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Competitive Aquascaping: Matthew Manes

February 15, 2023 2 min read

Competitive Aquascaping:  Matthew Manes

"I use small species to emphasize a sense of scale."- MM

A convincing depth of field / visual perspective is one of the most identifiable traits of aquascaping experience. 

Matthew's point on the conscious use of small species is often missed by beginners. 2Hr Tanks generally utilize smaller plant variants for the same reason. For example, using Alternanthera reineckii 'mini' instead of the regular varietal, Ludwigia macrandra 'mini' instead of regular L. macrandra etc. 

In smaller tanks, we also use Nitrate Limitation to induce more compact growth to create a sense of scale. The picture below shows Ludwigia sp. Red grown with APT 1 / Zero (smaller, left) and the same plant grown with APT 3 / Complete

"To maintain my tank, I change my water daily (80%) for the first month"- MM

Grooming competition-grade aquascapes to their top-form for photography require rigorous maintenance efforts, and Matthew's routine is common among competitive aquascapers. 

The 2Hr Way advocates highly disciplined 40%-50% weekly water change. Of course, this is easier in regions where tap water parameters are favourable. Regular removal of accumulated detritus (beyond simply replacing water) removes algae triggers. 

Matthew Manes Inspiration

Above: Matthew drew inspiration from the above landscapes for his award-winning IAPLC entry. 

"I add fertilizer after every water change...(and) start dosing from early on if I need the plants to grow faster."- MM

The 2Hr Way recommends dosing after every water change to replenish the minerals lost during water change and to provide plants with a more consistent level of nutrients. 

We start water fertilisation on Day 1 after adding plants, as the plants' root absorption capacity would not have been properly developed at that stage. 

Depending on his tank setup and plant species, Matthew uses APT 1, APT3 or APT e. He uses APT e if he wants plants to grow in fast, but generally his fertilisation regime is moderate and he does not overdose. APT1 is his favourite choice when most of the plants are mosses and slow growers / shade plants. 

"Trends change over time. Sometimes the trend it our friend but sometimes it is not. We need to change [with it]..."

Similar to the world of art, competitive aquascaping is shaped trends. When current trends align with an artist's personal preferences and aptitude, he has a far greater opportunity to shine. 

Recent years have rewarded ever-increasing feats of technical hardscape proficiency. 

Like all artists, competitive aquascapers face the daunting choice between 'safer choices' that follow precedent and pushing the boundaries of originality.