These days it seems most aquarium hobbyists take inspiration for aquascaping and coral placement from fellow hobbyists’ aquariums. This is a great starting point to get some ideas churning, particularly for people new to aquariums, however I find some of my best inspiration comes from natural reefs. I have been an avid SCUBA diver since I was twelve, and have had the fortunate opportunity to see first-hand the beauty of natural reef structures and coral growth in the wild. However, being located in Michigan, most of my ‘natural reef inspiration’ comes vicariously through pictures posted by others.
I’m a frequent follower of several websites and Facebook pages that feature some great photographs of reefs in the wild. These pictures will not only provoke inspiration, they’ll provide hours of drool-worthy entertainment to any reef nerd.
You have to appreciate companies in the aquarium industry that have a real passion for natural reefs and share their adventures with all of us. Two of my favorite companies to follow are AquaTouch out of Phoenix, AZ and Exotic Sealife International out of Hialeah, FL. AquaTouch is a high end retailer of dry goods and livestock covering everything from freshwater planted aquariums to fully stocked reef aquariums. AquaTouch ventures on regular expeditions exploring various reefs and their collectors’ realms around the world. Exotic Sealife International is one of America’s premier wholesalers of corals, whom consistently offer incredible Indonesian and Australian corals. Like AquaTouch they too relish the opportunity to dive with their collectors and take some fantastic pictures of fishes and invertebrates of all kinds.
Many reef aquariums around the world have taken all of their inspiration from nature. For your next aquascape (and coralscape!) try looking around through various pictures of wild reefs, or visit one if you have the opportunity. So many aquariums these days tend to lack any natural structure or large grown in colonies as you would see on a wild reef. There’s nothing wrong with having the same species and even color morph dominating your aquarium. Try not to get overly caught up in the exact placement of a coral based on someones recommendation, instead, emulate nature.