At the beginning, please introduce yourself briefly. Who is Zoran Gligorjević Gliga?
First, I would like to thank you for the honour of giving the interview for your site, which I find excellent.
I am almost 42 years old and me and my wife are owners of a pet shop, a breeding kennel of small snaucers and erdel terriers „Fildale“ and a pet care salon in our small town Vlasotinac. I have a 16-year old daughter and another baby is on the way. My hobby is, of course, aquascaping, as well as dog shows, photography and walks in the nature.
When and how did you get interested in aquaristics in general?
My older brother had some tanks at the beginning of the 80's which he then stopped arranging, so I have decided to start with them at the beginning of the 90's and so it started, first one of 25 litres, then 100 and so on. First I had coryodorases, gold fish, angel fish, vallisneria, cryptorinae...in 2000 and something I got interested in spawing fish and growing plants, so that at one time I had a special room in the house with 40 tanks full of fish and plants.
Those of us who are in aquascaping longer, remember very well your pioneer plant tanks from 2004, which paved the way to plant aquaristics around here. Wonderwood set-up is a real classic. How did you start with plant aquaristics, where did you find the information when the internet forums were not as present as today? I remember that we were all wondering about CO2 then!
Yes, that was the time that I started to get involved with what is today called aquascaping. That tank fascinates me even today, although it is a very simple low-maintenance tank. There are no rules, I was more attracted to plant and their breeding and some kind of composition. The fish were there in order to have something moving around the tank.
Even today there is a magazine called Zov which had two pages dedicated to aquaristics, one for the plants and the other for fish. There were also some domestic books and aquaristic magazines, and a lot of Russian ones because they were ahead of us when it comes to aquaristic literature. At that time, various aqua sites appeared which made the job a lot easier for the aqua lovers.
What usually inspires you to do a set-up (nature, another tank or)? Do you prepare it in your head or on paper beforehand or does it come during the set-up?
It just comes on its own. I have travelled a lot and walked through nature so it was not hard to find inspiration for my works, I like some detail and I decide to put it in the tank. Aquascaping is for me a form of art, a living picture. I have never copied someone else's tanks, it is just not it.
The basic thing is to have an idea about the way the tank will look after a couple of months. I always do everything as I go along and have never planned all the details in advance.
How many tanks do you have at the moment? Does it take up a lot of time?
I have one big tank in my living room which is 250 litres and 10 smaller ones in the pet shop which are for sale. I don't have a lot of time to maintain them regularly, but I try not to let them look terrible because there is nothing worse than a dirty tank.
Where do you find hardscape and other materials for set-ups?
I find stones and branches only in nature, peat in our lake and gravel at the bottom of the river or from a factory. I don't remember that I have ever bought a branch or a stone.
It is well-known that you don't use some fancy things in aquaristics, so you use only energy saving light bulbs. What are their advantages and disadvantages? How do you determine how much to put above the tank?
In the last couple of years, I have only used Energy-saver lamps and they have proved, in my case, excellent. They last long, they come in different strengths (from 10 to 36w) and I only use those that give white light. Tanks look very natural under their light. It depends on the type and quantity of the plants, but I go for the combination of 1w-1L of water in most of the cases.
In some of your set-ups you had a period of lighting for even 16 hours, which is pretty uncommon. How to balance such long lighting without the algae? What is rhe average time of lighting in your tanks?
That were only experiments with the lighting, 16 hours is a lot, but if you have weaker lamps, tanks need longer period of light. Algae are common in most newly formed tanks, especially if the bio-mass is small... you can get help by a higher CO2 input. I think that around 10 hours of light is enough if the lighting above the tank is a bit stronger.
You use natural peat from Lake Vlasin (south-east Serbia) as a substrate. According to your experience, what kind of a substrate is that and what quantity do you put at the bottom of the tank? Does it let a lot into water and is it necessary to put a thick layer of gravel over it?
It is the best substrate for me and, what is the most important, it is natural. Those are in fact moss peats which have been there for centuries. Peat is good for spawing if it is cooked, it can be put into the filter to make the water more acidy-like.
