Aquascaping styles

Like any form of art, aquascaping offers a variety of approaches and styles. Each person has their own taste and their own expectations and desires from their scaped aquariums. There are four major types of aquascapes, each of them having particular characteristics and unique features: The Dutch style, the Jungle style, the Iwagumi style and the Nature style. Below is a short description of these four main styles.

The Dutch Aquarium

Dutch style aquascaping

Popularized in the 1930’s in the Nederlands, with the marketing of the first aquarium equipment, this aquascaping style is entirely focused on the culture and arrangement of aquatic plants. The Dutch style does not involve the use of driftwoods or any hardscape materials. The main focus is placed on the height, colour and texture of a wide variety of plants and the basic technique of construction is the terracing approach. It may look easy to accomplish, but the truth is aquascapers need to possess a great quantity of knowledge regarding different plants in order to create an aesthetically pleasing aquascape.
Read more about the Dutch Aquarium.

The Jungle Style

Jungle style aquascaping

This is one of the simplest aquascaping styles to reproduce. As the name itself says it, the final product should resemble the wild, untamed appearance of a jungle. One of the most common characteristics of the Jungle scaped tanks is that vegetation is often left to its own device and it becomes quite dense, which means it requires less maintenance and enables the scape to last longer. The Jungle style aquascape may not be the most complex of layouts, but it can become very attractive and functional over time, as numerous fish species prefer its dense vegetation environment.
Read more about the Jungle Style Aquascape.

The Iwagumi Style

Iwagumi style aquascaping

As opposed to the Dutch style, which only makes use of plants, the implementation of the Iwagumi aquascaping style is based on the development of an arrangement of rocks (hardscape), their positioning being particularly careful. The use of low-growing plants is very common in order to enhance their natural beauty and their disposal. The typical setup for an Iwagumi aquascape involves the use of three main stones, out of which a larger one, called the big Buddha and two smaller stones (attending stones. In order to create a sense of unity and harmony to the tank, it is important to use stones having the same color and texture.
Read more about the Iwagumi Style Aquascape.

The Nature Aquarium Style

Nature style aquascaping

This aquascaping style was introduced by Japanese Takashi Amano in the 1990’s and it is characterized by a very natural look and feel. Differentiating from the Dutch well manicured garden style, the Nature Aquarium style aims to create a scape that resembles a landscape or image from the natural world. Most common Nature Aquarium aquascapes depict miniature versions of rainforests, mountains, hillsides or valleys. Both hardscape material (wood, rock) and plants play an important role in the quest for balance in the aquarium.

Other tips and suggestions regarding aquascaping composition

Now that we have addressed the mathematical aspect of aquascape construction and we have gone trough the most known aquascaping styles, it is time to accost the other things that contribute to the creation of beautiful, magnificent aquascapes.

Imagination and creativity

Building your own aquascape is the perfect opportunity to set your imagination and creativity free. Start by doing your research, explore what others have done and experiment with new stuff. The process of creation is a consuming act, but the reward is more than satisfying. Remember: you should follow the basic rules and principle of aquascaping, but in the end, it is your work, your tank, your imagination, you should be the first to like it.

Symmetry and shape

Don’t strive to obtain symmetry in your tank! Nature isn’t perfect and that’s exactly what makes it beautiful. Avoid placing big chunks of hardscape material in the centre of the aquarium. It will make everything around look the same, taking away from the beauty of the entire piece.

The best aquascape shapes are the ones following a smooth curve. There are several composition styles in this regard:

However, do not feel constrained by these basic shape setups! It’s far more important to let your creativity do its thing and experiment as much as possible. Follow your guts and listen to what your own eye tells you. Be confident and have fun in the process!

How to create perspective

1. Choose the perfect background

Unless you place your aquarium in the middle of a room, you should definitely give it a background. Some of the most common materials for aquascaping background include wood, cork, adhesive foliage or simple paint. The role of the background is to hide the wall, hoses and cables and to help create in-depth perspective.

2. Find the right balance between foreground, middle ground and background

A good balance between these three can give a good aesthetic perspective to the tank. Use stones and driftwood in the midground to create the impression of hills or higher ground. To obtain some in-depth, use low growing plants in the foreground and try some pieces of wood sticking out to the surface in the background. The final setup should make your aquascape look harmonious.

3. Choose a natural looking substrate

Depending on the plants you intend to grow in your tank, you should choose natural looking gravel. The substrate acts as a base for the entire aquarium and you don’t want it to look artificial.

4. Choose the right plant coloration and size

Planting the tank is very challenging, but quite fun. Make sure you begin with the focal point of your aquarium, continue with the lowgrowing and midgrowing plants and, at the end, with the higher ones. It is better to plant groups very dense as well, the more items, the higher the chances to catch roots and develop. Use plants with different colors and sizes, as it will help you create contrast and indepth perspective and will help your tank look more natural.

Recommended fish

Most people already have in mind what fish they want to put in their aquariums. When it comes to aquascaping, getting the right type of fish is a delicate choice, because there are many factors that need to be taken into consideration. There is no specific rule, but you have think of their behavior, their breeding cycles, swimming habits and so on. You should avoid fish that would disturb your aquascape. The most common types of fish are small and usually schooling (tetras, Australian rainbow fish etc) because they have nice bright colours and they make the tank look bigger.

Aquarium maintenance

It’s not enough to build an amazingly looking aquascape. Keeping it clean and safe for the plants and fish could be as challenging. Successful aquascaping really is depended on the things you do after you’ve set up your tank, things like regular pruning and waterchanging, constant plant trimming, correct balancing of light, CO2 and nutrients.

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