Look closely, these aren’t you’re average landscape photos. These are aquascapes. Did you notice the fish swimming past? Aquascaping is the craft of arranging aquatic plants as well as rocks, stones, driftwood and other hardscape elements in an aquarium. It’s gardening under water, often with fish who reside in the beautiful underwater landscape.

It’s a challenging hobby and, like many other hobbies, for those interested in such things there’s also a competitive element:

"The world of competitive aquarium design, or aquascaping, is just as difficult, expensive, and cutthroat as any other sport but requires expertise in many different fields to guarantee success. Aquarium designers possess large amounts of expertise in biology, design, photography, and excel in the art of patience, as individual aquascapes can take months if not years to fully mature into a completed landscape.”

The aquascapes seen here were part of the International Aquatic Plants Layout Contest (IAPLC), the world’s largest nature aquarium and aquatic plants layout competition.

Head over to Colossal to view more.

Grab a snorkel because today the Department of Awesomely Good Deeds is taking us under the waters of the Pacific Ocean in Garden Eel Cove just off the coat of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. It was there last January that Keller Laros was participating in a Manta ray night dive when an amazingly astute bottlenose dolphin approached him and lingered long enough for Laros to notice that the animal was injured and asking for help.

The dolphin had a fishing hook stuck in his left pectoral fin attached to a length of fishing line that was tangled around the fin and even caught in his mouth. Fortunately Laros had a pair of scissors in his diving kit, so he quickly set about freeing the dolphin, who stayed remarkably still considering how uncomfortable the process must’ve been. Fellow diver Martina Wing filmed the extraordinary interaction. Once freed from the nasty hook and fishing line, the thankful dolphin swam away, disappearing into the darkness with a crazy tale to tell his friends.

[via Twisted Sifter]

Today the Department of Awesome Natural Wonders introduces us to, as RR Helm calls it, “The most beautiful animal you’ve never seen,” a tiny species of crustacean called a Sapphirina copepod or Sea Sapphire. This video footage, shot by liquidguru, feels like something Mulder and Scully might’ve been called to investigate, but there’s nothing supernatural or extraterrestrial about these dazzling animals.

"Copepods are the rice of the sea, tiny shrimp-like animals at the base of the ocean food chain. And like rice, they are generally not known for their charisma. Sea sapphires are an exception. Though they are often small, a few millimeters, they are stunningly beautiful. Like their namesake gem, different species of sea sapphire shine in different hues, from bright gold to deep blue."

"When they’re abundant near the water’s surface the sea shimmers like diamonds falling from the sky. Japanese fisherman of old had a name for this kind of water, “tama-mizu”, jeweled water.”

Visit Deep Sea News to learn a lot more about these awesome little creatures.

We share all sorts of amazing things that aren’t what they seem at the Geyser of Awesome. Here’s another one, and it’s a doozy:

You may think you’re looking at photos of beautiful undersea invertebrates, but these delicate beauties are actually models made of clear, coloured, and painted glass. Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, a father and son team of master glassmakers (previously featured here), painstakingly created these extraordinary glass models of invertebrate animals (jellyfish, snails, sea anemones, corals, hidroids, starfish, sea-cucumbers, squid, seaslugs and bivalves) from the mid 1800s until the 1930s.

Photographer Guido Mocafico visited the natural history museums which still house collections of the Blaschka’s work, including Harvard University Herbaria, the Corning Museum of Glass/Cornell University, and the Natural History Museums in London and Ireland, in order to create a marvelous series of photographs celebrating these exquisite models. He set the pieces against dark backdrops and carefully lit them to emphasize their different colours and textures.

As you can see here, the results that Guido Mocafico achieved for his travel and effort are completely wonderful. Click here to view more.

[via Faith is Torment]

Behold one of the most awesomely tentacular sights ever captured on video. You may think you’re looking at an alien, but this is an extraordinarily rare glimpse of a deep-sea cephalopod known as the Bigfin Squid from the family Magnapinnidae. It was caught on camera in 2007 by a Shell Oil Company ROV at a depth of 2386 meters (roughly 1.5 miles) at the Perdido oil drilling site down in the Gulf of Mexico. This fantastic image is a composite created using the haunting ROV video footage. (Click here to watch the original video.)

