Jump to content

Where to start with scaping a new tank!


Recommended Posts

I'm just getting started with the early planning stages of my 55 gallon tank!

Where do you begin with scaping? How do you come up with a theme? I'm lost when it comes to getting started!

My first tank, a 29 gallon, was for me to play around with and just get my feet wet with the hobby. Now I want something with a more cohesive look to it. Do you buy hardscape pieces first and build around that? Do you go seeking hardscape to fit your vision, then build a plant aesthetic from there? I'm a complete novice to scaping. I'm using a natural color off-white sand as my substrate (inert) and Il'l be keeping the tank low tech. I want something that is low maintenance and easy to clean, and I'll need a little driftwood because I'd like to try a bristlenose pleco for this one.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I add my hardscape while it empty and play a round with till it look good then pick plants that will go well with the lay out  love anubis and Javan fern carpeting the hardscape some tall plants that will reach the surface and provide some shade add some leaf litter such as catappa  leaves or alder cones   

Edited by Colu
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 6/19/2021 at 7:00 PM, Colu said:

I add my hardscape while it empty and play a round with till it look good then pick plant that will go well with the lay out  love anubis and Javan fern carpeting the hardscape some tall plants that will reach the surface and provide some shade add some leaf litter such as catappa  leaves or alder cones   

I'm thinking some floaters, too. Anubias and bolbitis are faves, Java Ferns take awhile to start looking nice in my tank but I'm willing to try them again with more knowledge. Swords grow really well for me, too, but I might try a simpler Jungle Val spray around the back and let it grow big and tall...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You could theme the tank around its inhabitants, inspired by what they would live in out in nature (not necessarily a strict biotope, but maybe something that looks like a river bank, or a marsh). Rocks are great to make caves and "islands" out of, and sometimes you can place driftwood to look like roots emerging from it. Sometimes it's even fun to limit the kind of plants to one species - like an anubias only tank, or a forest of val. Looking up pics of aquascaped tanks might help inspire you. 

And like Colu said, I usually play around with the hardscape until I find an arrangement I like.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 6/19/2021 at 7:04 PM, H.K.Luterman said:

You could theme the tank around its inhabitants, inspired by what they would live in out in nature (not necessarily a strict biotope, but maybe something that looks like a river bank, or a marsh). Rocks are great to make caves and "islands" out of, and sometimes you can place driftwood to look like roots emerging from it. Sometimes it's even fun to limit the kind of plants to one species - like an anubias only tank, or a forest of val. Looking up pics of aquascaped tanks might help inspire you. 

And like Colu said, I usually play around with the hardscape until I find an arrangement I like.

Do you typically buy your hardscape in person? If so, where, and what do you look for? I am slightly intimidated by complex scapes and set-ups and I'm not trying to be super ambitious, but I'd like to create something that looks cohesive and that I'm proud of, if you know what I mean. 🤣 I probably sound wishy-washy. I've been looking at inspiration and it can get overwhelming.

For instance, I love the look of river rock scapes, but I'm not sure where to source larger smooth river rocks beyond the mexican beach pebble size. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you have aquarium safe rocks in your area, you could go collecting out at your local river - I can't here because it's all limestone and it would drastically change my water Ph. When I wanted big rocks I went to a local pond store, where they sold a variety of rocks by the pound. A store like that or a gardening/landscaping store might have rocks more suited for you.

I do pick out drift wood in person, though the selection at our local stores is often pretty terrible. I find that piling a bunch together to make interesting formations works really well. And I usually go at rocks with a sledgehammer to get more size varieties.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 6/19/2021 at 6:18 PM, laritheloud said:

I'm just getting started with the early planning stages of my 55 gallon tank!

Where do you begin with scaping? How do you come up with a theme? I'm lost when it comes to getting started!

My first tank, a 29 gallon, was for me to play around with and just get my feet wet with the hobby. Now I want something with a more cohesive look to it. Do you buy hardscape pieces first and build around that? Do you go seeking hardscape to fit your vision, then build a plant aesthetic from there? I'm a complete novice to scaping. I'm using a natural color off-white sand as my substrate (inert) and Il'l be keeping the tank low tech. I want something that is low maintenance and easy to clean, and I'll need a little driftwood because I'd like to try a bristlenose pleco for this one.

