Beautiful Aquascaping for Beginners

The Complete Guide to Beautiful Aquascaping for Beginners

Aquascape, the secret behind lush, breathtaking aquariums. What is aquascaping? Aquascaping is the art form of the aquarium world.

Aquascaping creates a natural underwater world with optical illusions. The best aquascapers create a masterpiece by optimally arranging plants, rocks, and driftwood.

Do you want to become the Picasso of the aquarium world and start aquascaping? Below I made a list that might help you begin your aquascaping project.

10 easy tips for beginner aquascapers

Do you have a checklist at hand? The following tips will help with your future aquascape process.

1. Think about who you are making the Aquascape for.

Is your Aquascape designed without aquarium inhabitants, or do you want it to move?

To clarify, do you want blue lobsters, for example?

Then this has consequences for the aquascape layout and the choice of the type of aquarium plants.

2. Sketch on paper what kind of underwater landscape you want to create.

A sketch helps structure the Aquascape and results in the shopping list of aquascape supplies. Please keep reading, and we will tell you how to make an aquascape design.

3. Choose the right aquarium plants for the Aquascape.

The success of an aquascape stands or falls with the choice of the aquarium plants. Keep reading; later in this blog, you will find which Aquarium plants you can use for aquascaping.

4. Provide sufficient light in the container.

A starting aquascape consists of young plants. It is essential to ensure that ‘the container’ is in a light location To promote the young plants’ growth. How many light hours are ideal?

5. Build up aquarium lighting slowly.

Yes, a lit aquarium ensures fast-growing plants. The danger of a starting aquarium with too many hours of light is algae formation. Want to create a healthy aquascape? Start with 6 hours of lighting a day.

6. Create several through points.

Arrange aquascape parts so that you can see through the Aquascape at various points. You create viewing topics by leaving space between the groups of aquarium plants.

7. Think of CO2 supply. CO2, or carbon dioxide, is the natural energy engine of aquarium plants.

Due to the high plant density in an aquascaped aquarium, there is competition for the CO2 present. Add extra CO2, especially for a novice aquascape, so that aquarium plants have optimal growth opportunities.

8. Maintain the Aquascape by regular pruning.

Regular pruning, picking, or trimming contributes to healthy aquarium plants. Without pruning, there is a risk of ‘suffocation’ in aquarium plants such as java moss.

Pruning also has an aesthetic purpose. Think of a Japanese garden: pruning ensures tight and well-kept (Aquarium) plants.

Do you know how to handle pruning properly? You will find more aquascape pruning tips later in this blog.

9. Create accent and breakpoints within the Aquascape.

Choose a striking aquarium plant to add an accent. Please note: do not let the aquarium plant deviate too much from the atmosphere of the Aquascape.

Create elevations to (under) break the landscape. Work – like the horizon works – from large to small for natural depth. Depth gives an Aquascape that unique, dreamy Aquarium feel.

10. Be inspired by nature.

In real nature, you will not find trees in tight rows or stones in the shape of a neat path. A natural biotope is made up of functional chaos.

Example: Think about how a river moves stones and branches: small stones are carried farther than large stones. Give the Aquascape that natural, environment-oriented effect.

What is the most common Aquascape mistake?

Everybody makes mistakes. In the world of aquascaping, the prevention of errors mainly makes a difference: algae. What seems?

The most common mistakes are beginner mistakes. I’m happy to share this with you to not waste (or less) time on this.

1. Don’t think about the layout in advance.

I mean everything from aquarium plants to hardscapes (stone and wood) to aquarium fish and design by furnishing. Not thinking about setting up an aquascape is like buying new furniture and then measuring the size of your living room.

You want to prevent growing aquarium plants from getting too little space within the Aquascape, or that the Aquascape is not ‘correct’ in full bloom when it is in full color. Before you start, aquascape design is essential.

2. Too little attention for a starting tank

Aquarium plants in a starting aquarium have yet to develop. They need help with this. Aquarium plants benefit from sufficient light and extra CO2. An aquascape is delicate. An aquascape without the necessary plant nutrition and CO2 supply is a lost cause.

Pay attention to overexposure so that algae do not have a chance to take over the Aquarium. What is a good light intensity for a starting aquascape? Start with 6 hours of lighting and slowly increase the lighting to 8 hours per day over about two months.

3. You are adding too many aquarium inhabitants.

Aquarium inhabitants such as shrimps, lobsters, and fish bring movement within the Aquascape. The danger of too many aquarium inhabitants is that the biotope cannot continue untouched. Not all aquarium fish fit together.

Moreover, fish quickly cause a lot of pollution. An aquascape is too sensitive to solve that pollution biologically. Result: algae.

For this reason, many aquascapes have few aquarium inhabitants. Avoid this frustration and start the Aquascape calmly with only aquarium plants and hardscapes.

Do you have the basic Aquascape in order, and do you still want to live in the Aquascape? Further on, we will tell you which small aquarium inhabitants are suitable.

Creating An Aquascape Design: Getting started with Aquascape

Are you sufficiently triggered and ready for the step to the creative side of the aquarium hobby? The perfect Aquascape starts with a robust design.

