What is Aquascaping?

Aquascaping is the craft of developing  beautiful underwater landscape in an Aquarium or water tank. In other words, aquascaping is the art of recreating the underwater landscape with underwater plants, driftwood, stones, and cave work. It needs a strong aesthetic sensibility and a good understanding of aquatic arrangements for quality Aquascaping.

 Does it look daunting?

-- No, it's not, Let me explain why.....

Aquascaping is more than an arrangement of grass, gravel, and plants. It's a small ecosystem on its own that has its characteristics but is very adorning and fascinating to watch. Aquascaping is so exciting that once you start this fascinating hobby, there is no stopping. On the other hand, it needs time, commitment, patience, and skills to pursue this beautiful hobby. Time, engagement, and dedication can reward fabulous achievement.

Aquascaping for beginners

If you are already keeping fish in a fish tank or Aquarium, please note that aquascaping differs from maintaining a regular aquarium at home. As mentioned above, it's an art that focuses on creating underwater landscapes through plants, wood, stone, etc. 

Aquascaping Styles.

When it comes to aquascaping, the possibilities are endless, from bare-bottom rock Aquarium to densely planted Dutch-style aquascaping. You may adopt any style of aquascaping. Generally, it has three main styles, Natural aquascaping, Iwagumi aquascaping, and Dutch aquascaping.

Natural Style Aquascaping.

Natural style aquascaping is the most common style of aquascaping. The natural landscape consists of mountains, lush green valleys, waterfalls, and beaches inside the Aquarium. Japanese aquarist Takashi Amano introduced this style. Originally derived from the Japanese gardening idea of Wabi-Sabi. 

Rock, driftwood, mosses, stem plants, carpeting plants, and epiphytes can be used in this style of Aquascaping.  

Use the Golden Ratio rule to define a focal point in the entire aquascape. Use rocks, stones, and lights to draw user attention to the focal point of the Aquarium. Place high covering plants and stones and a higher light level in the focal point. Use delicate plants and low light in other areas or zones. The key here is creating a cheesy underwater landscape with driftwood and stones and aquatic plants with a critical focus on a specific place of the Aquarium. This style has endless possibilities for beauty, creativity, and technique as Aquarist can use a wide variety of available objects. Keep in mind that the whole Aquarium will look unnatural if there is a slight amount of miss alignment or imbalance between its items. So carefully plan your strategy before setting up your aquarium style. 

Iwagumi Style Aquascaping.

Iwagumi is from a Japanese-influenced Zen stone garden style. It is considered the most difficult of Aquascaping types as it requires high-end knowledge and skills to design and maintain this kind of Aquarium.

Iwagumi is an aquatic decoration based on rock formation and simplicity. Traditionally three stones are used. However, the Aquarist has the freedom to use any number of rocks.  using an odd number of stones in Iwagumi Aquascaping is a must, and you should always follow this rule. Some other essential rules are to use one particular type of rock and one particular type of plant while decorating your Aquarium in Iwagumi style.

This style is all about proportionally placing rocks. The stones must be selected and placed skillfully by considering the size of the Aquarium. With a Japanese Iwagumi Aquascape, each stone or rock has a purpose so focus on the function of the stone/rock before placing it in the Aquarium.

Dutch Style Aquascaping.

Dutch-style aquascaping focuses heavily on collections of aquatic plants that grow fast in aquariums. The central point in the Dutch style of aquascaping is the arrangement of plants where raised 'layers' of taller or bigger plants live on the back side of the tank. A more elevated (taller) tank is another critical component of Dutch-style aquascaping as certain plants can get quite tall, so aim for an 18 to 24 inches high Aquarium with a three to four feet width. Also, Dutch-style aquariums are dense in the structure where above 70% of the substrate is covered with plants. 

The primary technique you need to know with Dutch style is terracing and spacing. Here we create a slope where we start flat and then gradually increase the substrate slope as we move from the front of the tank to the back side of the Aquarium. The most commonly used plants in Dutch aquariums are Pogostemon stellatus, Hygrophila corymbosa, Limnophila Aquatica, Java moss, and small aquatic Cryptocoryne. While pursuing Dutch-style Aquascaping, these rule plays a crucial role in classy Aquarium decore.  

