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In 6 Steps: Build Your First Aquascape Aquarium For Beginners

Here you can find step-by-step information on how to build your aquascape in 5 simple steps. This is strictly for beginners who are getting started and for those who want to try aquascape as their new hobby.

Aquascape: Brief introduction

An aquascape is a form of art. It has its method of design, viewing angle, style, etc. In simple words building a forest inside an aquarium is no easy job. It requires dedication and time.

What makes aquascape fascinating is that it has a landscape structure with a touch of aquatic life and greenery surrounding the tank. It feels like having a little underwater forest of your own.

Many people don’t know the difference between an aquarium and an aquascape. The aquarium is where you grow different species of fishes in a tank. This is where you build a landscape with aquatic plants, rocks, woods, etc.

Aquascape as a Hobby

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Aquascape aquarium is something that represents nature. It resembles peace and harmony when you look at it. Aquascaping was picked up as a hobby around the twentieth century.

Thanks to Takashi Amano, it was possible due to this Japanese man who had such a great influence on aquascape.

It has inspired so many people to follow aquascape as a hobby. Iwagami style and the natural style of Takashi Amano had a great impact on the design of the aquascape. He is indeed known as the father of modern aquascape.

Step 1: Select your desired tank

Pick a tank of your desire. It may be small, medium, large, or even longer than the normal aquarium tanks. Make sure you put your maximum amount of effort into analyzing the quality of the tank.

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For beginners, a normal size tank is more than enough. Aquarium tanks are usually made of plastic and glass. We suggest you pick glass material.

Plastic aquarium tanks lack a realistic view even when they are set up with good LED lighting, but glass tanks illuminate a realistic view of the aquascape.

Step 2: Dividing the tank (foreground, midground, and background)

After you finish finalizing the tank you should start planning on dividing the aquarium tank into 3 horizontal lines from the inside. You can divide based on the size of the tank and the amount of material you have in store.

The first section will be for the foreground where you add the substrates, aquarium soil, and aquarium plants. The substrates and soil will help the plant grow as the aquascape ages.

The midground is the most important section. It should be the strongest section compared to the other sections. The main hardscape like rocks and driftwood can be placed in the midsection.

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The background section can be left empty if needed. You can use the background section to create depth. Placing more larger rocks or driftwood in the background creates a slope.

Step 3: Pick a style for your aquascape aquarium

There are a countable number of styles like dutch style aquarium, natural style aquarium, Iwagumi style aquarium, jungle style aquarium, etc. For beginners choosing a style will help you understand the concept of aquascape more.

The most popular are the dutch style aquarium, natural style aquarium, and iwagumi style aquarium. The natural style aquarium and iwagumi style aquarium was first developed by the legend Takashi Amano.

All the styles have different aesthetic looks to them. In dutch style aquarium, you can find different kinds of plants arranged in a row creating a contrasting look. It gives a colorful view and looks appealing to the viewers.

While in natural style the aquarium is built to look natural and simple. It is inspired by the Japanese garden style which blends with the ecosystem. It gives a peaceful vibe and pleasant feel to the viewers.

Step 4: Choosing the right material for aquascape

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Once you finalize the style you can select the necessary materials for your aquarium. To start aquascape you must have basic things like additives, power sand, aqua soil, substrates, plants, hardscape, LED lighting, etc.


Additives can be added as a base layer in a small amount. It contains many mineral compounds like iron, aluminum, sodium, magnesium, etc. This will dissolve in water to help the plant grow.

Power Sand

Having power sand as the next layer gives a tight hold to the additives. It holds the minerals and releases them as inorganic nutrients. The porus allows the roots of the plant to get the needed nutrients.

Aqua Soil

Aqua soil can be an alternative to power sand or can they can both be added as substrates. This soil holds lots of nutrients and organic acids. They play a major role in the development of plants in the aquascape.


There are many varieties of plants you can choose to grow inside your aquascape, but you should decide which plants are essential for your aquascape style.

