Dutch Style Planted Aquariums
Now that you already determined the ideal location and dimensions of your tank, it is time to think about your planted aquarium style. In this article, we will be discussing the different aquascaping designs to unleash the inner artist in you, specifically, the Dutch style planted aquariums.
Aquascaping is the art of arranging aquatic plants, driftwood, rocks, stones, and even the substrate in an aesthetically pleasing and natural manner.
You probably searched on the internet and was overwhelmed by tons of aquascaping images and still cannot decide. So in this article: the main characteristics, what tank to use, light, substrate, if you need CO2, what filter, fertilizer, hardscape, what fish and plants will be discussed to help you in your decisions.
Table of Contents
What Tank to Use?
What Light to Use?
Do I Need to Inject CO2?
Do I Need to Dose Fertilizers?
Why is it so important to know the different aquascaping designs?
These are no strict rules, and there is nothing that will hinder you from getting out of a particular design’s theme and combine it with other styles.
However, you’ll probably can create a much more appealing result if you are following a particular style.
So without further ado, here are the most common styles/designs you’ll see in planted aquariums.
This style is characterized by many different assortments of plants and leaf types. Carefully planning and designing a multitude of textures, shapes, and plants’ colors is the main focus. It is much like the terrestrial plants that are displayed in flower gardens. It commonly employs raised layers, or terraces, known as “Dutch streets” that taper towards the rear to convey the perspective of depth.
Aquascaped by Jay-R Huelar Philippines
This style re-creates various terrestrial landscapes like hills, valleys, mountains, rain forests, even a half-submerged ecosystem, etc. This design has limitless potential for beauty and creativity. The Nature aquascape or Ryoboku Style encompasses the same core principles of Japanese gardening techniques.
Aquascaped by Fritz Rabaya Philippines
It is a style that is characterized by its daring stone formations, elegance, simplicity of open space with carpeting plants only, and dedication to conveying a natural and tranquil setting. The style features a series of stones arranged according to the Golden Ratio, or Rule of Thirds. There should always be an odd number of stones to prevent the layout from balancing.
Aquascaped by Monnette Arañas Philippines
The Jungle Style encompasses the wild, untamed look. It is the complete opposite of the Dutch style, more organized and looks like a conventional tulips garden. The Jungle style overlaps with the core elements of the Nature Style except that the Jungle Style has little to no visible hardscape and limited open space due to the overgrown plants. The plants are even allowed to reach the surface and beyond.
Aquascaped by Franco Chester Pongco Philippines
The Hardscape Diorama Style is still a subset of the Nature Style. The only differences are emphasizing using a lot of hardscapes and building complex nature-like structures such as forest, caves, bonsai trees, canyons, or even fantasy worlds. Dynamic skills should be mainly displayed here to create an illusion of depth, scale, and proportions.
Aquascaped by Michael Yap Philippines
A Paludarium is a type of vivarium that contains water and land in the same environment or encasement. The design can simulate natural habitats such as rainforests, jungles, streams, riverbanks, and bogs. In a Paludarium, part of the aquarium is underwater, and part is above water.
Aquascaped by Yuno Cyan Philippines
A Riparium is a type of Vivarium that typically depicts an environment where water meets land (riverbanks, streambanks, the shoreline of marshes and swamps or lakes), but it does have minimal to no land parts, unlike a Paludarium (which provides significant land parts). In other words, you are replicating the shallow parts of these natural bodies of water.
The Taiwanese Style of Aquascaping combines the elements of Nature, Iwagumi, or Dutch styles, but the most bizarre feature is using figurines, toys, etc. in the tank to create a sense of life. The style isn’t prevalent anymore, but there are still many hobbyists quite fascinated by this style.
Aquascaped by Ian Garrido Philippines
The biotope style seeks to perfectly imitate a particular aquatic habitat at a specific geographic location. From the fish to plants, the rocks, substrate, driftwood, water current, and even the water parameters of a certain aquatic habitat must be the basis of trying to recreate the natural environment, and not necessarily convey like a garden-like display.
Aquascaped by Lao Ricci Philippines
The Walstad Method choose to grow plants using very minimum technology as possible. This approach, which is sometimes called “The Natural Planted Tank” and is made popular by Diana Walstad, suggested using soil as a cheap replacement to the aquasoil or aquarium gravel, sometimes with no filtration, no CO2 injection, and limited lighting.
