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An Intermediate Guide to Aquascaping

If you are new to Aquascaping you may want to check out our Beginners Guide to Aquascaping first.


  1. Before Aquascaping A Tank
  2. Lighting
  3. Substrate
  4. Carbon Dioxide
  5. Fertilizers
  6. Plants – Basics
  7. Ornaments


Beautiful Aquascape
Beautiful Aquascape
Aquascaping is a process used to increase the attractiveness of an aquarium while supporting the environment within it. This enjoyable hobby may be considered a form of art to some people because it calls for a combination of innovative structure and creative flow to enhance the look and feel of a habitat without destroying the environment.

Before Aquascaping A Tank

Before engaging in the process of aquascaping, one must consider a variety of different factors such as essential items and products that the life within the tank must have in order to survive. For particularly eye-catching beauty, aquascaping a planted tank is an effective method because it incorporates plants into an aquarium that the fish and other organisms may need.

Here is a list of essential factors when a person wishes to aquascape their planted aquarium:

  • Lighting
  • Substrate
  • Carbon Dioxide or CO2
  • Fertilizers
  • Ornaments

Lighting in a Tank

A non CO2 or low light setup can be appealing to the eye when aquascaping though it’s not necessary. It’s always important to know exactly which bulb is appropriate for each particular tank. To choose the proper type of bulb means providing the vegetation of the planted aquarium the proper look. A bulb that falls under 6000K will produce a yellow color which most people don’t find too appealing. A 1000K produces the most popular look because it does not make the plants appear too yellow. Try to avoid actinic or blue lighting unless no effect is desired.


Fluval Edge Light Unit
Fluval Edge Light Unit

Picking out the Substrate

Substrate is important because it’s needed in order to support and feed the roots of the plants. This will also provide a pleasing visual effect. Some plants will require particular types of substrates, like smaller foreground plants such as Glosso. The most popular choices of substrates for aquascaping a tank are:

  • Gravel: Plain gravel is not typically advised because it does not provide as many nutrients as an additive or soil that is naturally nutrient rich. However, gravel can be added as a 50/50 mixture with nutrient rich soil in order for it to be effective for feeding the plants.
  • Seachem: Seachem can be a good substrate because it is naturally high in nutrients. It is not typically cheap, although it is highly recommended simply because it will provide an array of different vitamins and minerals for vegetation.
  • Aqua Soil: Aqua soil is yet another common substrate. It’s great for all plants, specifically foreground vegetation. Aqua Soil affects the PH of the water, so it’s advisable to check out how that will affect different types of life in the aquarium.
  • Clay: Laterite or clay, is an effective substrate if it is topped off with a gravel mixture. The problem is that it may end up leaving the aquarium murky or cloudy looking whenever the plants need to be moved.
  • Fertilizer Mix/Soil:  This type of substrate can be made at home and at a reasonable price. There are numerous ways to make homemade fertilizer or mix. It’s recommended  to stay away from soils that are jam-packed with phosphates or fertilizers because this could wreak havoc on the health of the life within the aquarium.
  • Pellets: Pellets are good because they work well when they are placed near the roots of a larger plant. Those who do not wish to use an organic substrate may find this type of substrate appealing.People who have vegetation without many stems or roots may also find pellets most ideal.
  • Commercial Substrate: There are different commercial substrates out there to choose from. Make sure to read over the instructions to find out if a particular substrate may require the qualities of the water to be changed or the ph levels to be altered.

Carbon Dioxide

Carbon dioxide, or CO2, is one of the primary factors when it comes to deciding on whether or not the vegetation within a planted aquarium will grow up to its full potential. There are a few ways to deliver CO2 to plants, some being cheaper and easier than others, while still achieving the same goal.

Fluval CO2 Kit with Bubble Counter
Fluval CO2 Kit with Bubble Counter

One way to provide CO2 to plant life in the tank is to purchase a pressurized bottle. You will need to make sure that you use a solenoid valve when doing this with a bottle. This is one of the simplest choices to deliver CO2. However, the problem is that it may be a bit more on the steep side when it comes to price.

Using CO2 that is made at home can also provide effective results at a cheaper price but it is more of a hassle and take up a lot of time. It will also need to be changed every few weeks or so. This way will not require working through a diffuser, but instead it will inject CO2 directly into the filter.

There are also CO2 liquids available such as seachmen excel. Carbon in liquid form will work, although it does tend to cost more. CO2 tabs are also an option, but will probably only work somewhat efficiently for smaller planted tanks. People can look into buying electronically generated CO2, which again may work best only for smaller sized aquariums.

Remember to select wisely in order to get the best choice that will pay off in the long-run.

Video of a CO2 diffuser set up in a tank.

I personally use the Fluval CO2 kit purchased from Amazon. It’s a quality piece of equipment and has served me well. Click here for details.

Fertilizers for Aquariums

One primary factor in order to support the health of the tank during aquascaping is finding the perfect liquid fertilizer. The two main groups of fertilizers are macronutrients and micro-nutrients.

  • Micronutrients: Micronutrients are minerals like calcium, iron boron, copper, iron, chloride, manganese, molybdenum, magnesium, zinc and sulfur. These will all be needed in order to keep plants healthy. They can be added to the vegetation along with commercial fertilizers, but additional iron should be added to particular plants.
  • Macronutrients: Macronutrients includes nitrogen potassium phosphorous, which is typically supplied naturally through the water, though many plants may require an extra dose.

There are many different types of fertilizers to choose from. Some include seachem flourish and iron additives. It’s also possible to make homemade fertilizer although that can prove to be a hassle.

AquaEssentials have a great selection of fertilisers to choose from, feel free to take a look at what they have to offer.


Plants for Aquascaping

Fluval Edge Aquascape Jungle
Fluval Edge Aquascape Jungle

Plants can make any tank attractive and using plants to aquascape is one of the most popular methods to decorate a fish tank.. Here are a few tips when it comes to adding vegetation into a tank when aquascaping:

  • Plant groups of aquarium plants in odd numbers.
  • Do not use red in the center of the tank because they tend to create a dark and heavy feeling.
  • Use fine leaved plants in the back center of the aquarium and heavy leaved plants on the edges of the tank.
  • Sand that is light colored can add appealing contrast to the vegetation.
  • Use multiple types of plants and rocks to add variety to the tank.

More detailed information on popular plants and their properties, uses and general information will be discussed in future posts. Alternatively you can have a look at this blog on Aquatic Plants by Aqua Essentials for expert advice.


Ornaments for Aquascaping

Ornaments are an optional addition to a planted tank. While plants are wonderful because they provide the natural look and feel of the aqua world, ornaments are also effective to add to any aquarium to enhance the appearance of the tank.

One of the best ways to produce the look and feel of the natural world within the tank is to use different rocks and wood fixtures. Unusual looking decorations, like a piece of wood with lots of branches or rocks with stripes can add unique taste and flare to the aquarium. Tanks with rocks as the main attractions are known as “hardscapes”.


Aquascaping Only Needs Imagination

Aquascaping calls for imagination and creation. Combing these two factors and applying them is the best method for going about this process. Tanks like the one below are more than adequate motivation to get that imagination going.

Aquascaping Bliss
Aquascaping Bliss
Most of the items discussed in this post are available at Aqua Essentials. They are the leading UK supplier of Aquarium Plants and Supplies. If you are looking to set up a planted tank, I would recommend having a look at their products. Not only do they have a great variety of plants, but Dr. Richard is also available to give you advice on the products they have available.


About Mike

Web designer, football fan and budding traveller.

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