Plants like Java Moss, Water Wisteria, Amazon Sword, Anubias, etc are quite popular in the aquascaping world. They have moderate to fast growth and requires a medium amount of lighting.


Driftwood, rocks, and stones are considered to be hardscape in the aquascape. Hardscape gives the structure the aquascape. The plants act as the front line for hardscape in the foreground. There are many types of rocks and stones in aquascape you can use.

LED Lighting

The LED lighting is considered to be the best lighting for aquascape aquariums. They provide the necessary light for the plant to grow. LEDs are low maintenance and last longer than normal tubes or bulbs.

CO2 Usage

CO2 is an essential component for plants. To start the process of photosynthesis plants require CO2 and light to survive. 10-30 ppm (part per million) CO2 is more than enough to keep them alive and healthy. - For all your creative needs!

Step 5: Choosing aquatic life (Fish)

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Aquascape or a planted aquarium is only suitable for certain fishes. If your planning to grow all type of fishes in your aquascape tank, well then good luck with it. I guarantee you there will be nothing left for you to enjoy other than half or fully torn/eaten plants. We suggest you give a thought on what type is suitable and what is not.

Pick the right fish to match the design and contrast of the aquascape. It will add more beauty.

Here is a list of aqua friendly fishes that are most commonly used by top aquascape professionals around the world.


Tetra are from the family of Characidae. Characidae is a family of tropical and sub-tropical freshwater fishes. It has a variety of species that are perfect to grow in an aquascape aquarium. These are very popular in the aquascaping world.

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Some of the fish species of Tetra suitable for aquascape are:

  • Cardinal Tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi)
  • Ember Tetra (Hyphessobrycon amandae)
  • Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi)
  • Black Neon Tetra (Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi)


Rasbora are from the family of Cyprinidae. Cyprinidae is considered to be one of the largest fish families. It is also popular fish to grow in the aquascape.

Some of the fish species of Rasbora suitable for aquascape are:

  • Harlequin Rasbora (Trigonostigma heteromorpha)
  • Chili Rasboras or Mosquito Rasboras (Boraras brigittae)
  • Angelfish (Pterophyllum)

Angelfish are from the family Cichlids. Cichlids have over more than 1,650 species. The round body and triangular fins of angelfish make them one of the best choices for an aquascape aquarium.

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Discus (Symphysodon)

Discus are also from the family Cichlids. They are freshwater fishes. Their bright and unique shape makes a good fish for aquascape. It adds contrast to the aquarium.

Guppy (Poecilia reticulata)

Guppy is also called millionfish and rainbow fish. They belong to the Poeciliidae family. It has its presence in tropical and sub-tropical parts of the world. They can be found in almost all aquascape aquarium tanks.

Step 6: Maintaining the aquarium

Regular maintenance is a must. To keep your plants and fishes healthy you should take some precautions before it’s too late. It involves trimming the plants, cleaning the water, and algae control.

Plants should be trimmed once they have grown. Not all plants grow fast, but stem plants require regular trimming. The upper part of the plants are cut off with scissors to maintain proportion.

Water should be cleaned once every 2-3 weeks. It gives the plant and fishes a dose of refreshment. With new types of equipment, you can lower the amount of wastewater with regular cleaning.

Controlling algae is a crucial thing in the aquascape aquarium. There are many reasons for this scenario to happen, but there are two things every beginner should know about.

Algae can occur if the water is unstable. Once it starts to grow on plants they cannot photosynthesize.

It can be a major problem once the layout is set up. Overuse of substrate is another cause of algae. Using a sufficient amount of substrate for the pant will maintain the balance. If you overdose the substrate then it can be a major issue.


Aquascape is about how you approach it. If you are a beginner, it is highly recommended for you to follow a certain pattern. Until you learn how to mix and blend the style and design of aquascape.

Points to be remembered

  • Trim the plants once they grew
  • Take care of the fishes and feed them
  • Regularly change the water
  • Check for any algae

The above-mentioned points are very important for you to save your aquascape. Once you get the touch of it, then move forward with your creativity.