Aquascape Plants Purposefully

A well designed planted aquarium not only looks natural in its artificial environment, but it also stirs up calming· emotions to each of the viewers. It is important to select the most ideal aquatic plant species for your aquascape, and arrange them in a harmonious design which· looks organic and effortless.

In this article, I will discuss exactly how to create these effects with commonly used aquatic plants, and the aquascaping arrangement concepts that will make your planted aquarium stand out.

Let’s begin. Before plants are introduced to the layout, water should be added to the aquarium just to the top of the substrate line. This makes planting easier as plants stay in the substrate better when it is wet. Also, you don’t have to get your whole arm wet!


The plants you use for the foreground of your layout will depend on the layout style. You may not even need foreground plants if you are attempting an open foreground layout, which have become quite popular recently. Common foreground plants include Glossostigma elatinoides, Hemianthus callitrichoides (HC),· Eleocharis sp, Riccia fluitans and even moss species such as Vesicularia and· Taxiphyllum sp.

In many Iwagumi layouts, Glossostigma or HC are used to good effect as a foreground plant. Iwagumis often use exclusively foreground plant species to create or accent that effect of rolling hills, or to form more dramatic coastline scenery for example.

Some Iwagumis incorporate two species of plants growing together, such as Riccia fluitans or various moss species, with Dwarf Hairgrass (Eleocharis sp.) growing through. This technique of growing different species· intertwined together provides a very natural, wild, and almost unruly feel to the aquascape.

Midground Plans

The midground is the most important part of the aquascape, as it is responsible for pulling the foreground and background together. The midground can either make or break an aquascape. Once you have a strong hardscape formation, you need to place your plants to compliment it. Think of it as the transition period between the short and tall plants. You can use the midground space to create that sense of depth (or perspective) in the layout. By planting in diagonals, you can lead the viewer’s eye further into the layout,· Try varying the height of the plants too. You can trick· your viewers into thinking your aquarium is larger than it really is. This is a very desirable trait, especially in Nature Aquaria.

You can see, in many ADA layouts in particular, how the midground can be used as a transition from low growing E. tenellus or S. natans for example, up to Bolbitus heudelotii and moss covered driftwood, through to stems or tall Crypt. balansae at the back. If you neglect the midground, your layout will often end up with what is known as Field in Front of Wall Syndrome, or FFWS. This is quite a self explanatory term, meaning that you have the foreground directly in front of the tall background plants, and it can ruin the aquascape.


The background is probably the easiest area to manipulate in order to add shape to the layout. Most often used as background plants are the long-stemmed varieties such as Rotala sp, Hygrophila sp, Ludwigia sp, and Mayacca sp. Exceptions to this can include plants such as Vallisneria sp, the larger Cryptocoryne sp, and Aponogeton sp. Stems especially are easy to trim to a certain shape, but slower growing species such as Crypts have to be carefully selected to provide the intended look without outgrowing their quarters.


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