Aquashella Aquarium Festival Aquascaping Competition; Entries, Rules and Judging Summary for Contestants

Contestants are asked to submit their entries by filling out the form below. entries must comply with the following rules and include the following in their submission. 

Contest Entrance Rules and Submission Criteria:

  • The competition is open to all aquascapers!

  • Teams are allowed, if you wish to form a team for a single entry, be sure to indicate your teammates on your entry. Note that if a team wins the grand prize, there is only 1 prize, and it is up to the team to determine how the items and winnings are distributed. 

  • We want to see how you aquascape and see samples of your work. Entry submissions must include the following:

    1. 4 to 6 high-quality photos of recently completed aquascape(s), ensure at least 1 is a full tank frontal photo, capturing an entire scape

    2. A 30-second video of aquascape

    3. A 30-second video of the aquascaper summarizing their aquascape techniques. Think of answering questions about what the key features of the design are, or why you choose a certain placement.

    4. A photo of and bio of yourself! If you are entering as a team, we need a bio for each team member. 

    5. An indication of which event you are applying to complete at; Dallas qualifying round, or Daytona Champions Round

  • Entries will be evaluated by our internal teams, with 10 entries selected to compete in person in Dallas, and 10 entries will be selected to compete in-person in Daytona. The Top 5 from Dallas will qualify for the Daytona Champions Round.

    1. The winning 5 aquascapes in Dallas will be asked to travel to Daytona to compete for the grand prize.

    2. An additional 10 will be invited from online-only entries, without a qualifying round, to compete in Daytona for the grand prize.

  1. Winners from Dallas will be required to complete a new aquascape in Daytona’s Champions Round.

  • Contestants are responsible for their own travel expenses.

  • Aquashella Aquarium Festival and its assigns hold all rights to submission materials and copyrights transfer upon submission to allow for the festival to promote and evaluate all entries.


Dallas Qualifying Round – May 20-21, 2023, selected contestants will be notified by April 20, 2023

Daytona Champions Round – November 4-5, 2023, selected contestants will be notified by October 4, 2023

Submissions will be evaluated by our internal teams for completeness, design, and selection for competition for each round. There is no entry fee to the contest. All final scapes and equipment are property of Aquashella and will be auctioned with net proceeds going to a selected charity or charities.

Selected contestants will be responsible for their own travel to the competition locations.

Additional Rules for Aquascape Designs

Each contestant (including team members) will receive a full conference badge for admission to the exhibit hall floor. Contestants are given two days to complete their finished designs, aquascaping hours are as follows:

  • Friday, from 2pm to 6pm

  • Saturday, from 10am to 5pm

Scaping has been scheduled during show hours to allow attendees to watch the process, and interact with aquascapers as you are assembling your entry.

Judging will commence after submissions are completed at 5 pm on Saturday, and awards will be placed on each entry for public review at 10 am on Sunday. Ribbons and judges’ scorecards will be displayed at the aquariums through the conclusion of the festival on Sunday.

Aquascapers must submit examples of their work to be selected as a contestant.

Aquashella and its sponsors will provide hardscape materials such as rock, driftwood, and substrate as well as live plants to be used to build your aquascapes in the provided aquariums. 

These materials will be available on a first-come, first-served basis at the onset of the competition on Friday. 

All contestants must complete their aquascapes using the equipment and materials provided by the contest sponsors, substitutions are not allowed. 

Contestants may use their own tools, glue and filtration media; however no logos or branding other than that of the contest sponsors may be prominently visible during the contest.

Stands, water, and adequate electricity will be provided at each tank to support the installation.

Contestants are required to use and showcase the provided products in their design and must use the materials provided on-site (36”x18”x18” or 36”x22”x22” tanks, lights, heaters, filters, tools, substrates) as part of their competition scapes.


  • Contestants must use the tank, light, and equipment provided by the contest sponsors, but may use equipment other than that provided if it is in addition. Substitutions of equipment are not allowed.

