My name is Filipe Oliveira (FAAO), I am 33 years old and I live in Opoto Portugal. I started in the aquarium hobby eight years ago but not in planted tanks. At that time planted aquarium supplies were poor and there wasn't so much information like there is now. I remember seeing, on the internet, some planted aquariums and I thought, "Oh god! It is so beautiful! How did he do that? Is it all natural plants or plastic, fake plants?" This inspired me to try my hand at growing aquatic plants in my aquariums, but unfortunately it wasn't with much success.
In 2005 I bought my first "real" aquarium, not a globe or a small kit for fish keeping. It was a 240L aquarium of water and I saw it as a new challenge to create my first planted aquarium...or so I thought!!!
I experimented with a lot of different plants and I remember changing the layout often. "CO2 and fertilizers, for what?" I kept that aquarium without CO2 and fertilization for several months and the results were very different from what I expected. The aquarium did not do so well. I'm a very persistent person and I don't give up on a challenge very easily. "If others can, so can I"!!
It was at that time I start searching for more information around the internet and from learning from my errors. I began to understand what I was doing wrong and what was necessary to keep healthy plants. I stopped listening to the aquarium shops and directed my attention to what the experienced people had to say. I quickly learned that the shops only wanted to sell and they weren’t interested in knowing if you had the proper requirements to keep the aquatic plants healthy. So from there, I started to do it my way, and followed what I learned from others.
First step, I increased my lighting, then purchased some good fertilizers, added CO2 (DIY) and started to select the plants. Instead of buying plants on impulse, I only bought what I had intended to use in my layouts. I never worried about the hardscape positions. I only placed the rocks and wood to my liking. Later I learned that, while not knowing of the Golden Rule, I seemed to naturally good at arranging the scape proportionally.
While relatively new to this hobby, I had great success. In 2006, I won 1st place and Best of Show in the AGA Aquascaping Contest for large category and 2nd place in the small tank category.