From Natural Style to Dutch and from Jungle to Paludarium, Tammy Dore of Olympia Pet Works introduces you to the most popular styles in fish tank aquascaping.

By Tammy Dore, Olympia Pet Works

I have written about aquascaping with plants, stone, and driftwood before. But I know that planning how to aquascape can become a little overwhelming. There are so many ways to create an environment your fish will thrive in. Below, I’ll outline a few of the most popular styles.

Natural Style draws from the Japanese style of gardening. This style was made popular by a man known as The Father of Modern Aquascaping, Takashi Amano. Takashi Amano’s have inspired me to really put more effort into creating beautiful aquarium environments. He’s also credited with creating a sub-type of Natural Style ‘scaping, Iwagami Style. Natural Style aquariums emulate above-ground natural landscapes, such as forests or meadows, in a smaller, underwater setting. Plants tend to have small leaves and different types of moss are used to replicate grassy areas. Any piece of stone or driftwood is specifically selected to be a focal point. The substrate is generally built up to different heights, and is asymmetrical, like nature.

The sub-style Iwagami guidelines are more specific. The tank is arranged and styled by using the Golden Ratio, or Rule of Thirds. There are always an odd number of stone materials used, and always one piece that is larger, known as the father stone. The remaining stones are considered secondary stones. There is a minimalistic approach when ‘scaping in this style, and there is a limited variety of flora and fauna used together. Scale is very important when trying to achieve this style. Tetras are the most common type of fish used with this style, to help maintain the scale. There’s no way I could accurately describe how stunning these set-ups are, it is truly something I highly recommend researching online.

Another very popular style is the Dutch Style. In the Dutch Style, the plants are very lush, and widely varying in types and colors. The substrate is built up in several raised layers and terraces, in linear rows from left to right known as “Dutch Streets.” Generally, more than 80% of the floor is covered with plants, showing little to none substrate. Tall plants are placed in the back or the tank, covering equipment or cords. This style also typically omits rock or driftwood. The plants are neatly arranged and trimmed.

For larger tanks, the Jungle Style tends to be the most popular. As the name suggests, there’s a wild and untamed look. A canopy is created by the use of tall plants that reach the surface, combined with floating plants. The substrate is dark and may have driftwood along with plants but rock is not seen. The goal is to emulate tropical jungle, random and wild.

Any hobbyists that also love amphibians or reptiles along with their fish, may want to look into a Paludarium set-up. My husband is in the planning phases of this style, and I am looking forward to sharing his results in the future. In a Paludarium the substrate is built up with levels below and above water. The water level does not go up to the top of the tank so the fish can live in their environment and the reptiles can live in their environment. A misting system is usually needed above water level to create the reptiles’ environment, and the fish should be selected based on the tank’s other inhabitants. These tanks can represent a tropical rainforest, riverbank, or bog. This style definitely requires research and planning to ensure a happy environment for every inhabitant of the tank.

I hope outlining some of these styles for aquascaping help you plan your own tank set up and guide you to your dream tank. Typing in any of the above styles in your favorite search engine will show more specific visual and written guidelines to each style, and will show you more styles to look at. There are many aquascaping competitions that will give specific guidelines to specific tank styles. Enjoy looking at the beautiful tanks hobbyists have created and inspire you to create your own.

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