Aquascaping Ideas

Underwater worlds

There are many ways to create dioramas, or small worlds. But one of the most intriguing ways has got to be the aquascape. Built with plants, it is a world that’s alive and dynamic, changing over time. A world fully submerged in water. An ecosystem of its own, inhabited by little, yet disproportionally huge aquarium creatures. While using aquarium-friendly materials may seem limiting at first, you’d be surprised how much variety is possible in creating underwater landscapes. There are minimalistic and serene aquascapes, lush and vibrant ones, and those that closely mimic scenery that you’d normally only encounter on land. In this article, we’ll be exploring the latter of the three. From familiar scenes in nature to the otherworldly, let’s look at some aquascaping ideas for intricate underwater dioramas.

Bonsai aquascapes

If we’d have to pick our favorite thing in nature, old majestic trees would definitely be among the top contenders. They’re a thing of beauty, aren’t they? Now, of course there is no way to stuff an ancient tree into your aquarium. But a miniature one – that is, a bonsai tree – would work perfectly. You’re probably wondering now, can a bonsai tree even grow underwater? Theoretically, yes. However, it would take quite a bit of special care to keep it alive and thriving. A safer idea therefore is to go for a faux aqua bonsai instead.

Aquascape with a mountain and a large bonsai tree

You can make a faux aqua bonsai tree by using a combination of materials that feel right at home underwater. For the trunk, driftwood is a great option, as it often already comes in a gnarled branched shape that resembles an old tree. To give it some foliage, you can attach aquatic plants to the driftwood branches, such as baby tears, java moss, Anubias nana petite, and Bucephalandra. And while the driftwood base may be dead, the aquatic plants make the aqua bonsai tree come to life. They will change, grow, and quite possibly need some trimming now and then. Just like an actual bonsai tree.

Mountain aquascapes

While we’re on the subject of majestic nature, let’s look at another example: mountains and rock formations. These make great designs for aquascapes as well, especially if they’re the rugged and jagged kind. There are several types of rocks that you can use for this purpose. Seiryu stone, for starters, naturally has layered, jagged edges and calcite veins, providing the visual drama that make it great for creating rugged cliffs. It is however hard and dense, which can prove challenging if you intend to modify the shape. For a more workable alternative, you can consider Dragon stone. This type of stone has a weathered, jagged appearance, which makes it another good fit for dramatic aquascapes.

However, if you’re looking for a rock type that is optimal for shaping, we would recommend lava rock. While not innately jagged, it can be chiseled and broken with relative ease to create the shapes you’re aiming for. The smaller pieces moreover can be stacked and glued together into even more interesting structures, such as arches and caves.

Aquarium with an underwater mountain aquascape

Creating an underwater waterfall

While you’re at it, why not take this aquascaping idea to the next level, with a waterfall? If this thought makes you raise an eyebrow, we don’t blame you. After all, an underwater miniature waterfall seems to defy a number of physical principles. Nevertheless, it is possible. At least, to make the illusion of one. The trick is to create a stream of fine sand to fall down a the front of a rock wall, and it will look just like falling water. To achieve this, you’ll have to set up a mechanism with a hidden tube that guides a flow of air bubbles that pick up tiny grains of sand on their way. Or, you get the system premade and ready-to-go.

Aquascaping ideas with mushrooms

So far we’ve looked at closely mimicking natural formations that we’re all familiar with. But you can also take your aquascaping ideas in a different direction. How about creating a landscape that feels a bit more whimsical? Like for instance, a forest where not trees, but mushrooms dominate the scene. Pretty neat, right? But how to achieve this? After all, mushrooms generally do not take kindly to being grown underwater. To create an aquascape full of them, you’d therefore have to craft their likeness.

Underwater landscape created in an aquarium with trees, plants and mushrooms

One way would be to sculpt them out of polymer clay, which is safe to put in an aquarium as long as it’s properly cured. Clay is a great option if the kinds of mushrooms you want to make are similarly opaque in nature. But what if you’re going for a more translucent kind, that seems to glow as light seeps through its cap? You’ll need a different material in this case. For example, mushrooms made from PETG – a material that can be used in 3D printing – would look the part. Moreover, PETG is naturally non-toxic and ideally suited for aquariums. As for our pick of fungal aquarium invaders, we would go for these deadly beauts.

Surreal aquascaping ideas

If you like to tickle the imagination with your aquascaping, then making a surreal diorama might be the thing for you. While working with the same basic hardscape materials such as driftwood and rocks, you’ll sculpt them into shapes that don’t seem of this world. Like rock formations that are narrow at the bottom, but widen toward the top.

Surreal underwater landscape in an aquarium with horn shaped structures

Another surreal aquascaping idea is to make natural structures that resemble curved horns. Starting with a regular piece of driftwood, carve it till it acquires smooth curves and pointy ends to achieve the horned appearance. For a further touch of intrigue, place a submersible aquarium light at the bottom to add a glowing hue to the scene. And if your underwater landscape feels like it’s missing some inhabitants – other than the fish, of course – perhaps you could subtly feature a couple of fantasy figurines.

That concludes our little list of aquascaping ideas. Besides being a visual treat to look at, complex structures like the ones we’ve looked at here happen to be very beneficial for the fish too. They provide plenty to explore and are great for finding little hiding spots in. A win-win! What kind of underwater world would you create?

About the author

Hey there, I'm Aimee. I have this thing for tiny things, that has grown ever since I started dabbling with miniature crafts in 2018. I started this blog to create a space for ideas and resources for making miniatures, so that they may inspire others and lead to the crafting of many more little worlds within our own.

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Aimee River

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