Aquascaped by Mark Ivan Suarez Philippines
Most of the examples here are not strictly ‘Dutch’ as far as Dutch competition goes. They are just mainly to provide you the general idea of how it can be implemented, what you have to deal with as far as caring and maintenance goes, how to combine it with other styles, etc.
You can have Dutch-style planted aquariums at your home without someone saying at your face ‘these are not Dutch’. After all, this is your tank. As long as you are happy with it and have the pride of keeping up with it, be proud of it, and those are the most important things.
This style is characterized by many different assortments of plants and leaf types. Carefully planning and designing a multitude of textures, shapes, and plants’ colors is the main focus. It is much like the terrestrial plants that are displayed in flower gardens.
It commonly employs raised layers, or terraces, known as “Dutch streets” that taper towards the rear to convey the perspective of depth.
Red plants are often used as focal points and contrast. Over 70% of the aquarium should be planted. The floor is often covered with carpeting plants, midground plants, and tall stem plants lining the tank’s back.
The aquatic plants you choose for your design should be the focal point of this style. So it is incredibly important for the hobbyist to understand how to plant, take note and understand the individual plants’ needs, provide them, and organize the plant life to achieve an aesthetically pleasing and balanced arrangement.
Plant management is crucial here in this style. Many beginner hobbyists who didn’t research a Dutch aquarium’s intricacies find that the regular pruning/trimming and maintenance effort on these tanks are more than what they bargain for.
What Tank to Use?
In Dutch style, we can use many different tank dimensions. We recommend a tank with some height to give way for the tall plants’ time before pruning them. However, tall tanks are harder to light. You can use long tanks but choose plants that don’t grow as tall or takes a little while to grow taller at the back.
What Light to Use?
LED Lights with a mix of white/red/green/blue LEDs or T5 array with white/red/blue tubes are necessary to show off the plants’ full colors, especially the red ones. I still recommend using a dimmer in your lighting or a lighting fixture with a built-in dimmer whenever you can so you can adjust the intensity of your light lower when you notice unpleasant algae beginning to show off their fangs.
The only ways you can adjust the intensity of a T5 array are by subtracting or adding tubes or adjusting the height higher or lower.
If you know electronics and building skills, you can even DIY/experiment with your light fixture with LED bulbs, high powered LED beads. Some had success with LED floodlights, even 5730, 5630, 5050, and 3528 LED strips. I personally DIYed a 5630 LED strips lighting fixture, with warm white, cool white, red and blue LEDs, and a generic 3rd party dimmer.
Whichever route you choose for your planted aquarium lighting, the most important thing is you should be able to control/adjust the intensity (which can be done with 3rd party dimmers for LEDs, or if dimmers are not possible, you should be able to adjust the height of your lighting fixture.
Hybrid Dutch and Nature Styles with Ryouh Stones – 18 Gallon – High-Tech – DIY High Power (3 Watts each) White, Red and Blue LEDs – Aquascaped by Omar Krishnan Jusico Afuang – Philippines
Dutch-style aquariums require a lot of pruning/trimming/uprooting and re-planting, so a substrate that won’t cloud the water is the definite choice. Aquasoils are the top choices here.
Do I Need to Inject CO2?
If you have CO2 demanding plants and want your plants to grow robustly and into their full potential and want your red plants to show off their colors, and you want a full-blown carpet, CO2 is a must. But it is also important that you learn how to fine-tune your CO2 injection and distribution across the whole tank.
A Non-Traditional Dutch w/ Elements of Nature Style – 200 Gallons – Low-Tech – Aquascaped by Michael Yap – Philippines
Hybrid Nature and Dutch Styles 18 Gallons Video and Aquascaped by Omar Krishnan Afuang Philippines
Your appropriately sized filter should be able to provide surface water agitation and good flow to distribute the nutrients and dissolved CO2 all over the tank. You can also deploy mini submersible pumps to help with the distribution if your main filter is not enough.
Aim for 5x to 10x the water turnover rate. For example, if you have 15 gallons long tank, you should choose a filter that turns over the water at 75 (x5) to 150 gallons per hour (gph) (x10). The different types of filtration, types of filters that we can use in our planted aquariums, and considerations of what to look for in a planted aquarium filter are all discussed here.
Do I Need to Dose Fertilizers?
