Live plant aquariums are great fun, but what if you want to take your underwater gardening to the next level? If you’re looking for cool aquascape ideas, you’ve come to the right place!
Aquascaping is more than just adding a few plants to an existing fish tank. Did you know that a fish tank with an aquatic space may not even contain fish? Read on to learn about the basics of aquascaping and find some ideas for planted tanks.
INTRODUCTION TO AQUASCAPE
Many people go into aquarium keeping because they want beautiful community tanks filled with fish and other aquatic life. But for some aquarists, fish are practically an afterthought. When you enter the aquascape, your focus shifts from the animals to the plants and other visuals in your tank.
WHAT IS AQUASCAPING?
Aquascaping is the art of creating a living underwater garden in an aquarium. The goal of an aquascape tank can vary depending on the size of the aquarium and the style of the aquascape, but is generally aimed at creating a calm, natural-looking underwater environment.
An aquascape tank begins with creating a layout and layout using:
- Landscaping features such as rocks and sticks called hardscape.
- Live plants that are nurtured and pruned into specific shapes or designs.
- Substrates such as soil, gravel, or sand that help support the growth of rooted plants and add visual effects to your tank.
MOST COMMON AQUASCAPE STYLES
There are many styles of aquascaping, just as there are many styles of landscaping. You may be drawn to a specific look or style, or you may prefer to use items from multiple styles in your tank. The most popular styles of aquascaping include:
Iwagumi or Japanese style
>Takashi Amano, known as the father of modern aquascape, brought this style to its current popularity. The Iwagumi Aquascape uses odd numbered rocks as the main hardscape, with the largest “Parent” rock dominating the tank. Some small growing plants are chosen to balance and harmonize the effect.
It’s almost like recreating a mountainside underwater in your aquarium. Many Iwagumi-style tanks also aim to recreate specific natural landscapes. Plants are used as a backdrop to highlight rock features or used to mimic trees and shrubs along a hilltop.
Scale and simplicity are central to this style. The substrate should be very fine and almost disappear into the tank. You can use small freshwater shrimp or schools such as minnows or tetras to increase the sense of scale. This is a great option for nano tanks or even large 75 gallon waterscapes.
>Dutch-style aquascaping relies on the use of a wide variety of plants with many different colors and leaf shapes planted in rows or terraces within your tank. Often the substrate is completely hidden under a layer of mosses or small, low-growing plants. The taller plants grow along the sides and back interspersed with other varieties.
Dutch aquascaping uses little to no landscaping and relies on plants and substrate to create visual layers within your tank. It may take several months or even longer before your tank looks the way you want as you prune and shape your plant growth.
If you are interested in growing such a tank, you will really need to invest in your equipment. To maintain such a densely planted tank, you will need excellent lights, filters, and a carbon dioxide injection system. You can read more about aquascape tank equipment below.
Aquascape tanks are all the rage these days and there is no doubt that these tanks can make a dramatic impact. A natural aquascape mimics a habitat such as a riverbed or lake bottom. Plants and landscaping are chosen and arranged to look as natural as possible.
The sky is the limit when it comes to hardscapes as you can use rocks, sticks, and multiple types of substrate to create the effect you want. You can mound your substrate in a corner and gradually level it across the tank, creating a gravel “waterfall or river” and use low-growing plants to mimic riverbanks.
Some natural freshwater aquarium aquascape design ideas include the recreation of land slopes, mountain tops and valleys, while advanced aquascapes may include a jungle or tropical island motif. Many natural aquascapes eschew the use of an aquarium background so you can see into the tank from any direction.
17 IDEAS FOR THE AQUATIC DESIGN OF YOUR TANK
Here are some beautiful aquascape tanks to give you some ideas of what you could achieve in your aquarium with the right design and layout. You will notice that many aquascape tanks use small fish or freshwater invertebrates to nibble on algae, but usually do not have large fish or groups of fish.
1. NATURAL LAKEBOTTOM AQUASCAPE INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEO
This video provides a step-by-step demonstration of setting up a large, low-maintenance natural aquatic tank. You can see how hard landscaping is used to create a rock wall around the plant substrate and then wooden elements sprout from that area.
Gravel and sand are used around the hardscape to create the natural appearance of a lake bottom. The plants used in this aquascape are mostly those that grow easily on surfaces, such as Java Fern and other Microsorums.
2. DENSELY PLANTED NATURAL WATERSCAPE
You can see how the substrate in this tank is completely obscured by the growing plants, and growth continues through the hardscape and even the top of the tank! You may notice the substrate bunching up in peaks and valleys to create layers in the tank. With the great growth of plants on the branches, you can hardly see the harsh landscape in this mature tank.
3. AQUATIC LANDSCAPE OF THE BOTTOM OF THE LAKE WITH SANDY SUBSTRATE
>Similar to the tank in the video above, this tank uses a rock pile and hardwood landscape to grow a wide variety of plants. You can see Anubias and Java ferns peeking out from some corners. It is not as densely planted as some, so it would make a good tank design for novice aquascapers and smaller aquariums.
4. SMALL MEADOW WATERSCAPE
>This is a good aquascape design for small tanks. The focal points are the centrally arranged branches that resemble an old tree, with a few small plants in the canopy to resemble tree leaves. The gravel is obscured by low-growing plants that give the impression of a grassy meadow. You can see some rocks along the base of the tree which also help complete the image.