You have read that correctly; before we start the fieldwork, there must be a good map you need to plot the all-important lines.

You will find countless creative aquascape examples on YouTube or Pinterest. Thoughtful aquascape design helps structure and organize the perfect Aquascape. The following five steps are necessary when creating an aquascape design.

Step 1. Make a rough sketch of the ideal Aquascape

Sketch the visual, creative picture you have in mind. Close your eyes and ask yourself:

  • What image do you see in front of you?
  • What aquascape elements do you notice?
  • What stands out at the bottom?
  • What surprises does the Aquascape contain?
  • How was space created?
  • Does the Aquascape have elevations?

Describe in a rough sketch what kind of Aquascape you see in front of you. Think size and barrier-free with this step. Later, you worry about feasibility and necessities.

Below are two examples of aquascape sketches. As you can see, you can safely get colored pencils out of the cupboard. What will your drawing look like? We are curious.

Floor plan aquascape plants, the numbers correspond to aquarium plants

Tip: show the sketch to someone else. Think of other aquarium keepers, but also shopkeepers of an aquarium shop for a professional opinion.

Step 2. Make choices in size, material, aquarium plants, and structure

Time to make aquascaping sketch concrete. Make choices in the size of the tank, aquascape setups, aquarium plants, and the hardscape materials of the Aquascape. We recommend considering the following five things. Immediately think about whether or not to choose a back wall.

How big will the Aquascape be?

We advise a novice aquascape hobbyist to start with a medium-sized tank of about 60 liters, with dimensions of approximately 60x35x40 centimeters. This is just advice; you can take the plunge and get a bigger or smaller tank.

Do you design a ‘pure nature’ aquascape, or do you add aquarium inhabitants?

It is essential to determine which (spatial) requirements the desired inhabitants of the aquarium have.

Do you want a loose or tight underwater landscape?

This choice determines the selection of the aquarium plants. You immediately think about the arrangement of the aquarium plants. Do you place these soldiers next to each other, in groups, or criss-cross through the Aquarium?

Which Aquarium plants become part of the Aquascape?

Do you choose high or low aquarium plants? What Plants are easy to care for?

Keep reading, and Later in this blog, I will tell you which aquarium plants are suitable.

Do you want to create elevations and space?

Within this aquascape choice, you think about desired hardscapes such as a hill, a valley, a striking shape, and other focus elements.

Step 3. Translate the aquascape choices into a concrete floor plan

Within this step, you thought about the shape, distances, and desired look and feel of the Aquascape.

You translate the sketch, the material, plant choices, and desired spatial planning into a concrete floor plan.

I recommend that you make the floor plan in such a way that you look at the Aquascape from above. With this view, you can draw aquarium plants and hardscapes such as stones and wood.

Step 4. How will you maintain the Aquascape?

Decide how much time and money you want to spend on the hobby of aquascaping. Good water with stable aquarium values ​​is essential for a healthy, well-growing aquascape.

To keep the aquascape stable, we recommend investing in a good aquarium filter and CO2 supply. Later in this blog,  I will explain what is essential in the field of aquascape maintenance.

Step 5. Make a shopping list with aquascape supplies

The last step: the shopping list, you bring finesse to the aquascape choices. Go through the checklist below and make the final considerations before you start buying the aquascape parts.

For Hardscapes: what do the stone, driftwood, and coal look like?

For Aquascape soil: will you go for gravel, moss, clay, or a combination?

Are you going for easy or challenging Aquarium plants maintenance?

Do you choose a CO2 installation or liquid CO2 supply?

Are you going for an inner or outer filter? An internal aquarium filter is cheaper but affects the beauty of the Aquascape. An external filter is not visible in the Aquascape but is higher in price.

After the first aquascape choices have been made, zoom in on the bottom’s essential aquascape basis. How do you successfully create a green aquascape bottom?

I do not give any guarantees, but the following method comes close to green soil success.

Dry Start Method: a green aquascape bottom in 5 steps

Novice aquascapers see a green aquascape surface as the biggest challenge. The Dry Start method (almost always) guarantees a nice green mat in 2 months. What is success?

Algae reign faster in a young aquarium. The Dry Start method reduces the chance that algae will take over a starting aquascape. Patience is a requirement but an advantage:

The Dry Start method requires little maintenance.

Step 1. Start with an aquarium with a moist, suitable substrate (a rich nutrient medium).

Step 2. Add water so that the bottom is a few millimeters underwater.

Step 3. Plant foreground aquarium plants that cover the bottom of the Aquascape.

Step 4. Cover the Aquarium with a lid and turn on the aquarium lights.

Step 5. Start at 6 hours of lighting per day and increase to 10 hours per day in 8 weeks.

After about 8 weeks, you will have a green mat as the basis for the Aquascape. In addition, three Dry Start tips for the aquascape beginner who wants to be precise.

