Originally Posted by TFish
Do you know if I can heavily plant my aquarium (like your Amazon and South American tanks)? I mean, would it still be like a biotope? Maybe I can actually have a foreground, midground and background... ;)
I prefer to call my tanks "geographic", a term I coined from Dr. Ted Coletti's aquascaping column in FAMA back in the 1980's. To me, it means that all fish, plants and "decor" come from the same general geographical area, say the Amazon, or SE Asia, or Central Africa, whatever. Within that framework, you can choose a stream or river or flooded forest; my 90g flooded Amazon forest tank is quite different in concept from the 115g Amazon riverscape. But in both cases, you would never see the large variety of plant species (and fish) that I have in any one watercourse in the Amazon.
A biotope strictly speaking is much more specific, to perhaps this or that stream. So the fish and plants (and decor, be it sand/gravel, leaves, branches, rocks) would be only what you would find in that particular stream.
Heiko Bleher has done a lot of work creating biotope tanks. Another person is Oliver Lucannus. They have articles in magazines, displays, websites, books. Of course, sometimes we allow a bit of fiddling, esp with plants. Few natural streams will ever have the assortment of plants (or fish for that matter) that we place in our aquaria.
Most would consider a true biotope to be rather dull, depending upon the area. For example, Oliver's Orinoco biotope detailed in I think AFI a year or so ago consisted of a tank with brown sand, chunks of wood, no plants except one floating stem. I've forgotten the fish in it, but it was a far cry from my planted tanks. The Rio Negro and Rio Guapore rivers have lots of aquatic plants, something that is not all that common elsewhere. When we speak of forest fish needing plants, we usually think of the flood season when they spawn or during the "dry" season they live in streams that may be devoid of aquatic plants but have overhangining vines and branches into the water, and that is where the fish congregate.