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January 9, 2018 > Dive into the world of aquascaping

Dive into the world of aquascaping

Submitted By Daniel O'Donnell

The Bay Area is one of the world's premier gastronomical destinations. There are restaurants featuring cuisines from around the globe as well as chic eateries offering the latest culinary trends. Fusion, the merging of different culinary traditions to create new taste sensations, is one of the premier movements in the restaurant world. Fusion is now quickly becoming a passion with gardeners and aquarists (people who keep aquariums) as well through aquascaping.

Aquascaping is the installation and maintenance of a landscape design in an aquarium. It is underwater gardening. Aquascaping is also referred to as the Nature Aquarium style concept or generically as aquarium planting. The primary goal of an aquascaped aquarium is to create a breathtaking underwater landscape using the same materials and design concepts that would be used in a terrestrial landscape. Different plants are used as ground covers and for varying heights. Gravel and stones are used for paths, riverbeds, and rock formations.

Designing an underwater garden can be challenging. There are a handful of different design styles that will simplify the process. Some of the most popular are Dutch, Iwagumi, Biotope, and Jungle.

The Dutch style does not use any stones, gravel, or driftwood. It relies on using different colors, leaf types, and sizes of plants. Plants are placed in multiple rows with the shortest in front and the tallest in back. This creates the impression of terraces that are referred to as ÒDutch streets.Ó

Iwagumi embraces the theme of simplicity and natural open space. Plant colors and species are kept to a minimum. A ÒFatherÓ stone is accompanied by two smaller rocks to create the aquarium's focal point.

The Biotope style emulates a natural geographical environment. The plants, fish, driftwood, and stones used all come from the same native habitat. This is an easier style to install because the plants and rocks can be placed randomly throughout the tank as they would appear in nature.

Jungle style mimics a jungle. It is densely packed with few open spaces and uses a wide range of plants. Floating plants are used to limit and filter the light coming down, creating a realistic looking underwater rainforest.

There are other styles of aquascaping, but the important elements to consider from all of them are scale, contrast, and focal point placement. The aquarium will look balanced and appealing by taking those elements into account.

Although an aquascape does not have to have fish in it, most do. Any fresh water aquarium fish can be used. However, scale is important. Choosing the size of the fish first will determine what style of aquascaping can be used. Conversely, choosing the aquascape style first will determine the size of the fish. Larger fish can be used in densely planted aquariums, whereas aquascapes with a lot of open space will benefit from using small schooling fish. Ghost Shrimp, Crystal Red Shrimp, Amano Shrimp, and Cherry Shrimp are all valued for their small size and will add another level of intrigue to an aquascaped aquarium.

Aquascaped aquariums require some components that conventional aquarium setups might not. A substrate layer is needed for many reasons. Aquatic plants take in nutrients from their root systems and the substrate provides the nourishment. It allows an anchor point for the roots and a home for beneficial bacteria. It can be used as the natural decorative layer in an aquascape's open space. There are multiple brands of ready-to-plant complete substrates available.

Lighting is one of the most crucial elements for determining the health of the plants and fish. Aquatic plants get all their light from the sun in the wild. A wide range of LED lights have recently come onto the market, offering a wide variety of spectrums that operate at low wattage.

Carbon dioxide is essential for a plant's health and the natural exchange between the air and the aquarium water might not provide enough CO2 for a densely packed aquascape. A CO2 system that will enable the plants to grow to their full potential can easily be installed.

The fish need food and so do the plants. The plant choices will determine the type of fertilizer and the frequency it is to be used. Aquatic plant fertilizers come in a liquid form or tablet.

There are many aquascape supply stores online. However, visiting Aqua Forest Aquarium (1718 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, (415) 929-8883, or Aqua Lab Aquaria (1060 Willow Street #6, San Jose, (408)767-6994, is a better choice. They offer all the equipment, extensive plant and fish choices, substrates, hardscaping materials, maintenance tools, and advice. The demonstration tanks will be inspiring, and shopping locally will be rewarding.

Aquascaping combines two popular hobbies. It is not easy to create a complex underwater landscape immediately. But if patience and perseverance are practiced, then immersing yourself in aquascaping will have amazing results.

Daniel O'Donnell is the co-owner and operator of an organic landscape design/build company in Fremont.

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