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Compared to cats and dogs, fish do have a couple of undeniable drawback as pets. You can’t really play fetch with them or take them on walks, and while there’s nothing physically stopping you from holding a goldfish on your lap and petting it, the sight of it desperately flopping around makes it far less relaxing than petting a purring kitty.

That’s not to say fish don’t have anything going for them. For example, they’re far less likely to pee on the sofa or cough up a hairball than a dog or cat. Plus, since they live in the confined space of a tank of water, you can create amazing scenery for them, like these amazing artistic aquariums.

Like any aquarium equipment supplier, Aqua Design Amano can set you up with tanks, lights, and filters. The Niigata Prefecture-based company goes one step further, though, by also seeking to cultivate the creative spark necessary to transform a purely functional aquarium into a beautiful creative endeavor.

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Every year, Amano sponsors the International Aquatic Plants Layout Contest. In 2013, entries came from 2,164 aquarists (which we didn’t know was a real word until just now) from around the world. For 2014, 100 creators will receive a certificate of honorable mention, with another 27 being awarded monetary prizes totaling 1.46 million yen (US$14,455), with one million yen going to the grand prize winner.

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While the results of the 2014 contest are yet to be finalized, if the efforts showcased in previous iterations of the contest, seen here, are anything to go by, we can expect another batch of intricately detailed, otherworldly surreal backdrops for aquatic life.

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While many of us are satisfied with tossing a sunken chest of pirate treasure or toy sea monster into our aquariums, many of the contest entries draw their inspiration from somewhere other than the briny depths of the seas. Many recreate what looks like a dense forest from a fantasy role-playing game.

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▼ We know there’s a dragon hiding somewhere back there.

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Others bring to mind lush jungles, with schools of tropical fish looking almost like flocks of migratory birds.

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With the proper lighting, the ripples on the surface of the water produce an effect like stratus clouds.

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You know what? All this borderline alchemic visual trickery of changing water into air has us asking ourselves what sounds like a Zen riddle: What would the dusk sky look like if the sun was setting underwater?

Thankfully, this puzzle has an answer.

▼ It’d look awesome.

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Related: International Aquatic Plants Layout Contest
Source: Spotlight
Top image: Twitter
Insert images: FC2, Style 4, FC2 (2), One Project (1, 2, 3)