Introduction: Aquascaping: the Art of the Underwater Garden
Aquascaping is an extremely entertaining, and very rewarding way to decorate your aquarium while providing many benefits to you and your fish. I find that a freshwater garden is one of the best ways to grow house plants as you don't need to remember to water them! Just the occasional water change and a monthly pruning will leave you with a very pretty, jaw dropping aquarium.
Step 1: Creating a Design
I like to start my aquascaping by sketching a basic design of what you wish your aquascape to look like. You can create your own, model it off of a premade aquascape, or turn your favourite nature landscape into your very own aquascape, the picture above is of an old one that I made. Here are a few tips to designing a beautiful aquascape.
- Use cheap plants, if you screw up than it won't cost you as much.
- Choose a center piece, this can be a piece of driftwood, a rock, or a different coloured plant. Place your centerpiece slightly to the left and make it stand out. This is a trick that I have used in all my aquascapes and I find it makes placing everything else far easier.
Step 2: Shop
Selecting an aquarium is one of the most important parts of aquascaping. If you would like to include fish in you aquascape, then you should probably get an aquarium over 5 gallons, if not, than you can even aquascape a vase! I recomend you start small as plants can be expensive, and if you decide that aquascaping is not for you, then you have invested less money into this hobby than you would have if you had purchased a large aquarium. I use a five gallon aquarium from walmart in this example. On top of the aquarium. You will also need some plants, hardscape (rocks, drift wood, ceramic pots...), and a bag of substrate. For substrate you can use whatever you want, however I recomend gravel as it is easy for plants to take root in. If your substrate does not come with fertilizer already in it, I would also buy some fertilizing tablets, the liquid fertilizer promotes algea growth. For my hardscape I used a small piece of malaysian wood and for my plants I used a nice variety of easy to care for sword plants that I got on sale at my local fish store.
Step 3: Setting Up Your Aquarium
Setting up your aquarium is extremely easy. All you have to do is install your filter in the back of your aquarium, cover the bottom with an inch of substrate, and install your lighting fixture. If you wish to use a heater, install it during this stage. If you are using a vase, simply spread the substrate along the bottom about an inch thick. Once your aquarium is set up, fill your aquarium half way to the top.
Step 4: Adding Your Hardscape
This is the part where you are adding anything that is not living (rocks, wood, ceramic...) I recomend you place a center piece to the left of the aquarium, it helps to draw your eye and for some reason us humans find it more appealing. I wouldn't use to much hardscape in a vase as there isn't much space for plants to grow. If you have collected your hardscape from outside, instead of purchasing it from a fish store, you will need to boil it. I recomend boiling it for about ten minutes in a nice big pot, this will kill anything that could harm your aquarium. Now is the time I would start to acclimatize my plants the same way I acclimatize fish by floating the bag of plants in the aquarium for twenty minutes. This is not a manditory step but I like to do it anyway.
Step 5: Plant!
This is definitely the part I like the most about aquascaping. To plant a plant simply push the roots of your plant into your substrate and burry the roots. Don't get frustrated if they all float up, planting is a skill I still have trouble with. I recomend you place tall plants in the back of your aquarium and short plants closer to the front. If you are using a vase I would choose only a couple tall plants and place them in the middle, otherwise you will run out of space.
Step 6: Fill It Up the Rest of the Way
Now, all you need to do is fill it up the rest of the way. This is the most challenging part! Be carefull that you don't uproot all your plants or you will have to replant them!
Step 7: You're Done!
Once you have waited for all the debris to settle, you are done your aquascape! If you want to add fish, all you need to do is cycle your aquarium, which is a whole other instructable topic, but is still a very important step. Don't add any fish if you are using a vase. You will need to maintain this aquascape simply by making sure it stays full of water, changing the water, and pruning the plants. These regular maintenance routines help ensure that you don't have any issues like an extreme algea outbreak, this can lead to disaster. Now that you are done your aquascape you can place it in an area were people will see it, or wherever you want it! This beautiful aquascape is sure to drop at least one jaw!