Creating beautiful fish aquariums is easier than it might look! Follow this step-by-step guide from the master, Takashi Amano in order to aquascape your own gorgeous planted aquarium. Here’s how to create your own layout in 7 easy steps!
We suggest starting out with Cube Garden 60P, as the dimensions lend itself well to aquascaping, and the aquarium volume (15 gallons) is easy to maintain.
Using Garden Mat helps maintain the longevity of the aquarium by protecting the glass underneath the aquarium. The mat grips the bottom surface of the cube garden and helps prevent slippage from accidental bumping from people.
Once you’ve placed your garden mat, place the cube garden evenly over the top of the garden mat and make sure the aquarium is level. Making sure that your fish tank is on an even, level surface helps to maintain it’s structural integrity over the long term.
In the planted aquarium, a live substrate system is important for healthily growing plants. Without a nutrient-rich substrate the aquatic plants will not thrive. ADA’s vision is to create an environment where the roots of aquatic plants develop a symbiotic relationship with the naturally occurring bacteria and microorganisms.
Organic compounds in the substrate layer become broken down and create inorganic compounds, which eventually become food for aquatic plants via absorption from the roots. A “living” substrate simply means that the substrate is not only rich in nutrients but also rich in bacteria life, which enhances the health of aquatic plant roots.
After you’ve placed the substrate into the aquarium, use a tool like sand flattener to smoothen out the substrate. To create depth in the aquascape, you will want to slope the substrate so that it is deeper in the back than it is in the front. This makes the layout appear to be much larger than it actually is once you begin to add aquarium decor and aquatic plants. Make sure you straighten out the soil in the front of the aquarium, because otherwise once plants grow in the aquarium, the layout will appear crooked.
For this layout, we’re going to use a triangular aquascape using ADA Horn Wood as the driftwood material.
Pulling off elaborate aquascapes can be a challenge without the proper planning. When you prepare aquatic plants properly and begin to plant in stages, the process becomes fun and easy.
First, in the driftwood layout, begin by attaching aquatic mosses, such as java moss or christmas moss to the driftwood.
First, make sure the moss that you use is damp so that it sticks to the driftwood easily, then using ADA Moss Cotton, tie your aquatic moss down to the limb of the driftwood as shown. It is only necessary to tie moss to the side of the driftwood which is showing. Once you have tied moss to the driftwood, use a pair of trimming scissors to cut off any excess moss. Don’t worry, this will encourage the moss to grow back thicker and more aesthetically pleasing!
Once you have tied your moss to the driftwood, place the driftwood into the aquarium in the way you wanted it, such as shown at the end of step 3. Next, we’ll begin planting the foreground, starting planting from the front of the tank and working our way to the background is easier as you develop an image for the layout.
For this layout, we’re using Marsilea augustifolia, or dwarf four leaf clover plant for our carpet plant. You can use the same methodology shown above for other carpeting plants, such as Glossostigma and Hemianthus Callicthroides (HC).
Once you have finished preparing your carpet plants, fill the aquarium with water up to the front soil level (shown in last photo in this section). This makes it much easier to plant the aquatic plants. Be careful and slowly fill the aquarium with water so as to not disturb the aqua soil. Many aquarists use either a spray bottle (in smaller aquariums) or place a plate on the soil and slowly pour water over the plate to ensure that the soil is not disturbed.
Moving on to the middle of the aquascape, the next section of plants will be medium sized plants that help define the transition between the front and back of the layout and aid in creating depth. At the end of this process, the layout will look like this:
Cryptocoryne species planted in the midground also help to conceal the bottom portion of stem plants which will go into the background. The process for preparing cryptocoryne is similar to carpeting plants:
Finally, we’ll prepare epiphytic plants, such as Bolbitus, Java Fern and Anubias to attach to the driftwood. These kinds of plants do not grow in soil, but rather attach themselves to objects like rock and driftwood and absorb their nutrients from the water.
Tall growing stem plants are ideal for the background of the layout, with the remaining area, we’re going to complete the look of the layout with this. To properly prepare stem plants:
Gently pour water over the aquarium until the tank is full. Your aquarium should now look something like this: