To know Mother Nature, is to love her smallest creations’

Takashi Amano

I often hear people ask what the difference is between a Planted Tank and Aquascape. Although it may sound like a straightforward question and an easy one to answer, there is quite a bit more to it than that.

Wikipedia “…the craft of arranging aquatic plants, as well as rocks, stones, cave work, or driftwood, in an aesthetically pleasing manner within an aquarium—in effect, gardening under water.”

It does not stop there, however… Aquascape designs include a number of distinct styles, including the garden-like Dutch style and the Japanese-inspired nature style.[1] Typically, an aquascape houses fish as well as plants, although it is possible to create an aquascape with plants only, or with rockwork or other hardscape and no plants. 

One can easily make the mistake of assuming that any tank containing plants and/or hardscape, arranged in a pleasing way, can be labelled as an Aquascape. This definition could be considered as acceptable by some, but the technical truth is that, in theory, a “proper” Aquascape must conform to a specific style in order to be classed as a true Aquascape.

There is currently a few accepted styles for Aquascaping that can be adopted, namely Dutch, Nature, Iwagumi, Jungle, biotope, Paludariums and  Saltwater Reefs. To create a better understanding of the difference between these styles, let’s look at each one in more detail. (All of these styles will be discussed in dedicated posts in the near future.)

Dutch Style

With its origins in the 1930’s, the Dutch Style is certainly the oldest aquascaping style that is still popular. The Dutch Aquarium style does not rely on the use of wood, rocks and other hardscape materials to create impact. The main stars of the show are the aquatic plants in intricate placements and groupings, to help create in-depth perspective within the aquarium by complimenting each other in shape and color.

Most magnificent Dutch planted aquariums are characterized by high density, rich contrast and subtle use of color and texture, with the planting often on terraces to create different levels.

The most important requirement for aquascapers who want to approach the Dutch Aquarium style is to have extensive knowledge regarding aquatic plants.

Nature Style

Introduced by Japanese aquarist Takashi Amano back in the 1990’s and becoming one of the dominating aquascape styles since then, the Nature Style is in essence a representation of particular terrestrial landscapes.

The careful use of rocks, driftwood and plants, arranged in order to create natural ambience and flow, creates a miniature landscape that can be harmoniously intriguing as well as astonishingly beautiful.

The Nature style has three basic sub-styles: concave, convex and triangular. These will be discussed in more detail in future posts.

Iwagumi Style

The Iwagumi aquascaping style is a subset of Japanese Nature Aquascaping that requires a significant amount of experience to implement and maintain.

The Iwagumi style follows a general layout that requires a balance between open space, hardscape, and scale between each aspect of the design.

“Iwagumi” in Japanese translates to “Rock Formation,” which in turn refers to the stone architecture, formations, and placement defining the features of the design. Essentially, the stones in an Iwagumi aquascape act as the structure of the entire design.

Traditionally, there are three stones in an Iwagumi aquascape; however, the aquascaper has the liberty to build his or her design based upon preference.

Part 2 will deal with some other styles, namely Jungle, Biotope, Paludarium and Saltwater Reef.

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