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Dutch Style Aquascape Or Japanese Style Aquascape Which Is Better

A detailed view of both styles will help you decide which is better for your needs. Comparing them with the detailed view will provide you with enough information to make a decision you won’t regret.

Which Style is Better Japanese Style Aquascape or Dutch Style Aquascape?

In this article, we will review both aquascape styles in dept, including Common plants, Tank layout & design, Aqualife, and, Lightning.

Many people consider the aquascape style as an art of arranging aquatic plants, rocks, cave work, etc. So every style has its unique design. This is great because you have a variety of possibilities to choose from. However, in this article, we will review two of the most amazing aquascape crafts,

In this article, we will review both aquascape styles in dept, including Common plants, Tank layout & design, Aqualife, and, Lightning.

Dutch-style aquascape or japanese style aquascape

Dutch Style Aquascape

Dutch aquascape style was first grown in the Netherlands around the 1930s, as a freshwater aquarium kit. In other words, it became available. As the oldest aquascaping style, it focuses primarily on the growth and arrangement of aquatic plants.

Dutch aquascape uses suitable colors, as a result of rich contrast and texture. Meanwhile maintains a high density of plant life. That’s why it is very important to understand how plant life is organized to appreciate the balance.

Creating a strong contrast between the elements is crucial to the general aesthetic, make sure to use spacing to organize your plants properly.

Liner rows of plants run left to right and they are referred to as “Dutch Streets”.Various species of aquatic plants cover over 70% of the aquarium floor.

In Dutch style aquascape, more than 80% of the aquarium floor is covered with plants, and a little or no substrate is left visible. Unlike the nature of the Japanese style, it is not designed to copy a natural setting or ecosystem.

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It creates levels and areas of a particular species, as a result, your design will be better organized which will improve its contrast and aesthetics.

Dutch aquascaping is defines variety, contrast, and organized chaos. Each plant in a Dutch aquascape serves a purpose in creating layers of color and varied focal points without any sort of hardscape.

Monitoring, on the other hand, requires equipment to maintain the lifecycle of your aquatic plants as well as daily liquid fertilizer. Trimming is essential to maintain a healthy environment as well.

Therefore, your main challenge around this style of aquascaping comes from the knowledge required to create the vision of your design, which will maintain these aquatic plants alive.

Common & Best Plants for Dutch Style Aquascape

If you want to try the Dutch Aquarium style you will be required to have expert knowledge about aquatic plants. As they are the central piece in Dutch aquascaping, you will need to know how to plant and combine them to paint a picture that will be aesthetically pleasing.

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Let’s take a look at some of the commonly used aqua plants in the Dutch style aquascape.

Hygrophila Corymbosa and Limnophila Aquatica

Using these plants will add an audacious touch to your aquascape. As they grow quickly and possess large stems, they will give a different shape and size to your design.

Fast Growing Plants for Dutch Style Aquascape

Hygrophila Corymbosa


and Limnophila Aquatica from Amazon.

Limnophila Aquatica

Alternanthera Reineckii, Rotala, or Tiger Lotus

Large and colorful, these species act as the main points of contrast in the Dutch design.

Colorful Plants for Dutch Style Aquascape

Dutch-style aquascape or japanese style aquascape

Alternanthera Reineckii


Dutch-style aquascape or japanese style aquascape



Dutch-style aquascape or japanese style aquascape

Tiger Lotus

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Contrasting Plants for Dutch Style Aquascape

Dutch-style use this species to create contrast and focal points in the design. Usually, you can find them in between plant species to create a seamless transition between the elements in your aquascape.

Dutch-style aquascape or japanese style aquascape

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Big Leaf Plants for Dutch Style Aquascape

These plants grow very low and close to the bottom of your substrate in your aquarium. Also, they help create pathways, angles, and depth.

Dutch-style aquascape or japanese style aquascape

Saururus Cernuus


Dutch-style aquascape or japanese style aquascape

Lobelia Cardinalis


Dutch Style Aquascape Tank Layout & Design

Slightly taller tanks are useful to show the full height of particular plant species as well as to allow more time before pruning is needed.

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Keep in mind that the ideal depth is between 45cm – 60cm (18-24 inches), like very deep tanks, which are hard to light properly and make pruning plants harder.

Acrylic Aquarium Tank

Complete Aquarium Tank Kit

Dutch Style Aquatic Life

Avoid fishes that have dull colors as they will fade in the background and won’t be noticed because of all the colored plants.

