Nature Aquarium and Iwagumi Aquascaping Styles Compared

Nature aquarium aquascaping, popularized by the renowned aquascaper Takashi Amano, is a captivating art form that combines elements of nature, design, and creativity to create breathtaking underwater landscapes. It focuses on creating an environment that mimics the beauty and harmony found in natural ecosystems, allowing aquarists to showcase their creativity while providing a haven for aquatic life. We will delve into the concept of nature aquarium aquascaping, its key elements, and how to create your own stunning nature aquarium.

Concept and Philosophy:

Nature aquarium aquascaping draws inspiration from natural landscapes, such as forests, meadows, and mountain streams. The underlying philosophy is to create an aquarium that captures the essence of nature, promoting balance, tranquility, and visual appeal. The goal is to create a living work of art that replicates the beauty and harmony of natural ecosystems while allowing aquatic life to flourish.

Key Elements of Nature Aquarium Aquascaping:

a. Hardscape: The hardscape forms the foundation of a nature aquarium aquascape. It includes materials like rocks, driftwood, and stones. Carefully arranging these elements creates the landscape’s structure, mimicking mountains, cliffs, or tree formations. The choice and placement of hardscape materials play a crucial role in creating a natural and visually pleasing layout.

b. Plant Selection: Selecting the right aquatic plants is vital in nature aquarium aquascaping. Emphasis is placed on using a variety of plant species to create a diverse and realistic environment. Aquatic plants with different leaf shapes, sizes, and colors are chosen to mimic the variety found in nature. Consider using foreground plants, midground plants, and background plants to create depth and perspective in your aquascape.

c. Substrate: The choice of substrate contributes to the overall aesthetic and plant growth in a nature aquarium. Aquatic plant substrates, such as nutrient-rich soils or specialized substrates, are commonly used to provide plants with essential nutrients. Additionally, a fine-grained substrate like sand or gravel can be used to create natural-looking riverbeds or sandy areas.

d. Lighting: Proper lighting is essential for the growth and health of aquatic plants. Nature aquarium aquascapes often utilize a combination of intense lighting for demanding plants and softer lighting for more delicate species. Using full-spectrum or LED lights with adjustable intensity allows for precise control over the lighting conditions, promoting optimal plant growth and coloration.

e. Filtration and Water Circulation: A well-designed filtration system is crucial for maintaining water quality and promoting a healthy aquatic ecosystem. It helps remove debris, excess nutrients, and maintains water circulation. Consider using a canister filter or a combination of mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration methods suitable for your aquarium size.

Creating Your Own Nature Aquarium Aquascape:

a. Planning and Design: Start by sketching or visualizing the layout of your aquascape. Consider the dimensions of your aquarium, the desired hardscape arrangement, and the plant species you intend to use. Plan the foreground, midground, and background areas, keeping in mind the principles of depth, perspective, and balance.

b. Hardscape Arrangement: Begin by placing the hardscape elements in your aquarium, experimenting with different configurations. Create focal points, slopes, or natural-looking contours with rocks and driftwood. Pay attention to scale, balance, and the “rule of thirds” to create an aesthetically pleasing composition.

As for Iwagumi, it is an aquascaping style that originates from Japan and is characterized by its simplicity, clean lines, and focus on creating a serene and balanced underwater landscape. Developed by the renowned aquascaper Takashi Amano, the term “iwagumi” translates to “rock formation” in Japanese, highlighting the prominent use of rocks as the central element in this style of aquascaping. In this article, we will delve into the concept of iwagumi aquascape, its key principles, and how to create your own captivating iwagumi layout.

Key Principles of Iwagumi Aquascape:

a. Minimalism: Iwagumi aquascapes adhere to the principle of minimalism, using only a limited number of elements to create a harmonious and visually pleasing layout. The focus is on simplicity, with clean lines and a minimalist aesthetic.

b. Rock Placement: Rocks play a central role in an iwagumi aquascape. They are carefully selected and arranged to create a sense of balance, harmony, and naturalness. The arrangement typically follows a specific pattern known as the “golden ratio” or “rule of thirds,” which creates a visually appealing and well-balanced composition.

c. Symmetry and Asymmetry: Iwagumi aquascapes often incorporate both symmetry and asymmetry to create a dynamic and visually interesting layout. The primary rock, known as the “seki,” is usually placed off-center, while supporting rocks are arranged in a balanced and complementary manner.

d. Negative Space: Negative space, also known as “ma” in Japanese, is an essential element in iwagumi aquascaping. It refers to the empty spaces intentionally left between the rocks and plants. Negative space helps create a sense of depth, openness, and tranquility in the aquascape.

e. Plant Selection: In iwagumi aquascapes, the plant selection is typically minimalistic, with a focus on one or a few species of carpeting plants. Common choices include dwarf hairgrass (Eleocharis sp.), glossostigma (Glossostigma elatinoides), or Monte Carlo (Micranthemum sp.). These low-growing plants are used to create a lush carpet-like effect, enhancing the overall aesthetic of the layout.

Creating Your Own Iwagumi Aquascape:

a. Planning and Design: Start by envisioning the layout and deciding on the size and shape of your aquarium. Consider the rule of thirds and the placement of the primary rock (seki). Sketch out the desired arrangement and plan the position of the other supporting rocks.

b. Hardscape Arrangement: Begin by carefully placing the primary rock (seki) off-center, following the rule of thirds. This rock should be the largest and most prominent in the layout. Next, position the supporting rocks in a balanced and visually appealing manner. Aim for asymmetrical balance, ensuring that the overall layout feels harmonious.

c. Planting the Carpet: Once the rocks are in place, focus on planting the carpeting plants around the rocks. Use small tweezers or planting tools to carefully insert the plants into the substrate, ensuring they are evenly spaced. Pay attention to the growth habits of the chosen carpeting plant and trim as necessary to maintain the desired shape and density.

d. Maintenance: Regular maintenance is crucial to keep an iwagumi aquascape looking pristine. Trim the carpeting plants to maintain their shape and prevent overgrowth. Remove any dead or decaying plant material promptly to maintain the overall health of the aquascape. Regular water changes and proper nutrient supplementation are also essential for healthy plant growth.