Blog Entry 102

Posted by Aldrin Taroy on 2021 Nov 4th

Aquascaping: A Guide for Beginners

By Aldrin Taroy - @aquascapetoronto


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What is “Aquascaping”? You’ve probably heard this term if you’re new to the hobby and doing
your research into setting up your first aquarium. It’s a different way of looking at fish-keeping
and the aquarium hobby. To me, the term “aquascaping” becomes synonymous with art, where the aquarium itself is the blank canvas and the“aquascaper” is the artist.

The art of aquascaping involves three main principles: Composition, planting, and
maintenance. All three require hours of practice, research, and learning through trial and error.



"What is the essence of a beautiful landscape? The compositional beauty produced by flora and other things may be part of it, but isn't it ultimately a perfectly functioning ecosystem? It is, in fact, a balance. The world of aquarium is no exception.....'what type of environment would I prefer if I were a fish' was always at the base when the layouts were created." - Takashi Amano



There are many aquascaping styles to choose from, including Iwagumi, Zen, Forest, Diorama, Blackwater, Dutch, and Nature Style. For each one, there are specific hardscape and plant requirements. For example, in an Iwagumi layout you work with only stones as your hardscape, whereas in Forest and Nature Style layouts, you work with a combination of rocks and driftwood to replicate a particular scene from nature.

The composition of your layout dictates your plant selection. In the example below, I created an Iwagumi style layout composed of Hakkai stones found in Niigata prefecture. These Hakkai stones are rare and heavy, smooth with craters because they are found in rivers with very strong currents. To respect the classic Iwagumi style, we will not use other hardscape like wood or branches - the Hakkai stones will be the focal point.


Plant knowledge is essential if you want to become a successful aquascaper. Likewise, your
aquarium’s success requires you to know about plants’ specific needs and growth patterns. This is a skill you build as you experiment with various plant species.

It is important that we know the categories of plants based on their difficulty, as well as their
placement in the aquascape. Tropica Aquarium Plants makes this part convenient for all of us aquascapers today. They categorize their plants by difficulty level: Easy, Medium, or Advanced. They also recommend where you should place each plant – in the foreground, mid-ground,or background.

Easy plants tolerate most water conditions and are easy to grow. They don’t require higher
light or CO2 injection. Some examples of easy plants are: Bacopa caroliniana, Staurogyne
repens and most Cryptocoryne species. New aquascapers should stick to selecting from this
category, then gradually build their way up.

Medium plants require moderate lighting and, ideally, CO2 injection. Although plants in this
category - such as Eleocharis acicularis ‘mini' and Micranthemum 'Monte Carlo - don’t
necessarily need CO2, you’ll find that these plants grow at a much higher rate and also more
densely when you use CO2.


Advanced plants require high lighting, and CO2. And even if new aquascapers have all three,

I still wouldn’t recommend jumping right into advanced plants. Many of these plants are very

demanding and even experienced aquascapers can have a hard time working with them. Plants

like Utricularia Graminifolia and Elatine hydropiper are extremely fickle and sensitive plants,

requiring lots of maintenance and near-perfect water conditions to thrive.

For beginning aquascapers, it’s critical to follow a strict aquarium maintenance routine that works best with your schedule. As you become more experienced in aquascaping, you’ll learn techniques to make maintenance easier.
One common mistake new aquascapers make is thinking they’re “done” after creating their aquascape (that is, after planting and flooding their tank). In fact, the first 90 days after planting and flooding your tank is the most important period of time for any newly-planted aquariums.

The method I use today and have had the most success with is as follows:

2 weeks after setup
• Restrict lighting period to 6 hours per day
• Do not use any fertilizers (the substrate should have enough nutrients)
• Clean aquarium glass, hardscape from biofilm (normal during cycling)
• 50% water changes daily to remove any excess nutrients and ammonia from new soil

3-4 weeks after setup
• Increase lighting period to 7 hours per day
• I would still hold off on using any fertilizers as substrate can leak nutrients and ammonia for up to 3 months.
• Clean aquarium glass, hardscape from biofilm (normal during cycling)
• Add a cleaning team: Algae eating shrimp such Amano Shrimp, Nerite snails, Otocinclus
• 50% water changes 2x per week

2-3 months after setup
• Increase lighting period to 8 hours per day (maximum)
• Start dosing fertilizer (highly recommend Tropica liquid fertilizers)
• Continue to clean your glass and hardscape
• Continue 50% water change 2x per week

Thank you for reading this article on “Aquascaping: A Guide for Beginners”.

For aquarium plants and aquascaping products, please visit and follow their Instagram page @aquascaperoom_canada.
Visit the Tropica Aquarium Plants website to learn more about plant categories and all Tropica products such as Tropica Aquarium Soil and Tropica Plant Fertilizers.
You can follow me on Instagram: @aquascapetoronto for more aquascaping content.