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Interview to Michael G. W. Wong


Interview to: Michael G. W. Wong


Michael G. W. Wong


10 questions to Michael G. W. Wong, aquascaper award-winning in the most important international Aquascaping Contest. We discover his history, his philosophy and his technique of management.


Fotogallery Interview to Michael G. W. Wong



1. Hi Michael, would you tell us something about you? (where you live, what's
your job, when and how you started to be interested in aquariums...).

I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. My Father was the one who actually got us into fish keeping. He bought us our very first aquarium when I was very young. I can tell you many fish died in our care the first few years. I even remember going down to the ponds and catching my own guppies. We kept all sorts of fish but the most exciting times we had were feeding live bait to my 60 piranhas. As we grew older, party time, girls, and of course education were more important and we lost interest in aquarium keeping. I moved out to Hong Kong early 90’s and worked in the HiTech industry. Life was good for awhile until the “bubble” burst. It was hard to find work at the time so we (my brother and I) decided to open an aquarium shop to past the time. Our little business venture was meant to be short term until the markets picked up again. We opened shop in 2003, and almost nine years later we are still doing it. Having said that, our shop has come a long way to where we are now. When we first started out, I never heard about planted aquariums before. We didn’t start selling plants until late 2005. Once we got the hang of growing plants well then we started aquascaping and entered into our first AGA contest in 2006 (no awards that year but it was fun to join for the first time).

Some photos of the shop of the brothers Michael and Kam Wong (Kam is another great Aquascaper)

Photo by: Michael G. W. Wong

Photo by: Michael G. W. Wong

Photo by: Michael G. W. Wong

Photo by: Michael G. W. Wong

Photo by: Michael G. W. Wong

Photo by: Michael G. W. Wong



2. Which kind of soil do you prefer in your aquariums?

I like using either ADA Amazonia and ADA Africana soil. Both can grow plants nicely but you still need to add a good base fertilizer to the setup for better plant growth. For the base fertilizer, I prefer to use a JBL AquaBasis in combination with Ferka Bottom Mineral Capsules, ADA Bacter100/Clear Super/Tourmaline BC and a little Penac P and Penac W. Lately, the Amazonia New Soil seems unstable… could be certain batches though. Some complaints customers having, too acidic, not acidic enough, lots of algae problems, and appearance of Blue Green Algae at a faster rate, and plants melting at the beginning. I still use the Amazonia Soil regardless of the issues but try to combat the problems as they arise.      

3. How do you manage water changes and liquid fertilization? Do you prefer industrial or self-made products?

I usually try to change water once a week. But I’ve also tried not changing water at all on a test tank (4ft fully planted). This has been ongoing for two years and everything is growing fine. As for liquid fertilization, if you can make it yourself then go for it. I don’t know how to make my own so I rely on brand products such as ADA, Seachem and Tropica. Every tank setup is different so should the amount of fertilizer that goes in. Rule of thumb for me is… if everything is growing fine then the need for fertilizer lessens. However, if plants aren’t growing as they should then time to make interventions to the weekly routine. I would say I usually add liquid fertilizers at least once after every water change up to twice a week if I notice something not normal. If your plants aren’t growing well even after making extra dosages then best to check gH levels or make a few water changes to soften up the aquarium water. Of course, the hardness of the tap water really depends on where you live. Hong Kong water is soft. If your tap water is hard to begin with perhaps adding water softener resin to the filter on a going basis.

4. Do you recommend CO2 injection only during the daylight or 24h a day? Do you use the oxygenator during the night?

I only turn on/off the CO2 when the aquarium lights go on/off. Having the CO2 on when the aquarium light are off is simply wasting CO2 and in some cases may deplete oxygen levels in the aquarium. I don’t add air pump to my planted aquariums. I usually have fast water flow in my tanks and the spray bar in pointed upwards on a 45 degree angle creating water movement on the water surface which brings oxygen into the tank.

