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Aquascaping Principles and Technique

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For anyone that missed purchasing the AGA 2004 Convention DVD, or
missed the convention itself, T. Amano had a couple of interesting
lectures that are well worth buying the DVD for. In viewing the DVD
I made some notes on things that really hit home for me, as found below.
I've tried to separate those comments that I saw as his aquascaping principles,
vs. those things that appeared be techniques he uses. It's kind of random,
but I think it still may have some useful advice.


1. Plant all groups in odd numbers.

2. Fine leaved plants look best in the mid to back center of a tank,
with heavier leaved plants toward the edges.

3. Don't use red in the middle as they have a heavy, dark, feel.

4. Dark leaves (red or dark green) look best toward back edges,
with light colored leaves toward the center.

5. Arrange plants and hardscape (rocks and wood) to provide good contrast of light and dark areas.

6. Light colored sand provides good contrast to plants.

7. When rocks are used, use multiple sizes, mixing large and small rocks, as in nature.

8. Rock edges should generally be rounded.

10. Hide your intentions with rocks. Allow plants to obscure them to some extent, maybe completely.

11. Aquascapes with unplanted sand in front is a good alternative to the
traditional “Nature Aquarium” style of all foreground covered with foreground plants.

12. An attractive layout alternative is a slope up from near the middle up to the two back corners.


1. Use cotton thread to attach Java moss to wood, or lava (pumice?) rocks.

2. Moss on rocks is great for edge work, blending an open sandy area into a planted area.

3. Use driftwood with moss, or large moss rocks, as something for background to grow over
and cast shadows for good dark/light contrast areas.

4. Wrap Anubias onto moss covered rocks using a plastic ties, and trim off
almost all roots, for “rocked Anubias”.

5. A rocked Anubias can be set right on sand, or moved around as desired.
But initially face it slightly forward to hide roots. Later it will grow upward toward the light.

6. Plan on putting crypts only in places with deep substrate.

7. Use stem plants in even lengths with graduated height sets, descending from
high to low, as the sets move toward the front or middle of the tank.

8. Plant stems 2 or 3 at a time, in the same hole.

9. A new tank should not be trimmed for 3 months.

10. On first trimming, let stem plants grow to the top, and then trim to halfway point.

11. Anubias and moss make great foreground plants as they take no trimming.

12. Putting tubing (and or wires) that come into, or out of, the tank on the
side makes it less visible to straight on viewing due to a “mirror” effect from side reflection.

13. Creating a substrate with separate sand vs. soil areas can be accommodated
by placing cardboard in the tanks where you want the boundaries between the two,
and slowly filling in both sides until full. After adjusting any slope you might
want in the sand or soil, and making sure that both sides are at the same height
where they touch either side of the cardboard, the cardboard can be gently removed.

14. Sloping substrate from front to back works better if something like drift
wood is placed in the middle of the slope to keep substrate moving forward.
Moss rocks also make a nice barrier serving the same purpose.

15. If a substrate of separated soil and sand is used, driftwood and/or
rocks can placed on the line between the two to cover or hide the separation point.

16. Light shining up from the back bottom looks great! And will light any
ripples on the surface from an angle beneath, highlighting them.

17. For a really simple landscapes, use mossed pebbles around big central rocks.

18. A fully mossed group of interwoven driftwood branches looks wonderful when
it fills in. It will look almost solid, and if done correctly can give a sloping
look from lower front to upper back, possibly also sloping low and toward the middle,
and up toward back corners.

Article written by Steve (

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