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Bringing The Art of Aquascaping to Chattanooga

Ethan Dickinson is a local aquarist making big waves in the local fish-lovers scene!

A common philosophical phrase of the art world is the question of if life imitates art or does art imitate life. For Ethan Dickinson, though the answer is easy: the art is life. 19-year-old Ethan is a fish enthusiast like no other and when he isn’t working at the fish shop he manages, he spends a lot of his time working on aquascapes. Aquascaping is the art of arranging the plants, rocks, sand, pebbles, wood or whatever else will be going into an aquarium in a way that is aesthetically pleasing and also functional so that aquatic life can inhabit the tank. While it is a relatively small and unknown art form for a lot of the world, it is starting to gain attention here in Chattanooga, largely due to Ethan.

Ethan’s interest was first sparked when he was around 15 and he discovered the artwork of Takashi Amano. Amano is a legend in the aquarist community as he pioneered the art of aquascaping and created incredible pieces such as the Florestas Submersas, a massive aquascaped aquarium in Portugal that is beyond stunning. Ethan says that what initially attracted him to aquascaping and has since held his attention is the complexity and uniqueness of each aquascape. When building an aquascape you are having to juggle the task of creating something that will be pleasing to look at but also be able to serve as an actual functioning ecosystem. The result is that each tank will always be unique in some way, whether that’s because of a difference of the fish inhabiting it or the placement of the decorations or any other factor.

“Nobody can judge your aquascape,” Ethan said. “Each one is supposed to be unique and have its own aesthetic. It shouldn’t look like anyone else’s.”

We asked Ethan about how others wanting to get involved in aquascaping can get started and he says that the best thing they can do is start meeting others involved in it. They can go to their local fish shop to find fish fanatics like Ethan, visit aquarists to gain inspiration and watch professional aquarists like George Farmer on sites like YouTube. Ethan is personally trying to help introduce the art to the community by hosting the Chattanooga Aquatics Club (which you can find and follow on Facebook to become involved with) and creating aquascapes for businesses in the Chattanooga area, including most recently a clinic in Ooltewah. Make sure to go follow Ethan on Instagram with @ethans_aquatics to see some of his personal aquascapes and more!