In the Nature Aquarium, various layout patterns are created by selectively using natural materials like rocks and riftwood, as seen in the rock-based iwagumi layouts and other aquascapes with stunning driftwood presented in past issues of
this magazine. And new materials have created the opportunities for
new layout patterns.
For example, river rocks and petrified wood used to be the main
staples of early iwagumi layouts. The introduction of mountain rocks
such as Manten-seki and Seiryu-seki (now called Ryuo-seki) made it
possible to produce more wild or dramatic expressions and changed
the impression of iwagumi layouts greatly.
As for driftwood, the softer reddish brown Malaysian variety was
most commonly used in the past. The driftwood with finer branches
found in the Amazon and other tropical regions widened the range
of expression greatly for driftwood-based layouts. Fine branching
driftwood tends to be darker in color and renders a natural
impression to a layout all on its own. Arranging the pieces in a radial
pattern can produce a dramatic layout, and it is suitable for an open-top aquarium in which the tips of the driftwood protrude from the
Availability of Materials
The production of a Nature Aquarium layout begins with the selection
and combination of layout materials such as these rocks and pieces of
driftwood. The materials that can be used in a layout depend on the
country and region in which one lives. Although the aforementioned
materials commonly used in Nature Aquariums are easy to obtain
in Japan, it may not be as easy to find them in other countries. This
does not mean that a layout cannot be produced, however, as you can
produce a layout using the materials available to you.
Many aquatic plant layouts are submitted to the annual International
Aquatic Plants Layout Contest from all over the world, and the Grand
Prix winner—as well as all the other top-ranking layout designers—
always uses outstanding materials. Some of these prize-winning
layouts are made using materials that are only found in the countries
in which they were created.
You can increase the flexibility of your expression and create a
work with a novel impression by using easily obtainable materials
rather than trying to use materials of limited availability, the shape
and size of which can be of limited variety. Although natural shapes
and textures are important features for the materials commonly used
in the Nature Aquarium, the availability of the materials in various
sizes and large quantities is also especially important, as one should
select them according to the size of the aquarium and the image the
aquascaper has in mind for the expression of the layout.
And there are also other considerations to keep in mind. For
example, one of the reasons that petrified wood is no longer used very
often is that it is difficult to create a change in a layout with it, as it
is limited in size and shape. And then there is also the water quality
issue—petrified wood tends to raise the general hardness of water.
Here are some important points for selecting each layout material:
Thinly branched driftwood is a layout
material with a wide range of expression.
This layout utilizes the natural texture of the
driftwood to create a dramatic impression.
To find an easy-to-use material in your own environment is one of
the joys of aquatic plant layout, and rocks are layout materials that are
easily obtainable anywhere in the world. I am sure that many of you
have used a rock that you picked up yourself in an aquarium.
When you consider rocks as a layout material, try to select rocks of
consistent texture and color. Especially in the case of an iwagumi layout,
the layout appears unnatural if the texture and color of the rocks are