Aquascape – Aquascaping

Aquascaping in the aquarium

Aquascaping © coffmancmu

Aquascaping is more than just a specific aquarium setup. It is an art and a form of expression in which living beings and furnishings such as roots, stones and earth form landscapes that imitate nature. It is not for nothing that aquascaping is also called underwater gardening. But the arrangement is not a coincidence. By the correct placement of plants, which are constantly changing, and the choice of suitable creatures and colours, not only a dynamic picture is created, but also a certain atmosphere is produced. The aesthetic aspect is in the foreground here.

In this form of design one finds the stylistic devices of art, such as the golden section or positive line forms. Many aquascaping fans do without fish in their aquarium. Others either take only small fish or invertebrates such as shrimps.

In order for form and arrangement to conjure up an exciting picture, it is necessary to observe some basic techniques. Besides the arrangement, the basic requirement is of course the right supply of nutrients, the right water filter for the aquarium and also a sensible aquarium lighting.

Aquascaping instruction

In the following we will create a guide that describes all the important features that are essential for a successful aquascape. If you have any questions or want to add to our description, you are welcome to leave a comment. We describe the aquascaping step by step.

Aquascaping substrate

Soil is the ideal substrate. You can find out what this is all about in another article.

Aquascaping plants

With Aquascape plants it is important that the plants have the right growth size, especially the right height, for an optimal picture. As the landscape and the creatures in the Aquascape are particularly vulnerable, laboratory plants that are free of toxins and pests are often used for the plants. This avoids the danger of polluting the water quality or getting annoying pests into the pool. Since there are unbelievably many plants for use in aquascapes, we will write another article just for this.

Popular plants are:

  • Glossostigma elatinoides (ground cover)
  • Hemianthus callitrichoides (ground cover)
  • Eleocharis parvula (grassy)

Front planting

Especially in the foreground the planting plays an important role. The foreground in aquascaping has the most expressiveness and ideally forms a harmonious transition between the middle and the background. This gives the basin a real-looking scenario with depth effect. Most fans of the underwater garden use ground cover here, but this is not absolutely necessary. It is also possible to create free zones with gravel and sand in different colours to create a dramatic effect. There are two different types of groundcover:

  • Offshoot
  • Stem plants small
]These grow closely along the substrate and quickly form a beautiful green carpet.

Attention: Aquarium inhabitants like to dig up ground cover again. Therefore they should be grown before snails, shrimps and catfish are used.

Especially the care of the plants costs a lot of time in the aquascape. A strong pruning is recommended here. The picture may not look as nice as originally thought, but the plants will soon shine in their old splendor. When planting, every means is allowed, only large growing plants have to be cut back more often. Usually you plant about 75 % of the soil at the start.

Aquascaping fish

Finding the right fish for aquascaping is also a question of layout, because colour, shape and size should harmonise with each other. We will only provide a small selection guide here, because of course there are many more fish species and creatures that can be considered for this. In an "ordinary" aquarium you usually have a community tank, which means it is not a pure art aquarium, but many fish species that share a tank. In order to avoid confusion and to create a harmonious overall picture, aquascaping usually does without many species of fish. If one chooses a fish population at all, then one is limited to one or only a few species. For example, a shoal fish comes into question. Of course you can add invertebrates like shrimps and snails.

Fish size

In aquascaping, fish are usually taken that are rather small in size. For this purpose, characins and also tetras are often used, as they remain quite small. A shoal can work very well, unless the facility or shoal gains the upper hand.


Sometimes less is more. The colours should either fit harmoniously into the overall picture or stand out as eye-catchers. For a balanced harmony, choose ornamental fish in the colour of the most striking furnishing elements. If you have large grey stones, choose a silver fish. If you choose a red planting as a strong accent, you can choose matching red fish. With dragon stones, yellow fish fit perfectly into the picture.

Water characteristics

Since the water has to suit its inhabitants, as in any aquarium, and you have to balance pH value, water hardness and all factors, you usually choose fish that prefer soft water. Because in an Aquascape aquarium you work with active Soil (substrate). But there are also tanks with harder, alkaline water. So, before you go to buy any ornamental fish, you should think carefully about how the tank will be set up afterwards and what conditions must be created for this.

Pool design and furnishing

The format of the aquarium is also a first factor in deciding how the fish should look. If you have a long panorama tank, you can also choose longish fish. If you have a square tank, you can choose compact fish. Fish with a high format such as those with a high dorsal fin are used if you have a high tank.