Magnapinna squids are one of the deep-sea more ethereal creatures. Little is known of these squid as very few have ever been captured, although over the last decade with the increased usage of remotely operated vehicles (ROV) and submersibles more and more video is emerging of them.
They are unusual in both that the fins are up to 90% of the length of the body, i.e. the mantle, and the ridiculously long length of the arms. The squid often will hold some of the arms at a 90˚ angles from the side of the body.
Wikipedia has a nice entry on the history of their discovery.

[via Super Punch and Deep Sea News]

Behold one of the most awesomely tentacular sights ever captured on video. You may think you’re looking at an alien, but this is an extraordinarily rare glimpse of a deep-sea cephalopod known as the Bigfin Squid from the family Magnapinnidae. It was caught on camera in 2007 by a Shell Oil Company ROV at a depth of 2386 meters (roughly 1.5 miles) at the Perdido oil drilling site down in the Gulf of Mexico. This fantastic image is a composite created using the haunting ROV video footage. (Click here to watch the original video.)

Magnapinna squids are one of the deep-sea more ethereal creatures. Little is known of these squid as very few have ever been captured, although over the last decade with the increased usage of remotely operated vehicles (ROV) and submersibles more and more video is emerging of them.

They are unusual in both that the fins are up to 90% of the length of the body, i.e. the mantle, and the ridiculously long length of the arms. The squid often will hold some of the arms at a 90˚ angles from the side of the body.

Wikipedia has a nice entry on the history of their discovery.

[via Super Punch and Deep Sea News]

Any animal that resembles a muppet is automatically awesome in our books. The unusually plush and clam-like fish in this video, shot at a Japanese aquarium, is called a Starry Handfish or Red Batfish. It looks like something dreamt up by The Jim Henson Company, but it’s a very real fish found on the continental shelves of the Indo-Pacific oceans at depths of between 50 and 400 m. They grow up to 30 cm (11.8 in) long and would probably make fast friends with Animal.

[via Smithsonian.com]

These awesome little cephalopods are Bobtail squid and they were photographed by diver and underwater photographer Todd Bretl. Todd’s stunning photos reveal the beautiful markings on the squids’ tentacular bodies and, we like to think, a bit of their respective personalities as well.

Bobtail squid primarily inhabit the shallow coastal waters of the Pacific Ocean and are closely related to cuttlefish. However they tend to have a rounder mantle than cuttlefish and have no cuttlebone. And when we describe them as little, we really mean it. The typical mantle length of a male bobtail squid measures being between 1 and 8& cm.

Visit Design Taxi to view more of Todd Bretl’s beguiling Bobtail squid.

We love spotting creative uses of our creepy Horse Head Mask and this awesome photo, created by Lebanese photographer Lara Zankoul (astridle on DeviantART), completely made our day.
Entitled The Zoo, this enchantingly unsettling image is part of Lara’s Conceptual series. She states that no photo manipulation was used to create this fantastic scene, so we’d love to know exactly how it was done.
Visit Lara Zankoul’s website and DeviantART gallery to check out more of her artwork. 

We love spotting creative uses of our creepy Horse Head Mask and this awesome photo, created by Lebanese photographer Lara Zankoul (astridle on DeviantART), completely made our day.

Entitled The Zoo, this enchantingly unsettling image is part of Lara’s Conceptual series. She states that no photo manipulation was used to create this fantastic scene, so we’d love to know exactly how it was done.

Visit Lara Zankoul’s website and DeviantART gallery to check out more of her artwork. 

Shane Siers shot this short but amazing video of a brave little Reef Squid hatchling (Sepioteuthis) doing its best to look tough. Even teeny tiny tentacles are awesome.

"This little creature was less then 30mm long, but still managed to make himself look threatening! Couldn’t have been more than a few days old. Watch how the chromatophores, the pigment cells, expand and contract to change the color of the squid…fantastic!"

Source vimeo.com

It’s been a while since we last checked in with the Department of Awesome Natural Wonders. These beautiful creatures are called Sea Butterflies, which are small pelagic swimming sea snails. These particular Sea Butterflies were photographed by Russian biologist and photographer Alexander Semenov (previously featured here).

Sea Butterflies float and swim freely in the water, and are carried along with the currents. This has led to a number of adaptations in their bodies. The shell and the gill have disappeared in several families. Their foot has taken the form of two wing-like lobes, or parapodia, which propel this little animal through the sea by slow flapping movements. They are rather difficult to observe, since the shell (when present) is mostly colorless, very fragile and usually less than 1 cm in length.

Visit Alexander Semenov’s website and Flickr page to view more of his captivating photographs of fascinating marine life.

[via Design Taxi]