Aquascaping is a form of aquarium design in which the “landscape” inside the aquarium is set up to look like a dry-land forest or plain. Rather than having artificial corals, plastic shipwrecks and a few plants, an aquascaped aquarium has what appear to be trees, fields, plains, caves or hills. The substrate, which is the gravelly material that covers the bottom of the tank, is suitable for creating inclines, but any large hills or mountains formed with it would be unstable. Rocks and driftwood, optionally covered in moss, are more stable and allow you to plan a landscape that looks like grassy hills and craggy mountains towering over a forest floor.
Things You'll Need
- Substrate material
- Cotton thread or fishing wire
- Aquarium plants such as moss, ferns and hairgrass
- Gravel tidy
Place a layer of substrate across the bottom of the tank. If you plan to use plain gravel, wash it first. Keep rinsing it until the water runs clear. For other types of substrates, follow the manufacturer’s directions. Note that some should not be rinsed. Gravel will not contain any nutrients for the plants. Speak to an aquarium supply store representative to determine the nutrient supplements you’ll need for your specific plants.
Move the substrate around to form inclines and gentle slopes. Guitarfish.org notes that sloping the substrate so the back is higher than the front adds visual depth to the finished aquascape.
Place rocks and driftwood around the tank. The size and smoothness of the rock needed varies based on your plans for the aquascape. Don’t overload the tank. You will add plants and fish later, and you don’t want them obscured by a mound of rock.
Tie plants to whichever rock is the main focus of the tank. Work on the rest of the tank layout according to height, from low to high. While some plants such as hairgrass come in pots -- Aquarium Info notes you can plant these straight into the substrate material -- others such as moss and ferns must be tied on with thread or fishing wire. Tie these around smaller rocks to create green hills. Wet Web Media suggests letting algae grow on the rocks for additional green cover. Wind moss around branches and between rocks to form grassy ravines.
Add layers of similar plants of different heights to the substrate in front of the rocks to give the illusion that the ground is rising.
Tips & Warnings
- Wet Web Media warns that fish can burrow or dig into substrate material, making rocks more unstable. The company suggests placing a screen called a gravel tidy on top of packed substrate. Place the rocks on top, and add more substrate around the base of the rock.
- Do not pile loose rocks in the aquascape, because the piles may collapse.
- Aquarium Info: Ornaments
- All Tropical Fish: Undergravel Filters
- Wet Web Media: Aquascaping For Beginners; Twenty Tips for Realistic Aquaria
- Guitarfish.org: Aquascaping Tips
- Aquarium Info: Planting Your Aquarium
- Aquarium Info: Setting up Your New Aquarium
- Aquarium Info: The Substrate
- Online Aqua Journal: Ground Cover Influences the Overall Impression of the Aquascape.