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How do you plan a new layout?

2225 Views 4 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  plantbrain
This is one of the most troubling aspects to new aquatic gardeners. There are so many plants to choose from. How do you know where to plant them? What goes together? How do you design the aquascape?

Please share the process you go through in planning your aquascape...
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Buying plants is one of my addictions...that being the case I really am getting bummed that I am running out of room in my tank for new additions. I started out with hygro, an amazon sword, and some java moss. The hygro takes off quickly and helps with the initial algae bloom by using up excess nutrients. Now I am getting into more hard to grow plants such as glosso, diplidis diandra, etc. I like a tank to have many different textures and colors side by side. I also like a few big plants but mainly go with smaller ones so I can pack lots of different ones in and get a more visually appealing end product. I like carpets in the foreground. I put echinodorus tenellus, lillaeopsis, crypt wendtii, and dwarf sag in clumps in the front of my tank and let them grow together. It really looks nice and natural now. On the sides I put in some large stem plants (sunset hygro, bacopa carolinia, rotalla, etc) and let them go wild. This makes a nice jungle which really frames in the tank. I put a large amazon sword in the back of the tank off centered and am glad that I only used one. Its really big now! I have some rocks and wood piled in the middle for caves that my cats and pleco like to hide in during the day. I let the java moss cover them and it looks really nice now. My shrimp are always on top of it preening anything they find that dosent belong....
Here is a pic of what it looked like about a month ago...
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Many years ago, on the APD, someone mention that people in this
hobby go through different stages.

I went through a major collectoritis stage from 2002 till Sept '03.
I wanted to grow everything and anything. At one point, my 55g had
60 species and my 20g long had another 30 species. Furthermore, my
emmersed setup was overflowing with a dozen more! I was always eager
to try the newest plant on the block and didn't hesitate to spend $
getting plants in from Singapore and trading plants with people from
Sweden to Brazil. But enough was enough. I don't regret going through
this phase, since I got to observe how each species grows. When
time came to start sending away and chucking species, I knew which
ones would stay and which ones had to go. I had my 'palette' of 20 or
so species I really liked and could work from here.

As far as creating an artistic, aquascaping design, my way of doing it:

Take out all the plants. Empty the tank. Start from scratch.

Take out an ersable marker and measure the tank. Mark the four
focal points and lines radiating from it. VERY helpful.

Do you have your inspiration at hand? Sandy foreground? Hairgrass
with Japanese rock arrangement? Dutch tank with alternating stem
plants contrasting in color and leaf shape? You need a general idea on
where you're heading.

Take the wood and rock you are going to use and start positioning.
This takes me about an hour to get it just right.

Looks good? If you're going to add epiphytes such as moss, bolbitis,
or anubias, this is the time to do so. Carefully remove one
piece of rock or wood and tie down the plant. Place the branch/rock
back into the tank in its original position. To me, these plants are
basically part of the hardscaping.

Add the foreground plants next (if you have any, I opted for a white
sand foreground in my 55g and my cories love it).

Position the red/colored stem plants since these tend to draw and pull
the eye the most.

Add the green stem plants, positioning them with consideration to their
eventual size, growth rate, and leaf shape.

A couple days later, add the shrimp, snails, and algae eating fish.

A couple months later, adjust any wood or reposition plants. Take out
plants or add new ones, too. Nothing never comes out perfectly the first time around, especially when you don't know exactly how the tank will "grow in." At this point, add the fish you believe will complement the aquascape.

That's my way of doing it. :) I have two tanks and they do not look
at all alike.

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What!? I remember it like it was yesterday! :lol: I think it was Neil who put it into the APD.

Anyway, my style is very similar to Carlos'. However, I make sure I know what look I want before buying anything. I then purchase the hard and soft items to match as close as possible the image in my mind. The only thing I haven't been able to consider up front is the fish. Don't know why really. Just happens that way.

It's really great how hobbyists now are focusing so much more on visual design and framing. This really helps out on the overall composition.
Well, I think about a number of things, it could be just a piece of wood that dictates a design, perhaps a rock, or a group of rocks, sometimes it's a plant, sometimes is a scene unrelated to tanks, sometimes it's a natural scene. Sometimes it's just whatever I have laying around at the time. Sometimes it's for the fish that will be in the tank, sometimes the tank's plants dictate what fish will go in there.

I've been doing it so long with rocks and wood and I often don't think too much about it, I just put it in till it "feels right". I often will not stop toying with it till I get a good feeling from it.

This is good and helps train someone their own prespective of what seems balanced to them. It give a sense of what is a right feeling without placing judgement or giving them advice really. Somewhat Jungarian I suppose.

It's good to get feedback from others and try their ideas at some point though. Some folks like more formal approaches, Flower arrangement, other art forms, some folks have art backgrounds to base it on, some look to gardnering books. But even with all that training, each media is different and can be a subpart all on it's own.

I suggest folks to play around, see what they like, try it.
This is less intrusive than saying follow the golden triangle, Dutch style, or that they must balance it and place so much judgement and adherence to some set of rules, Amano natural styles etc. If they lack the creative bug, they can try to copy.

For me ___personally__, there are too many rules as it is in daily life. I resent rules especially in art. Breaking the rules is part of what art is... at least to me.

Taking things to the edge almost where it all falls apart or is border line insane, then at the last moment, pulling it back in to some sense and form. That's what I like.

Many folks have great ideas and vision ultimately, but you need to have the execution skills,motivation and determination also to see the desigbn all the way through.

This is one reason I blab about getting plants to grow, getting rid of algae most often rather than aquascaping ....but I love it dearly.

Tom Barr
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