You are currently viewing How to do Aquascaping with Driftwood and Rocks | Hardscape

How to do Aquascaping with Driftwood and Rocks | Hardscape

Aquascaping is a great hobby to pursue. Its main goal is to set up and decorate a planted tank to make it more pleasing to look at. While it was initially presented in a book written in the ’90s in Japan by Takashi Amano, it hasn’t stopped growing since.

Aquascaping is mainly about creating your ecosystem where plants and fish can live together as well as being beautiful to look at. Learning how to do aquascaping with driftwood and rocks can help you create stunning visuals.

For most people, decorating an aquarium is limited to putting plants and fish together, but there are a lot more ways to go about it! If you find it difficult to build your first aquascape, this article will surely help you on how to best arrange driftwood and rocks to create stunning visuals.

If you’re a beginner, aquascaping with driftwood and rocks can look scary at first; with so many styles you can follow, projects shared online, and different advice on many articles you can read.

While it is indeed a very broad hobby where some aim for massive tanks with sprawling vegetation that cost a lot of money and time to maintain, it can be as simple as effectively using driftwood, stone, and a fish together to create harmony.

I will first review the basics you need to take off to set up your tank before going into the details of driftwood and rocks, how to choose them and which types I recommend.

Setting up your tank

Aquascaping is a hobby where proper planning is critical to getting good results. Before adding a single piece of driftwood or laying your first rock, you need to know in detail what result you want to achieve.

It’s important to consider what you want to build first so you can take on a project that is not too hard for your level, this will also help you establish a budget early, so you don’t run out of money in the middle of your design.

Your design doesn’t have to be expansive to look good. One of the key concepts of this activity is minimalism. You don’t need tons of expansive decorations; sometimes, a less ambitious design can look better on top of being easier to maintain. Find the best cost-efficient tank for your aquascaping.

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Aquascaping with driftwood and rocks

Thinking of Aquascaping as just an activity where you put beautiful plants next to fish is pretty short-sighted. Those are just a small fragment of Aquascaping. The subject of driftwood and stones is so complex and vast you can call yourself an expert if you dedicate a lot of your time to learning about all the different categories and types as well as the ins and outs of using them.

Using natural driftwood and stones will make your aquarium a more attractive place and will give your fish a good place to reproduce. Wood and stone can be used easily to make your tank more attractive, just by laying a handful of stones with some driftwood at the base of your tank, you can paint a very natural looking scene.

Before starting anything, you should always have a clear plan of what you want to achieve. A good habit of having is to make rough sketches of your dream result. You should start buying supplies and decorating only when you know what you’re going for.


Driftwood refers to wood that has been washed to a shore (sea, lake, river) by waves or tides. Although it’s widely used to designate the wood used in Aquascaping, it doesn’t mean you cannot use other types of wood in your tank.

Suitable wood for aquascaping can be found in plenty of different places, and its origin doesn’t matter as long as you’re respecting the required steps to make sure it’s not harmful to your aquarium.

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While you, of course, want the driftwood you will choose to look beautiful, aesthetics, however, isn’t the only criteria that matter when choosing driftwood for your aquarium.

How to use driftwood in your aquascape

Driftwood can have many uses in your tank. It can, depending on its type, be used to give a particular look to your aquarium or even lower the pH of the water in your tank.

Given the effects it can have on your tank, carefully choosing your driftwood is very important as it will make your fish feel at home in your aquarium. Since fish use driftwood for various things in the wild such as: hiding from predators, reproducing, and hatching their eggs.

Carefully choosing the wood is important as realizing you made a mistake and have to change the wood when everything else is done can be very frustrating. Every different piece of wood has different aesthetics and can be found in many places, from forests to an online aquascape shop.

Driftwood can come in many shapes and sizes in aquascape! Whether it’s tiny light-colored branches or more massive and darker pieces of wood, you’re bound to find something that fits your style.

You should choose your driftwood depending on the type of scene you want to recreate as the driftwood used to create an island looking aquarium and a jungle-themed one are very different.

Whatever type you use, you should always make sure the wood is safe for your fish and plants. Always cleaning your wood by slowly brushing it with warm water will clean off dust and bad substances for your tank.

Never clean wood with chemicals as it will absorb and reject them in your tank, potentially killing plants and fish in the process.


In Aquascaping, rocks are considered the most important piece of a design right after driftwood. While that’s true in most aquarium, rocks can also play the central role in a tank.

For example, the Iwagumi style focuses mainly on the effective use of rocks to create harmony. In most tanks, though, they will hold 2nd place and serve as the building blocks of the foundation of your design.

How to use rocks in your aquascape

It can be tempting to think that rocks are a very minor and uninspiring part of a planted tank. However, you couldn’t be further from the truth, entire natural scenes like mountains can be built out of rocks, and the Japanese style Iwagumi even makes exclusive use of rocks.

Stones are commonly linked with spirituality and meditativeness and can be used to represent a lot more than they are (Think about the Moaï statues and Stonehenge, for example.) When choosing your rocks, you need to take many things into accounts, such as structure and color or even texture.

Rocks should be used to establish contrast and balance to the driftwood and plants present in your tank. Get creative, and don’t hesitate to play with different colors or sizes.

Playing with lighting is also a good way to create a unique tank. As for driftwood, you can find rocks in online and local aquascape shops. However, nothing forbids you from hunting for your rocks in the wild. - For all your creative needs!

If you’re going for that route, always make sure they are suited to your tank and won’t its inhabitants. When choosing rocks outside, always go for solid ones like granite and avoid weaker rocks like limestones as they will erode in your tank and most likely harm your fish due to ph changes.

Suitable rocks can be found near swamps, ponds, and rivers. After you have brought back suitable home rocks, you still need to clean them as you did for the wood.

Scrubbing them nicely with warm water and letting them rest in boiling water for 10 minutes will get rid of any bacteria that could harm your aquarium.

Since aquascaping is growing extremely fast nowadays, more and more rocks are being used, so don’t be afraid to experiment with your own and share it online!

How rocks interact with wood in your aquascape

As discussed earlier, you should always plan your design thoroughly before doing anything in an aquascape.

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Thinking about each piece of wood, and what it’s going to bring to your tank by carefully choosing its position and orientation can make a world of difference.

When you are done planning everything, you should then check back your sketches and notes so you can place them exactly where you wanted it placed.

Your rocks are there to bring balance to your wood. Always try to picture how a natural scene would look, make use of advanced aquascaping techniques, and carefully place them at key points of your design.


As you learned in this article, adding driftwood and rocks to your aquarium can surely improve its look and attractiveness.

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Even if aquascaping is a complex process that contains many other steps to fully completing a planted tank, mastering the use of aquascaping with wood and rocks is critical to becoming an expert in this field.

Apply the advice you learned to setup driftwood that will give hiding spots, shelter, and a safe place to breed to your fish, as well as rocks that will add both balances and appeal to your aquarium.