Aquarium Planting Styles

Thursday, February 17, 2011
Before you can make up your mind regarding the kinds of plants that will go into your aquarium, there are some style statements that you should know about. There are two main aquarium planting styles that have evolved among aquarists over a period of time. A quick overview of these styles and their usability will help you decide which way you want to go, or if you want to think up something entirely different.

The natural style - As the term suggests, the natural style is just that - natural. Here, we strive to mime nature as closely as possible. Introducing a variety of plants without any particular order is the most important thing in this style. Think natural - in nature, you would not find groups of similar plants sitting pretty in some order. The aim is to cultivate a 'wild' look. It may seem that no planning goes into this kind of style, but this is far from the truth. Plants may seem to be placed at random without any serious coordination, but to achieve that striking display of 'wilderness' in your aquarium, you need to sift through the various plant varieties, and pick and choose the right ones.

The Dutch Style - This aquarium planting style is for the more serious planters. The aquarium is more for the plants, and the fish seem to be added in as an afterthought. You will hardly find these kinds of aquariums with superbly colored fish. There will just be a few colorless fish hanging about. The Dutch planted aquariums tries to replicate a verdant garden, in all its green glory. An important element in this style is terracing or layering. You will find that the aquarium is divided into terraces, with different kinds of plants growing on different layers. The back of the aquarium will be higher than the front. The plants are the main focus of this display.

There are two ways in which you can adapt the natural planting style to your aquarium. Firstly, there is the open style aquarium. In this kind of aquarium, the top of the aquarium is left open most of the time. The plants are allowed to grow right out of the aquarium. The tops of the plants are never trimmed. You need to be extra careful when you keep an open aquarium. If you have any jumpers in this aquarium, you will find that you are poorer by a number of fish after some time. An open aquarium is therefore not suitable when you keep such fish species.

A habitat aquarium can also adopt the natural style. The habitat aquarium is one in which you place ideally suited species of fish and plants that have the same requirements. A habitat display will take plants and fish from some particular geographical location, and mimic their ecosystem.

You can categorize the natural plants that should go into your aquarium depending upon their behavior. Very broadly, there are three kinds of underwater plants:

Plants that float at the top of your aquarium
Plants that will stay firmly rooted to the bottom
Plants that come in a bunch and keep moving or floating around

Keep in mind that you cannot put in just any plant. Common household plants should naturally be avoided. Any plant that is not a water plant is bad news in the long run. They may adapt to the water initially, but may not be able to cope with their surroundings after a period of time. Changing your set up after some time is not very easy because aquarium plants also take time to adapt and grow.