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Aquascaping: The Incredible Underwater Art

Sharmistha Sarkar Mar 6, 2020
The craft of arranging aquatic plants, rocks, stones, and other things in an aquarium in order to make it more appealing, is called aquascaping. Aquascapes can be of different types. The most popular ones are the Dutch style, Japanese style, and the Iwagumi style.

Did You Know?

The term aquascaping was coined by a famous marine biologist and explorer, Dr. Dylan Hart.
Creating an aquarium that contains a variety of aquatic creatures can be a gratifying experience for anyone. Aquascaping is the art which involves techniques of decorating an aquarium with aquatic plants, rocks, stones, cavework, driftwood, etc., in a tasteful way.
It is an excellent way to create a nice-looking aquarium which also provides a healthy and safe environment for the fish to survive, reproduce, and take care of their young.

While creating an aquascape, there are many factors that need to be considered.
They are, the design and layout of the aquarium, the levels of carbon dioxide to support photosynthesis underwater, the lighting, filtration, etc. Also, after designing the aquarium, it must be maintained well. Aquascaping has become popular in the recent years. Many have taken it up as a hobby.

Aquascape Styles

Dutch Style

It began in the early 1930s in Netherlands. In this style, the aquarium uses various leaf colors, sizes, and textures.
The aquarium is majorly covered with plants and a little substrate is left visible. The floor is covered by either a carpet or plants. The taller plants are placed at the back of the tank. It usually makes no use of driftwood or hard scape like rocks or stones.
The style focuses on the arrangement of a variety of aquatic plants and the type of construction is terraced.

Nature/Japanese Style

This style was introduced in the 1990s by the Father of Modern Aquascaping, Takashi Amano. Here, the aquascape is created by introducing hills, rainforests, mountains, and so on to resemble an image of the natural world. Wood, rocks, and plants play an important role to create a balance.

Jungle Style

In this style, the main objective is to create an appearance of a jungle. Fish are added to complement the look. This style can become very attractive with time as various fish species like to dwell in an environment of dense vegetation.

Iwagumi Style

It is one of the most popular styles of aquascaping. Here, a series of stones or rocks provide a bony structure to the landscape. Generally, three stones are used, where one is larger than the other two. Rocks of the same color and texture can also be used to create harmony.

Things To Consider

✦ Ensure the presence of everything you need, to support life in the aquarium. It includes lights, filters, food, water pumps, and other things.

✦ Try to keep the elements in the aquarium to the minimum. Too many types of plants or rocks will not look good and will make the tank look cluttered. It is best to stick to just two or three types of plants or rocks. Keep an equal amount of open and closed space in the tank.
✦ A focal point of the aquascape needs to be determined. The focal point is the main point of attraction. It is the point which one looks at, first. To find it, make use of imaginary lines and divide the tank into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal and vertical lines. Now, trace the points of intersection of the grid. This area is the focal point of the image.
✦ If the tank is small, it is necessary to have one focal point and other points of secondary interest. Larger aquariums can have multiple focal points.
✦ The bottom of the aquarium can be filled with gravel, sand, pebbles, or stones. Imagine how rocks, boulders, pebbles, gravel, and sand lie on a beach, riverside, or lake.
✦ Put a layer of fertilizer or nutrients into the substrate near the base of the plant roots so that the plants survive well. Fertilizers are available in the form of tablets and liquids. Do some research before using them.
✦ While using wood, avoid the ones that are artificially cut at the edges. Also, avoid adding too much wood to make space for the plants. Using the right wood is essential. Aquarium woods are available in many shapes and sizes. In case a desirable shape of wood is not found, one can cut a bought piece to get the perfect shape and size.
✦ Lighting is one of the important elements for aquascaping. It has an influence on the growth of aquatic plants as they use it to prepare food and release oxygen for the fish. It also makes the aquarium look spectacular and bright. For the best results, the light can be raised a little above the level of water. It will create a dappled effect. The use of high-intensity lights can also do a great job to create the same effect. Also, ensure that the aquarium is well-illuminated.
✦ Plants are another element of aquascaping. They enhance the beauty of the aquarium and provide a habitat for the fish. There are certain plants that need more light and food than others.
✦ Choose which plant will go well with your theme. You can use Java ferns, Anubias, or crypts, for they are slow-growing and require less maintenance. Avoid using fast-growing plants as they need high maintenance. Using artificial plants is a better option as they do not need light or any specific water parameters.
Also, they are easy to clean. Natural plants should be used if the fish are herbivorous. Arrange them in a random manner instead of a straight row. This will make the aquascape look natural.
✦ Plants having fine leaves look great when placed in the middle or back of a tank, and plants with heavy leaves should be kept near the edges. Also, dark-leaved plants look great when placed towards the back edges and light-leaved plants when placed towards the center. Avoid placing plants with red leaves in the front.
✦ Rocks provide a hiding place for the fish. It is preferable to use rocks that are non-soluble and will not affect the pH level, texture, and hardness of water.
Some of the types of rocks that could be used are slate, shale, and quartz. The ones to be avoided are soluble rocks like coral rock, limestone, and lava rock. Use those of different sizes and shapes.
✦ Arrange plants, rocks, and wood in such a way that a good contrast is created.

✦ While selecting fish, think what will match the design. If the tank is big, tall fish are the best option. Also, fish coloration is important. It must blend well with the colors and design of the plants. Another thing is to consider choosing one surface-dweller fish and one bottom feeder fish for every two mid-water fish. Some good choices of fish are Australian rainbow fish and tetras.
✦ Fish produce a lot of waste from excrement and respiration. Also, waste is produced from uneaten food or when fish die. These wastes get collected in the tank and contaminate the water. This poses a health risk to the plants and animals in the aquarium. Hence, removal of the wastes is necessary and it can be done by filtration. Filters remove wastes from an aquarium and make the maintenance easier. Some types of filters include canister filter and power filter.
✦ Carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the most important requirements for the plants to grow. Only some of the CO2 gets absorbed in water. Hence, it is necessary to inject CO2 in it. There are various ways of injection. The best way is to use a pressurized CO2 system. For this, you will need a pressurized CO2 bottle, regulator, bubble counter, resistant tubing, diffuser, and drop checker.
✦ Water changes are necessary in aquariums to remove the waste and dead matter.

✦ Creativity and a good imagination are key to aquascaping. Experiment with a variety of decorations.
Some other technical considerations also come into play when setting up an aquarium. However, there are no strict rules for aquascaping. Those who like the idea of decorating an aquarium can take it up.