Love this. My eldest son is really good at seeing a nice composition. As a general rule, you want some major Hardscape pieces to dictate the way that the eye flows. Usually, there is an “apex” somewhere 1/3 in from right or left. For example...

Here’s a 5.5 gal betta tank...

93CE90BF-07D2-4408-9A95-2E4B8B308ADF.jpeg.ee3ac0d96125c9099decb491a5282fd1.jpeg

Its Hardscape composition works somewhat like this...

89C3049A-B05D-4B5C-99DD-5636E9C5807D.jpeg.b3685170df800647280eca2060048229.jpeg

Here’s a 55 gal African Cichlid tank...

93EB8B72-1FC4-4C19-979B-991F84DE5B7A.jpeg.02e25634dc8cd433e9eecbb57ebbd322.jpeg

Its Hardscape composition works like this...

6C71F4E0-F372-494E-A14A-CA8F50A094B4.jpeg.d45012b7d89311e2e7e0a4ace7105ec5.jpeg

Here’s another 55 gal Amazon tank...

0B61A372-F673-4B0A-90D8-8FF2162086B7.jpeg.a8b219b09a6e0c1ac1e39379afd08713.jpeg

Though a bit different, the wood moves the composition into a flow where there still is a primary “focus” for the eye ...

CF70ABE6-692C-4BCF-A089-B71303EB1AC1.jpeg.437454feddb5d7b405464710958c5d63.jpeg

Another generally accepted goal is to line things from back to front, leaving open space in the center.

713F599C-707D-48DA-B70E-F50761AC4DFA.jpeg.64b84604c0f8bb5c725d8deabd568d6e.jpeg

For some other reflections on overall aquarium composition, I mused something up a little while back on another thread you might find interesting...

 

  • Like 2
  • Love 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 6/19/2021 at 7:19 PM, Fish Folk said:

Love this. My eldest son is really good at seeing a nice composition. As a general rule, you want some major Hardscape pieces to dictate the way that the eye flows. Usually, there is an “apex” somewhere 1/3 in from right or left. For example...

Here’s a 5.5 gal betta tank...

93CE90BF-07D2-4408-9A95-2E4B8B308ADF.jpeg.ee3ac0d96125c9099decb491a5282fd1.jpeg

Its Hardscape composition works somewhat like this...

89C3049A-B05D-4B5C-99DD-5636E9C5807D.jpeg.b3685170df800647280eca2060048229.jpeg

Here’s a 55 gal African Cichlid tank...

93EB8B72-1FC4-4C19-979B-991F84DE5B7A.jpeg.02e25634dc8cd433e9eecbb57ebbd322.jpeg

Its Hardscape composition works like this...

6C71F4E0-F372-494E-A14A-CA8F50A094B4.jpeg.d45012b7d89311e2e7e0a4ace7105ec5.jpeg

Here’s another 55 gal Amazon tank...

0B61A372-F673-4B0A-90D8-8FF2162086B7.jpeg.a8b219b09a6e0c1ac1e39379afd08713.jpeg

Though a bit different, the wood moves the composition into a flow where there still is a primary “focus” for the eye ...

CF70ABE6-692C-4BCF-A089-B71303EB1AC1.jpeg.437454feddb5d7b405464710958c5d63.jpeg

Another generally accepted goal is to line things from back to front, leaving open space in the center.

713F599C-707D-48DA-B70E-F50761AC4DFA.jpeg.64b84604c0f8bb5c725d8deabd568d6e.jpeg

For some other reflections on overall aquarium composition, I mused something up a little while back on another thread you might find interesting...

 

Thank you! I have a bit of art training in my background, and my family is full of artists and illustrators so I'm familiar with the rule of thirds. It's a different skill to translate that knowledge into a three-dimensional scape that will include plants, and growing aquatic plants is something i'm still quite new to!

I do know of a few landscaping stone yards near me, so I'll explore there and see if they have any larger-scale river rocks I can use. My water is already pretty hard and I need inert rock that won't change the chemistry of my tank, so I'll be mindful about that, too.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 6/19/2021 at 7:23 PM, laritheloud said:

Thank you! I have a bit of art training in my background, and my family is full of artists and illustrators so I'm familiar with the rule of thirds. It's a different skill to translate that knowledge into a three-dimensional scape that will include plants, and growing aquatic plants is something i'm still quite new to!

