Defined by Matt Henning as 'the craft of arranging aquatic plants, as well as rocks, stones, cavework, or driftwood, in an aesthetically pleasing manner within an aquarium', aquascaping is an increasingly popular form of biophilic design which incorporates aquatic creatures & plants beautiful, bespoke installations.
To give you more insight into aquascaping as an art form and career path, we sat down with ViDERE founder and Life Artist, Akil Gordon-Beckford, to take a deep-dive into the world of biophilic design and aquariums.
Q) Hi Akil! So, how did you get into aquascaping & how long have you been working within this field?
Well, it started out as a childhood hobby with a very modest goldfish tank. As I got older, I initially started working as a pond designer and service contractor aged 18. Over time, this lead into working on indoor features. From there, I eventually began specialising in aquariums after becoming fascinated with the skill of recreating outdoor spaces indoors.
Q) Describe an average day in your job:
To be frank, my days vary quite a lot from day to day! In the early morning, I tend to catch up on emails; responding to team members, clients and service providers. By mid-morning, I usually work on providing quotes and estimates and setting up/attending client meetings. Whilst usually, afternoons vary from writing content, preparing and filming podcasts, doing designs and planning for upcoming projects.
Q) Which elements of your profession do you enjoy the most and/or find the most rewarding?
Seeing an empty space become natural art. I love the transformative effect an aquarium has on an area and the people interacting with it. I also find the growth of the ecosystem within an aquarium, plants, fish coral etc. really rewarding!
Q) Is there anything new you are excited to be working on?
We are currently working on a large saltwater aquarium which will be integrated into the recording studio of a music artist. We have worked closely with the studio designer and manufacturer in Hong Kong, to ensure the aquarium is both sound proof and safe for the fish.
Q) What do you find the most challenging about this field?
Time management - nature does not work instantly; it takes time for growth and stability to set in and show noticeable change. Also, not being able to be there all the time to monitor and tweak individual tanks we set up for clients. I had to learn how to design and build independent tanks that looked after themselves, which in many ways forced me to be batter at what I do.
Q) What do you wish you knew before working in the field of aquascaping?
Hmm, definitely that balance and stability prevents problems before they need solving. Plus, looking after a tank at home versus looking after a tank at a different location are two very different skill sets. Knowing this beforehand would have saved me a lot of time and money in the early years of my career!
Q) What has been your favourite project to work on, personal or professional?
Personally - My first reef tank at home. The experience gave me a complete understanding of water management and it still feels like the best tank I ever created! I had the most fun with this and felt a great sense of fulfillment growing the corals and fish I had.
Professionally – The Poggenpohl aquariums I did in 2010 and 2012. I got so much exposure from creating that collaboration and more importantly, I learned so much about luxury design and build which I've carried with me as I've grown ViDERE.
Q) And finally, which people do you admire the most in the industry and why?
Mike and Jeff Senske (Aquarium Design Group) – Their work in the early 2000’s inspired me to want create the business I have today. Their dedication to the ART of aquarium design and the way they express themselves through aquascaping, photography and videography has been given me a bench mark to aim for with my own company.
Also, Tania Adir (Uncommon) – The approach she has taken to create the perfect environment for people and companies to work in and share ideas has really inspired my ideas about how biophilia can work within businesses.