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How to Start an Aquascape the Right Way

The Goal of an Aquascape 

In order to learn how to start an aquascape, we must first take a glance at the origin of the art. Aquascaping is an art form that is concerned with arranging plants, rocks, caves and driftwood etc. in an aquarium to enhance its aesthetics. Generally, an aquascape contains both fishes as well as plants but in some cases, you can also arrange an aquascape without fish, or with rocks and caves etc. but no plants. As the name indicated, the main aim of aquascaping is to present an attractive landscape under the water. We often model this landscape from real life examples so starting by looking at images of nature is a great place to start and gain some inspiration.

Why Have An Aquascape? 

Aquascapes are usually conceived as just a beautiful work of art. But in reality, they have many more advantages than just that. We often observe that offices, healthcare facilities and hospitals etc. often have aquariums and aquascapes. This is because they have a calming affect that is often linked to: 

  • Reducing stress
  • Effective pain management
  • Increasing quality of sleep 
  • Regulating blood pressure 
  • Enhancing productivity  

How to Start An Aquascape 

Starting an aquascape is not a tedious or complex task at all. Rather than looking at the setup as a single step, it is better that the process is divided into smaller steps. Remember that setting up an aquascape is a continuous effort that requires attention, persistence and last but not the least, creativity.  

Basic Principles: 

Before we dive in deep and get started with listing the equipment needed and discussing the process of starting an aquascape, it is important to understand some basic principles related to aquascaping: 

  1. Less Is More – When setting up an aquascape, people often attempt to add as many plants as possible. But most of the times this approach ends up crowding the space and the aquascape ends up looking like a congested mess. 
  2. Diversity – Simplicity does not have to mean that you stick to using only a single type of plant in your aquascape. Feel free to incorporate a diverse range of plants but keep an eye on the number of plants and the available space. 
  3. Persistence – As mentioned earlier, aquascaping is an ongoing process. Be prepared to take everything out and begin from the start multiple times along the way. And bear in mind that the more you work, the more you learn.

Equipment Needed to Start an Aquascape: 

There are some things that are integral to not only design and start and aquascape but also to ensure that this hard work bears the expected fruit. Here are some pieces of equipment that will help you start and maintain your aquascape with ease: 


Lighting is a core component to start an aquascape. Invest in lighting equipment that is specifically made for aquascapes and make sure that the output light, spectrum and the range is in accordance with the size of your aquascape. It is a functioning part of your aquascape that will promote plant health and growth.  


Water filters will ensure that the water remains clean and free from waste. The type of water filter you would need depends on whether you have fish in the aquarium or not. In case of fish, the filters would remove fish waste and for the plants the filter will clean decaying organic material.  


The carbon dioxide system is undoubtedly, the most expensive component of any aquascape. All plants require COto survive and the source of carbon dioxide under water is this system. Make sure that you invest in a reliable carbon dioxide system so your plants can properly and reach their full potential. 


Just like the human body needs nutrients to grow, so do the plants. In order to ensure that the plants in your aquascape are healthy and their nutritional requirements are being met, you need to provide fertilizers. There are two main categories of fertilizers i.e. the ones that provide macronutrients and the ones that supply micronutrients. Keep an eye on the needs of your plants to find out which one is needed and provide accordingly.  


 Underwater plants feed through both their leaves and roots. Therefore, the choice of a good substrate is important when setting up an aquascape. The substrate should be able to support the plants as well. The choice of the substrate depends on the type of plants you want to add to your aquascape.  

Ornaments And Decorative Items: 

Aquascapes are mostly started for aesthetic reasons. Other than plants, there are many other ornaments and decorative items. There are many types of ornaments that are easily available in the market. Some of the popular choices include rocks, cave work and gravel etc.  

Click here to see our recommednded tank setup for aquascaping on a budget!

Popular Aquascaping Styles:

Here are a couple of aquascaping styles that are extremely popular amongst aquascaping enthusiasts. Picking the style first is a key part in how to start an aquascape the right way; you want some sort of direction with it. If you would like to deep dive further on the styles of aquascaping you can check out our other article on them here.

Dutch Style Aquascape:

The Dutch Style Aquascape does not make use of any hardscape material. The focus of the aquascape is entirely around different species of plants and their arrangement. Even the color and texture of the aquarium is maintained by adding a variety of plants.

Jungle Style Aquascape:

If you are fond of dense and unkempt looking plants, this should be your go to aquascape inspiration. The plants in a jungle style aquascape are left to grow on their own without any trimming or shaping. The overall look of the aquarium is dense and resembles a natural habitat of aquamarine plants.

Iwagumi Style Aquascape:

The Iwagumi Style Aquascape makes use of rocks and hardscape ornaments for the purpose of decoration. The plants in such an aquascape are usually low lying and are present underneath the rock arrangement. There are a couple of main stones and the rest of the rocks are arranged around these stones to support and enhance their look.

Nature Style Aquascape:

The Natural Style Aquascape, as the name indicates, resembles natural surroundings. You are free to choose any natural style like a valley, mountains, rainforests etc. as inspiration. Now that the theme has been determines, you can move on and start arranging the rocks and plants to imitate the natural style.

Final Words:

 Learning how to start an aquascape is not as hard as it may seem to be. Let your creativity go lose and don’t be afraid to destruct and reconstruct a couple of times. Also, bear in mind that an aquascape cannot be a reflection of perfection. A bit of imperfection is part and parcel of the process. Hope this guide proves helpful and you enjoy the process of setting up an aquascape for yourself.

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