Interview With Aquascaper Mikolaj Weterle

For our second aquascaping interview we have asked Mikolaj Weterle some questions about his passion, building underwater worlds. As Mikolaj won 3rd place in the June Aquascape Awards contest we thought it would be a great idea to do an interview with him. 

Hi Mikolaj, first of all, congratulations with your 3rd place in the Aquascape Awards Contest! In addition, thank you for taking the time to do this interview with us. To start off, can you tell us something about yourself? Where do you live? How does your daily life look like? What do you do for a living?

It’s my pleasure and thank you for inviting me to do this interview. I am a 33 years old biologist, but it is not my profession. I live in Bydgoszcz, a city with approximately 350 000 citizens. In September, I am getting married and moving out of the city.

Besides aquascaping, I like gardens and quantum physics. I have an active lifestyle, eat healthy food and I am a vegetarian for more than 10 years. I also practice Qi Gong and I meditate.

What got you into the aquascaping hobby?

That is a long story actually. I’m a child of the forest and the lake. During my childhood I spent most of my time playing at the lake and in the forest, so I grew up with nature and that made me feel like I’m part of it. I was also fascinated by detailed models of the world and landscapes, but never had the possibility to create them myself. In aquascaping, I found the connection between my love for nature and the possibility to recreate small, complicated worlds myself.

How is the aquascaping community in Poland?

We have a group of solid, experienced aquascapers who are role models for the rest of us, in my opinion. Their great work and success significantly influenced polish aquascapers. Popularity of aquascaping in Poland has increased thanks to aquarium forums (especially and a few professional aquascapers like Piotr Dymowski and Piotr Beczynski (most titled). When they created their first really good aquascapes, I was just starting with my passion. They were my role models at that time and are still perfect examples to inspire beginners to get deeper into aquascaping.

You have created several great aquascapes, but which one is your personal favorite and why?

For me it’s "The only way" in a 50L tank, which is my aquascape from last year. The final result came out very close to my initial idea. I am also very proud that it won the “Scaper’s Tank Contest 2014”, a very difficult two-step European contest.

I’m very happy with the balance and details in this layout, which is very important for me. Creating this aquascape gave me a lot of pleasure and the fun part is that I learn something new with every project, so I hope the best is yet to come!

Of all the different styles (Nature Aquarium, Diorama, Iwagumi, Dutch, Jungle) which one is your favorite? Under what style would you label your own work?

I prefer layouts that reflect parts of nature and landscapes (both in micro and macro format). For example, some small part of a river stream, a piece of ground close to a big tree (both in a scale of 1:1), but also a mountain or forest landscape. I especially like diorama and Iwagumi style, but there are also many aquascapes I like that do not fall into any of those categories. In general, I really like detailed, complicated and mysterious aquascapes.

Where do you get the inspiration for your work?

I get my inspiration from nature, fantasy pictures and from my own imagination. Sometimes I search for special materials for a specific project, but where I live, it takes a lot of time to find the right pieces. For example, I am currently creating a layout with materials I collected over a period of 3 years.

Usually I buy some roots or stones and study them until inspiration hits me. At that point, I try to build something.

I also find inspiration in other aquascapers work. A few people in the aquatic world inspire me a lot. Especially Cliff Hui or Song Pin Chen are masters of perfection and accuracy for me. I watched and analyzed their work for hours and I still do if I’m looking for a solution for my work.

How long did it take to finish your winning aquascape “The only way”? How long do you keep your scapes running after making the final shots?

It took a few months…. But it depends on the aquascape. When I have a new idea or concept, I usually start on a new scape soon after the final photo session. If not, I just keep my old layout until a new idea comes by. There was a moment I had five aquariums at home, but now I only have one small tank (less than 50L). The problem is I have more ideas for new projects than time and space.

Tell us something about the technical aspect of your aquascapes. What filtration, light units, CO2 and fertilization do you use?

I always use Eheim filters, with simple construction, like the classic series. I try to provide good water circulation, so usually there is more filter power and surface movement than necessary. I always try to use CO2 in my tanks, but I also had a few low-tech tanks without CO2. About light: I have never used LED lamps; I am still using T5 or compact lamps. I mainly create fertilizers myself because I like to know how much and what I add to the water. I also use ADA, Ferka and Aqua Art fertilizers.

What 5 tips can you give to beginner or even advanced aquascapers?

  1. Take pictures of your hardscape and study them before you start planting
  2. Provide a good water circulation
  3. Keep your aquarium and filters clean
  4. Light: it’s better to have less light than too much
  5. Be careful with your water chemistry

One of the biggest problems in aquascaping is the algae bloom beginners encounter. What do you do to prevent it? What if it is too late, can you do anything to get your tank looking nice and algae free again?

A few tips to prevent an algae bloom:

  • Don’t use too much light
  • Make use of CO2
  • Provide good water circulation
  • Do regular water changes
  • Keep your tank clean
  • Provide a correct balance of all fertilization ingredients

If it is too late, first check the concentration of elements in the water. I manually remove as much algae as possible and perform some extra water changes. I also use liquid carbon or hydrogen peroxide, but you should be very careful with this stuff. The most important thing is to find the cause of the problem and fix it.

Some last tips/tricks you want to share with our readers?

Be patient and enjoy your underwater gardens.

Thank you for answering our questions Mikolaj and best of luck!

Find more of Mikolaj's work and stay up to date about his latest scapes:

  • aquascaping
  • interview
  • nature aquarium
  • planted tank

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