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Tips and Tricks on Creating Amazing Aquascapes

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Being an artist for fun and profession, I see things different than most people. I decided to create an article about composition, balance, color, and depth within your reef aquarium. I really hope this can help some of you out to create your dream looking reef that is pictured in your head. Once you have your tank in front of you with your rock, most people tend to blank out and just throw the aquascape together with little to no thought. When you search through the internet looking at the amazing reefs that you only dream of having, there’s one thing they have in common. Composition, balance, color, and depth. If you think you’re not capable of pulling off this effect in your tank, you are wrong. Once you understand the basics it will come natural to you. I have never written a article or done anything like this, so bear with me.

 

Lets focus on your Rock work first. The first thing that you see, but do not notice in pictures of your dream reef, is the placement of the rocks and exactly why it is so appealing to you. Well, For the most part it’s a simple answer really. The rule of thirds. The rule of thirds is a compositional technique for making art more interesting and dynamic. This does apply to reef aquascaping also. Look at your reef as a piece of living art. Take your time with this process and really plan it out. Your goal here is to not center your main structures. Picture a tic tac toe board.

 

rule_of_thirds_graph.png

 

There’s 4 points where the lines intersect with each other. Your goal is to hit those points. You want the overall look to be off center to throw the viewers eyes all over instead of just right in the middle.

 

rule_of_thirds.jpg

 

The way i see that works best for this is having one rock hit the upper right point and a smaller structure hitting the bottom left. You can place your plates, brains or small rock works in the middle just slighting off center. This creates a balanced reef.

 

Next is the rocks themselves. One thing i see people do a lot is just buy a big rock and put it in the tank. Theres no thought in that and it does not create a natural feel and takes away from the movement and shape or the rock. Why are mountains so amazing to us? Its because they are not a big slab of rock. They have all sorts of movement and depth. Things like points, divots, Certain lines or trees,caves, snow and running water.

 

mountains-wallpaper-6.jpg

 

Its throws our eyes all over of place and that is what the human mind finds attractive. Make sure to incorporate all sorts of movement in your rocks. One thing that will help it to picture the rock structure as a silhouette. If it’s just this big round blob thats not that appealing then you should change it up.Think about how you want your rock to be shaped and do not go with what you bought. Buy some main pieces and some smaller or one to break up with a hammer and epoxy to adhere them together. I think that dry rock is great for this because you can take your sweet old time with no die off to worry about. Dry scape your rock till you are happy. If you do consider all live rock, then look at the rock and make sure it’s not filled up with a bunch of random colors try to find more solid colored rock filled with coraline algae or another plain solid color. It will make your scape look confusing and your coral will be hard to find in the overall scape. Make sure to take a lot of pictures in case you created a scape that you loved but tried something else then you forgot what it was and how it looked before! If you are uncertain of your scape you can always post the pictures on a forum and see what others think. Constructive criticism is a artists greatest tool. You get a chance to see things from other peoples views.

a899a9f8.jpg

 

Great example of all the tips for aquascaping i’ve shared.

 

Depth of field is a photography term but applies to your reef tank. To explain DOF (depth of field) lets go back to basic art class. DOF is created by having a foreground, mid,and background within a design.

 

5401032196_b40afb72aa.jpg

 

What you mainly want to achieve is to have a main rock structure and push it more towards the back of the tank. In my opinion, it’s always good to leave room behind the rock so you can clean the glass especially on clear background tanks. Build off that main structure. Add a peak and have it slope down. Go from big to small and moving the rocks closer to the front. You do not want a straight line or bigger to smaller rocks though. Again you want it to look composed. Make it have a slight curve towards the center of to tank. You can have one big rock work towards the back and have a medium on the opposite side of the thirds point, having the medium rock more center/foreword. Congratulations, you just created DOF! I like to have some small rocks almost right up the the front of the glass. When all is said and done you should have a back ground structure, a mid (whether it be a coral or a medium rock) to the Forward structure. You need to make sure your going from big to small going from the back to front. I hope that makes sense.

 

Another thing to add is to keep in mind your lighting and how that will hit onto your rock work. The taller the rock work the more light will hit it and the brighter it will be. Light will become important when the reef is started up. Consider that within your aquascape.

 

Once you have your aquascape done, then what? The rock work needs to have flow and correct composition of color introduced. Coral placement is just as important, if not more important then rock work. You need to throw the viewers eye where you want it. One big thing to remember is you do not want a group of green, a group of red and, a group of blue. You have to pretend you cannot touch the same color together. If you have two red coral then place one of the far left and on on the right. The trick is to throw the color throughout the tank. That is one rule for contrast and composition. One thing also is keep in mind where you want the viewers eye to gravitate. Keep that coral more alone and make sure to not have it clash with other colors. Having a bright red coral, surrounded by blue coral will make that coral pop and draw your eye to it. If you want to get very technical as if you were painting you can look at a color wheel.