It is enough to put 1 or 2 cm of peat on the bottom and a thick layer of gravel if the peat is not wet enough in order to keep it down there. It also depends on the type and the quantity of plants we will plant. Today, there are a lot of plants with thin and short roots used in aquascaping so they need a small amount of food in the substrate. Echinodoruses and Cryptocorynes love peat.
With such a rich substrate, do you fertilize through a water column? What is your opinion on the regime of fertilization through water column, like the EI system?
I rarely use fertilizers, although I have used some PMDD fertilizer in the last couple of set-ups, but I always exaggerate and then afterwards I have algae problems. Peat with softer and more acid water, are enough for a good plant grow. As I remember, only Cuba wasn't growing very fast.
How important is filtration in a tank? What kind of filters do you use in your tanks in general, filled with what?
I have always used outside bulkhead filters in my tanks and they have proved excellent. Plants need slow circulation of water, but I have never experimented with filtration and I also don't remember the last time I put an air pump in the tank. I only put sponge and perlon cotton wool, so only mechanical filtration.
What about circulation? There are ongoing debates on the quantity of flow needed for a tank.
In bigger tanks I use a power head to have some kind of circulation in the entire tank. Everybody has their own experiences.
Everybody is surprised with the fact that you use DIY CO2, even in bigger tanks. Do you have problems with algae because of that?
CO2 bottles are expensive and I am a bit frightened of them, so I like the two
bottle system the best, although it looks ugly, even if I put the bottles in the filter to make them as invisible as possible. I put the CO2 hose into the power head, drill holes in the hose which is inside the tank and CO2 is spread all over the tank.
There are always algae in the beginning, but after a month or two, their amount doesn't undermine the look of the tank. In the last year or two, I have used Easy-carbo after the water change.
How often do you change water in your tanks and what quality is the water you use?
When I have time I change 30% of the water once a week, which I would recommend to everyone, and when I don't have time, I try to do it twice a month. I use pipe water with dh=7. Honestly, I am very bad at Chemistry...
What is your favourite fish? Plant?
My favourite fish are discuses, king and blue neons and trigonostigmas and plants, if I have to decide: Glososstigmae, Microsorums , Blyxae and Ludwigia repens.
Taking photos of tanks- how do you do it and with what kind of equipment? How time consuming is it?
It is most important to capture the ideal moment for taking photos, moments when you think that this is it. I have Canon 50d and a Tamron lense for the past year and a half. Working in Photoshop is also very important, not on the composition but the small details in order to highlight the set-up. Everybody does it, so it is not a scam to work on the picture. I always turn off the lights in the room and put down the shutters, so there is only light above the tank. It depends on the set-up if there will be waves done by hair blower or lighting the background.
Sometimes it takes an hour or two for a good shot, to capture the waves, position of fish...
It is well-known that you regularly take part in aquascaping competitions: what are your best results? What are you preparing for this year?
If I am not mistaken, I have started sending my works to IAPLC in 2005 and I was ranked 317th then, which was a huge success for me. Last year I have sent two tanks and I was 76th with one and 93th with the other.
Although this doesn't have to be a measure of success, there are a lot of good tanks which are left unnoticed, and some strange set-ups make it into first 100. But it is all up to judges and organizers.
I have a prepared tank for this year which I will probably send to IAPLC.
I would also like to add that the Russians have an excellent and strong contest.
Due to the fact that you are a pioneer of planted aquaristics in this part of the world, and that you have been present from the very beginning (we have also been involved together in Aqua-art, once a well-known site), what is your opinion of the scene today? What makes you happy and what would you change?
Eehhhh...well, Aqua-art was an incredible site and I am very sorry that it ended the way it did. It makes me happy that there are a lot of talented aquascapers and enthusiasts, but I don't like the fact that there are a lot of sites with the same topic on such a small space as our Balkans. I hope that all the differences will be forgotten in the future and that some sites will be merged, because arguments and bad feelings never brought anything good.
Do you have any aquascapers whose works you like the best?
Of course, Amano is number one of all the times. I also like the work done by Cliff Hui. There are a lot of good Russian and Polish aquascapers. The Japanese are, of course, the biggest fanatics.
Message for our members.
Enjoy your water worlds. In the end, I would like to wish you a happy birthday and all the success in your work, beautiful tanks and a successful HAS Contest.
Author: Leonard Popovic
Translation to English: Maja Labaš Horvat