  • Tank backgrounds can be used, at the entrant’s discretion.

  • Hardscape materials are provided by the competition sponsors.

  • CO2 is not provided, if you wish to use CO2 on your installation, contestants must bring their own system.

  • Contestants should also consider bringing micron filters, filtration media, and other equipment necessary to clear tanks after setup.

  • Fish are allowed, but not required in any entry.

  • Any fish used in aquascapes should be appropriate for the size tank, display, and health of the animals. Irresponsible husbandry choices in design will result in loss of points during judging and may be forcibly removed if a poor representation of industry best practices.

The following products and equipment will be provided at each festival for contestants to build their aquascapes with/within:

Equipment provided:

  • (2) Fluval Plant 3.0 LED 46w 36-46in

  • (1) Fluval M 200Watt Submersible Heater

  • (1) Fluval Curved Scissors 9.8in

  • (1) Fluval Spring Scissors 5.9in

  • (1) Fluval Straight Forceps 10.6in

  • (1) Fluval Pincha Shovel 12.6in

  • (1) Fluval Algae Shaver 24.8in

  • (1) Fluval 407 Canister Filter

  • (1) Fluval X07 Spray Bar

  • (2) Fluval Stratum 17.6lb

Hardscape materials provided:

  • Fluval Stratum 17.6lb

  • Caribsea Eco Complete 20lb

  • Caribsea Super Naturals Moonlight Sand 20lb

  • Caribsea Peace River 20lb

  • Caribsea Dragon Stone rock (assorted sizes)

  • Assorted Rock & Driftwood (Specifics TBA)

  • Live plants and mosses, variety (sufficient for everyone to use) 

  • Note * more items may be added

Judging Criteria and Awards

Each entry will be rated by our celebrity judges with score values being assigned by winner order. 3 judges at each competition will evaluate the entries once the allotted aquascaping time has lapsed between 5pm on Saturday (when aquascaping ends) and the presentation of awards at 10am on Sunday.

In the event of a tie; judges will be asked to re-evaluate the tied entries to determine a winner.

Judges scorecards and results will be posted for clarity and public evaluation.

Evaluation Categories

  • Overall Appearance

  • Composition

  • Choice of Materials (plants, materials, animals)

  • Aquascape Sustainability

  • Inspirational Design

Category definitions:

  • Overall Appearance – is this aquascape pleasing? Do all the selected materials and animals work well together? Is the presentation balanced and harmonious?

    1. Composition – is the aquascape laid out well? How is the use of negative space? Has the aquascaper leveraged depth of field in their presentation?

    2. Choice of materials – Has the plants, materials, and animals selected been appropriate for the aquascape presented? Did the aquascaper use the “right” materials for this application?

    3. Aquascape Sustainability – If this aquascape was in a home, is it maintainable? How realistic is this aquascape for a hobbyist? Are the plants/animals selected and displayed appropriate for the installation and represent industry best practices?

  • Inspirational Design – Does this aquascape inspire others? Is it showcasing the love of aquascaping? Is it challenging others to reach for new ideas and push the limits? How well does this design showcase the love of aquascaping and aquarium design?

Rank Scoring Calculations; each judge will rank their top 5 tanks from top to bottom. Rankings assign points, and points are accumulated to determine the winner. A fourth score is allotted to “Peoples Choice” for which voting will be open for on Saturday by event attendees.

Ranking points system; points are added from all judges scorecards to determine winners.

1st – 100 points

2nd – 80 points

3rd – 60 points

4th – 40 points

5th – 20 points


The following awards are planned for each contest. Note, awards may be changed, added, or amended depending on the quality of entries, and judges’ comments.

