The Fish Guru

Creating Beautiful Underwater Landscapes: A Beginner’s Guide to Aquascaping

Introduction to Aquascaping

Aquascaping is the art of creating beautiful underwater landscapes in a carefully designed aquarium. From lush, tropical gardens to stunning recreations of natural habitats, the possibilities are endless.

This hobby offers an opportunity to exercise creativity, reduce stress, and build a calming oasis in your home or office. The art of aquascaping has a history that is closely tied to the work of Takashi Amano, who revolutionized the way we think about aquarium design.

Using a mix of natural materials, Amano created breathtaking aquatic worlds that could be appreciated like any other art form. Today, the hobby has grown to a global scale, with countless enthusiasts crafting their own unique and inspiring landscapes.

If you’re new to aquascaping and want to learn more about how to get started, this comprehensive guide will take you through the basics of designing an aquascape aquarium. We’ll cover the reasons people start aquascaping, the history of this art form, and some of the essential design concepts to keep in mind.

Reasons to Start Aquascaping

Why would someone want to start an aquascape aquarium in the first place? There are several good reasons to take on this rewarding and fulfilling hobby.

1. Hobby: Aquascaping is a hobby that offers endless opportunities for exploration and creativity.

You can constantly experiment with new designs and techniques to create truly unique and stunning aquatic landscapes. 2.

Creativity: Aquascaping is an art form, and like any art form, it offers an outlet for self-expression and creativity. You can create anything from a beautiful water garden to a surreal fantasy landscape that reflects your personal style and preferences.

3. Relaxation: Many people find the act of aquascaping to be incredibly calming and relaxing.

As you design and maintain your aquatic world, you’ll find yourself becoming more mindful and present. You’ll be able to unplug from the stresses of daily life and connect with nature in a meaningful way.

History of Aquascaping

Takashi Amano, a Japanese photographer and aquarist, was the founder of the Aqua Design Amano (ADA) Company in 1982. He specialized in aquascaping and sought to incorporate nature’s beauty into his aquarium designs.

With a primary focus on the concept of Wabi-Sabi, Amano’s goal was to evoke the essence of nature’s beauty. His magnificent innovations gave rise to a new art form in the aquarium hobby and a new benchmark in aquascaping.

Since Takashi Amano, many have taken up the art form of aquascaping and developed their innovative designs. The world of aquascaping has evolved over the years, with research and technological advancements resulting in innovative setups and unique designs.

Design Concepts in Aquascaping

To create beautiful aquascape aquariums, it’s essential to understand some fundamental design concepts. Here are a few key principles to keep in mind when designing your underwater landscape.

1. The Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds is a fundamental concept in the world of photography, art, and design.

It consists of dividing an image into three vertical and horizontal sections, creating nine equal rectangles. The main subjects of the image should align with one of the vertical or horizontal lines and intersecting points of the sections.

Similarly, you can use the Rule of Thirds to arrange plants, rocks, and other materials in your aquarium. The purpose of the Rule of Thirds is to create a sense of balance and harmony in your aquatic landscape.

2. The Golden Ratio

The Golden Ratio is another essential principle that will help you devise an aesthetically pleasing aquarium.

It is a naturally occurring mathematical proportion found throughout nature. This harmonic ratio is often associated with beauty, balance, and symmetry.

To apply the Golden Ratio in an aquarium design, you can make use of the Fibonacci Spiral, a pattern found in various natural formations. The Fibonacci Spiral, in essence, is a logarithmic spiral with proportions of the Golden Ratio.

3. Use of Depth

Another critical principle in aquascaping is the use of depth.

The arrangement of materials in your aquarium, such as rock formations and plants, should create the illusion of depth to attract the viewers attention and serve a similar purpose to the Rule of Thirds. Creating an illusion of depth in an aquarium will give it a more natural look and make it more enjoyable for you to look at.


Aquascaping is a fun, creative, and rewarding hobby that offers something unique and a sense of connection with nature. The history and design principles make it a unique hobby that requires patience and attention to detail.

We hope this guide has provided you with the necessary knowledge to start your own beautiful underwater world and grow the hobby even further.

Aquascaping Styles

When it comes to designing an aquascape, there are various styles to choose from. From the natural and serene Nature Aquarium to the lush and vibrant Jungle Style, each style offers its unique challenges and rewards.

Here are six popular aquascaping styles to consider:

1. Dutch Aquarium

The Dutch style of aquascaping is characterized by a lush, green, and colorful arrangement of plants.

