Beauty, Simplicity, and Imperfection

Aquatic poetry. Aquarium as an object of art. A rainbow of colors. A fleeting dream captured by a magician. A jewel carefully planted inside a velvety dark space. This is the masterpiece created by Takashi Amano: the world’s largest nature aquarium.

The world's largest nature aquarium
The world’s largest nature aquarium

A professional cyclist, an award-winning nature photographer, a prolific author, and a legendary aquarist. An outsider possibly never heard his name, but freshwater aquarium enthusiasts consider him a genius. Takashi Amano created a whole new way of aquascaping. He introduced the Japanese gardening techniques combined with Wabi-Sabi aesthetics (a set of principles centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection; sometimes described as one of beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete) into the design of planted aquariums. He called it Nature Aquarium.

The Nature Aquarium
The Nature Aquarium

In 2013, the Lisbon Oceanarium in Portugal (Oceanário de Lisboa) invited Takashi Amano to create the world’s largest Nature Aquarium. Forests Underwater (Florestas Submersas) is an incredible work of art that, sadly, became his last masterpiece (he died from pneumonia just 3 months after completing the project in 2015).

Beauty, simplicity, and imperfection
Beauty, simplicity, and imperfection

Some facts and figures that illustrate the grandiose scale of this project:

  • the u-shaped nature aquarium recreates the balance of nature, its cycles of life and transformation
  • 40m long, 2,5m wide and 1,5m deep
  • 160,000 litre (160 cubic meters) volume
  • 4 tons of sand
  • 25 tons of volcanic rocks from Azores
  • 2 tons of wooden branches, including 78 giant tree trunks from Scotland and Malaysia
  • 46 species of aquatic plants
  • 10,000 tropical freshwater fish of 40 different species
Forests Underwater Exhibition
Forests Underwater Exhibition

Mr. Amano’s company, Aqua Design Amano Co., Ltd., provided an extremely detailed account of all stages of this unprecedented project. Somewhat lengthy, it includes tons of interesting facts, challenges, an interview with Takashi Amano and a number of videos that recorded the whole process. The videos are accompanied by the original music composed by Rodrigo Leão.

The Nature Aquarium
The Nature Aquarium
Takashi Amano's masterpiece
Takashi Amano’s masterpiece

More information:

Lisbon Oceanarium on Google Maps:

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Beauty, Simplicity, Imperfection
Forests Underwater (Florestas Submersas) at Lisbon Oceanarium: the world’s largest Nature Aquarium and TakashiAmano’s last masterpiece

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13 thoughts on “Beauty, Simplicity, and Imperfection”

  1. The pictures are so captivating. Its great to learn about the philosophy behind it and what was used to build the aquarium- 4 tons of sand! Wow! If I make it Lisbon, it will be on my list!

  2. What an interesting aquarium! I’m not usually the type of traveler that spends times as museums or aquariums (I know, I know), but this one really looks lovely. Your photos are great!

    • Thank you, Holly :). Surely, pictures do not do it justice. One should see it in person to appreciate the scale of this project.

    • Thank you, Will. This is truly an amazing installation. Seeing it in person is so much better since photos can not compete with live experience.

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