These are aesthetic styles that many Nature Aquarium enthusiasts select for their design concepts.
Iwagumi (Japanese Rock Garden) Themes
Iwagumi is the Japanese art of arranging rocks. Think of the serenity of neatly combed sand and elegantly placed rocks in a Japanese garden. This minimalist Nature Aquarium setup looks simple, but actually requires a great deal of initial preparation, with a careful choice of stones. Stone placement is inspired by Japanese rock gardens and ikebana flower arrangements – studying these techniques will help you achieve the desired effect. The choice of flora is limited to grass-like plants, but these can be supplemented with neatly cut long stem plants as background. The fish are typically small to tiny, such as a school of tetras or micro-rasboras.
Mountain Landscape Themes
These setups are inspired by natural landscapes, and then simulated in miniature aquatic form. Similar to the Iwagumi theme, the placement of stones requires great skill to make the layout appear as natural as possible. The ideal flora is grass-like plants, with longer grassy plants as background. Choose very tiny fish to be consistent with the scale – the fish will appear to be birds swooping across the landscape.
Amazon River Themes
The most natural theme for tropical fish such as South American tetras, discus and angelfish. The setup is composed mainly of driftwood, moss and ferns, complimented by different colours of long stem plants in the background. Carpeting foreground plants complete the layout. Fish can vary from large discus or altum angels to very small tetras and hatchetfish, with an emphasis on using South American river fish.
Inspired by a Russian Nature Aquarium aquascaper in 2011, this style uses vertical pieces of driftwood to simulate a miniature forest. The diameter of the wood gradually decreases from front to back, which creates a sense of depth, as though the forest extends out of sight. The use of carpet foreground plants throughout the forest floor and ferns and moss tied to the trees complete the layout. Choose thin-bodied fish like discus or angels, as well as small fish such as tetras.
This theme uses a wider variety of plants, playing with different shades of green and red to mimic a beautiful garden setting. Typically, small fish are used in this setup, but we have seen some stunning layouts using larger fish. The careful placement of a few stones in the layout is a pleasing contrast to the soft appearance of the plants.
This stunning style was introduced by a Vietnamese Nature Aquarium aquascaper in 2011. Out-of-this-world panoramas are inspired by the alien landscapes of movies and science fiction stories. Stones have to be modified and glued together to create this vision. Plants are usually limited to small leaf plants, which look like strange trees and give the impression of grand scale. Small fish are perfect for this theme, again lending the sense of a sweeping landscape.