09 Jul AQUASCAPING TECHNIQUE and AQUARIUM SETUP LESSONS : Iwagumi, Ryoboku, Biotope
Aquascape or Aquascaping derive From the English word “landscape“, is the art of creating or set up the aquarium with suggestive and scenic scenery or recreation of existing biotopes in nature. To create a “funcioning” aquarium, biologically (well-initiated nitrogen cycle) but also visually and aesthetics, there are basic some rules that if properly performed, they will give you good results and save from hard work or unnecessary expenses. Following the advice of one of the top experts in Aquascaping, the famous Takashi Amano (1954 – 2015), let’s see the steps, one by one, for set up a new tank:
1 – The perspective and the depht differences between the back and front of the tank are very important, then you will be creating support for any stones or woods, using thicknesses such as polystyrene, perlon wool, porous gravel or lateritic pieces. An important thing is to not place material in contact with the edges of the tank, would cause anesthetic effects from the front and side views. Remember that the thickness of the front bottom should not be more of 2/3 cm.
2 – After choosing the most point of view of the the aquarium, you will start placing the so-called “hardscape”, that is the structural part, everything that will remain unchanged. Build with wood or stone, according to the golden section, a kind of V or triangle that will have as apex, in height and farthest part from the point of view. You will also install the water diffuser flow creating a vegetation movement, from the highest point to the lowest.
3 – After the hardscape structuring fill the zones with the inerts in this sequence:
- Porous gravel layer that will help the flow of oxygen in the normally anaerobic areas and the nutrition to the plants roots, olso the proliferation of nitrifying Bacteria such as Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter.
- Pose dry powder fertilizer or fertilzed soil to fertilize plants nourishing not only by the water but also from the ground.
- Last layer is composed generally of allophone gravel or fertilized soil for planted areas, or cosmetic sand or gravel inert for not planed areas, always respecting the differences in height. Remember to use the fertilized part for planting and the cosmetic part for the lowest point of view, also be careful not to create anaerobic with too hight inert gravel can cause formation of dangerous bacteria. Minimize the cosmetic front layer, max 1/2 cm.
4 – At this point you are ready to add all the details, that is inert of various pieces, to be embedded in the rocks or put on the sand “alleyway”. They are usually composed of the same material used for hardscape as chopped stones or small woods and serve to make everything more natural and similar to the reality of nature. Be very careful about the shape and colors of these and make sure they are adequate for the situaton. Remember, details make the difference.
5 – After finishing the part of “Hardscape” begins planting, inserting the plants in the soil or in the sand. There are so called “background plants or foreground plants” depending on their height or width growth, you will also need to know the specific features and light demand to choose more or less exposed areas were planting, and more or less deep in the water column. After putting some water in the aquarium to make easier your work, you will plant vegetables in the substrate with the appropriate instruments, the lower infront of the tank and the tallest on the bacground trying to support the flow of the water current. There are other plants, so-called “epiphytes” that do not need to be planting into the substrate and can be attacked on the furniture such as wood and rocks helping with wires that will be removed later or enclosed in the holes, will tend with time to cling with their roots on the objects. Last tip, remember to contrast the colors giving more you more prespective to your composition and choose good proportions of the leaves in relation to the aquarium, so if you want to create a “seen from far” landscape use small leaf and stem plants, if you want to create a “closely seen” like a river bottom or a biotope then use large leaf and stem plants. (For more information on plants visit our section dedicated to description data sheets)
The styles you can generally adopt to set up an aquarium are basically of three types, Takashi Amano has divided them into Iwagumi and Ryoboku or Mixed and Biotope, let’s get to know them in detail:
The word Iwagumi is used in the construction of Japanese gardens, referring to the layout of the rocks in order to recreate a natural rocky landscape. This kind of set-up is basically made up of stones and must respect some principles, which are fundamental:
- The rocks must be all of the same type, color and design, to homogenize and make the layout natural, but of different size. (To know better the types of aquarium rocks see the article dedicated to the stones)
- The main rock (the largest) should be placed at 2/3 of the length of the tank, according to the golden section. The remaining rocks will be positioned near from the highest to the lower, trying to give more prespective and naturalness to the layout.
- The rocks must be odd, they balance and give the layout a good armony.
- when you positioning the rocks, you will need to look at the veins and orient them all in the same sense because even if of different dimensions will be chained together and accentuate the sense of water flow.
- The substrate material must be distributed between the rocks trying to give depth to the layout, and having a thickness ranging from 2 -3 cm in front to over 10 – 20 cm on the background.
- In the Iwagumi layouts, though it is a subjective thing and depends on your choice, Takashi Amano always uses a few species of plants, often mixing them together. Eleocharis vivipara or Blyxa echinosperma, for the back area, Riccia fluitans, Glossostigma elatinoides, Echinodorus tenellus and Eleocharis for the front areas around the stones.
The word Ryoboku, which can be translated into English “driftwood”, represents aquariums setup with woods. The layout criteria are similar to the Iwagumi style as the uniform positioning of the pieces and homogeneous woods types. Takashi Amano however expects three types of compositions:
- Central: The woods are positioned inside a immaginary triangle with the summit oriented up, central composition to give stability and balance to the layout.
- Lateral: Woods are positioned on one side and oriented on the center, side composition to give instability and dynamism to the layout.
- “V” form: The woods are positioned on both sides leaving a central space, the composition with V form give a great deal of depth to the layout.
- In the Ryoboku setups, though it is a subjective thing and depends on your choice, Takashi Amano always uses a few species of epiphytic plants that can then be attached to the woods, often mixing them together: Microsorium, Anubias and Bolbitis, and various types of mosses.
- The purpose of Ryoboku setup is to represent parts of forests or forests grown naturally, so you can place internal wood that coming out of the surface of the water tank and if you want you can combine the two techniques using rocks, woods and vegetation. (To know better the types of wood from aquarium see the dedicated article)
With the term Biotope is meant an area of limited size such as a pond or river, where live plant and animal organisms of the same or different species, which together form a biocenosis. Biotope and biocenosis form a functional unit called ecosystem. In Aquascaping therefore, or in the setup phase of a Biotope you will have to know many factors composed of specific features that are not easily reproducible. In such cases, the biotope can be of particular importance because it can represent the only place where native species live. Understanding this, if you want to make a biotope you must strictly respect all the details of the area you want to reproduce:
- Fish and invertebrates species and the food chain of that place.
- Type and disposition of hardscape, consisting of any type of wood, rock, soil and biological elements present in that area.
- Reproduction of water values PH, GH, KH, Nirites, Nitrates present in that place and in that time of the year.
- Reproduction of water temperature and, if possible, air humidity on the surface.
- Reproduction of luminous irradiation, Lumen, IRC RA color rendering index, Color temperature ° Kelvin and Photoperiod of that zone in that time of the year and the day.
- Proper nutrition for the animal necessity of that place.
- Proper fertilization for plants in the area.