90p Aquascape: From Setup to Mastery

Aquascaping is an artistic process that blends the natural beauty of aquatic plants and hardscapes with the technical expertise required to maintain a thriving underwater environment. For many aquascaping enthusiasts, the 90p aquarium offers the ideal canvas to create a masterpiece. Measuring 90x45x45 cm and holding approximately 180 liters of water, the 90p tank provides ample space for creativity without overwhelming your living room. This comprehensive guide will explore everything you need to know about crafting a stunning 90p aquascape, from initial setup to ongoing maintenance.

Getting Started with a 90p Aquascape

Before diving into the artistic process, let’s break down the fundamentals of the 90p tank.

Dimensions and Tank Volume

As mentioned above, a standard 90p aquarium measures 90 cm long x 45 cm wide x 45 cm tall. This equates to a water volume of approximately 180 liters or 48 gallons. The 90p offers a significant amount of space to work with compared to smaller nano aquariums, allowing for more elaborate aquascape designs. However, it’s still compact enough for most household spaces.

Placement and Space Requirements

Carefully consider where you will place your 90p tank before setting it up. Leave ample room on all sides to access the tank for aquascaping, maintenance, and viewing. You’ll also need space for external filtration systems, CO2 systems, and other equipment. Position the tank away from direct sunlight to avoid excessive algae growth.

Why Choose a 90p for Aquascaping?

The 90p hits a sweet spot between nano and extra-large aquarium sizes for aquascaping purposes. Here are some of the advantages of choosing a 90p:

  • Provides enough space for dramatic hardscapes and a variety of plants
  • Easier to light and maintain stable water parameters compared to larger tanks
  • More affordable than larger tanks
  • Footprint fits well in most homes without dominating the room

The moderate size does come with some limitations in terms of livestock choices and aquascape scale. However, the 90p offers the ideal space and convenience for most hobbyists.

Aquascaping Design Principles

Now that you understand the 90p tank, let’s explore some core design principles to create an aesthetically pleasing and biologically thriving aquascape.

The Golden Ratio

The golden ratio, or golden mean, is a mathematical ratio commonly found in nature and used widely in art and design. When applied to aquascaping, it involves dividing areas of the tank using ratios of approximately 1:1.61. This creates visually satisfying sections. For example:

  • Position focal points like stones or driftwood at 2/3rds of the tank length.
  • Divide the tank length into 3 sections, making the front section twice as large as the mid and back sections.

Using the golden ratio as a guide results in well-balanced aquascape compositions.

Complimentary Triads and Texture

Group plants and hardscapes with complementary colors and varied textures for visual interest. Some examples of pleasing triads include:

  • Red, green, and brown plants
  • Smooth stones, leafy plants, and gnarled driftwood
  • Tall hairgrass, short carpeting plants, and medium bushes

Incorporate a variety of leaf shapes and sizes for depth. Mix fine-, medium-, and coarse-textured elements.

Leading Lines and Flow

Use hardscape placement to create leading lines that draw the viewer’s eye through the aquascape. Position rocks, driftwood, and plants to create the illusion of flow and continuity. This helps make the composition more dynamic.

Planning Your 90p Aquascape

With design principles in mind, let’s plan your 90p aquascape vision.

Choosing a Theme

Having a cohesive theme will make your aquascape layout more intentional. Some popular themes include:

Nature style: Mimicking a natural landscape like a forest floor or mountainscape. It often incorporates prominent driftwood and stones.

Dutch style: Densely planted with organized groupings of colorful stems. The goal is to showcase a variety of plant species.

Iwagumi style: Focused around rockwork like Seiryu stone. Usually minimally planted.

Jungle style: Lush and wild-looking with ferns, mosses, and anubias varieties. Allows for limited visibility.

Consider your plant and fish preferences when choosing a theme.

Drawing Inspiration

Look at photos of aquascapes you admire for inspiration. Study how they use principles like the golden ratio, triads, and flow. Collect visual references to inform your layout. Some places to find inspiration include:

  • Aquascaping contests and competitions
  • Aquascaping blogs, magazines, and books
  • Nature photography (forests, mountains, ponds, oceans)
  • Japanese garden designs

Take notes on styles, plants, hardscapes, and compositions you want to incorporate.

Draft the Hardscape

Start laying out your design on paper. Sketch potential hardscape materials like rock formations, driftwood, and non-living decorative elements. Consider the overall shape and flow you want to achieve. This will become the foundation for your aquascape.

Choose Complementary Plants

Once you settle on a hardscape layout, select suitable plant varieties that complement it. Consider plant height, growth rate, color, and texture. Popular aquascaping plants include:

  • Carpet/foreground: Dwarf hairgrass, Monte Carlo, dwarf baby tears
  • Midground: Java fern, anubias nana, crypts
  • Background: Jungle val, ambulia, ludwigia
  • Accent: Bucephalandra, anubias nana petite, AR mini

Compile your plant list, noting foreground, midground, and background placements.

Setting Up Your 90p Aquascape

You’ve designed your dream aquascape on paper. Now it’s time to bring it to life underwater.