The focus of this style is on creating a dense forest-like appearance, with hundreds of small to medium-sized plants positioned in a structured manner. The plants are arranged in rows and patterns along the aquarium’s length and width, making use of a variety of colors and textures to create a stunning aesthetic.

To create a Dutch aquarium, you will need to carefully select the right plant species and utilize fertilizer and supplements to encourage healthy growth. 2.


The Biotope style is based on replicating a specific aquatic ecosystem from a geographical location. This approach requires extensive research and knowledge of the ecosystem, including the water chemistry and ecology.

The aim is to recreate a slice of nature in a confined space, mimicking the natural flow of water, vegetation, and wildlife. The use of natural-looking hardscape materials, substrate, and plants indigenous to the specific ecosystem is crucial to creating an authentic Biotope aquascape.

3. Jungle Style

The Jungle Style’s aim is to create a wild, chaotic, and densely planted aquarium that emulates a vibrant jungle.

This style uses tall, leafy plants to create a canopy over the aquarium and smaller plants underneath to create the jungle floor’s appearance. The use of driftwood and rocks helps to add natural elements to the design.

The Jungle Style can be challenging as it often requires high light and CO2 levels to encourage plant growth. As such, proper maintenance is essential to ensure the plants do not become overgrown and detract from the overall design.

4. Nature Aquarium

The Nature Aquarium style is a creation of Takashi Amano and is characterized by a beautifully balanced arrangement of plants, rocks, and driftwood.

The focus is to create a minimalistic yet natural look, with a variety of plant species arranged in a purposeful manner. The use of carefully placed hardscape materials is crucial in creating a lifelike environment.

Plant selection should be based on their growth rates, form, and overall compatibility with each other. This style aims to create harmony in the aquarium and evoke a sense of tranquillity.

5. Iwagumi

The Iwagumi style utilizes minimalist rockscapes that place emphasis on natural rock formations as the centerpieces of the aquascape.

The aim is to create a serene and tranquil environment that draws the viewer’s attention to the rock formations. Careful selection of the right type, size, and placement of rocks is crucial to the success of this style.

Often, only a select few plant species are used and positioned to complement the rockscapes, creating a sense of balance and harmony. 6.


The Ryoboku style, originating from Asia, is characterized by the use of twisted wood, rocks, and plants to create complex, intricate aquascapes. The aim is to create a realistic representation of a mountainous river landscape, with each element serving its unique purpose in creating the overall picture.

The use of hardscape materials and a carefully selected group of plant species is necessary to attain the desired look. Proper maintenance is also essential to ensure that the elaborate design does not become overgrown and mask key elements.

How to Set Up an Aquascape

1. The Tank

When selecting a tank for your aquascape, choose a rimless option to give an unobstructed view of the underwater landscape.

Low iron glass also helps enhance the colors of the plants and fish. 2.


Choose a centerpiece such as a rock or the driftwood as a focal point and then add other hardscaping elements around it. Mixing rock and wood elements can create a natural, minimalistic look.

3. Substrate

Choose between active soils or inert substrates.

Active soils provide nutrients for root-feeding plants, while inert substrates play a more structural role. 4.


High-quality LED lights are the best option for an aquascape. They can provide a higher spectrum of light that’s necessary for photosynthesis and promote plant growth.

Get fixtures that can simulate sunrise and sunset and dimmer features that can adjust the intensity of light over time. 5.


Pressurized CO2 systems are the gold standard for providing the necessary CO2 for your plants’ growth. Look for a reliable CO2art system and keep the CO2 ppm levels at the appropriate range.

6. Filtration

Canister filters are the best option for an aquascape.

They provide sufficient flow and filtration while maintaining a sleek and subtle profile. 7.


Choosing the right plant species is essential in achieving your desired look, texture, and function. Online retailers like BucePlant offer various species of aquatic plants that are sustainably grown to ensure their quality.

Maintaining a healthy and stunning aquascape requires proper care, attention, and maintenance. Once you have set up your aquascape, be sure to monitor water parameters, maintain the equipment, and prune and thin out plants as necessary to keep the aquarium looking beautiful and healthy.

In conclusion, the world of aquascaping offers a wealth of possibilities for those interested in creating stunning underwater landscapes. Understanding the various styles, such as Dutch, Biotope, Jungle, Nature, Iwagumi, and Ryoboku, as well as the necessary setup elements, including the tank, hardscape, substrate, lighting, CO2, filtration, and plants, is crucial.

While each style presents unique challenges, the result can be incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. By maintaining proper care and attention, one can create an aquatic oasis that offers the ideal balance of art and science.

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