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By keeping the aquascape simple with a small number of plant species, you can create an elegant, picturesque and natural looking scene. There is beauty in simplicity. Many people call this a minimalistic aquascape.
A minimalistic aquascape to me is like shouting without yelling. It is the stoic, strong oak tree that is an island in a grassy pasture. The golden dessert sand dunes against the back drop of a red summer’s dawn sky. Nature is full of countless examples of the sheer awe in simplicity. It is no surprise then that some people have been successful at turning this into an art form in the aquarium.
Minimalistic art forms in the aquarium
Different forms of aquascaping can incorporate this concept. The nature-scene style takes a snap shot representation of a recognizable scene from nature such as a mountain meadow, a dark forest, a dry stream- bed, and make it appear as a believable true underwater landscape. The Iwagumi style of aquascaping takes principals of the Iwagumi Japanese landscape and gardening philosophy and applies it to the aquarium. The arrangement of rocks is the key to the design along with a small number of plant species arranged in a simple but elegant form around the stones. A biotope representation that is meant to represent an actual enviorment , has a small number of plant species strategically placed to be artful as well as true to form.
Create your own form and flow
You do not have to be an artist to create your own minimalistic style. James Portway created his with little effort. Only two plants are used: Hemianthus callitrichoides and Dwarf Hairgrass, (Eleocharis). Hemianthus callitrichoides , (HC) is small leafed plant that hugs the substrate creating a pillowy carpet. The same effect may be created using Glossostigma, a clover like carpet plant.
Wood, rocks, and other objects often referred to as the ‘hardscape”, play an important role in the minimalistic aquascape. The hardscape and negative space become the key element of the whole visual impact of the aquascape. What would James Portway’s aquascape be like without the rocks? Hardscape objects may be dominate in the aquascape or play a submissive role providing obscure detail and subtlety. It all depends on the big picture and how everything ties together.
Creating a field with a rock or wood formation is an easy aquascape for a beginner and very picturesque , as is wood covered in plants as earlier discussed. Anubias, ferns and moss are hardy, resilient and grow naturally on wood. With just those three plants one can create a compelling scene ripped from the pages of a nature magazine. The only limitation is your own imagination, not the number of plant species.
If you want to try something more like a traditional garden than a grassy field or wood piles, a minimalistic approach can be done by grouping a small number of plant species. What makes it interesting is how the plants are grouped and how the groups interact. Take a look at the photo by Norbert Sabat. Just a small number of plant species consisting of stem plants and moss is used to create a stunning design. To look at it, it appears simple and yet the contrast and depth of field and how the plants are trimmed is all very precise. Only a person with artistic awareness can pull that off.
People are drawn into looking at something that appears simple but at the same time very finely detailed. It is soothing, relaxing, but engaging. It may stir memories or recognizable images that has a strong personal connection for the observer.
A minimalistic approach to aquarium gardening is a way for someone to explore and experiment with their artistic nature, but for the plant enthusiast who’s zest for plants is like a child in a candy store, minimalisim is impossible!
Plants discussed here
Microsorum (Java Fern)
Vesicularia dubyana, (Java moss)
Cryptocoryne wendtii, lucens, lutea, beckettii