 

486465_thumbnail.jpg

 

Look at the complimentary colors. Yellow will pop the most in purple, green in red ,and blue in orange. having those colors next to each other will draw the viewer into that section of color.

 

cpfarm.jpg

 

DSC_0041-1.jpg

 

large.jpg

 

Keep in mind your space within the reef. Make sure to have equal positive and negative space, unless you want to go with the minimalist approach. Then do about 35% positive (rocks, corals) and 60% negative ( open swimming space)

 

Theres no how to on aquascaping but theres lots of tips and tricks. Some people may not agree with my views and prefer other methods of “rockwall” or piling rocks into the thank and that is fine. It’s all opinion based and not everyone likes the same stuff and that’s perfectly fine. I DO NOT own the pictures provided or claim them to be mine. They are used to provide examples of what i am explaining. I hope this write up has helped someone and my countless hours of studying art paid off.

 

If you have any questions feel free to ask them and I will do my best to help you out.

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Being a artist for fun and profession, I see things different than most people. I decided to create a article about composition, balance, color, and depth within your reef aquarium. I really hope this can help some of you out to create your dream looking reef that is pictured in your head. Once you have your tank in front of you with your rock, most people tend to blank out and just throw the aquascape together with little to no thought. When you search through the internet looking at the amazing reefs that you only dream of having, there’s one thing they have in common. Composition, balance, color, and depth. If you think you’re not capable of pulling off this effect in your tank, you are wrong. Once you understand the basics it will come natural to you. I have never written a article or done anything like this, so bear with me.

 

 

Lets focus on your Rock work first. The first thing that you see, but do not notice in pictures of your dream reef, is the placement of the rocks and exactly why it is so appealing to you. Well, For the most part it’s a simple answer really. The rule of thirds. The rule of thirds is a compositional technique for making art more interesting and dynamic. This does apply to reef aquascaping also. Look at your reef as a piece of living art. Take your time with this process and really plan it out. Your goal here is to not center your main structures. Picture a tic tac toe board.

rule_of_thirds_graph.png

There’s 4 points where the lines intersect with each other. Your goal is to hit those points. You want the overall look to be off center to throw the viewers eyes all over instead of just right in the middle.

rule_of_thirds.jpg

The way i see that works best for this is having one rock hit the upper right point and a smaller structure hitting the bottom left. You can place your plates, brains or small rock works in the middle just slighting off center. This creates a balanced reef.

 

 

Next is the rocks themselves. One thing i see people do a lot is just buy a big rock and put it in the tank. Theres no thought in that and it does not create a natural feel and takes away from the movement and shape or the rock. Why are mountains so amazing to us? Its because they are not a big slab of rock. They have all sorts of movement and depth. Things like points, divots, Certain lines or trees,caves, snow and running water.

mountains-wallpaper-6.jpg

Its throws our eyes all over of place and that is what the human mind finds attractive. Make sure to incorporate all sorts of movement in your rocks. One thing that will help it to picture the rock structure as a silhouette. If it’s just this big round blob thats not that appealing then you should change it up.Think about how you want your rock to be shaped and do not go with what you bought. Buy some main pieces and some smaller or one to break up with a hammer and epoxy to adhere them together. I think that dry rock is great for this because you can take your sweet old time with no die off to worry about. Dry scape your rock till you are happy. If you do consider all live rock, then look at the rock and make sure it’s not filled up with a bunch of random colors try to find more solid colored rock filled with coraline algae or another plain solid color. It will make your scape look confusing and your coral will be hard to find in the overall scape. Make sure to take a lot of pictures in case you created a scape that you loved but tried something else then you forgot what it was and how it looked before! If you are uncertain of your scape you can always post the pictures on a forum and see what others think. Constructive criticism is a artists greatest tool. You get a chance to see things from other peoples views.

 

 

a899a9f8.jpg

Great example of all the tips for aquascaping i’ve shared.

 

 

Depth of field is a photography term but applies to your reef tank. To explain DOF (depth of field) lets go back to basic art class. DOF is created by having a foreground, mid,and background within a design.

5401032196_b40afb72aa.jpg

What you mainly want to achieve is to have a main rock structure and push it more towards the back of the tank. In my opinion, it’s always good to leave room behind the rock so you can clean the glass especially on clear background tanks. Build off that main structure. Add a peak and have it slope down. Go from big to small and moving the rocks closer to the front. You do not want a straight line or bigger to smaller rocks though. Again you want it to look composed. Make it have a slight curve towards the center of to tank. You can have one big rock work towards the back and have a medium on the opposite side of the thirds point, having the medium rock more center/foreword. Congratulations, you just created DOF! I like to have some small rocks almost right up the the front of the glass. When all is said and done you should have a back ground structure, a mid (whether it be a coral or a medium rock) to the Forward structure. You need to make sure your going from big to small going from the back to front. I hope that makes sense.

