What Type of Planted Tank Suits You?

Type of Planted Tank
The planted tank hobby has developed sufficiently that there are several styles and types of tanks that you can create. The design of your tank is where you can use your own sense of style as a way to express yourself and your interests. Let’s talk about some of the types and styles of planted aquariums that have evolved. You can take ideas here and there to create something that pleases you. Most people think of aquariums as places to keep fish, but they can become a medium to create your own unique style.

Biotope aquariums are created to mimic a specific aquatic environment, and natural aquariums attempt a natural-like creation with as little technology as possible. These are termed low-tech tanks, as opposed to high-tech tanks, which rely heavily on filtration, CO2, and conditioners.

Natural aquariums attempt a natural-like creation with little technology.

The Dutch Aquarium

It’s not surprising these lovely tanks developed in Holland, the land of the beautiful Dutch bulbs and incredible Amsterdam Flower Market. Dutch aquariums are very heavily planted, and the focus is mainly on the plants and not the fish. There may be few to no fish in a Dutch aquarium. The plants are commonly very lush, thus leaving little room for a high number of fishes. Dutch aquariums may not be as equipment intensive as some styles, but good lighting, filtration, and heating are usually required. Often substrate heating is used. Additional carbon dioxide is often used now but is not an absolute requirement.

The design of a Dutch aquarium is based on a concept developed by the Greeks around 500 B.C. Pythagoras and Euclid knew of the golden rectangle, and this concept has been used extensively in art and architecture. Many great paintings of the renaissance used the concept to set up the elements depicted. The general idea is to create a layout that has elements that naturally draw the eye. The rest of the design functions to support one or two main focal elements.

If you want to get into it, research the way to make a proper golden triangle. Warning: You will need to crank out some math to get it exactly “right.” This is not a math book, so let’s cheat a little. To find the “focal points” for your tank, first find the diagonal across the tank. Find the diagonal that goes from the front left corner to the right back corner. Then divide the length of the tank into five equal sections. Focal points are located at the intersection of the middle two divisions and the diagonal. The front to back/left to right diagonal is used to create a sense of movement; you view the tank from left to right.

The focal point is the place in your tank to place something that is different from the rest of the tank. Pieces of driftwood, rocks, or a special specimen plant are all items that work well as the focal point, though in a classic Dutch aquarium, usually a dramatic plant is used. Place plants that complement each other around the focal point(s). Use different colors by adding some red plants. Also use different plant textures to create interest. Place taller plants in the back of the tank and smaller plants in the front to create a tiered effect. Think of a Dutch tank as an impressionist painting where you use plants to create the scene.

The Nature Aquarium Style

Don’t confuse this style with the natural aquarium that we talk about below. The natural aquarium style is credited to the world-renowned photographer Takashi Amano from Japan. This design was developed by Mr. Amano in the 1970s, and his style is best described as an underwater Japanese garden.

Some of the design elements found in this style and not found in others include the use of very small plants to create a carpet effect. The carpet may cover the substrate or objects within the tank. The use of aquatic mosses and liverworts like Riccia were introduced as carpeting plants in this style of tank. Many of the plants used require high light levels and the addition of CO2 to thrive.

Often only a few plant species will commonly be used, as rocks and driftwood are often major focal points in the aquariums. They’re used to create elements that mimic scenes found in nature. Rocks become mountains, while driftwood becomes a fallen tree in a moss garden. The animals are chosen to harmonize with the overall design.

Similar to the Dutch aquariums, Amano uses classical art in his compositions, referring to the “golden section,” a ratio of 1:1.618. Basically, this is the mathematical way to find the place where our eyes like to see things slightly off center to look correct. To make it easier, the ratio is about 3:5, as we discussed earlier when we were talking about Dutch aquariums.

The Nature Aquarium Style of Takashi Amano.

The main difference between the two styles is in the materials they use around the point of interest. Where Dutch aquariums tend to fill in all the space with more plants, Amano’s nature aquariums leave dramatic open spaces and use more elements of nature, such as rocks and branches.

The best way to become familiar with Amano’s style is to purchase one of his books. The designs are fabulous, and the photography is outstanding. Many aquarists often emulate the Amano style.

Natural Aquariums

Though sometimes used to mean any planted aquarium, lately it is more often used to describe low-tech tanks. Generally, these tanks use no or little filtration. To some, it may seem ironic to use such a great deal of technology to try to produce a little bit of nature. Loud aerators and filters are discarded. Often fluorescent lighting is used, but sometimes sunlight is the only source of light that is acceptable, as the idea is to use as many natural ingredients as possible.

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