  • Use no more than one plant species per 4 inch
  • Do not reuse the same plant species in another group 
  • Always Use 10 to 12 fish of the same species

For a more stunning look, use mixed arrangements of plants complimenting each other in color and size.

Elements for the growth of Aquascaping. 

Now that we understand aquascaping and its different styles. Let's discuss essential elements of aquascaping and how we can get the maximum benefit from them.

Lighting in Aquarium.

"A beautiful aquarium With Lightening and colorful fishes"

In nature, plants need sunlight to produce food through photosynthesis. Proper lighting is a crucial element in aquascaping and an essential component as it affects the overall growth of aquatic plants. lights in an aquarium are vital to creating a sunlight effect. Good lighting produces greenhouse effects in an aquarium. The amount of light exposure to a water tank depends upon many factors like tank size, aquarium placement, and the type of plants used in the aquarium. Generally, high-light aquarium plants need 6 to 8 hours of light, whereas low-light aquarium plants need less light exposure. One should be very careful about light exposure to a water tank as it may cause algae growth.

Water filter in Aquarium.

"Aquarium filter with green aqua plants"

The water filter purifies the water and extracts and eliminates harmful materials from the aquarium. There are two primary types of filter 

  • Internal filter 
  • External filter

An internal filter resides inside the aquarium. It requires extra space, and some aquarists do not like an internal water filter as it captures a lot of unnecessary space in the water tank. 

The external filter has an inlet and outlet pipes. These filters are usually placed under an aquarium table and are perfect for large aquariums.

Carbon Dioxide and CO2 System.

A proper CO2 quantity is essential for fish and plants as too much or too little CO2 negatively affects both plants and fish. lack of CO2 can cause stunted plant growth and make leaves and stems pale. In a natural environment, plants get CO2 from water and light to generate oxygen which is essential for plant growth. Events like soil erosion and moving water affect CO2 levels in a natural environment as these events do not occur in the still water aquarium. An excellent CO2 system is essential as it enhances water quality, improves fish and plants' health, and eliminates algae in the fish tank. The CO2 filter is a crucial factor in the pH balance of water that can affect your fish's well-being


  • Liquid Fertilizer

Like typical plants, underwater plants need nutrients for healthy growth. liquid fertilizers ensure your plants have all the nutrients and microelements [zinc, cobalt, manganese, copper]required for healthy growth. leaves of nutrient deficiency plants become yellowish, brownish, and sometimes glassy or transparent in texture. An adequate amount of liquid fertilizer in your water tank ensures glowing, healthy plants. liquid fertilizers for water tanks and aquariums are usually nitrates and phosphate-free to avoid algae bloom.

  • Aquarium Plant Fertilizers – Tablets

Other than a liquid fertilizer, you may also add aquarium plant fertilizer tablets. simply put the tablets in to the finished aquarium
These tablets are a rich source of nutrients and provide plants with essential macro and micro elements needed for the healthy growth of aquatic plants. Pushing the pills into the substrate will quickly boost your plant health for quick results as nutrients. Again these are nitrate and phosphate free, so they will not boost algae growth. They generally last around a month, so they are a great long-term boost.

Aquascaping Aqua Soil (Substrate)

Aquatic plants take nutrients from their roots planted in aquarium substrate. A substrate comprises aqua soil, sand, or gravel that underlies aquatic plants. For the healthy growth of aquatic plants, you need to prepare a nutrient-rich base surface or substrate. —a quality substrate help in the better growth of plants.

You may easily get the substrate from the market these days. two of the most effective substrate types available in the market are 

  • Complete substrate – this may be poured into the Aquarium and is ready to plant
  • Compound substrate – this needs' capping'


Hardscape Material.

Driftwood, rocks, cave work, and gravels in the hardscape give an aesthetic and natural aquascaping look to an aquarium. Hardscape is necessary for the design and layout of aqua-scaping aquariums.

Aquarium size.

