The Aquatic Expo Freshwater Aquascaping Invitational!

Sponsored by: Pisces USA, Glasscages, Oase, and Tropica.

Watch 10 competitors as they go head-to-head live for prizes and recognition in a reality-style timed aquascaping contest. Competitors will choose from a selection of provided materials and are allowed just four hours—from selecting materials to topping off water—to ‘scape their custom aquariums and create masterpieces! 

Contestants will compete live Saturday from 12pm—4pm, with awards presented on Sunday. 

Follow along online and at the show as the event is live-streamed. Look for our ad in Amazonas Magazine!


Meet Our Panel of Judges

Hosted By:

Jen Williams

Jeff Miotke

Chantz Cramer

David Bono

Rules and Regulations

Participants will have four hours to complete their entry, beginning at 12PM and ending at 4PM Saturday. There will be a brief announcement and an opportunity for the contestants to ask questions before the contest begins at 11:50AM. Any participant who is absent at the beginning of the allotted time will not get special consideration or accommodations regarding time or materials. All materials will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, beginning at 12PM. 

After the allotted time participants are not permitted to touch their entries again until Sunday morning, when only minor fixes (for example, repositioning plants that may have dislodged overnight) will be allowed between 10-10:30AM.

Judging will occur Saturday between 4PM and show close. 

Awards will be announced and presented at 1PM on Sunday

All layouts must remain fully completed and on display until after the awards ceremony on Sunday. Tear down may begin at this point, but not before. Any layout that remains after the conclusion of the event will be considered property of The Aquatic Expo. Should any contestant choose not to keep their layout they may donate it to be auctioned off for charity. Please let the organizers know before the show begins on Saturday if the layout is to be donated so that ample time will be provided for attendees to be able to bid on the auction.

Registration applications must be submitted by 11:59PM EST April 30, 2024. The Aquatic Expo will notify selected competitors by no later than May 1, 2024.  

Contestants must be 18 or older to compete.

There are a total of ten open positions for this competition, and participants will be selected by jury based on submitted samples of work through the registration process.

If selected, the entry fee is $100 and includes (1) General 2-Day Pass to The Aquatic Expo and finished layouts at the conclusion of the event. Entry fee must be paid within seven days of notification, failure to do so will indicate forfeiture of selection and TAE will continue to the next qualified competitor to fill the allotment.

Entry Fees are non-refundable for any reason at any time. If a contestant chooses to attend but not to compete their entry fee will be converted to a standard weekend pass only. No other refund will be available.

There are no teams and contestants must participate solo.

Contestants are responsible for tear-down and removal of layout at the conclusion of the event.

The provided aquariums will be custom rimless glass tanks from Glass Cages measuring 24 X 12 X 16”, filtration will be provided by Oase in the form of BioStyle30 filters, and lights will be provided by (TBD). 

Competitors may ONLY use provided equipment with no substitutions, and must use ALL of the provided equipment. 

Aquascape materials will be provided by Pisces USA to include a selection of stone, wood, and substrates. Plants will be provided by Tropica to include a selection of varieties. 

Plant selection may occur at any time during the duration of the build time. Please be prepared to care for your selected plants properly if you choose them at the beginning of the timeline and remove them from the selection table. Additionally, contestants who remove plants early are asked to be mindful and only remove what they expect to use, and promptly return any they will not be using to the selection table as soon as possible for others to have the opportunity to use. 

Competitors must use the provided materials ONLY to create their aquascape. Outside materials are prohibited.

Materials selection is on a first come first served basis. All materials are for community use and unused pieces must be returned to the selection tables. Please be considerate of your fellow contestants. Competitors are not to alter or damage materials unless they are being used in the creation of their layout. 

Points will be deducted for wasteful misuse of materials or hoarding to hinder other competitors.

Competitors may provide their own tools to include glues, brushes, spray bottles, and other working materials. No tools will be provided by the event. The use of power tools is prohibited.

Competitors are responsible for filling their tanks with water before the close of working time. Pre-treated water will be available by 2pm, and access will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Please plan for enough time for this portion of the setup–filling will not be permitted after close of working time.

Contestants will be allowed to add livestock to their entries, on their own. No livestock will be provided by TAE. Livestock is NOT mandatory, but encouraged. Contestants are responsible for ensuring proper care of livestock throughout the event. There will not be penalties for absence of livestock, but additional points may be given for appropriate use of animals in the entries. Points will be deducted for unhealthy or inappropriate inhabitants. 

This event is primarily intended to be a friendly way for hobbyists to share their aquascaping talent with each other as well as the general public, and to learn through the display and evaluation of those efforts. 

Aquascapers are not to solicit feedback from or reveal which entry is theirs to the contest judges at any point before judging is complete. These actions can result in disqualification from award contention. 

Judging will be conducted with each aquascape identified only by number; i.e. the judges will not know the identity of the person whose aquascape they are considering. The Aquatic Expo will take all reasonable measures to ensure judges are unable to identify contestants and their entries. Judges do not communicate with each other while scoring each aquascape, but may confer in cases of tied scores. 

Awards (1st, 2nd, and 3rd place) will be given to the three highest-placed aquascapes. A People’s Choice will also be awarded, and will be tallied from in-person show attendee votes. 

The top three winners will be awarded a cash prize. A trophy will be awarded during the Awards Ceremony on stage Sunday as well, winning participants must be present for the awards ceremony.  

Judges are asked to provide feedback while scoring on each entry in the contest.

The decision of the judges is final and may not be contested.

Overall Impact (50 points)

  • General impression of layout. Originality, creativity, natural feel. 
  • Does the layout appear complete? 
  • If used, does livestock appear healthy and enhance the overall feel of the layout?

Composition (25 points)

  • How well were materials used?
  • Is the space used wisely for maximum impact?
  • Is there good use of scale and positive/negative space?
  • Technical skills of creator (to include cleanliness of construction)
  • Was color or light/shading used well to enhance layout?

Selection of Materials (25 points)

  • Is hardscape a good representation of aquatic habitat? Does it have a natural foundation?
  • Do the plants, hardscape, and livestock work harmoniously together?
  • Could this layout realistically be maintained and managed long-term (plant choice/placement)?
  • If used, is livestock appropriate for this size aquarium and specific layout?

By participating every competitor agrees to the following.

  • Their works will be photographed and evaluated. Images and Media can and will be used to promote the event.
  • Video and Images captured by TAE are the property of TAE and can be used in any scenario to promote the competition or future competitions
  • A competitor’s likeness and the first name followed by the last initial will be used to promote the event and may appear in promotional media and on the website.
  • During the competition, the event may be live-streamed, and authorized members of the TAE media staff may interview competitors.

TAE, all contest sponsors, and the organizing committee are not responsible for any loss, illness, or failure of tanks during transportation or during the exhibition period.