 

 

Another thing to add is to keep in mind your lighting and how that will hit onto your rock work. The taller the rock work the more light will hit it and the brighter it will be. Light will become important when the reef is started up. Consider that within your aquascape.

 

 

Once you have your aquascape done, then what? The rock work needs to have flow and correct composition of color introduced. Coral placement is just as important, if not more important then rock work. You need to throw the viewers eye where you want it. One big thing to remember is you do not want a group of green, a group of red and, a group of blue. You have to pretend you cannot touch the same color together. If you have two red coral then place one of the far left and on on the right. The trick is to throw the color throughout the tank. That is one rule for contrast and composition. One thing also is keep in mind where you want the viewers eye to gravitate. Keep that coral more alone and make sure to not have it clash with other colors. Having a bright red coral, surrounded by blue coral will make that coral pop and draw your eye to it. If you want to get very technical as if you were painting you can look at a color wheel.

486465_thumbnail.jpg

Look at the complimentary colors. Yellow will pop the most in purple, green in red ,and blue in orange. having those colors next to each other will draw the viewer into that section of color.

cpfarm.jpg

DSC_0041-1.jpg

large.jpg

 

 

 

 

Keep in mind your space within the reef. Make sure to have equal positive and negative space, unless you want to go with the minimalist approach. Then do about 35% positive (rocks, corals) and 60% negative ( open swimming space)

 

 

Theres no how to on aquascaping but theres lots of tips and tricks. Some people may not agree with my views and prefer other methods of “rockwall” or piling rocks into the thank and that is fine. It’s all opinion based and not everyone likes the same stuff and that’s perfectly fine. I DO NOT own the pictures provided or claim them to be mine. They are used to provide examples of what i am explaining. I hope this write up has helped someone and my countless hours of studying art paid off.

 

 

If you have any questions feel free to ask them and i will do my best to help you out.

 

awesome write up!! thank you! Whats your suggestion on scaping a 7.5gal cube? would 'towering' look better or more of a mountain shape in the center with 50/50 positive and negative space?

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Nice write up and examples. Lots of people struggle with this, and are never fully satisfied with their reef tanks.

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awesome write up!! thank you! Whats your suggestion on scaping a 7.5gal cube? would 'towering' look better or more of a mountain shape in the center with 50/50 positive and negative space?

 

Hello, I firmly believe that the same rules apply to any size tank. The only difference is going to be scale. Instead of huge rocks break them up to create a smaller version of the beautiful reef tanks you see. There's other things to try to still get that "look" In a cube the issue is theres not enough length to do multiple structures. Thats when you only do one. Rule of thirds still applies but only use one intersected point instead of two.

 

aquascape2.jpg

Here is a great example. It is only on one point with one main structure. notice the movement and shapes of the rocks. Great play with shadows and highlights. If you look at the one structure they still managed to hit two intersecting points. Thats what makes this look go good to the eye. Make sure to "taper" off the structure for that same Depth of field you need to aim for, also for maximum coral space :)

Edited by VeganBrian
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Nice write up and examples. Lots of people struggle with this, and are never fully satisfied with their reef tanks.

 

Thank you! I do agree and I am happy to help people out!

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The best way is to pay some one else to do it. I really suck at aquascape. LOL :D :D :D

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The best way is to pay some one else to do it. I really suck at aquascape. LOL :D :D :D

 

No way! the setup is the most creative and visual part of your setup. You CAN do it. Just study the steps and it will eventually come naturally. You will start looking at your favorite tanks and start seeing theses techniques used by others. If you have any questions feel free to post them and i will do my best to answer. :)

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So In less than a day I have had had multiple requests from this, and a couple other reefing sites to go into aquascaping certain shaped tanks and how to construct rock formations. I’m going to do my best to go a little bit further into this subject. I will use diagrams i created and pictures from my personal tank build that i am working on right now.

 

The First thing to consider is something i did not mention. That is Flow. I do not mean flow (GPH) i mean flow artistically. Does it follow the correct lines that flow within the tank itself. Just because you have a square tank does not mean theres no curvy lines to follow. I will start off with a few examples of how flow works.

Untitled9.jpg

Untitled14.jpg

 

 

If you notice flow is everywhere and can easily be created out of any shape. You want to follow these basic lines (top view) and that is another way to figure out rock placement. These lines can be changed any way you please as long as your still using the same basic concepts and flow. You can have the flow even start in the middle with the bigger rock, going towards the sides of the tank to the little rocks. its infinite. FLOW FLOW FLOW. Cannot stress that enough. Looking at your scape from the top will help a lot to the overall look in the front view.

