Aquascaping is the art of creating a layout inside your aquarium that is attractive and functional. When looking at some of the most impressive reef tanks around the world the most obvious common factor is the use of a successful aquascape to display the corals in such a way that keeps viewers interested.

In this video, we are going to provide you with a handful of tips and tricks to help you guys understand how to achieve an attractive and functional aquascape inside your aquarium.

When looking at your new tank, you want to think of it like a blank canvas.  Of course not all of us are Picasso but it is important to think about your aquascape in this way.  Create something that gives depth with a back, middle, and foreground and keep in mind coral placement.  Corals grow and work really well to create a balance.  Growing corals can fill in space that may look void when first placing the structures in your tank.

The Rule of Thirds used by artists, photographers and designers is great for creating a great reef scape. Visually draw two horizontal lines and two vertical lines. This will create four intersections when looking at the front of your tank:

By placing interesting and differing elements at those intersections, the layout will be more balanced and will look more natural.  Be adhering to this method you will avoid creating an ugly heaping pile of rock or get stuck with the infamous rock wall.

When choosing your rock, stay away from using one or two large rocks without any interesting shapes.   Instead, use a variety of smaller rocks placed together in such a way that will create a cave, pillar, arch, over hang, drop off, or whatever shape or structure you think is interesting.

Don’t over-due it either, even though a new tank may look empty at first, in time corals grow and will need space, with too much rock you can run out of real estate really quick and end up having to move everything around.   Open spaces will also contribute to the overall balance of your aquascape.

When planning it out, I typically cut a piece of cardboard to the exact dimension of the tank.  Then draw a safe zone about 2” in from the edges and keep the rocks inside this zone.  This way you can ensure the structures are not too close to the walls of your tank and make it easy to keep them clean with an algae magnet or scraper.

Don’t forget to account for your overflow box, pumps, pipes or anything else you might have inside the tank as well as the water level inside the aquarium.

Typically, I will build and construct multiple aquascapes outside the tank and take a picture of each one so I can remember what it looks like and go back to it.

Using dry rock makes this process much easier because you do not have to worry about die off; if you are using live rock it is best to create the structure inside your tank or do it quickly outside of the tank and transfer it.

Once you find something you like, stick it together.  While it may seem easy to just pile the rocks together without any sort of adhesive, this can be problematic inside the tank.  Rocks falling out of place or tumbling over is a real pain when you have fresh frags in the tank and will ultimately ruin whatever vision you had for the structure inside your tank.

Epoxy is the most commonly used adhesives for sticking rocks together.  We sell a variety of different epoxies that works great.  Just kneed the components together until a solid color forms and apply plenty of epoxy to hold the rocks together and let them dry.  Cyanoacrylate coral glue work very well for smaller and more-intricate designs.

Another great option for adhering rocks and building structures is the Nyos Reef Cement which comes as a dry powder.  To make the cement, mix a 3:1 powder to freshwater ratio inside a separate container until a dough like consistency is reached.  This stuff sets up pretty quick so I recommend mixing small batches.  After that, treat it just like epoxy by filling spaces to firmly secure the rocks together and let it set.

When creating over hanging and tall structures, use a stilt, zip ties or frame to hold the rocks together while the adhesive dries.  PVC pipe, dowels, and popsicle sticks work great for this.

Be careful when placing larger structures into the tank, they are heavy so don’t just drop them in.  Before adding water, take a final glance.  At this point I usually finish off the scape with some small rocks to really give the tank the full depth of field I am looking for.

Here at MD we stock a wide variety of both dry and live rock.  The AquaMaxx Dry rock varieties are really great because they offer everything from plate rock to tonga branch to help create a myriad of different structures.

-Take Care and Happy Reefkeeping!