5. NATURAL WATERFALLS AND RIVER AQUATIC LANDSCAPES
By placing different types of substrate in your tank and planting around the layers, you can create the impression of waterfalls and streams or rivers in your tank. You’ll notice that all the low-growing plants are on the mountains of the hardscape, leaving the gravel path distinct and clear. This tank is almost Iwagumi in design, but not quite.
6. NATURAL DESIGN FOR A 5 GALLON WATERSCAPE
>You don’t have to fill a tank with hardcaping and plants for aquascape! For a small or nano tank, you can choose a few simple plants and a ball of moss or two. By varying your substrate, you can create streams or rivers at the bottom of your tank, or plant some sticks and cover them with Java Moss to mimic trees. A single colorful plant or lily bulb would really stand out in this type of tank.
7. 10 GALLON NATURAL WATERSCAPE
>In small tanks, using a central landscaping element, surrounded by a few taller plants, such as a baby’s tears, can have a dramatic impact. You don’t need to plant densely to confine your tank, and in smaller tanks it might be easier to keep some easy-growing plant varieties that don’t require CO2 injection or expensive lighting systems. A few plants along the back and several on each side perfectly balance the aquascape.
8. 75 GALLON LOWERLY LIGHTED NATURAL WATERSCAPE
One option for a large tank is to go with a wide variety of easy-to-grow plants like Anacharis, Hornwort, and Java Moss. You can add more challenging plants to the areas of your tank that get the most light or keep them towards the top of your tank. You can then add low-light plant layers to the understory and below the hardscape. Once the plants at the bottom of your tank fill up, you won’t even be able to see your substrate.
9. AMAZONIAN NATURAL AQUATIC LANDSCAPE
>Another densely planted natural tank, this one features a mix of wood and rock with a wide variety of plants growing in them. The sandy bottom is prominent at the front of the tank, but hardening hides pockets of plant substrate in the rear corners. Tall plants cover the back of the tank and frame the image as your attention is drawn to the center of the woodpile in the tank.
10. NATURAL AQUATIC LANDSCAPE OF THE ISLAND
With the right backdrop, you can bring the sunset into your tank and create a tropical paradise! This tank is stark in design to resemble a tropical island, with thick branches decorated with java fern to resemble the trees in the foreground. Low-growing plants completely obscure the substrate and direct the eye to the rock at the back of the tank. The lack of plants at the back of the tank really makes the sunset backdrop pop.
11. IWAGUMI AQUASCAPE INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEO
You can see how much effort goes into creating the foundation for an Iwagumi-style waterscape. The substrate is added in layers and nutrients are added to support plant growth. The three rocks are carefully placed in the tank and arranged for a harmonious appearance. Plants are then carefully added so they have room to grow and can fill in any gaps. These tanks look simple but are actually quite complex.
12. 5 OR 10 GALLON IWAGUMI WATERSCAPE
>You don’t need a huge tank to practice Iwagumi-style aquascaping! This small setup is suitable for goldfish or betta fish and features three rock “cliffs” between the black sand substrate hidden under a layer of low-growing plants. You can recreate this type of tank in a 5 or 10 gallon setup, and you wouldn’t need a CO2 injection system or an expensive LED aquarium light to pull it off.
13. SIMPLE IWAGUMI AQUASCAPE FOR LARGE TANKS
>The Iwagumi style is suitable for tanks of all sizes, but is especially impressive when done on a large tank. This tank features the classic rocky hardscape and only uses a single type of low growing dwarf baby tears for the aquascape. The way the hardscape is placed in the tank obscures the substrate completely and creates the impression of a dry wash or canyon between rocky cliffs. The few minnows in formation give the impression of a flock of birds flying over the mountains.
14. IWAGUMI MOUNTAIN WATERSCAPE DIORAMA
The creative use of an aquarium background in this tank emphasizes the appearance of a mountaintop with a prominent “Father” rock off center. The blue sky and clouds add a sense of height to the tank. With some low-growing plant varieties in the hardscape and planted on top of the substrate, the sandy “river” appears to flow down the mountainside.
15. HILLTOP IWAGUMI WATERSCAPE
Another tank that uses the backdrop to give the feeling of a blue sky, this one features a group of rocky hardscapes hidden under pockets of low-growing plants. It also uses different gravel and sand substrates to mimic the bottom of a canyon or valley at the front of the tank. As your eye climbs the top of the hill, you’ll see bits of the hardscape peek out, and a few fish in formation complete the look.
16. HOW TO MAKE A WATERSCAPE WITH A DUTCH STYLE TANK
This beautiful video demonstrates in detail how to set up and stock a tank using the Dutch style of planting in dense rows or levels. You can see how the tweezers allow you to place the plants in precisely the right place. The plants are spaced so they grow together quickly, and within a few weeks, this aquarium looks amazing! You will definitely want a high quality CO2 system and lights for this type of aquascaping.
17. GREAT DUTCH WATERSCAPE
In this mature tank, you can see how the different colors and shapes of the plants’ leaves combine to create an even background of plant life throughout the tank. The substrate is completely hidden under low-growing plants, and taller plants on the sides and back continue to draw attention to the center of the tank. You can see the LED light strip that supports these beautiful plants and the splash of color that the school tetras offer in the tank.
I hope this article has given you some aquarium landscaping ideas for your aquascape tank! There are many aquarium plant backgrounds and designs that you can follow to create a specific natural look, or you can go crazy and introduce other interesting elements to your tank.
You can place a castle decoration on top of a mountain or crash a UFO into your substrate for fun. The key to aquascaping is to use your plants to highlight the hardscape in your tank and to prune them for best growth and appearance.