Using plants for design is a common practice used to convey a message, enhance a space, and provide benefits to surrounding organisms. Within the underwater world, aquascaping is a form of landscape which creates an underwater garden effect. Aquascaping, which is typically performed in an aquarium, involves strategically arranging aquatic plants, stones, rocks, driftwood and other natural elements in an aesthetically pleasing way with plant growth in mind. When designing an aquascape plan, designers must consider lighting, filtration, algae control, and ability for photosynthesis to occur underwater to ensure life will thrive in the aquarium and to allow for a balanced ecosystem.
Aquascaping is often inspired by natural landscapes and formations such as cliffs, rocky mountains, and trees. There are several types of aquascape styles and approaches. The Dutch style focuses on the arrangement of luscious plants, encompassing a variety of plant sizes, colors, and textures in a freshwater aquarium. This approach does not typically include driftwood or rocks since the predominant focus is on plants with about 80% of the space filled with plants. Plant types like Rotala, Ammannia, and the Tiger Lotus enhance Dutch style aquascape spaces through their bright green, orange and red colors.
The natural style, also referred to as the nature style, is a Japanese style that aims to recreate or mimic a scene in nature or a natural landscape. The natural style includes adding rocks, stones, and wood elements to represent a stream or river. This type of design uses an asymmetric arrangement of the plants and natural elements, however, the plants are clean and trimmed. The natural style incorporates a more terrestrial color scheme with plants that typically have small leaves like small aquatic ferns in addition to moss and grasses. This type of aquarium usually contains freshwater.
The iwagumi style, another of Japanese origin, is a subtype of the nature style. Iwagumi refers to rock formations, resulting in stones as a key element in this type of aquascape. This design typically includes three main stones in focal points, one main larger stone that is off-centered, called the Oyaishi, and two smaller sized stones, called Soeishi and Fukuseki.
Another style known as the jungle style or wild jungle incorporates a blend of elements from the nature style and the Dutch style. Jungle aquascapes tend to have little open space since the aquarium is full of untrimmed and untamed plants. This includes floating plants in addition to tall plants growing from the floor of the aquarium towards the surface.
Paludarium aquascapes represent ecosystems like rainforests, tropical jungles and riverbanks through the use of water and land-like features. The aquarium is filled only partially with water so that part of the land features are above the water. A paludarium includes a mix of aquatic plants that are fully submerged, some that have roots underwater but grow above the water surface, and floating plants.
When aquascaping, it is critical to strategically choose plants and fish species based on the type of aquascape style. Read The Dirt on Aquatic Plants to learn more about aquatic plants.