There are also different design directions for the furnishing, we will go into this in more detail later. Iwagumis are very popular. They imitate Japanese rock gardens in the aquarium. They work with large grey stones. If you prefer a more puristic design of such a rock garden, you can choose a beautiful flock of characins. Who conjures a small jungle with roots and high water plants should rather choose living wild single animals. The aspect of naturalness is always in the foreground.

Aquascaping Aquarium design

Setting up the aquarium for aquascaping is not difficult with a little knowledge. Actually most layouts are based on the basic concepts explained in the same way. The differences then arise from the choice of stones, roots, plants and fish.

Basically you will always find these shapes:

  1. Triangle combination
  2. Centered structure
  3. Valley Layout
  4. V-shape
  5. Jungle

Triangle combination

The layout based on a triangle always gives you a variety of design options, which can of course all be slightly varied. The precise base line gives the Aqascape a down-to-earth look, the diagonals provide the necessary tension in the layout. It is important that the ascending part of the triangle is ascending from left to right, so that the design is subconsciously perceived as positive.

Aquascaping Einrichtung Schritt 1

The successful triangle is created by the arrangement of hardscape and ground. You do not have to start looking for triangular sticks and stones now. Basically, the design refers to the unity of all furnishing objects in the form itself. Overall, the layout should be perceived as a triangle by the viewer. If you have difficulties with the form, you can stick a triangle to the windshield with painter's crepe and then remove it again after the layout is finished. Fortunately, painter's crepe is residue-free. You can choose the tip of the triangle freely and according to your own taste. If you stick to the golden ratio, you will usually have the most success.

Aquascaping Einrichtung 1 goldener Schnitt

Here you can see that the main stone is placed in the golden section, which gives a particularly beautiful picture.

Centered structure

If you use the golden section for a centered layout, you will get a harmonious design that radiates calm. The ambition in the design should be that the calm design is not too calming and radiates boredom. Strong colours in particular can spice up the overall picture, but particularly colourful residents are also conceivable.

Aquascaping Einrichtung 3 zentriert

Valley Layout

The valley layout is one of my favourite designs. It is known as the classic among the possible layouts and rarely looks boring. With this layout you can recreate nature in a very nice way and create a lot of tension. On the left and right side of the aquarium there are strongly elevated cairns, which remind of a mountain range or mountains. Beginners choose both the rise and the stones too small. Here, for once, more is really more. Dare you calmly a daring steep construction. This design lives from the tension between the high mountains and the deep valley. The valley can be planted with flat plants like grass, but also staying free with gravel or sand makes it look quite nice.

Aquascaping Einrichtung 4 Tal


The V-shape also has a lot of tension. At first glance it resembles the valley design. Here again, the effect of the diagonals is particularly effective. Two diagonals make the V, which describes the shape. Thus the viewer is directed with the eye from the upper lateral part to the centre of the aquascape. The center is where the diagonals unite. In our example the middle third is left almost completely free. Here you can work with plants. You can also achieve the V-shape with plants instead of the hardscape.

Aquascaping Einrichtung 2 V

Jungle Layout

The jungle design differs greatly from the typical straight-line designs of the other forms described. Here too, the main elements should be arranged in the left and right middle third, i.e. according to the golden ratio. As the name suggests, this design otherwise looks a little less tidy. Here, not so sparingly is used and everything stands a little denser and wilder. The trick here is not to make it look disorderly and to bring a certain peace and harmony into it. This effect can be achieved by a constant, such as a long root.

Conclusion on the design

One should not get too stuck on the design scheme. The best recipe for a truly successful design that is not cribbed from somewhere is nature itself. Take breathtaking landscapes and try to recreate them. The design aids we provide serve as a starting point and you don't have to follow them consistently, nor is it forbidden to combine them.

Also look at the materials, the hardscape as well as plants and other creatures, often this is the best source of great ideas. With a little bit of rum, you will find your own sense of harmony and a harmonious design. A plan and a sketch are recommended in any case. Plants that grow too large often destroy the form and afterwards the concept is no longer coherent. Even fish that do not fit into the picture can ruin the best aquascape. In any case you will not get around regular care. More ideas you get in the video below!

Aquascaping Nano

Even with small nano aquariums you can do a successful aquascaping. Here it is important to pay attention to the shape. As with an ordinary nano tank, living creatures must not become very large. Since you do not have such a large scope of design, you should work with small compact layouts. A valley for example is difficult to realize. Better suited is the centered use of the main elements.

Aquascaping Accessories

As aquascaping accessories you not only need the right basin, stones, sticks, plants, roots and possibly fish, but also tools to care for the plants, for example. We will talk about accessories for aquascaping in a separate blog post.

Aquascape examples

To give you a better impression of aquascaping besides our pictures, we have a video for aquascape examples here.

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