How to reach the pinnacle of aquascaping? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-15-2013, 07:24 PM Thread Starter
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How to reach the pinnacle of aquascaping?

Just yesterday I was thinking about a couple ideas for a new tank

I wanted to put together. I wanted to go with a “jungle look”. The normal

thought process started taking place. Plant selection, hardscape, elevation,

equipment; the cogs in my head slowly turning and a vision emerging. For

inspiration I began to flip through the 2011 IAPLC contest book. I wanted to

try and pinpoint commonalities that existed among the top contest entries.

What makes an aquascape superlative? How does one create a timeless

almost supernatural layout that lands in the rarified “black pages” in the front

of the contest book? Well, I started a short list of common elements that

seem to be shared by most/all of the top tanks.


With little exception you will notice that the best layouts use all of the space, top to bottom in some or all of the layout.


This relates to the usage of vertical space. The perception that both high and low land exist is a strong characteristic seen in top entries.


Take away the fauna and at a glance the best scapes often look like they are above ground scenes of nature.


The aquarium should look larger than it actually is. The scale should be ambiguous at a glance. A casual look at the photo gives the impression that you may be peering at an entire terrestrial mountain range or lush forrest. On a similar note most of the top works are accomplished using tanks 90cm or larger.


I have noticed that a great number of the top aquascapes make use of either sand or gravel in the foreground or in the form of a path/river bed.


When stone is employed as the central element, most commonly a mountainscape is seen. Driftwood most often resembles terrestrial tree stumps/branches/trunks. This is in contrast to the more pedestrian use of driftwood as an end to a means.


Too expansive a subject to tackle briefly. To state the obvious growth must be clean and lush. Will need to be expanded on.

Take a moment to think about your layout thought process and what elements you prioritize when creating an aquascape. Please share.

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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-15-2013, 09:46 PM
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All very good points. But one thing I'd like to point out is that it's a good idea to go through as many contest entries as you can, not just the winning ones. Oftentimes I've found that my favorite scapes in a category are not necessarily the winning ones. I like to draw from as many sources as possible.

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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-15-2013, 10:33 PM
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Good points all. Paths, making landscapes rather than aqua scapes are all very popular right now.

Just as important as healthy plants and a great idea is getting the proportions right.

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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-15-2013, 10:48 PM
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I would first say to read these threads in their entirety, as there is a great deal of insight and information on how to create a beautiful aquascape.

Then, I would examine this page:

There are some amazing tanks on that page, I picked the IAPLC winners page because it shows a lot of good examples of many different styles, some similar.
They haven't added the 2012 winner (Amazon) yet which also deserves recognition.

1. A clear theme in mind.

2. Hardscape selection based on theme

3. Arrangement of aquascape

4. Planting elaborately and very detailed.

5. Knowing your plants. You need to know how plants grow and what plants work well together.

Those are the simplest of terms I have gleaned from studying layouts, reading Aquajournal, listening to good scapers, watching them work (ADA View with Amano scaping is interesting to watch and alot of things you can pick up) and comparing it all.

You mentioned sand and gravel, that is because it adds a level of complexity to the layout and gives it a natural feel. The more elaborate the layout the better it will look, attention to detail is key. When you look at nature, it is so complex yet simple at the same time. That is what a layout needs to achieve to be atheistically pleasing.
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-20-2013, 05:20 PM
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I have two natural tanks at the moment (rocks, driftwoods, plants). I'm contemplating doing one with a theme. The theme I'm looking at is a South East Asian landscape with jungle-looking plants and an Angkor Wat head. I have the head and the tank. I'm debating whether to use stem plants or something more robust like an amazon sword. What do you think?
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 06-03-2013, 07:05 PM
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we should do a tank using only native plants that we find in central park Manhattan, that would be different, could be cool
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