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Pond Style Aquarium | 5 Things to Know Before Creating

If having your own little peaceful and relaxing place, look no further than pond style aquarium.

Aquascaping is one of the richest hobbies out there. With so many styles available, you can use the one that fits you. If you’re looking for something new and original, then you should try your hand at making a pond style aquarium.

A pond style aquarium is part of the natural types of aquariums, one of the most popular types of aquariums where the goal is to imitate natural landscapes. It requires high skill and hard work to paint a perfect nature scene, and ponds aquarium are no exception.

As with other designs, you should take it slow and iterate on it to make slow but steady progress. In this article, you’ll get steps to make creating a pond looking aquarium easier, but don’t be afraid to experiment with your creativity.

Why make a pond style aquarium?

A pond style aquarium is very rewarding. It’s one of the best designs if you don’t have much time as once it gets going, it requires little maintenance compared to others.

This aquarium also inspires calmness and peace. When everything is set up correctly, you will have your own little piece of harmony inside your house!

Because of all the different plants and fishes interacting together, it will feel like a true ecosystem, a real living pond, and not just a scene of nature. With time, your aquarium will evolve, and you’ll be free to let the changes happen or make it go in another direction.

This will give you great opportunities to be creative.

Choosing your tank

The tank is the most critical piece in an aquascape design, you have to consider many things and tailor your choice depending on what result you want to achieve. First of all, your tank should make your layout easier to create or better looking.

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The central piece of the layout will consist of a slope where plants will be growing, a shallow tank would both make this easier to achieve and more artistic looking.

The way shallow tanks use space significantly improves gas circulation between air and water. Your plants and animals will be developing faster and better as they will both get their required gases (CO² and O²) more effectively. But a tank isn’t just here to hold your aquarium, it also profoundly impacts how your design will look and feel.

Using a rimless tank will allow more light to enter the aquarium, making it feel more alive. You will also be able to see the inside of the tank better, making it better for taking photos.

Creating the layout

Planning for the layout before starting is capital if you want to achieve a particular result. You could go for many different designs or make your own, but here are some helpful guidelines to get you started.

As plants can quickly spread into the tank, you should make sure that fishes still have reasonable space to swim by leaving a good chunk of the front tank as “open space.” Keeping one-fourth of the tank “free” should be enough for this purpose.

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Having a big open area in the front of your layout will allow light to flow freely and make it feel more lively as well. One of your goals should be to make the back of the aquarium hidden by laying pieces of driftwood and rocks. Making sure the substrate slope isn’t visible will make your aquarium look even more like a real pond.

As a good part of the front of your aquarium will be visible and clutter-free, the floor will stand out even more. Using a floor made of a mix of sand and gravel, as well as small rocks, will provide good contrast to the rest of the aquarium. Alternatively, you could use standard carpet grass to reinforce the natural side of the aquarium.

The back of the tank will be occupied by a slope made of the substrate where most of the plants will grow. You can easily make this slope by forming a small substrate hill on one of the back corners of the tank and holding it together with driftwood and rocks.

The incline of the slope is not set in stone. It will mainly depend on what plants you will use as different plants grow better on different soils and varying water levels.

Choosing the plants

There’s plenty of plants you could use for your design, allowing for great diversity and pond styles. Before choosing a plant, make sure you do plenty of research on it as you need to place it where it will grow best. Some plants will live better underwater, others outside of it.

Whatever you do, be wary of their final growth as it needs to be aligned to your vision of your pond design, and a plant that looks good at the start may feel off when fully grown.

Underwater plants

The lower part of the slope is going to be fully immersed in the water. So you will need plants that can survive and grow well underwater. Traditional aquarium plants are best suited for this part of the slope as they grow pretty well inside water.

As hiding the slope is one of the main objectives of this design, the best choice would be fine leaves plants like Dwarf hairgrass or Monte Carlo, but other carpeting plants like Java Moss will do fine.

Emergent plants

A bit higher, in the middle of the hill, will be the plants that will give a pond look to your aquarium. What’s the first thing a pond makes you think about? Probably emergent plants. Those tall plants will be perfectly fine in the middle of the slope.

There, they will be able to start growing underwater and expand even more once they break out of the water surface.

One of the best plants you can put here is the Sphaerocaryum malaccense, a species from South Asia. This plant will grow pink leaves giving more contrast to your design by bringing new colors. When reaching the water surface, it will form a dense bush because of its fast-growing nature.

Make sure to trim it when needed. You can also use other plants like Bucephalandra, Java ferns, and giant hairgrass.

Be creative and try a different mix of emergent plants. The more dense and diverse the vegetation will be, the more your tank will look like a pond.

Terrestrial plants

The top of the slope will be made of both a slightly underwater area and a dry one. You will need to mix plants that can live well outside of water and on humid soil. There’s plenty of options, so you should choose carefully based on what you want your pond to look like when you’re done. - For all your creative needs!

If you want to add more greenery to your pond, you can use Acorus Calamus, one of the typical plants found in ponds. Mixed with some aquatic mint, it will create a dense green bush on the top of the slope.

If you’d like to add different colors and make your pond style aquarium look warmer, feel free to use a mix of purple bamboo and Oenanthe Javanica. Those two plants will add notes of purple and light pink to your pond and add contrast to the green plants.

Outside decoration

A successful pond style aquarium design doesn’t stop outside of the water, don’t neglect the outside if you want it to truly feel like a pond.

One thing you can do to make your pond feel more alive is by sticking pieces of driftwood outside of the water. Decorate them by gluing green moss on them, try to make it inconsistent to look more natural.

If you want to take it one step further, you can make a small cove out of the wood and hide a fogger inside it. The light fog coming from the inside will create a stunning atmosphere.

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Equipment needed

Like any other aquarium, the tank will need a water filtration system for the fish’s well-being, a canister filter will take care of this quite well.

Depending on whether or not the room temperature will change a lot, you could also add a heater to your tank. As shallow tanks will distribute gas more efficiently, CO² tanks are optional for this setup, you could still use it in case you want plants to grow quicker.

When setting up your light fixture, make sure all the plants get proper lighting, as many plants will grow outside the tank, they may get in the way and block the light. Put the tank near a window so it can get more light during the day.


That is all you need to know to create your first stunning pond style aquarium. Remember that these are just guidelines to help you, be sure to experiment with new things to create your style and design.

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As this design is low maintenance, it can be a great introduction to nature style aquascape if you don’t have the time for the other higher maintenance designs.

Aquascape offers other types of styles like Forest style (Iwagumi), Natural Style & Dutch Style. We have already covered a brief comparison on explaining which is better Iwagumi style or Dutch style aquascaping.