the process is the artwork

Forests underwater


(1) Detail from the Oceanário de Lisboa’s temporary exhibition, “Forests Underwater by Takashi Amano.”

I just received the publication
Nature Aquarium Complete Works 1985-2009‘ by aquarist and aquascaping guru Takashi Amano (1954-2015), who is undoubtedly the most famous in his field. Amano draws inspiration from Wabi-sabi of Zen Buddhism (“a traditional Japanese aesthetics that defines beauty as impermanent, imperfect and incomplete. Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect”(2)) and Japanese tea ceremony (3). Many aquarists worldwide including myself have since been inspired by Amano. He believed that observing nature closely would enable us to better understand our world and learn how to preserve it (4).

“Being able to enjoy the image of nature by keeping it close by might be the reason why Nature Aquarium has become popular in the world. Human beings seem to have an inherent sensitivity that compels us to keep things that make us feel closer to nature, such as plants and animals. I realised this when I visited the Amazon looking for the native habitats of tropical fish and aquatic plants in order to take their photographs. I was quite amazed to find that native indigenous people were growing ornamental plants and keeping birds and animals as pets in their houses, something unexpected in a village surrounded by a dense jungle. Our desire to keep animals and plants nearby must be a human instinct.”

– Takashi Amano (3)

RFTBAC | Takashi Amano - Nature Aquarium 1
RFTBAC | Takashi Amano - Nature Aquarium 2
(5), (6)

The term ‘Nature Aquarium’ refers to “a unique philosophy and maintenance approach, (…) based on the fundamental concept [of] ‘learning from nature.’ (…) The environment in Nature Aquarium is supported [by] the small ecosystem formed by plants, fish and microorganisms while interacting with each other (…) [and] is like a microcosm of nature.” (7)

The installation ‘Forests Underwater by Takashi Amano‘ (The World’s Largest Nature Aquarium Project’), is a 40-metre long u-shaped tropical forest aquarium, holding 160.000 litres of freshwater, 12 tonnes of sand, 25 tonnes of volcanic stone, 78 tree trunks, approx. 10.000 tropical freshwater fish of 40 different species, 46 plant species (4), and can be seen at the renowned Oceanário de Lisboa until October 31, 2017.

“Tropical forests are amongst the richest, more diversified habitats on Earth. Despite occupying less than 6% of the Earth’s surface, these pristine forests, yet intact and remote, are home to more than half of the species to be found on the planet. Nevertheless, tropical forests are listed amongst the most threatened habitats, in spite of their enormous relevance. (…) This new exhibition shows nature from a different perspective – a unique environment where tropical forests and art are masterfully combined to create a world of sensations and emotions where visitors will forget their everyday routines and be immersed in a precious environment that evokes the origin of life. (…) Takashi Amano’s artistic interpretation of these magical, mysterious ecosystems provides visitors with a contemplative, relaxing, calming and soothing experience, which encourages them to discover a nature carved by time, naturally and beautifully aged, as if more than a hundred years had elapsed since the piece was created.” (4)

“The layout making was just like building a river and therefore, I focused on the expressiveness of river (…) almost like one symphony telling a story. It allures those who see it from shallow to deep waters, and from an open space to a lush jungle. The world where not only the fish but a wide variety of life forms can survive together – that is and will be the paradise I have been pursuing for. Truly beautiful landscape only lives in a beautiful ecosystem. It is my great pleasure if this Nature Aquarium moves the people who see it and conveys something to them.” (8)

Below is a compilation of making-of videos of the project (9).



(1) (c) 2016 Ellen Ringstad / Refuse To Be A Coward
(2) Oceanário de Lisboa channel. ‘Making of “Florestas submersas by Takashi Adamo” ‘ Available from URL: [Accessed 2016-08-16].
(3) Amano, Takashi. 2011. ‘Nature Aquarium Complete Works 1985-2009‘. New Jersey: TFH Publications. 
(4) Oceanário de Lisboa. ‘Temporary Exhibition‘ Available from URL: [Accessed 2016-08-16].
(5) IMAGE availale from URL [Accessed 2016-08-16].
(6) IMAGE availale from URL [Accessed 2016-08-16].
(7) ‘The Road to The World’s largest Nature Aquarium. Takashi Amano. Oceanario de Lisboa.’ Available from URL: [Accessed 2016-08-16].
(8) Aqua Journal vol 234. ‘The Passion for “The Tropical Paradise”, interview with Takashi Amano’, as quoted in: ‘The Road to The World’s Largest Nature Aquarium.’ Available from URL: [Accessed 2016-08-15].
(9) Ellen Ringstad channel. ‘Takashi Amano. Forests Underwater. The World’s largest Na’ playlist. Available from URL: [Accessed 2016-08-15].

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