5. How do you manage the filtration in your aquariums? Only mechanical or biological too?

Not many people in this hobby will tell you this but I think using an undergravel system for planted aquarium is the best choice you can make. Of course, you’ll still need a canister filter but the undergravel system can make your tank sparkling clean. It sucks all fine particles down into the substrate. If you have ever tried to pull out your plants and notice you can’t see anything and need to wait a day or so before things become clear again… well in the same situation with an undergravel system the water would become crystal clear in a matter of hours. The undergravel system is also good for bacteria that live in the substrate because oxygen is provided to them.

6. Do you often test your water parameters? Which are the most important parameters to monitor? Which parameters do you usually keep in your tanks (pH, kh, ...)?

I haven’t tested my water in a long time. Growing plants is very easy as long as you have the proper equipment. With regular water changes and regular fertilization program things should grow alright. Of course, not everything stays perfect all the time and there will be good times and there will be bad times. The older the tank the harder to maintain healthy plant growth. The question is what do you do when things are not going as planned. Sure you can pull out your test kits and figure out what’s wrong but test kits will tell you to change water anyhow. So when things aren’t going well, try changing more water and more frequent than usual. Increase CO2. Add more fertilizers. Increase/decrease lighting period. Clean you filter and replace filter media. Adding some new soil helps trigger plant growth and lowers pH levels. These are just a few things you can do but don’t do them all at one go, do them one at a time a few days apart, the important thing is to remember which of these made a difference. Last but not least, you can always start over with new soil. I do this for a living and I know trashing a tank may be a lot of work but it’s worth it… especially tanks that have been setup over two years.

7. What do you think about Zen philosophy, Iwagumi and landscape layouts in aquariums? Don't you think an aquarium should represent a real aquascape?

I believe all aquascaping styles are good but I also believe you should aquascape your tank the way you like it regardless of the style. At the end of the day, you are the only one who will enjoy it. All this talk about being “Natural” is confusing. Aquascaping to me is like a fantasy world that you create underwater. Fish representing birds in the sky… sand representing a river bed or stream… sticks of wood representing trees… rocks representing mountains. If you think about it, it’s a creative fantasy world that represents “mother nature”. My favorite type of layout has to be landscape type designs simply because they are much more pleasing to look at. And they are easier to maintain for long periods.

8. You have taken part in a lot of aquascaping contest. What do you think about them? Do you think they can condition commercial choices of aquascapers?

I’ve been joining aquascaping contest ever since 2006. For me, it was important for my business to win some awards at the beginning but not so important now. I think everyone with a planted tank should try to make their tank presentable each year and join. That’s how I learned and got better.

The most famous creations of Michael


Winter is Approaching - 3rd aga 2007

Beauty From Above - 1st and best of show AGA 2009 and 1st ASE 2009

Frozen in Time - 2nd AGA 2009 and 83rd IAPLC 2010

Shou Stone Ridge - 2nd AGA 2009 and 12nd IAPLC 2010

Enchanted Forest - 1st AGA 2010 and 22nd IAPLC 2010

The heart of paradise - 1st AGA 2011 - 12nd IAPLC 2011 - 3rd ASE 2011



9. What do you think about the new IAPLC rules coming on 2012?

Sucks. I was in Japan this year when they had a trail run and believe me it’s not going to work unless they streamline the rules a bit. Put it this way… if you receive a letter saying you made it to top 100 will you go to Japan? If you go and find out that you have only ranked 99 then that would be a waste of money if you ask me. Just say you made it to top 7 and you are from Canada and have a few friends there to support you… but a local Japanese guy also made it to top 7… who do you think will get most of the votes? I think they just want more people to show up to the event but this new rule is going to kill the contest. I just hope we don’t have to wait 4-5 months to find out the rankings because that is going to make thing worst.

10. Any new ideas for the 2012?

Yes, many but you’ll see it in Japan. I hope I don’t get into top 7… because it will be a joke.


Well, Michael, the interview is ended. The Aquaexperience.it staff thanks you for the time you've dedicated to us.



Note: for more information on the work done by Michael and his brother Kam I recommend you visit their official website bubblesaquarium.com


Ultimo aggiornamento (Lunedì 26 Dicembre 2011 19:23)


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