Aquascaping - The Art and Science - Planted Tank Mates
Aquascaping: The Art & Science

Aquascaping – The Art and Science

Aquascaping Overview

Aquascaping may sometimes be referred to as planted tanks or underwater gardening.  It’s without a doubt a labor of love and catches the attention of many people worldwide.  Learning about it may appear overwhelming at first, but everything starts to make sense once you get your hands wet.  It’s definitely a trial and error experience, but what makes it easy is when you understand and break down the concept.  Aquascaping is an art and a science.  One would even say it’s the balance of both which make a successful ecosystem. 

Completed aquascape or planted tank with rocks, plants and fish.
Iwagumi style Aquascape

Aquascaping: The Art

It really starts with inspiration.  You may have seen a planted tank at the local fish store or caught a glimpse online, but it got your attention and made you think “cool”.  How are people creating these underwater landscapes with livestock swimming around?  For those who accepted the challenge, they buy the parts and pieces to recreate a vision but it’s never the same.  That’s because your aquascape is an art! From the fish you select to the plants, rocks and branches you place, you are creating an artistic composition. Like any skill or trade, practice makes perfect.  You may try to create a specific style or no style at all and there’s potential to look great.  Ultimately, your vision is contained inside a framed glass and it’ll be something you tend to and admire daily.

Aquascape layout with diagrammatic lines for perspective.
Creating an Aquascape or Planted Tank is an art and requires the understanding of visual perspectives.

Aquascaping: The Science

Yes, maintaining an aquarium is a science! Nitrite, Nitrate, Ammonia, PH, GH, KH, Co2, O2, gas exchanges, water changes; you’re creating a balanced and contained ecosystem. You’ll have to regularly observe the conditions of the flora and fauna, test the water parameters and make educated adjustments.  Just like the artistic side of aquascaping, the success of your aquarium will be a bit of a trial and error.

Too much algae in the tank? Reduce the lighting!  The lighting color, it’s placement height and the timer settings all impact the plants you grow.  Too much of anything is never good.

Is your PH too low? Use a Lily outflow pipe and provide more surface agitation which allows for gas exchanges in your tank. Purchase a PH test kit and check the water conditions during the day and evening.

Nitrates getting a bit high?  Do a water change and possibly reduce the quantity of food you’re feeding.  Excess waste and supplements generally lead to algae spikes.  The degree to which you tinker with all this is the experiment itself, so get a notebook and write things down.

Aquarium water test tubes in a wood block stand.
Water testing as part of the science in Aquascapes and Planted Tanks

Aquascaping: The Art and Science

Aquascaping is the epitome of a balancing act.  The artistic composition you create will require a specific  treatment and routine maintenance.  There really is no absolute formula to any of this so it’s best to understand concepts and execute with judgement and observation.  You can’t apply exactly what one person did in Florida to your tank in Seattle because the very source of your water is completely different.  The combinations are endless and no two tanks are the same. Every aquarist is required to do the research, exercise some reasonable judgment, and execute the vision.

It’s a lot to think about and a joy to create!

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