Aquariums are available in various sizes ranging from small 5 gallons to large hundreds of gallons. Nano aquariums are getting popular these days because of their convenience. as a beginner in aquascaping 20 gallons high in size aquarium is the best choice to start. Large aquariums are better for maintaining a stable aquascape environment.

Aquariums plants for Aquascaping.

Now let’s see some of the best plants to use in you aquarium as beginning aquascapers. 

  • Amazon sword

"Beautiful green color Amazon sword plant"

Amazon sword is good choice for beginners. It is mostly used as background plant due to its bigger size. This lush green plant grows about 45cm in height. Some aquarists also use Amazon sword in the middle section of the tank to create a focal point.


  • Cryptocoryne

Cryptocoryne or Cryptocyanin wendtii is another good choice for beginners. mostly used to create focal point of the tank this beautiful plant has a variety of colors, size, and textures. Suited for most aquarium conditions this plant don’t require heavy light and CO2 injection. Though it struggles initially in new environment as it doesn’t like new water, but it will adopt your tank conditions quickly. For healthy growth nutrient-rich substrate and good liquid fertilizer can be help full. 


  • Ludwigia Palustris

Ludwigia Palustris looks amazing in an aquarium as this plant is consider as one of the prettiest aquarium plants. With red leaves and red stems this plant is suitable for most of the aquariums.  In a suitable condition this plant can grow up to 20-inch-tall. For healthy growth CO2 injection is a good booster for these plant through it not necessary. 

  • Anubias Plants

This is a plant has broad leaves and can grow up to 7 inch tall. Fish like these plants as these plants provide the perfect hiding place for fish due to their broad leaf size.  

In the natural environment, these plants grow to stick along site the rock and woods. you can accomplish this in your aquarium by using cotton thread and then binding these with rocks and woods their roots with then holding the hardscape and sticking to it. 

  • Java Fern Plant

Java fern is a classic aquarium easy to care plant. It does not require much fertilizer and lighting. Java fern does not need substrate to grow, can be attached to rocks or driftwood, and thrive well.

  • Mosses For Aquarium

Mosses are very popular and often mostly used aquarium plants.  They add beauty to aquascaping arrangement. Aquarium mosses can grow in a substrate and can attach themselves to wood, rocks, or any other hardscape material. Mosses can be used as carpets or to create a tree-like effect by using pieces of wood another good use of it is to give the aquarium a softer look that has lots of sharp plants and leaves in it.

How to do Planting in an Aquascape Tank.

There are different techniques applied to plant aquatic plants in aquariums. carpet plants or small plants also called foreground plants are usually placed on the front side of aquariums. larger aquatic plants are background plants kept at the backside of aquariums. 

It is essential to wet the substrate before planting and insert the plant deep into the substrate. divide the aquatic plants into portions and then insert them in the substrate one by one. Some plants like anubias or fern need to attach to a hardscape so, they creep along and hold the rock or wood itself. It takes two to three weeks to establish planted aquascape aquariums before adding fish. to avoid algae do the planting densely in your aquarium.

How to maintain an aquascape aquarium.

Aquascape aquarium looks wonderful and needs to retain them for longer period of time.

  • Clean the aquarium glass with a soft sponge.
  • Check the equipment filter and heater to make sure equipment are working properly
    clean the water filter if needed.
  • Inspect the CO2 system, if used.
  • Trim plants with aquascape scissor
  • Use a siphon hose above the substrate to remove all waste. 
  • Change 50 percent water once per week.

Other Components for Aquascaping.

  • Aquascaping tool kit includes scissors, tweezers, gravel flatteners, and brushes.
  • CO2 indicator is generally a bulb filled with indicator liquid installed in an aquarium
  • Thermometer for checking water temperature
  • Softscape and water plants include background and foreground plants.
  • Water supplements 


The art of aquascaping is not hard to achieve like all other passions that demand effort, dedication, and research. Patience and trust in your inspiration is the key to being successful in aquascaping.

Editor's Note: This post was originally published on April 1, 2021, and has been completely revamped and updated on  30 August 2022, for accuracy and comprehensiveness.