Using a nutrient-rich substrate such as aqua soils combined with routine water column fertilizer dosing is a must and highly recommended for your hungry stem plants.
You can insert Osmocote capsules/beads (a slow-release fertilizer) deep into the substrate to fertilize the substrate. Most carpeting plants benefit from this to spread faster and get thicker. This also works on your hungry stem plants by inserting beads of Osmocote near the plants’ roots.
Even aqua soils deplete its nutrients over time, and you can insert Osmocote into your substrate every 6 months.
Most noticeably, Dutch-style aquascapes don’t use any hardscapes at all. You won’t see much if there’s any, any stone or driftwood in Dutch tanks. Dutch scapes do-follow only certain concepts of placing a contrasting bunch of plants side by side to make their texture, color, and shapes prominent.
Fish are also used in Dutch style aquascapes, but sometimes sparingly, or even no fish at all. We recommend strong colored schooling nano fish like Harlequin Rasboras, Ember, Rummynose, Neon or Cardinal tetras, etc. However, I saw large Dutch aquariums locally that have Angelfish or even Discus in them.
You can also add invertebrates such as snails and shrimps to the nano fish species mentioned above. Some hobbyists only keep snails and shrimps with no fish at all. For snails, we recommend Nerite and Ramshorn Snails. For Ramshorn snails, though, be mindful that the rate of their reproduction is proportional to the amount of food inside the aquarium (so don’t overfeed and do not overstock). Freshwater snails feast on the dead matter (dead plant leaves, even dead fish, etc.), uneaten fish food, some types of algae. They can even clean your glass but not really efficient.
As for shrimps, we recommend Amano Shrimps, Red Cherry Shrimps (RCS), and other color morphs (Neocaridina sp.) and Caridina sp. (though more sensitive to your water parameters than Neocaridinas). Do not keep shrimps, though, if you have medium to large omnivorous fish. Always follow this rule: If you think the shrimp fits in their mouth, they will probably get eaten eventually.
I personally witnessed my two White Skirt Tetras hunting one of my juvenile RCS before to death. I personally saw my juvenile angel chasing one of my adult RCS. The nano fish species I mentioned above are safe on shrimps.
The Dutch aquascaping style is characterized by its use of many different and contrasting plants, but it also distinguishes itself from other styles through its use of terraces or what we call Dutch streets.
It is a style of organized chaos and projects a balance and natural ecosystem of plants and fish, creating focal points and contrast between your design objects.
Again, plant management is crucial to maintain the look of a Dutch-style aquascaping.
Want to Explore More?
Planted aquariums require less work to maintain (once you find the balance of everything) but need more work to set up for the first time. So we need to plan for it properly. Most importantly, we need to consider the ideal location of the tank at our home. So in this article, I will walk you through all the considerations on deciding where to place a planted aquarium at home.
As for all living things, Carbon (C) is essential, including our aquarium plants. The main source of Carbon for plants, whether terrestrial, semi-aquatic, or aquatic, is Carbon Dioxide (CO2). Terrestrial and half-submerged plants usually absorb an adequate amount of CO2 from the air with their leaves. The average concentration of CO2 in the air is currently 0.04 % (412 ppm) by volume.
Think about a trickle filter as vertical filtration stages and a sump filter as a horizontal one by utilizing chambers separated by baffles to route the water horizontally. The main takeaway here is that the filter media are always wet/submerged in water as opposed to a trickle filter.
A sump filter can be positioned below your main tank, overhead, or integrated.
After choosing the ideal location of your aquarium at your home and the stand to be used, you have to determine your planted aquarium tank dimensions. You have to take measurements of the Length, Width, and Height (LxWxH) of the stand. Take into consideration where you will put your equipment, tools such as aquarium filter, aquascaping tools (straight tweezers, curved scissors), siphon, etc.
Because it is easy for a beginner to get too excited to set up their first planted tank, set up the filter and lighting, begin aquascaping, planting, filling it with water, putting the fish in, etc., then meet the consequences.
New Tank Syndrome – this usually happens when you put fish/fishes, snails, shrimps in almost immediately after setting up your tank, harming the fish/es, snails, or shrimps and can even result in their untimely demise.
I hope you enjoyed this article and if ever you have additional questions or want to share your experiences with Dutch Style Aquascaping, please leave a comment below.
Next, we will be discussing the Nature Style Aquascape.