  • Occasionally, open the lid or foil for fresh air. The small aquarium plants extract CO2 from this air. A Dry Start requires no further maintenance. So no heating element, no CO2 addition, no water changes, and no pruning. Nature does the work.
  • aquarium plants suitable for the Dry Start method include: Utricularia Graminifolia (grassy bladderwort), Hemianthus callitrichoides (dwarf pearlwort) and Eleocharis acicularis (coniferous rush).
  • Aquarium tweezers are perfect for precise planting of small aquarium plants. Roots remain undamaged and with the precision of aquarium tweezers, plants are planted in the right place. These are super good  tweezers in combination with pruning shears.

Please note: logically, only marsh plants can be used with the dry start method. Swamp plants live best partly under and partly above water and are therefore perfect for the low water level of the dry start method.

Aquarium plants for successful aquascaping

Which aquarium plants are ‘aquascape proof’?

Aquarium plants are the essential basis of a beautiful aquascape. Fortunately, many aquarium plants are suitable participants of an aquascape.

Below is an overview of the most commonly used aquarium plants. Does one of these aquarium plants fit into your underwater landscape?

  • Anubias (Anubias Barteric)
  • Pennywort (Lysimachia Nummularia)
  • Java moss (Vesicularia dubyana)
  • Leiden Plant (Saurus cernuus)
  • water fork (Riccia flute sandals)
  • Java fern (Microsorum pteropus )
  • dwarf pearl herb (Hemianthus callitrichoides)
  • pogostemon (Pogostemon helferic)
  • Vallisneria (Vallisneria)
  • coniferous rush  (Eleocharis acicularis)

The aquarium plants Dwarf Pearlwort and Coniferous Waterrush are often used as foreground plants. Foreground plants are planted at the front of the Aquarium.

Tiny aquarium inhabitants bring an aquascape to life

Are you thinking about creating an aquascape with aquarium inhabitants? Small aquarium inhabitants are best suited for living in a world of aquascaping. Earlier, we told you that (more extensive) aquarium inhabitants disturb the biotope of an aquascape through the production of dirt.

The following small aquarium inhabitants bring the Aquascape to life, between 2 and 5 centimeters – is Aquascape approved.

  • Fire shrimp and shrimp are perfect for a nice aquascape dynamic
  • Cardinal tetras give the Aquascape a funky twist with their neon appearance
  • Guppies come in all colors. Always a color that matches your Aquascape.
  • Fire salmon swim in a group. Lovely as a colorful ‘ball’ in the Aquascape.

Some aquarium fish make demands on the aquarium plants and furnishings. Before adding aquarium inhabitants, check what requirements the inhabitants have.

Aquascaping maintenance: Basic, Monitoring, and Adjusting

You have successfully planted your Aquascape. The next challenge is to keep the Aquascape alive. How do you maintain an aquascape?

An aquascape with aquarium inhabitants requires more maintenance. Cleaning then becomes more critical.

The maintenance of aquascaping consists of monitoring and adjusting. That is, if your Aquascape has the right primary conditions.

The basics: light, nutrition, and freshwater

The basic conditions of an aquascape are sufficient light, extra nutrition, and freshwater.

Aquarium plants immediately tell if primary conditions are not in order: they stop growing or discolor.

Regularly check the basic requirements: provide CO2 as extra food, create a light location and change 25% of the aquarium water gradually once a month.

Monitoring: water values ​​and flow

Water quality is essential for a healthy, well-growing aquascape. I measure the water values ​​of the Aquarium once a month so that I can make adjustments in time.

How do you keep the water of good quality? An aquarium filter helps to maintain the natural balance of the aquarium water.

Aquarium filters often detract from the beauty of the Aquascape. If the budget allows, you can opt for an external aquarium filter; this does not disturb the Aquascape and is easy to maintain.

Adjusting: pruning

Pruning the Aquascape balances the visual character of the Aquascape. Pruning ensures that aquarium plants grow and do not ‘suffocate.’ It is comparable to cutting dead-ends at the hairdresser.

  • Pruning involves small plant clutter. It is therefore easy to combine pruning and water changes.
  • If you Doubts about the quality of the aquarium water? With the aquarium water test, you quickly know whether you need to make adjustments. Use Water test strips as a quick and easy tool.

Pruning aid for beginners

Pruning can be done by gently picking (thinning out) the plants, but also with fine scissors. Good pruning equipment such as these aquatic plant scissors makes pruning easy and keeps aquarium plants tidy.

After pruning, slowly run your hand through the Aquarium a few times. The residual waste appears. The residual waste is easily removed with a scoop net.

The pruning method depends on the type of aquarium plant. In short, the following pruning rules apply.

  • Is the plant a ground cover? Proceed as you mow the grass. Cut the top short with small scissors. Not too short; the root should not be visible.
  • Is the plant an offshoot? Use precise, sharp plant scissors and cut off the outer leaves at the bottom, just above the crown. An example of an offshoot is Vallisneria.
  • Does the plant have a rhizome? Cut or cut off the plant at the root. The pruned root can be replanted. An example of a rhizome plant is Anubias.

I hope you can move forward with creating your first Aquascape! I am curious which creative aquarist is hiding in you.