Aquascaping Designs & Ideas for Freshwater, Reefs & Biotopes

by Jan 19, 2017

Aquascaping is the unique procedure of arranging plants and other features of a planted aquarium to make it artistically attractive. An aquarium that is properly aquascaped, highlighting a contrast of various kinds of aquatic inhabitants and plant species can be an ideal design element in your home.

Aside from breeding and keeping fishes, aquascaping is a whole new separate hobby. There are many styles used in order to make a visually artistic aquascape, so you will eventually find the design that suits your taste.

Great Reasons to consider Aquascaping designs and layoutsThere is a growing community which offers amazing ideas and techniques for those who want to try out aquascaping. The bonus is there is a chance for you to showcase your hard work. As of today, there are 1,200 members of the United States Aquatic Garden’s Association.

Aquascaping is all about the arrangements of plants, as well as cave work, stones, driftwood, and rocks. There are different styles used in aquascaping, Paludarium-style, Dutch and natural planted aquarium (and more!).

These are only some of the incredible ways of choosing an aquascape, it varies from the quality of your research and your available time.

How to Aquascape Your Aquarium

With the use of living plants, your Aquarium will have a whole new dimension in Aquascaping project. Floating living plants will add a relaxing and calming feeling, that will surely make your Aquarium pretty. But take note that these natural plants shouldn’t go together with herbivorous species in the tank since they will feed on it.

how to aquascape your aquarium

Credit: Filipe Oliveira

In terms of this, always choose artificial plants that come in various forms. Then, you need to utilize driftwood since they are the latest trend in Aquariums. However, using driftwood for your aquarium can be costly.

If you want to save money, you can settle for little pieces of driftwood which you can find at the beach. Make sure you place it in a quarantine tank for a few days and when the PH levels of the tank match with the driftwood, then you can use it.

Ensure that the driftwood is clean. Lastly, one of the most artistic ways of designing your Aquarium during Aquascaping is using stones. Before you put stones in your aquarium, there are several considerations you need to be aware of.

You must avoid using stones with sharp and pointed edges since they can slice the underbelly of your fish. A cluster of rocks beautifully glued together looks great in the fish tank.

Aquascaping Ideas

If you want to be successful in aquascaping, you need to achieve a thorough understanding of the needs of your plants and aquarium. Plant keeping involves lots of concerns, from the distinct lighting, heating needs and complicated water chemistry of your plants.

The more understanding you gain about your plants, the easier for you to cope up with problems and the more complex your planted aquarium will be. The design concepts are applicable to several simple plants, like Java Fern for example.

so many aquascaping ideas

It is the kind of plant which is easy to keep, but the more diverse your collections of plants, the better the contrast you could come up. If you want to come up with an incredibly beautiful planted aquarium, you need to have adequate planting experience with the plant that you are planning to use.

Once you master the art of plant keeping, this is the perfect time to start experimenting with various styles of aquascaping to create your ideal aquarium.

Aquascape Styles

You have many different styles to choose from. The style you choose really depends on the result you desire. Each style is unique in itself and will have it’s own specific architecture, equipment, maintenance and skill level required.

An aquarium can be decorated using unnatural ways that involve utilizing sunken plastic treasure chests, plants, and ships. This is where aquascaping differs since it uses natural ways of decorating, but you have to keep in mind that the decoration of Aquarium must compliment that fish living in the tanks while you are doing your aquascaping.

Nature Aquarium Design

A popular aquascaping design is the nature style aquascape which has been popularized during the 1990s. It’s a style that can be traced back to a Japanese man, Takashi Amano, who was known as the most influential. The factor which makes this type of aquascaping style stand out among the other styles is its minimalistic feature.

Beautiful Nature and Biotope Aquarium Ideas

Credit: AquascapingLove

The nature style is much easier to come up with an incredibly stunning outcome. One advantage of using this style is it gives less confident people a chance to gain experiences and experiment with many plants. Research on plant and fish species is essential to avoid problems on your way to creating your aquascape.

Basically, all the species of organisms you will place in the aquarium must have similar needs in terms of heating, lighting, nutrients and other factors of water chemistry. If it is your first time aquascaping or you want to learn about another style, the best choice for you is the nature style.

Aquascaping Style examples

Credit: ADU Aquascaping

It embodies a simple yet attractive way of featuring an aquarium which will give you an outlet to gain lots of growing experience that you can use to move onto other types of aquascapes.

The natural style will be satisfying for you, especially if you want to achieve a rocky backdrop to your planted aquarium. An aquarium is an appealing piece of decoration that will surely make the area where it is placed look amazing.

Dutch Style Aquascaping

A style very similar to the Nature design, is actually the oldest of the two and didnt become popular until the 1930’s. The focus is more on plants opposed to the use of rocks, wood and other hardscape materials. You really need to have quite an in-depth knowledge of plants to be successful with this style of aquascape.

Biotope Aquarium Design

Biotope in is dominated by lots of principles due to its impersonation of the natural environs. Asymmetrical arrangements of plants are associated with detailed placements of the stones, rocks, and driftwood.