  • $5,000 Grand Prize and Trophy (Qty 1 – awarded only at final round competition in Daytona)

  • $1,000 Regional Grand Prize and Trophy (Qty 1 at Dallas event)

  • 3 ‘Best in Scape’ Awards – Ribbon

  • Honorable Mention – Ribbon

  • Best use of Depth and Space – Ribbon

  • Best use of Color- Ribbon

  • Best use of Plants- Ribbon

  • Best use of Hardscape Materials – Ribbon

  • Most Creative- Ribbon 

Saturday Schedule
TIMEShow FloorFluval Main StageFeature StageFish Stream Media LoungeAqueon Kids Corner
10:00 AMVIP Entry
11:00 AMEarly Bird Entry
12:00 PMSpeaker - Advanced FreshwaterWorkshop - Intermediate Saltwater
1:00 PMGA EntrySpeaker - Advanced SaltwaterWorkshop - Intro to FreshwaterMermaid Photo Op
2:00 PMSpeaker - Intermediate FreshwaterWorkshop - Intro to Saltwater with George Mavrakis
3:00 PMSpeaker - Intermediate SaltwaterFRESHWATER SCAPE OFF
4:00 PMSpeaker - Public Aq / ConservationWorkshop - Advanced Freshwater
5:00 PMRaffle
6:00 PMClose
Sunday Schedule
TIMEShow FloorFluval Main StageFeature StageFish Stream Media LoungeAqueon Kids Corner
10:00 AMVIP Entry
11:00 AMEarly Bird EntrySpeaker - Advanced SaltwaterWorkshop - Reptile
12:00 PMSpeaker - Viviarium & PaludariumWorkshop - Pond
1:00 PMGA EntrySpeaker - Intermediate SaltwaterWorkshop - ArtMermaid Photo Op
2:00 PMSpeaker - Beginner FreshwaterFRAG OFF
3:00 PMAquashella Awards
4:00 PMRaffle
5:00 PMClose
Saturday Schedule
TIMEShow FloorFluval Main StageHikari Feature StageFish Stream Media LoungeAqueon Kids Corner
10:00 AMVIP EntryVIP Meet & Greet
11:00 AMEarly Bird EntrySpeaker - Jen Wanner | Dirty Jobs: Aquarium Maintenance Tips and Tricks
12:00 PMSpeaker - Alexa Borrego | Tips for maintaining multiple aquariums Hiep Hong Aquascaping Tutorial
1:00 PMGA EntrySpeaker - Keri O'neil | Management of a large-scale coral spawning programFRAG OFF Redemption RoundMermaid Photo Op
2:00 PMSpeaker - Will Nace | How Aquatics Changed my Reptile HobbyJelly Fish Demo & Giveaway with Jelly Fish ArtAxolotls Live with Louisville Axolotle
3:00 PMSpeaker - Andrew SandlerFRESHWATER SCAPE OFFAnimal Encounter with Will Nace
4:00 PMSpeaker - Julian Sprung | My Saltwater Pond: inspiration, design features, and lessons learnedTMK Aquarist Live Scaping
5:00 PMRaffle
6:00 PMClose
Sunday Schedule
TIMEShow FloorFluval Main StageHikari Feature StageFish Stream Media LoungeAqueon Kids Corner
10:00 AMVIP EntryVIP Meet & Greet
11:00 AMEarly Bird EntrySpeaker - Marc Levenson
12:00 PMSpeaker - Jeff Miotke | Aquascaping: Create Living ArtLevi Peterson NPS Corals For Beginners Workshop
1:00 PMGA EntrySpeaker - Jason Adams | Fish Keeping Myths EXPOSED!Women In Reefing Open Panel DiscussionMermaid Photo Op
2:00 PMSpeaker - Sara Stevens | A Proactive Approach to Coral Health: How to Diagnosis and Treat Disease in Your ReefGrant Eder Shrimp Keeping WorkshopAxolotls Live with Louisville Axolotle
3:00 PMAquashella AwardsAnimal Encounter with Will Nace
4:00 PMRaffle
5:00 PMClose