 

 

 

Next thing i will discuss is How to create unique structures with plain rock. First you need a chisel, hammer, and maybe a saw even. each tool provides a different cut and shape. Using the chisel helps you be more precise and accurate when you hit it with a hammer. When you use just a hammer you’re just smashing that rock and its a gamble how it will form in the end. And a saw allows you to keep the form of the rock and create a perfectly flat surface on the bottom helping the rock not be all jagged on when your trying to make it have a certain look (ex. a lean in the rock). Using plastic coat hangers, egg crate, aquarium safe epoxy, and superglue will be needed in the end to “finalize” your new scape.

 

So you have your boring globs of rock. For me, thinking, and pulling up reference Is the first step. Look at your rock, then look at one of the tanks that inspire you. Try to mimic, but not copy a certain part of their rock work. Make it your own though. Start breaking out the tools and create those pieces. You use all sorts of shapes and size rocks to create a structure that looks like one. Try and utalize as much of your rock as possible. You can even stick the little pieces over the epoxy to hide it. Remember to make the formation look as organic and real as possible.

 

_MG_5271-Version2.jpg

Untitled10.jpg

_MG_5277.jpg

Untitled11.jpg

_MG_5276.jpg

Untitled12.jpg

_MG_5275.jpg

Untitled13.jpg

 

_MG_5274.jpg

_MG_5272.jpg

 

Like i mentioned before, if you create a formation that you’re not sure about but want to try others, TAKE PICTURES! you would be surprised how easy it is to forget what that one you liked originally looked like after a few hours of trying to make it the best you can. Just like in art class, make sure to step back and take a good look at it from a distance. It really does help a lot. Also, look at the top view and even the sides. Overhangs create shadows and so does leaning certain rocks. Take that into account to create dynamic contrast within the structure once its lit. Take pictures of your final decided rock work in case you knock it over while you epoxy it together. I either drill the plastic rod into the rocks for extra support or epoxy them well hidden behind the rock work and onto the egg crate. You will never have to worry about hitting it and knocking it over while doing tank maintenance.

Another thing to remember is the use of sand and how it is going to affect you caves and ledges you created. Make your smallest rocks in the foreground big enough that your sand will not completely cover them and ruin the downward effect.

 

I hope this helps you further understand the Trick to aquascaping! :)

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Someone needs to sticky this

+1

 

Thank you for posting this, very helpful!

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+234293857239847234823423 STICKY!!!!!!

 

Thank you for this. I cant wait to show this to my boyfriend who is studying to become an art teacher hee hee.

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+234293857239847234823423 STICKY!!!!!!

 

Thank you for this. I cant wait to show this to my boyfriend who is studying to become an art teacher hee hee.

 

These are some great tips! When I did my aquascaping I went through like 4 different renditions before I was satisfied with what I had. I have a small 12g tank so I was a little limited to what I could out in but I think I made it work.

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Thanks everyone! I'm glad the time spent writing it was worth it. :)

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Thanks everyone! I'm glad the time spent writing it was worth it. :)

 

Thank you for posting this! I am learning a lot of that in studio art right now and never really thought about applying it to my tank! This needs to be a sticky! It is a bit too late for my BC29 but once I get my 40B set up I will be reading this many more times!

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Excellent writeup! I'm no artist but 30 minutes, some frustration, and beers later I came up with this scape for my 40B.

 

2012-09-16_13-07-50_408.jpg

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Thank you for posting this! I am learning a lot of that in studio art right now and never really thought about applying it to my tank! This needs to be a sticky! It is a bit too late for my BC29 but once I get my 40B set up I will be reading this many more times!

 

Thats great to hear! It's pretty insane how much of what you learn in Art can be applied so well to reef tanks. :)

 

Excellent writeup! I'm no artist but 30 minutes, some frustration, and beers later I came up with this scape for my 40B.

 

2012-09-16_13-07-50_408.jpg

 

It looks great! I like your fancy 3/4ths angle shot :P. Take a picture straight on so we can see the build :happydance:

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Figure I'd add this that I made...only took me over 100 + hours of pain staking work

post-72573-0-59907400-1375723011_thumb.jpg

post-72573-0-63430600-1375723053_thumb.jpg

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Figure I'd add this that I made...only took me over 100 + hours of pain staking work

That's insane! Well done.

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That's insane! Well done.
best part is ill be able to hold close to 50 frag plugs.every hole that was drilled for them where also drilled to hide the frag plugs ( I hate the way frag plugs look)oh and this is going in a 34 solana!

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One rock is all one needs for a proper aqua scape. Nuff said.

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insanely helpful! :bowdown: i have been looking for something like this for a long time. it is easy to say just do this, but to explain why it works so well is another thing. i will be using this info to scape my biocube 29 as soon as my finger is healed. (cut the nail off with a chef's knife tonight :owned: OUCH! dont think salt water will make it feel better.) Thanks a million.

omgomgomg PLEASE STICKY THIS! omgomgomg



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