The Play Gym by Lovevery

Aim for fishes that will form large schools with strong colors, shoaling in the upper region of the tank is good as it will make them stand out more.

LED Planted Aquarium Lighting

White and Blue Aquarium LEDs Tank

Use a mix of differently colored LEDs. You can either use white color LEDs to make your aquarium shine or different RGB LEDs to make it look more beautiful. You should get more than 60 PAR at the substrate level to get appropriate plant coloration.

In short, Dutch aquascaping defines its own use of plants but distinguishes itself from the other styles by how it uses terraces and space.

Japanese Style Aquascape

Japanese style aquascape also called “Iwagumi”, this aquascaping style is known for its audacious use of stone formations, as well as it’s elegant simplicity, and focus on creating a natural scene. It was founded by Takashi Amano.

“Iwagumi” translates to “Rock Formation” in Japanese. Referring to the organization, placement of rocks to create the design of stone architecture.

The style uses stones as the primary aesthetic of the design and limited plants. Iwagumi aquascaping is considered to be one of the more difficult aquascaping styles.

It is following a general layout that requires a balance between open space, hardscape, and scale between each aspect of the design.

Iwagumi style has one main requirement: Always use an odd number of stones.

This prevents the aquascape from looking unnatural. Symmetry and balance are nearly never found in nature and is typically proof of human involvement.

The human eye will typically try to split what it sees in the middle and to create symmetrical parts, using an odd number of stones will prevent this human mechanism and make the design look natural.

Iwagumi style focuses less on fishes and plants, as stone architecture takes the front seat. Picturing simple tranquillity should be the goal and to reach it, every part of the design should be carefully balanced.

Japanese Aquascape Layout and Design

In the Iwagumi style, each stone in the layout has a specific name and role to play in the overall aquascape. Let’s take a look at each individual itself.


Oyaishi is the largest and most impressive piece of your tank and should always be the centerpiece of your Iwagumi design. Angling your Oyaishi with the flow of water will allow you to mimic a natural river as this is the main focal point of your tank.


Fikuishi will be the largest stone of your tank after Oyaishi, it should have similar colors, gradient, and tone.


The third-largest stone, its primary purpose is to accentuate the beauty of the primary stone counterparts.


Suteishi “The sacrificial stone”, will be the smallest stone in your aquascape. This stone will be where your plants will be placed.

It’s not meant to serve as a primary focal piece of your tank but it still plays a crucial role in balancing the design to create a natural feeling.

Japanese Aquascape Landscape

Iwagumi style has very limited plant choice, as it’s all about maintaining the balance and simplicity found in natural rock formations, you should use carpeting plants mainly, to create open space.

For medium, to large size rocks, we recommend using Nature’s Ocean 12-Inch Coral Base Rocks as they weigh around 40 pounds. For small size you can use Lifegard Smoky Mountain Stone which weighs 35 pounds. Both are available on Amazon.

Iwagumi style looks easier to create than other major styles on the surface, but don’t be fooled, maintaining it can be quite difficult. Creating sustainable growth will be harder due to limited plant choice.


Base Rocks for Aquarium

Mountain Stone

Japanese Style Aqua Life

Even your fishes must work towards your tranquil design, they should add life to your tank while being in harmony with the rest of it.

Prioritize fishes that live in banks like Harlequin rasboras, Rummy nose tetras, and Cardinal tetras as they are the most used for this style. Stay away from fishes that live alone as they will destroy your aquascape balance.

As most of your plants will be heavy roots ones, you will have to make the right choices for your substrate and water filtration for your system to work properly. On a side note, Iwagumi tanks are particularly prone to algae in the cultivation process.


Although creating a successful Iwagumi aquascape can be time-consuming, you will be very proud of what the end result looks like and you will have learned a lot in the process. Regardless of your preference, both aquascape designs are amazing in their own unique way.

What’s more, even if you’re a complete beginner you can still try making a minimal Iwagumi design. This style has very low requirements when starting so you can get an aquarium up and running a lot quicker than with most other styles!

While being simple to enter, this style truly symbolizes Japanese spirituality and peacefulness and will give you a very rewarding end result if you put effort into it.

Now you know the difference between these two fantastic aquascape styles. If you are more into symmetry, nature, and alignment, the Japanese style aquascape is for you. But if you like more color and contrast, the Dutch style aquascape is your best choice.