Welcome to the last interview in our current #5minuteswith series. Todays interview is also a special edition as we talk to UK aquascaping legend George Farmer! Read on to find out more about him as he answers our popular quick-fire questions.....
Hi George, welcome to #5minuteswith, thank you for taking the time to respond to our questions! It is an honour to have you take part in the series and I'm sure our readers are eager to find out what you have to say, so let's get started!
Now, I'm sure most aqua hobbyists and fans will already know your answer to this question but for any newbies that might be interested, how long have you been involved in the hobby and how did you get started?
Hi Matthew, I'm happy to take part! I bought my first aquarium (Juwel Rio 125) in 2003. I’ve always loved nature so went down the planted tank route but the game changed fundamentally after discovering Takashi Amano. I was bought Nature Aquarium World Book One in 2004 and I immediately knew exactly the direction I wanted to take my hobby. I became obsessed with planted tanks and aquascaping, and spent all my spare time learning and practicing to the point where I became a 'Practical Fishkeeping' magazine regular contributor and expert panel member in 2006. I co-founded the UK Aquatic Plant Society (UKAPS) in 2007 and eventually made the transition from full time in the Royal Air Force to full time aquascaper in 2014.
What a brilliant start to a brilliant hobby! For some, starting out can be quite a challenge as there is so much information to navigate. What would your advice be to these people?
Find one or two reliable and credible sources and stick with their methodologies or techniques. Don’t cherry pick
various pieces of advice to suit a perceived easier path. Facebook groups are a great place to seek mentorship but they also have a plethora of well-intended, but poor, advice. The UKAPS forum is a great tool with experienced members. It’s also highly searchable. I also recommend learning from folk like Tom Barr and Dennis Wong for the science, and folk like Josh Sim and Steven Chong for the art. Some self promotion here but beginners should find my podcast and new book helpful, as well as tutorial videos on my YouTube channel.
That's really good advice for beginners! Getting the next generation of hobbyists involved is important to us. What are your thoughts on this and how should we all go about encouraging new interest?
Inspiring the next generation is of course essential for the hobby to live on. Sharing the hobby is easier than ever and we should use social media in a effort to inspire and educate newcomers at all levels of age and experience. For those with children it could be encouraging them to take part in aquascaping - from water changes to photography. There are so many disciplines in aquascaping that can teach children (and adults!). There is the obvious like design, technology, biology, chemistry etc, but there are also important life lessons like responsibility, patience, delayed gratification, mindfulness, attention to detail and gratitude.
I couldn't agree more, the less obvious skills that aquascaping develop are so important, and rewarding! What is your favourite fish to keep and why?
Neon tetras. I just love them!
Fair enough, they are a beautiful iconic fish. What is your favourite aquascaping style and why?
Classic Nature Aquarium. I just find it connects me with nature more than any other style. I love bold and simple hardscape in combination with dense and lush planting.
I love the nature scapes too, it's like having a little snippet of the natural world in your home. My wife ordered a signed copy of your book for me for Christmas, I can't wait to read it! What was it like to write your first book and what has the response been from your fans?
Thank you! It was a challenge due to my other work commitments and travel. The first lockdown was a blessing in disguise as it allowed me to focus fully on finishing it. The book seems to be well-received so far. My wife and I shipped over 400 signed copies last weekend, which was hard work but good fun!
Wow, that's brilliant, congratulations! Finally, what is next in your aquatic journey?
My next big project is my 400 litre discus aquascape in the GFS Gallery. I did have a load of travel planned but unfortunately that’s been cancelled with COVID-19.
Well I look forward to seeing the new discus tank completed and hopefully you will be able to get back on track with the travelling soon. Thank you for talking with us today, I really appreciate it, and I wish you all the best for the future!
If you would like to see more of George and his inspiring work, follow him on Instagram @georgefarmerstudios and subscribe
to his YouTube channel George Farmer.