Aquascapes: Bringing Mother Nature Indoors

Artistic inspiration can be found anywhere we look. Nature is forever changing and is a tool which can be utilized to express how we feel through different artistic displays. What if I told you water, plants, rocks, and wood can be used for creating mental balance and achieving new artistic skills.

Don’t believe me? Please, continue reading.

Photo by karl muscat on Unsplash

“Art can manifest itself in a variety of forms, some more conventional than others” – Hanna Instruments

The unconventional form we are discussing today is that of AQUASCAPES. According to a blog post by Hanna Instruments, Aquascaping: the Art and Science of Aquariums, “aquascaping is the practice of creating a natural aquatic landscape in your aquarium”.

We have Takashi Amano to thank for bringing this aquatic art to life. Aquarium Architecture wrote a blog article on Amano listing award-winning photographer, designer, and aquarist as parts of his resume.

“To know Mother Nature, is to love her smallest creations” – Takashi Amano

Now, let’s break an aquascape down.

What is an aquarium?

An aquarium is an artificial aquatic habitat containing fish, plants, coral invertebrates, or other water dwelling organisms. Aquascapes will use natural elements to create a more artistic appeal to the aquarium. The article above mentions that because these types of aquariums lack artificial decor, they look to our environment for sources of inspiration. This inspiration can be found from the “underwater Amazonian jungle, ornate Japanese “Iwagumi style” rock formations, or a tropical coral reef”.

Aquariums can be divided into two categories:


Photo by Huy Phan on Unsplash
Photo by Matteo Vella on Unsplash

Freshwater aquariums are more commonly associated with aquascapes. This aquarium style typically uses live plants as the main focus but may add stones or driftwood to create a hardscape. You might even find aquascapes having zero plants and utilizing only hardscape materials.

Saltwater aquascapes are typically separated into two categories:


Hanna Instruments makes this distinction for the above two categories:

“Reef aquariums can house various species of live coral, fish, crabs, shrimp, other invertebrates, and live rock arranged in a mini ecosystem, with the emphasis being on coral”.

“Fish-only saltwater aquariums don’t include live coral and can contain species of fish deemed not “reef safe.” The term reef safe is used to describe fish that are not compatible with coral or invertebrates commonly found in aquariums. Many species of marine fish will eat decorative coral, smaller reef safe fish, beneficial crabs, or snails which can consume nuisance algae”.

Creating an aquascape requires more than just water in a tank with a few plants and stones sprinkled in.

Photo by Hans Reniers on Unsplash

Water chemistry is top priority! The second most important is light intensity as many coral species and live plants require certain light for photosynthesis.

All of this hard work in selecting plants, finding the right piece of driftwood, grabbing your beaker and pipette must have something to share with us…

Benefits of owning an aquarium

  • Addition of live, meaningful artwork into your home
  • Observation of aquariums has shown proven therapeutic effects of reducing stress and anxiety
  • Promotes a calming mentality
  • Eases the nerves (think ‘doctor office’)
  • Increased appreciation for the environment and sciences
  • Develop new skills

Noah Nafarrate wrote a blog article, The Art of Aquascaping. In his article he discusses how he discovered aquascaping and how it changed his life. Composing an aquascape gave him a way to handle stress, bring creativity and nature together within his home, and develop a new lifestyle.

In Nafarrate’s article, he mentions Allan Schwartz PhD. who wrote an article Stress Reduction, Tropical Fish, and Aquairums. Dr. Schwartz states “owning and caring for an aquarium offers is the chance to bring the calming effects of nature right into the home. Once an aquarium is established and decorated with rocks and plants, watching fish swim back is stress and anxiety reducing. The gurgling sound of the bubbles add to the therapeutic effect of looking at the tank. Also relaxing are the colors of both the fish and background inside the tank. Studies show that it can reduce blood pressure and emotional agitation. That is why they are displayed in such diverse places as dentist offices to nursing homes, restaurants and doctor offices”.

When talking aquascapes, there is more to them than what meets the eye.

Something Nafarrate wrote resonated deep within my soul:

“Creativity is the foundation of new ideas, and in art, innovation is important in creating something that’s different and personalized”

I always strive to create something unique and outside the box. Each art piece I complete has personalization to either myself or my the recipient, or both.

Photo by Huy Phan on Unsplash

Hanna Instruments wraps this topic up perfectly:

“Whether you are keeping a reef tank display or an Amazonian-inspired planted aquarium, elements of nature and knowledge of science work in unison to help create unique works of art. Just like all forms of art, mastering a technique takes time and practice. With aquascaping, as you progress with your skill, so does your knowledge for various species of aquatic life, biology and water chemistry.”

I think I see some upgrades coming to my current aquarium.

My current 55-gallon fresh water aquarium

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