Equipment Needed

Before getting your hands wet, ensure you have all the necessary equipment:

  • 90p aquarium tank (rimless is preferred)
  • Substrate like ADA Aquasoil or fluval stratum
  • Hardscape materials – rocks, driftwood, etc.
  • Filter (canister filter recommended)
  • LED aquarium light or LED flood light
  • CO2 system (recommended)
  • Heater suited to tank size
  • Thermometer
  • Air pump & accessories
  • Water test kits (pH, ammonia, etc)
  • Algae scrapers, nets, etc.
  • Tubing, cables, etc.
  • Plants & plant tools like scissors and tweezers

Step-by-Step Setup Guide

Once you’ve acquired all the equipment, use this step-by-step guide for setup:

  1. Clean the tank, equipment, decor, and gravel/substrate thoroughly.
  2. Add the substrate according to package directions. Slope substrate higher in back and lower in front.
  3. Hardscape first layers like stone and driftwood for the foundation.
  4. Add smaller details and final touches to the hardscape.
  5. Plant the background plants first, then midground, foreground plants.
  6. Fill tank slowly with dechlorinated water to avoid disturbing hardscape.
  7. Install filter, heater, CO2 system, thermometer, and other equipment.
  8. Program LED lights to 6-8 hour photoperiod. Start with 6 hours.
  9. Let tank cycle for 4-6 weeks, testing water parameters weekly.
  10. Introduce livestock like shrimp, snails, or fish after cycling completes.

Take your time during setup and make adjustments to match your aquascape plan. The initial work forms the backbone of a thriving, beautiful aquascape.

Caring for Your 90p Aquascape

A successful aquascape requires ongoing maintenance and care. Here’s how to keep your 90p aquascape looking its best long-term:

  • Regular Maintenance
  • Perform 20-30% water changes weekly or biweekly once tank matures
  • Clean filter media monthly
  • Prune plants as needed to maintain ideal shapes and density
  • Remove decaying plant matter and algae as needed
  • Clean algae off hardscape decor
  • Monitor water parameters and perform corrective actions if needed
  • Supplement CO2 levels and fertilizers according to plant needs

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Algae outbreaks: Review lighting duration, nutrients, and CO2 levels. Manually remove algae, make larger water changes, and adjust as needed. Consider adding algae eaters.

Poor plant growth: Assess light intensity, macro- and micronutrients, and CO2 injection. Dose fertilizers according to plant deficiencies.

Cloudy water: Test parameters. Could indicate mini cycle from disturbance

Customizing Your 90p Aquascape

One of the joys of the aquascaping hobby is putting your creative spin on an underwater layout. Let’s explore some ways to make your 90p aquarium uniquely yours.

Choosing Aquascape-Friendly Fish

While plants take center stage, introducing a carefully selected variety of fish can bring further life to your aquascape. Consider these aquascape-friendly fish options:

  • Small tetras like ember tetras, green neons, or cardinal tetras
  • Rasboras such as harlequin rasboras and lambchop rasboras
  • Small barbs like cherry barbs or gold barbs
  • Dwarf cichlids like ram cichlids or apistogramma
  • Shrimp like neocaridina, caridina, amano, ghost shrimp
  • Snails like nerite snails or rabbit snails

Select fish and inverts that won’t uproot plants or damage hardscapes. Stock conservatively and focus on schools of nano fish for best results.

DIY Elements

For a personal touch, incorporate some DIY additions like:

  • 3D printed or sculpted stone and wood decor
  • Terraced substrate levels using egg crate
  • Custom LED lighting arrays
  • Constructed themed props like small pagodas, huts, etc.
  • Two-part epoxy dioramas and textures

Use waterproof materials like plastics, polymers, resins, and cement for any DIY decor you add.

Emersed Growth

Allow some plants to grow out of the water for a unique look. Good emersed growth candidate plants include:

  • Bromeliads
  • Pothos
  • Philodendrons
  • Lucky bamboo
  • Anubias

Let these plants partially sit above the waterline. Mist and fertilize emerged sections as needed.

Aquascaping on a Budget

Creating a stunning aquascape doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are some tips for keeping costs down:

  • Buy plants in tissue culture cups vs pots when possible
  • Shop online stores like Buceplant.com for deals on plants and supplies
  • Join local aquarist clubs to trade cuttings
  • Use pool filter sand for substrates
  • Collect your rocks and driftwood
  • Build your LED light strip instead of buying
  • Use paintball CO2 systems instead of pressurized systems
  • Make your root tabs from gel capsules

Take time to research products and DIY solutions to recreate high-end looks at a fraction of the cost. An aquascape ultimately comes down to your vision, creativity, and patience.

Inspiring 90p Aquascapes

If you need a spark of inspiration, browse stunning examples from aquascaping experts:

  • Amano Takashi’s legendary nature-inspired aquascapes
  • Buceplant’s contemporary, lush layouts
  • James Findley’s stunning iwagumi stone designs
  • Filipe Oliveira’s brilliant Dutch-inspired aquascapes
  • Green Aqua’s minimally planted seascapes
  • ADG’s vibrant, dense jungle aquascapes

There are countless styles to admire. Find images that align with your tastes to get excited about bringing your 90p aquascape to life!


Crafting a living underwater art installation takes research, planning, patience, and ongoing effort. However, the joys of creating a balanced, thriving 90p aquascape make the journey well worth it. Follow the guidance in this article to gain the fundamental knowledge needed to bring your aquascaping dreams to reality.

Let your imagination run wild as you experiment with styles, plants, fish, and designs that speak to you. Soon, you’ll have a custom 90p aquascape masterpiece that reflects your unique vision and brings peace and beauty into your home. Get started today on an artistic adventure you won’t regret!