive in the water becomes the subject of point deduction
– In order to avoid misuse of plants in a layout, one needs not only the composition skill but a good deal of correct knowledge about aquatic plants
– Moreover, it requires a higher level of technique to grow plants healthfully. These aspects of layout are judged under the criterion of “Creativity”


6. Bronze Award – Chen I Sheng (Taiwan)

210x60x60 “A day when walk on a jungle trail”


7. Bronze Award – Gregory Polishchuk (Ukraine)

120x50x50 cm “Forest silent”


8. Long Tran Hoang (Vietnam)

155x81x50 cm “Into the green”


9. KP Wong (Hong Kong)

120x45x45 cm “Infinite Wonder”


10. Li Da Wei (China)

120x50x50 cm “Whitehead Gap”



– There was a debate over the use of very fine white cosmetic sand, such as Rio Negro sand
– Due to the nature of this type of sand, excretions of fish and shrimps become more recognizable. The color of the sand turns more easily to a unpleasant greenish or blackish color because of the growth of algae and the spread of anaerobic bacteria inside an aquarium
– It was pointed out that it’s hardly kept brightly clean for a long period of time
– Although the cosmetic sand used in the layout looks elegantly beautiful in the picture, the layout receives a tough evaluation from the judges
– The layouts were evaluated by 18 judges chosen internationally
– The grading process was conducted impartially by the judges and so was the counting of scores by the contest committee
– However, the evaluation of each judge primarily relies on his/her personal preference of the types of aquatic plant layout. It doesn’t necessary become an absolute account of the layout


11. Wang Chao (China)

120x55x50 cm “Drizzle”


12. May Kwan (Hong Kong)

150x50x55 cm “Shou Stone Ridge”


13. Chonladar Rattanawichien (Thailand)

200x40x40 cm “Mountain of Imagine”


14. Zheng Ren Chao (China)

168x60x60 cm “Sado Story”


15. Quoc Hung Vu (Vietnam)

120x45x40 cm “Memory area”



Evaluate the beauty and sophistication as a piece of art.

TECHNICAL POINT (Maximum 100 points)

Creativity (Maximum 20 points)
The overall completeness of the layout and its originality are evaluated.
The use of house plants or emerged plants, which hardly survive under water, becomes a subject of point-deduction.

Composition / Arrangement of plants (Maximum 20 points)
Is the composition of the layout well developed?
Are the aquatic plants appropriately positioned within the aquascape?
Is there a balance within the layout in terms of the colors and shapes of aquatic plants?

Balance between the fish and the layout design (Maximum 20 points)
Creator’s choice of fish for his/her layout is evaluated.
Do the color, size, swimming method and ecology of the fish match the layout?

Natural atmosphere (Maximum 20 points)
Does the layout clearly tell you the creator’s idea of nature?
How is the methods and techniques that the creator uses to render a natural feel in his/her layout?

Aquatic plants’ conditions and Time Progress of layout (Maximum 20 points)
The condition of the aquatic plants in the layout is evaluated.
The time progress of the layout based on the types of plants used and their conditions are evaluated.
Is the layout maintainable over a long period of time?


16. Kazutaka Murase (Japan)

180x60x60 cm “After a long time”


17. Koji Nakamura (Japan)

180x80x60 cm “Rio Negro II – the inland of Igarape”


18. Chow Wai Sun (Hong Kong)

200x66x66 cm “Lofty spirit”


19. Lin Ting Quan (Taiwan)

127x60x50 cm “Whisper of Mountain – Rising to the Summit”


20. Gary Wu (Hong Kong)

152x51x58 cm “Vine”



– For more information on the IAPLC please visit their OFFICIAL SITE
– All pictures via AQUAJOURNAL.RU


21. Jiang Wei (China)

130x50x55 cm “Knot”


22. Michael GW Wong (Hong Kong)

120x60x60 cm “Enchanted Forest”


23. Hironori Handa (Japan)

120x45x45 cm “A sheer morning”


24. Lee Do Jae (Korea)

100x50x50 cm “Profound”


25. Junichi Itakura (Japan)

120x45x45 cm “Green breeze in May”






If you enjoyed this article, the Sifter highly recommends:

Underwater Gardening: The World’s Best Aquariums of 2009




Article Categories:
art · BEST OF · fish · hobbies · LISTS · NATURE/SPACE · water

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