Photo courtesy of Gia Nguyen

Nguyen ‘aqua’scapes from stress

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Observing his vibrant fishes swimming through the tank of colorful reef decorations, junior Gia Nguyen feels a rush of relief. He admires the beauty of his work, utterly hypnotized. With their silk-like fins gliding through the water and the tranquil nature growing in the back of his aquarium, he wishes to stay in this moment forever.

Nguyen embraces his stress-relieving hobby of caring for his Betta fish through aquascaping, the act of decorating fish tanks by growing a landscape. Ever since he was six years old, he was immediately drawn to aquatic animals and the beauty that followed their fins. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he began expanding his interest in aquascaping.

“No one introduced the Betta fish to me,” Nguyen said. “I found them myself when I walked by a fish shop when I was younger. I really liked Betta fish because of the many different styles and colors of fins that they have. When you look at  professional art, you will notice the colors are unique and how lovely it is, just like Betta fish.”

Over time, Nguyen began searching for ways to decorate tanks to provide his fish with a healthy living environment. Without using plastic, he stumbled across the idea of aquascaping for his fish on YouTube. There, he was introduced to millions of aquascaping styles with his favorite being a miniature replica of Britain’s prehistoric stone circles.  

“For Britain’s prehistoric stone circles, you have to put the rocks in the right spot and put them where they show the beauty behind it,” Nguyen said. “Plastic decorations don’t really pique my interest. They just don’t make the aquarium look lively even though there is a fish in there. Real plants are expensive but they are worth the money for sure.”

Every day, he spends at least ten minutes working on his aquarium and spends at least twenty dollars of his allowance each month to purchase supplies for his fish such as food, water filters. plants, and soil. Although this recent hobby occupies most of his free time, it encourages him to cope with moments of stress especially when he becomes overwhelmed with school and gaming. 

“I feel really relaxed hearing the sound of the water floating in the tank, “Nguyen said.“It feels like I am in a dark room with water, only me, and the fish as the fish tank is the only source of light. I just imagine myself as one of the fish and start swimming deep in the water.”  

He plans to aquascape in a new 50 gallon aquarium with fish like Koi, Angelfish, and Dragonfish. Although it is unclear where his aquascaping journey will lead him, he hopes to add more to his tank and make it even more beautiful.

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