3 Types of Planted Aquariums to Inspire your Next Tank Build


3 Types of Planted Aquariums to Inspire Your Next Tank Build

Did you know that a planted aquarium can be more than just adding aquatic plants into a fish tank? There are even a handful of different layout styles and techniques that can make one planted aquarium really stand out from another. Each style adds that special touch to the aquarium. Let’s take you through three easy-to-build aquascapes.

Iwagumi Style Aquarium

We will start with the Iwagumi style. “Iwagumi” is a Japanese word that translates as “rock formation,” and it refers to a planted aquarium which contains only stones or rocks as hardscape. This aquarium is unique because it does not contain any decor, such as driftwood or other decorations.

Aquarium plants are not the main focal point in an Iwagumi aquarium. It should be a group well-placed stones with different sizes. An Iwagumi-style aquarium should only have three stones. However, it is acceptable to use as many stones as you like to achieve the desired look. To create an Iwagumi aquascape, you can use a variety of sizes and follow the rule of thirds. The tank can be divided into three parts. Place the largest stone to the right or left “third”, and leave the rest open. In order to make the tank look most pleasing, arrange small to medium stones around it. To achieve dramatic Iwagumi layouts, aquascapers often use a deep substrate. The substrate can be slopped to increase height and visual depth. This makes the stones look more dramatic than they would in natural settings.

Iwagumi layouts usually have shorter, carpeting-type species. To add interest, taller species can be planted towards the rear of the aquarium. You might consider using plants like dwarf hairgrass, Micranthemum “Monte Carlo”, dwarf baby tears and pearl weed in the aquarium’s front and center. For an extra height boost, you can add Cryptocoryne-lucens, dwarf sagittaria, and vallisneria to your tank. Iwagumi-style aquariums are great for adding shrimp and small schoolingfish. Consider fish that aren’t too shy and don’t mind lots of open water. Rasboras such as harlequin or chili rasboras and many killifish species like lampeye killifish will shoal nicely in large enough numbers, adding to the visual interest of the aquarium.

Nature or Natural Aquarium

If you’ve heard of any aquascaping style at all, it may be a “nature aquarium” that first comes to mind. The term “nature aquarium” is used liberally in the community and even predates the term “aquascaping” as a household word. The style itself refers to a planted aquarium where wood, rocks and other natural materials are used along with plants to create an environment that mimics a setting in nature. This is different than a biotope aquarium (accurate simulation a natural ecosystem), because the purpose of creating a Nature Aquarium is to loosely reproduce natural scenes, both above and beneath water.

A nature aquarium can be created by anyone. There are no set rules, and the aquascapers can design a setting in natural settings that suits them. You should use natural materials to create a nature-inspired aquarium. As this will enhance the visual appeal, you might choose stones and driftwood that complement one another in color. You won’t find brightly colored or artificial substrate in a nature aquarium.

Greenery can include any combination or plants, so pick your favorites. You will get a feeling of depth by placing shorter plants towards the front and medium-height ones in the middle. Your hardscape should be maintained and trimmed regularly to ensure that it makes an impact. The plants should complement and not overshadow your wood pieces and stones.

Small schools of schooling fish can add movement and dimension to a nature tank. Smaller fish make the details of a nature aquarium landscape seem larger than life.

Jungle Style Tank

The jungle style aquarium uses the same principles that the nature aquarium. Creating this type of aquarium is relatively self-explanatory. This aquarium is designed to look like an underwater jungle. Much like the nature aquarium, there aren’t very many rules for achieving this type of planted aquarium. Any combination of plants may be used, and the goal is to grow them as densely as possible while still maintaining an aesthetically pleasing aquarium. The goal of jungle aquascaping, once the aquarium is established, is to have minimal hardscape visible. The plants are the main focus.

Contrary to how it may look, regular maintenance is still required to maintain visual appeal. Faster growing plants should be trimmed back to match the growth of slower growing plants. It would not be ideal for one species to take over an entire tank. For this aquarium to have the best plant growth, it is important to use both liquid and root fertilizer. Fertilize regularly.

Making a jungle aquarium is fun because you can choose plants of different textures and colors that will complement each other. There are many combinations. For example, planting vallisneria next to water sprite or bacopa will create a visual contrast, as their leaf textures are very different. Using a mix of anubias, java fern, and moss in the middle or midground of the tank creates textural contrast as well. Another example would be having pearl weed next to Cryptocoryne wendtii, as they display different colors and textures.

There are many options for fish. This style of aquarium is very well suited for fish, as dense plant growth mimics nature and creates a lot of dark, comfortable places for fish to seek cover. A jungle aquarium should have more colorful fish than the rest.

You can create a planted aquarium in many ways. So, if you aren’t sure what to do with that empty aquarium, try an Iwagumi, nature or jungle aquarium – or even combine styles to find your own unique design. The best part about creating a planted tank is enjoying the process.

For more information on planted aquariums, check out our library of articles that cover live aquatic plants, fertilizers, algae control, and more.