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Learn the Basic Aquascaping Design Principles

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Aquascaping may be a form of art in which imagination and creativity play an essential role, but mastering the backbone of this process is elementary if you want to be successful. Measure is very important in nature, and aquascaping makes no exception.

You want your tank to not only please your eye, but make it wonder in the right places. You want your fish to feel comfortable; you want your plants to grow to their full potential.

You can do all that by following a set of truly mathematical rules. Yes, before being wonderful, unpredictable and diverse, nature is mathematical.

1/ The Rule of Thirds in Aquascaping

The rule of thirds is a great composition technique and refers exactly at how we can use imaginary guidelines so that we know how to place certain elements within our scape in such a way that we are able to control what the eye of the viewer sees.

In order to understand how the rule of thirds works, try depicting an image as divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines.

The purpose of these imaginary lines is actually to locate the intersection points of the grid, where you can establish the focal point of the image.

A focal point is an invisible visual mark which anchors the viewer’s gaze first and from which the viewer’s eye can glide towards other points of interest, making the viewer’s experience more interesting, captivating, relaxing and pleasing.

Placing the focal point in the middle of your tank would take away from what is happening around.

2/ Aquascaping and the Golden Ratio

Simply put, a golden ratio is a special number obtained by dividing a line into two parts in such a way that if you divide the longer part by the smaller part the result is equal to the whole part divided by the longer part.

This special number is approximately equal to 1.618.

In both art and mathematics as well as in nature, the golden ratio is strictly connected with the creation of a focal point. In aquascaping, this would be the point the eye is directed towards at a first glance.


3/ Contrast in Your Planted Aquarium

Contrast in aquascaping is a very important thing to keep in mind. There are 2 types of contrast which you can easily apply for you planted aquarium:

4/ Contrast of Size

Think of an Iwagumi layout, the contrast between the size of the rocks (Big) and the size of the aquatic plants used, usually carpeting plants (Small).


5/ Contrast of Color in Aquascaping

This is an easier type of contrast which you can apply to your own aquascapes. For example: the color contrast between the brown (light or dark) of the aquarium driftwood and the green of the aquatic plants.

Or think how the green of the plants stand out against the grey of the rocks. By far the greatest color contrasts are made between a lighter and a darker color.

There is a good number of color combinations you can try and the easiest way to find out what works best is to sketch it or draw it on a piece of paper, which we’re gonna talk about later in this article.


The most renowned styles of aquascaping make use of the rules described above. Whether we are talking about the Nature AquariumIwagumi or Dutch style, they all start with the setting of focal points by implementing the golden ratio rule and then creating a strong contrast.

Source by aquascapinglove

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