What is Aquascaping?
Aquascaping – an art form in natural aquaristics
You could call aquascaping the most modern form of plant aquaristics. Since Ludwig Dennerle started concentrating on plants as a basis for stable aquariums, different types of plant-oriented aquaristics have emerged.
The Dennerle philosophy has always been based on natural aquaristics, trying to create a stable ecosystem with as little technology as possible and without excessive plant trimming - as it was first described in the Dennerle brochures from the 1970s, the "system for functioning aquariums". The term is not to be confused with the so-called biotope aquaristics, where the intention is to simulate the natural habitat of the fish.
Dutch, natural, Japanese ...
In the 1980s, plant-oriented aquariums were mostly planted in the so-called "Dutch style" – a type of "botanical flower garden under water". The arrangement of plants is clear and follows strict rules in terms of grouping. Stem plants, which are constantly trimmed and replanted, play the main role in this design type.
In modern natural aquascaping aquariums, natural scenes are simulated. Mosses, ferns, stones and roots are plants and materials that one will rarely find in a "Dutch style" aquarium. The nature photographer and aquarium designer, Takashi Amano, has without question shaped the development of aquascaping to a significant degree.
What does the term aquascaping mean?
Nature is the inspiration …
The name comes from the word "landscape". The styles of aquascaping are very different, but they all have one thing in common - they are all modelled on the natural landscapes above water.
They can be seen and studied every day when taking a walk. A thickly wooded range of hills or mountains, a dense ravine, gorge or a landscape carved out by a river. Even details like a rock face or tree stump with moss growing on them can serve as a model.
… and the aquascaper an artist…
An "aquascaper" takes in all these impressions and then the initial layouts emerge in his or her mind. In doing so, it is not always important to be true to the details. Rather, the atmosphere conveyed by the natural landscape can be designed and maintained in an aquarium with the right plants.
The term "layout" means converting a design idea into an "aquarium image". Various materials support the character of a resulting underwater landscape. Here the concept of Japanese aesthetics (Wabi-Sabi) finds an artistic application in natural aquaristics.
…, who uses a wide variety of materials…
The foundation for modelling stones and roots is laid with the substrate structure, which includes the nutrient medium, gravel and sand. The addition of stones and roots, also known as the "hardscape", plays an important role in aquascaping, and is also the main difference from classic natural aquaristics.
Placing the right stones and roots in the proper spots is in itself a true art form. The range on the market has become huge in the meantime, offering wonderful design options for every size of aquarium. Of course, you can collect things yourself from nature, but you must pay attention to their suitability in water. Stones should not harden the water and wooden materials should not rot.
…to create a piece of art.
The selected plant material takes its cue from the layout, such as a mountain landscape with soft, green pastures. Hemianthus callitrichoides 'Cuba' is an ideal plant with which to convey that impression. The farther one stands from such a landscaped aquarium, the closer one comes to the vision of this "alpine landscape".
"Aquascaping" is an art form and the "aquascaper" is an artist. Just like with a painter, an image emerges after weeks and months. But in this case, the difference has to do with daily change. In other words, it is also an art form to care for a landscape so that the perfect plant growth is achieved.
In principle, there are no strict rules to aquascaping. If anything the aim tends to be to achieve an attractive and sometimes even artistic design. To restrict the imagination of the "scaper" would be counterproductive. Especially when you consider that even so-called "dream tanks" come up with real wow-effects.