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? A variety of layout options and techniques can be used to make a planted aquarium stand out. Each style has a uniqueness that might add that extra pop to your aquarium you’ve been looking for. Let’s look at three types of aquascapes that are easy to build and can be used as inspiration for your next planted tank.


Iwagumi Style Aquarium

The first style that we will cover is the Iwagumi style of aquascaping. “Iwagumi,” a Japanese term that means “rock formation,” is a planted aquarium that uses only rocks and stones 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. The focus should be a group of well-placed stones of varying sizes. Traditionally, only three stones are used in an Iwagumi style aquarium. However, it is acceptable to use as many stones as you like to achieve the desired look. You can create an Iwagumi Aquascape by following the rule to thirds. Assume the tank is divided in three parts. Place one of the largest stones towards the left or right and leave the remainder open. Place medium-sized stones around the tank in any way that you find most appealing. A trick many aquascapers use to achieve a dramatic-looking Iwagumi layout is by using a deep substrate bed. 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 typically have short, carpeting plants. However, taller species may be used towards the back of the aquarium to add interest. Consider using plants such as dwarf hairgrass, Micranthemum ‘Monte Carlo’, dwarf baby tears, pearl weed, dwarf chain sword, micro sword, Cryptocoryne parva, Staurogyne repens, and Hydrocotyle tripartita ‘Japan’ in the front and middle of the aquarium. You can add dwarf sagittaria and Cryptocoryne-lucens or vallisneria to the back to give the tank some height. A great addition to an Iwagumi aquarium are 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 widely used in the community. It even predates the term aquascaping as a household term. 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. The rules are not rigid and aquascapers can create a natural setting that suits their needs. Natural materials are best for creating a nature aquarium. Consider choosing stones and driftwood that complement each other in color as this can add to visual appeal. You won’t find brightly colored or artificial substrate in a nature aquarium.

You can use any combination of plants to create greenery. So choose your favorite. Placing shorter plants towards the front of the aquarium, medium-height plants in the middle, and tall plants in the back will create a sense of depth. Regular trimming and maintenance is necessary to keep your hardscape looking great. Your stones and wood pieces should be complemented by the plants, but not overshadowed.

A nature aquarium can be enhanced by small schooling fish. This adds movement to the tank and gives it a sense scale. The details in a nature aquarium landscape look larger than life because they are smaller.

Jungle Style Tank

The jungle aquarium is based on the same principles as the natural aquarium. This aquarium is easy to create. It is important to create an underwater jungle aesthetic. This type of aquarium is similar to a nature aquarium. There are no rules. It is possible to use any combination of plants. However, the goal is for them to be as dense as possible and still maintain an attractive aquarium. The goal of jungle aquascaping, once the aquarium is established, is to have minimal hardscape visible. The focus is on the plants.

Regular maintenance is necessary to maintain visual appeal, despite how it may appear. Faster growing plants should be trimmed back to match the growth of slower growing plants. It wouldn’t be ideal to have one species take over the whole tank. Fertilizer, both liquid and root feeding, as well as sufficient lighting are essential for this type of aquarium to achieve the densest plant growth possible. Make sure to fertilize your aquarium regularly.

The fun part of creating a jungle aquarium is choosing plants with different textures and colors to complement each other. There are many combinations. You can plant vallisneria alongside water sprite and bacopa to create a visual contrast. Their leaf textures are quite different. Textural contrast can also be created by using a mixture of anubias and java ferns with moss in either the middle or the midground of the tank. A pearl weed would also be a good choice next to Cryptocoryne Wendtii. They have different textures and colors.

The possibilities for fish are infinite too. 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. To make your jungle aquarium stand out, you might consider larger or more colorful fish.

There are so many options for creating a planted tank. If you don’t know what to do with your empty aquarium, an Iwagumi or nature aquarium might be a good option. You can also combine different styles to create your own design. Enjoy the entire process of creating a plant aquarium.

You can find more information about planted aquariums in our library of articles. These articles cover fertilizers, live aquatic plants and other topics.