Biotope Aquarium

Credit: BiotopeOne

Iwagumi Aquarium Design

The Iwagumi system establishes chains of rules which concern rock placement, where the primary stone in the aquarium is placed on the right or left of the aquarium’s center. You will often see plants with small leaves in this tank setting, as well as Java Moss because it is easy to grow. To complement the hardscape and limit the algae, freshwater fish and shrimp are often placed in this setting.

Freshwater Aquascaping Designs

If you have a freshwater tank, or if you have freshwater fishes, you would make use of plants which thrive on freshwater. You can also create a mangrove-like look in your tank. You will have to acclimatize your plants accordingly.

You also need to make sure that the plants all thrive under the same general ambient temperature. Read up on your plants, and on other plants that you might need. Freshwater plants can be less dramatic than salt-water plants, however, that does not mean that you have less variety.

credit: Zhang Jian Feng (Macau)

You can start with a paper design, which can designate where each individual cluster is to be located. These do not have to be of uniform height, but it would good if the plants were given equal treatment and focus.

Understand that your freshwater fish will be interacting with your plants. These plants have to provide the fishes with foliage they can swim around in without acting as a fence. Try to frame and compose your tank according to water flow and how your fishes will swim through and around them. You would want your fishes to swim unencumbered by artificial plant walls.

Aquascaping Reef Tank Ideas

Aquascaping with the use of live rock in a saltwater aquarium is an ideal way to upgrade the look of your tank and give the foundation for an effective marine aquarium.

Many people get anxious and they over think the procedure of putting together their live rock, corals, and other reef elements and look for ways to do it the right way. There are a lot of aquarium fishes which are also reef fishes. You can choose the fish first, and then design the tank as an aquascape reef tank.

credit: VeganBrian of

Tips To Make Your Aquascaping Reef Tank Ideas Look Its Best
  • Copy Nature – Look for reference in books and pictures on the internet. Observe how the reef looks like and do your best to mimic it in your saltwater fish tank or reef tank.
  • Hide Equipment – When hardscaping, you can mount pieces to conceal accessories in your tank such as pumps, heaters, and powerheads.
  • Stack Securely – Avoid stacking your rock in an unstable manner. There is a great possibility that it will fall apart if not secured properly and this could damage your tank and kill the organisms inside it.
  • Make Caves – Create peaceful areas such as caves so your pet fish can go to feel safe. This will allow your fish to avoid stress and provide a more realistic view to your fish tank.
  • Leave Enough Room – Never stack too many live rocks in your saltwater aquarium which can take all the free space for your fish and corals. Ensure that your tank has enough space for your fish and corals to grow.
  • Mix It Up – Purchase various kinds of rock for your saltwater aquarium. This will contribute more organisms and useful bacteria in your tank.

You have to consider the habitats of all the species of fish in your fish tank before you start your aquascaping project. All of these tips apply to saltwater fish tanks and freshwater fish tanks, regardless of their size.

Aquascaping Layouts

Along with the many different styles of aquascapes, you can also build out your tank following a specific layout. Below is an example and explanation of the different physical layouts you can use to great effect.

Wonderful Aquascape Designs

Aquascapes are awesome works of art found within an aquarium. These carefully-planned landscapes are truly eye-catching and make it seem like you are taking a peek into the underwater world. These scenarios are created from a combination of rocks, driftwood, stones and aquatic foliage.

There are traditional layouts that define how the Aquascapes should look like. There is the Linear Layout wherein the decorations are arranged in a straight line going in one direction.

Linear Aquascape Layout

Credit: James Findley

The Triangle is a layout wherein the rocks and floras are positioned in one corner. The plant is arranged to appear like it is gradually creeping away from that corner and into the open space. The plant stems are trimmed until it visually forms a triangular shape.

Triangle Aquascape Layout

Layout Copryight: Takashi Amano 2010, ADA Galerie Japan

In the U-Shape design, the center is kept as an open space. The plants are positioned on the left and right sides of the tank and extend upwards until it forms an upside down U shape. Lastly, there is the Island, where all the plants and rocks are centered in the aquarium.

U-Shape Aquascape Layout

Layout Copryight: Takashi Amano 2010, ADA Galerie Japan

In creating your own Aquascapes design, you can use these layouts as a guide and apply your own artistic ideas to create unique and stunning underwater landscapes. That will make your aquarium the center of attention!

The Rule of the Golden Ratio

In making your own Aquascape, the Golden Ratio is one helpful guide you can use to make the results breathtaking. This guide was created by ancient Greeks and has been used as a standard in creating all art forms. This is used to achieve perfect balance in artworks or in any form that involved the placement of objects within a space.

It is simply the rule of thirds, which means the ratios are not exactly the same but makes the composition of 2-dimensional layouts easier to implement. It is utilized when you are planning the layout of your Aquascapes.

Golden Ratio Explained

Make a visual image of our aquarium and divide it into 9 equal sections using four imaginary lines. Two lines are placed horizontally and the other two are vertical. The point where the lines meet is your golden focus. Use these points in marking the position of prominent features of your design such as where to place the main rock, driftwood or exotic flora. Use the same procedure when plotting the position of hardscapes or height of the plants. You must remember the foliage will need room to grow so you have to allocate 1/3 of space for that.

Like all rules, these rules can be broken. By using your talent and artistry, you can play around with this rule to come up with your unique combinations for your aquatic landscapes.