I do know of a few landscaping stone yards near me, so I'll explore there and see if they have any larger-scale river rocks I can use. My water is already pretty hard and I need inert rock that won't change the chemistry of my tank, so I'll be mindful about that, too.

I bought a bunch of Mexican beach pebbles as large variants of smooth landscaping stones. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 6/19/2021 at 7:12 PM, laritheloud said:

Do you typically buy your hardscape in person? If so, where, and what do you look for? I am slightly intimidated by complex scapes and set-ups and I'm not trying to be super ambitious, but I'd like to create something that looks cohesive and that I'm proud of, if you know what I mean. 🤣 I probably sound wishy-washy. I've been looking at inspiration and it can get overwhelming.

For instance, I love the look of river rockscapes, but I'm not sure where to source larger smooth river rocks beyond the mexican beach pebble size. 

If I buy hardscape, it is in person.  I like to know what I am actually getting before I buy it.

As to your original question: look at a lot of pictures.  What makes you happy?  (riverscapes)  start there.  Some home improvement stores have rather large MRPs.  Landscapers often have mountains of assorted rocks.  If you go that route, take a spray bottle.  The rocks will look different when wet.  Sometimes less is more!  A pile of rocks will always look like a pile of rocks.   Give some thought to placement.  Does that rock or branch look like it arrived  there naturally, or does it look like it fell off the truck?  

Nature is rarely neat and tidy. have some fun with it.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Heres an aquarium that I chose the hardscape first. Then I chose the plants. All though after a month all the plants died (it was my first time keeping live plants and made many mistakes). So 3 months after all the plants died I decided to re-plant based on the hardscape:

image.png.cdf3ec44c5c898cbf7336657599e1e01.png

And heres what my betta tank looked like before I rescaped it. In this aquarium I chose the plants first. I knew I wanted to carpet monte carlo, after choosing the plants I chose dragon stone as my hardscape:

image.png.4c82df4d920c6e0040b1cbfd30c58474.png.cd766c79d4e49b97410d59a47bee9d53.png

If your looking for some inspiration I would visit this link from tropica. Its got some great images of planted tanks for you to check out:

https://tropica.com/en/inspiration/       

  • Like 2
  • Love 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

George Farmers recent book,  Aquascaping, is a great resource. I also love the Tropica website’s inspiration page that @James Blackmentioned. 
Lowes has a great deal on aquascaping stone. I’ll try and remember what they call it but it’s the same stuff you would buy at an ADA store, but 1/4 the price.

In the end I like MD fish tanks advice to just start putting stuff in until it looks good!  

  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 6/19/2021 at 9:11 PM, Patrick_G said:

George Farmers recent book,  Aquascaping, is a great resource. I also love the Tropica website’s inspiration page that @James Blackmentioned. 
Lowes has a great deal on aquascaping stone. I’ll try and remember what they call it but it’s the same stuff you would buy at an ADA store, but 1/4 the price.

In the end I like MD fish tanks advice to just start putting stuff in until it looks good!  

I went to Lowes today and my local store gave me ZERO luck. Didn't have any stones in the sizes I needed. It was a bust. 😞 The inspiration pages are beautiful and I adore MD Fish Tanks's style, but I find it intimidating! I'll see what I can accomplish when I get my hands on some materials.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You could check pictures of tanks participating at aquascaping contests, and maybe find a theme or inspiration (there is a video with Josh Sim scaping a tank and giving lots of advice, so that's something you should definitely check).  I know it's definitely hard to recreate since experts are scaping them, but it's a very good source to check what this hobby can offer. From everything I learned by now, I think the most important part is to use substrate to get height - it gives the tank a much more realistic look.

I wasn't sure if it was allowed to mention other YT channels here, but since you guys have already mentioned MD I think it's safe to mention Green Aqua as well. They have some incredible projects you can look at and get inspired by.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 6/19/2021 at 7:12 PM, laritheloud said:

Do you typically buy your hardscape in person? If so, where, and what do you look for? I am slightly intimidated by complex scapes and set-ups and I'm not trying to be super ambitious, but I'd like to create something that looks cohesive and that I'm proud of, if you know what I mean. 🤣 I probably sound wishy-washy. I've been looking at inspiration and it can get overwhelming.

