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Replicating the 2014 IAPLC Grand Prize Winning Aquascape 'Passage'

It's not everyday a customer walks in with a picture of Grégoire Wolinski's 2014 Grand prize winning Aquascape 'Passage' and says 'I want you to replicate this for me'. But incredibly that's exactly what happened earlier in the year at Melbourne Australia's premier Aquascape store Nature Aquariums

I was first pitched the crazy idea at a lunch meeting with Bruce (the customer) and Stephen Mildern the owner of Nature Aquariums. The above picture was produced followed by the comment 'Bruce here wants to replicate this in a 6ft CADE, would you like to give us a hand?'

At first I thought they were joking but I soon realised they definitely weren't.  Of course I want to be involved! We spent the rest of the day discussing how to go about achieving it.  A couple of weeks later the epic challenge began. But first things first, this is art we're copying and as such I wanted to get permission from the artist himself Grégoire Wolinski. So I contacted him on Facebook and asked.

So with permission granted the epic challenge began and in just 2 days the hardscape was complete. Check out how it came together.

Bruce's CADE River CB1800-1 measures 180x60x60 and has a water capacity of 648L. This in fact created one of the more interesting challenges for us because the original Aquascape was within a considerably smaller tank measuring 120x55x47h and 310L, less than half the size of our tank. So everything needed to be scaled accordingly and careful consideration was made when choosing appropriate stones. Another big challenge was that Bruce's tank was to be viewed from 3 sides and had to look good from every angle. So hardscape couldn't touch the side glass which was the case with the original. 

Size comparison between the original and our replica.

The stone used in both the original and the replica is Dragon stone which is one of my favourite stones to work with. I love the texture and the fact it's soft enough to be broken up and reshaped into more appropriately shape pieces which was particularly helpful in a hardscape like this.

The way to tackle a project like this is to focus on the angles, heights, scale and weights within the hardscape then mark out your boundaries from above and on the back of the tank for guidance before placing your stones. We printed one of very few pictures we could find of this aquascape and stuck it to the back of the tank. The first stone is arguably the most important. It was cut flat at the base and would become the foundation piece that all others would rely upon for structural integrity. The same was done on the opposing side and from there Steve and I got busy building around them starting with the pillars and arches at the front.

We used a fantastic product called Stone Fix by Aquaforest to hold the rocks together, all 160kg of it, supplied by Nature Aquariums of course who have an amazing range of hardscape materials. Stone Fix is an Aquarium safe concrete and without it this formation had little chance of holding together. 

The arches where definitely the most challenging part of the scape and important to get right as they form the most important aesthetic element of the scape and needed to be designed in a way that was true to form whilst being sturdy. Besides that the arches needed to also have hollowed tops to hold Aquasoil for plants to grow in, including the arches which protruded out of the water where plants can also grow immersed. 

Once they where done the remainder of the scape came together much easier. The centre of the tank graduates lower into the tank to create depth perception and a fair bit of time was taken to position the passage pillars in the centre allowing the backlighting to shine through in a way similar to the original.  

We knew we were never going to be able to perfectly cookie cut this masterpiece but it sure was a pleasure trying and Bruce is absolutely loving his Aquarium. 

So what did the original creator think of the finished job? Well he's actually only seen the hardscape so far and here's what he had to say about it.

We will keep you updated on this tanks progress in the coming months.

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