The Aquarium Guide

7 Aquascaping Styles for Aquariums

When you’re creating an aquarium, the possibilities are limitless. Everything from bare-bottom tanks to densely planted Dutch tanks are perfectly valid styles.

However, you’ll probably create a much more appealing result if you’re following a particular aquascaping style. Here are the most common styles you’ll see in aquariums, and some examples of each:

Dutch Style

This style is characterized by many different types of plants with multiple leaf types. It’s commonly seen with raised ‘layers’, or terraces, known as Dutch ‘streets’.

The floor is covered by either a carpet, or plants, with taller plants lining the back of the tank. Most noticeably, it usually has no hardscape—you won’t see much, if any, stone or driftwood in Dutch tanks.

Read my comprehensive guide on Dutch Aquascaping Style

Dutch Style Planted Tank

Taiwanese Style

This isn’t very common anymore, and has in some areas fallen ‘out-of-style’ compared to the Iwagumi or Nature Aquarium tank.

Nonetheless, it’s usually seen with high terraces of varying depth, and its strangest feature is small objects or figurines placed in the tank to create a sense of ‘life’.

Taiwanese Style Planted Tank

Iwagumi Style

This is one of the most popular aquascaping styles today. It was first made popular by the Father of Modern Aquascaping, Takashi Amano, and is characterized by a series of stones arranged according to the Golden Ratio, or Rule of Thirds.

There should always be an odd number of stones to prevent the layout from ‘balancing’, since the human eye always tries to see a ‘split’ in balanced layouts.

There are at least three stones: a larger ‘Father’ stone, and at least two secondary stones. There can be more, so long as the total number remains odd.

These tanks may imitate a natural landscape, with a common theme of simplicity and open space. There are limited colors in plants & stone, and the number of varying flora and fauna is kept to a minimum to create minimalism.

Scale is very important in this style. Powder-type substrate is used to create a sense of larger scale, and the father stone should be the largest object in the aquarium. Nano fish like the Neon Tetra are also used to maintain the scale.

Iwagumi Style Planted Tank

Read my comprehensive guide on Iwagumi Aquascaping Style

Biotope Style

This style seeks to perfectly emulate a natural environment, including water conditions, flora and fauna species, and even the hardscape of stone and/or driftwood. These can be quite beautiful, and are useful for some biologists to study environments that would otherwise be a challenge to study.

Oddly enough, these tanks are usually somewhat easier to setup and maintain, since there isn’t any research needed to determine whether the flora and fauna you’re using are compatible—they exist side-by-side in the wild.

Biotope Style Planted tankJungle Style

This style is somewhat self-explanatory. The goal is to emulate a jungle, whether that’s the Amazon, or some other location. They’re quite popular in larger tanks, where the full scale of the style can be effectively portrayed.

Read my comprehensive guide on Jungle Aquascaping Style

Jungle Style Planted Tank

The Nature Aquarium

This style is the one you’ve probably seen all over the Internet, in various forums, and winning tons of awards.

And for good reason—they’re breathtaking tanks. These tanks seek to recreate various terrestrial landscapes—hills, mountains, valleys, and so on.

These are further categorized into various substyles, like the ‘island’ type, which features a stone ‘mountain’, or mound in the middle, or the triangular type, where the substrate and genearl flow the tank slopes down from one corner of the tank.

Read my comprehensive guide on Nature Aquascaping Style

Nature Style Aquarium

The Walstad Method

You’re not likely to find this style winning any Aquascaping awards, though it is a very visually appealing layout.

That’s because the goal isn’t necessarily winning beauty awards, but recreating a completely natural situation.

Where this differs from nature aquariums and biotopes is its completely random placement of hardscape and plants. This is to simulate the way things are naturally in nature, instead of placing for optimal beauty.

These tanks are most often deliberately low-maintenance, and are by design low budget tanks. They usually use potting soil and also require very few water changes, because of the plant density.

Note: If you choose this style, be sure and use a potting soil without any additives or other chemicals, as these may leach into the water and kill your stock.

Walstad Style Planted Tank

Finding Your Own Style

Of course, there are more aquascaping styles, and even more variances between each of these. it’s up to you to decide what type of tank you enjoy.

If you enjoy it, you’ll maintain it better and get more quality out of it, so choose what you’d like, and get started on your tank!

9 thoughts on “7 Aquascaping Styles for Aquariums

  1. Would really love to see more. I’m certain there are people creating hybrids that form to their own unique principles and thus apart from these basics

  2. Love this. Someone gifted me a small tank thinking my kids would love it. I’m learning a lot most of it the hard way but i really enjoy this.

  3. I dealt with Iwagumi tanks and one of my favorite styles. my first aquascape was jungle style tank with easy plants. I studied aquascaping as a hobby with my jungle tank for 6 months, before moving on to high tech tanks, like Iwagumi. My next project is a nature style with a tree stump and a lot of driftwood .

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