For instance, I love the look of river rock scapes, but I'm not sure where to source larger smooth river rocks beyond the mexican beach pebble size. 

George Farmer has recommended picking up hardscape anytime you visit your LFS.  By grabbing a piece here and there you end up with a great collection to work with when your ready to start putting a scape together. You’ll have a mix that may feel more natural than if you went in with mission.

Also, I’ve found that the tropica site has an awesome section for inspiration. They will list the plants and have a map illustrating planting spots. They will list the fancy names, but you’ll find most available from aco under the common name.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I tend to buy the hardscape, mess with it and live with it for a few days until I feel its right before I go to plants and fish. Hardscape is the backbone or foundation and like anything else you build, without a solid foundation the rest falls apart, so take your time.  I highly recommend George Farmer's book if your looking for some guidance. if you can't afford it I've found it to be pretty accessible in public Libraries.

Edited by Phishbox
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Like everyone else is saying find your hardscape first. Hardscape is expensive so buying what is on sale or collecting it yourself can save a lot of money. If you already have the scape planned and need a specific kind of stone or wood you could end up spending a lot more. 

 

One of the big box home improvement stores has aquarium rocks really cheap in their landscaping department. Prime Time Aquatics did a video on it not long ago. 

Edited by ChefConfit
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

@laritheloud There have been so many great pieces of advice given already there is little I can add but one very important aspect that I think you need to know.

 

HAVE CONFIDENCE IN YOURSELF.   

In a few of your responses you state you feel intimidated and that is understandable but I promise you are making it out to be more than it is.   My 20 Gallon Betta Bowl was the first ever preplanned aquascape I have ever done.....oh I had plants before but never was anything planned out and the 20 gallon came out great.  I had no clue what I was doing but I just dove in and had fun..... That is what this hobby is about....HAVING FUN.  

I promise you that if your having fun...the end product will be perfect.  Now stop worrying and go have fun!  

oh yeah and please send pics.....we love pics!!

  • Thanks 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you for all the help and suggestions, everyone. I'm still waiting for my aquarium stand to get delivered, but once it's here, I'm going to get started on a layout!

On 6/28/2021 at 8:30 AM, ARMYVET said:

@laritheloud There have been so many great pieces of advice given already there is little I can add but one very important aspect that I think you need to know.

 

HAVE CONFIDENCE IN YOURSELF.   

In a few of your responses you state you feel intimidated and that is understandable but I promise you are making it out to be more than it is.   My 20 Gallon Betta Bowl was the first ever preplanned aquascape I have ever done.....oh I had plants before but never was anything planned out and the 20 gallon came out great.  I had no clue what I was doing but I just dove in and had fun..... That is what this hobby is about....HAVING FUN.  

I promise you that if your having fun...the end product will be perfect.  Now stop worrying and go have fun!  

oh yeah and please send pics.....we love pics!!

This is really sweet of you to say, ARMYVET. Thank you for the encouragement. I still have to assemble some hardscape materials, but maybe I'll take a day out of the week or the weekend to go scouting around at local landscaping stone yards and aquarium stores for driftwood. Fingers crossed I can put together something really lovely to look at!

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just the other day I was at my LFS looking for some wood for a 5 gallon. Since the store had plenty of aquarium tanks unboxed, I asked if I could use one of their 5 gallon tanks to play around with some pieces of wood. It is very helpful to have the whole tank there with the glass to confine the wood to see if it works. 
 

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 6/30/2021 at 1:33 AM, Nanci B said:

Just the other day I was at my LFS looking for some wood for a 5 gallon. Since the store had plenty of aquarium tanks unboxed, I asked if I could use one of their 5 gallon tanks to play around with some pieces of wood. It is very helpful to have the whole tank there with the glass to confine the wood to see if it works. 
 

 

That is a great way to do it!

Or you can do like I did....bought a dozen pieces of wood and like 100 lbs of rock...go home see what works and then have all that stuff leftover which helps you justify another tank!🤣

  • Haha 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...