3 Types of Planted Aquariums to Inspire your Next Tank Build

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3 Types of Planted Aquariums to Inspire Your Next Tank Build

Did you know that a planted aquarium can be more than just adding aquatic plants into a fish tank? A variety of layout options and techniques can be used to make a planted aquarium stand out. Each style is unique and can add the extra dimension to your aquarium. Let’s take you through three easy-to-build aquascapes.

Iwagumi Style Aquarium

We’ll start with the Iwagumi type of aquascaping. “Iwagumi” is a Japanese word that translates as “rock formation,” and it refers to a planted aquarium which contains only stones or rocks as hardscape. Driftwood and other decor are not used in this type of aquarium, which makes it unique and eye-catching.

An Iwagumi-style aquarium’s main focal point is not the aquarium plants. A group of stones with varying sizes should be the main focal point of an Iwagumi style aquarium. Traditional Iwagumi aquariums only allowed three stones. However, it is acceptable to use as many stones as you like to achieve the desired look. You can create an Iwagumi Aquascape by following the rule to thirds. Imagine the tank is divided into three parts – place the largest stone towards the left or right “third” and leave the rest more open. Place medium-sized stones around the tank in any way that you find most appealing. A trick many aquascapers use to achieve a dramatic-looking Iwagumi layout is by using a deep substrate bed. The substrate can be slopped to increase height and visual depth. This makes the stones look more dramatic than they would in natural settings.

Iwagumi layouts typically have short, carpeting plants. To add interest, taller species can be planted towards the rear of the aquarium. You might consider using plants like dwarf hairgrass, Micranthemum “Monte Carlo”, dwarf baby tears and pearl weed in the aquarium’s front and center. You can add dwarf sagittaria and Cryptocoryne-lucens or vallisneria to the back to give the tank some height. A great addition to an Iwagumi aquarium are shrimp and small schoolingfish. You should choose fish that are not shy and who don’t mind open water. Harlequins or chili rasboras, as well as many killifish species such as lampeye killifish, will shoal well in large numbers. This adds to the aquarium’s visual appeal.

Nature or Natural Aquarium

You may have heard of any aquascaping style, but it might be a “nature aquarium”. The term “nature aquarium” is widely used within the community. This term predates “aquascaping”, which was a common term. This is a style that uses plants and natural materials to mimic the environment of nature. This is not a biotope aquarium, which is a precise simulation of a natural environment. The purpose of creating nature aquariums is to loosely replicate natural scenes both above and below the water.

Anybody can make a nature aquarium. The rules are not rigid and aquascapers can create a natural setting that suits their needs. You should use natural materials to create a nature-inspired aquarium. Consider choosing stones and driftwood that complement each other in color as this can add to visual appeal. You won’t find brightly colored or artificial substrate in a nature aquarium.

For greenery, any combination of plants may be used, so choose your favorites. Placing shorter plants towards the front of the aquarium, medium-height plants in the middle, and tall plants in the back will create a sense of depth. Regular trimming and maintenance is necessary to keep your hardscape looking great. Your stones and wood pieces should be complemented by the plants, but not overshadowed.

Adding small schooling fish in a nature aquarium can really enhance it even further by adding an element of movement, as well as a sense of scale. A nature aquarium landscape that is smaller than life looks larger thanks to the presence of smaller fish.

Jungle Style Tank

The jungle aquarium is based on the same principles as the natural aquarium. Creating this type of aquarium is relatively self-explanatory. The objective is to create an underwater jungle aesthetic. Similar to the nature aquarium, there is no set way to create this type of planted aquarium. Any combination of plants may be used, and the goal is to grow them as densely as possible while still maintaining an aesthetically pleasing aquarium. Another goal of jungle aquascaping is for little hardscape to be visible once the aquarium has begun to grow in. The focus is on the plants.

Despite how beautiful it might appear, visual appeal can still be maintained by regular maintenance. Slower-growing plants should be pruned to keep up with their slower growth. It is not ideal for one species of plant to dominate the entire aquarium. This type of aquarium requires both liquid fertilizer and root feeding. You will need sufficient lighting to ensure that your plants grow as densely as possible. Fertilize regularly.

The fun part of creating a jungle aquarium is choosing plants with different textures and colors to complement each other. The possibilities are limitless. For example, planting vallisneria next to water sprite or bacopa will create a visual contrast, as their leaf textures are very different. Using a mix of anubias, java fern, and moss in the middle or midground of the tank creates textural contrast as well. Another example would be having pearl weed next to Cryptocoryne wendtii, as they display different colors and textures.

There are many options for fish. This aquarium style is great for fish because it mimics nature’s dense plant growth and provides plenty of cover for them. Consider larger or more colorful fish to stand out in a jungle aquarium.

There are many different ways to create a planted aquarium and the possibilities are truly endless – this is what makes it such an enjoyable project. So, if you aren’t sure what to do with that empty aquarium, try an Iwagumi, nature or jungle aquarium – or even combine styles to find your own unique design. Enjoy the entire process of creating a plant aquarium.

For more information on planted aquariums, check out our library of articles that cover live aquatic plants, fertilizers, algae control, and more.