Rocks and driftwood are the layout materials most characteristic of the Nature Aquarium. The layouts are classified into an iwagumi layout or a driftwood layout depending on the main materials used. However, while an iwagumi layout is one in which only rocks are used as the layout material, a driftwood layout may combine both driftwood and rocks. A combination of driftwood and rocks is quite ffective for expressing a natural feel and a sense of power in a driftwood layout. Although I have produced many layouts that used only driftwood for a layout material in the past, the majority of my recent Nature Aquarium layouts are those that combine driftwood and rocks, with some using more rocks than others. This month I am going to
introduce basic layout methods that
combine rocks and driftwood.
Aquarium: Cube Garden Clear W90 x D45 x
Lighting: NA Lamp 32W x 6, turned on for 10
hours per day
Filter: Super Jet Filter ES-600 (Bio Rio)
Substrate: Aqua Soil Amazonia, Bright Sand,
Power Sand M, Bacter 100, Clear Super,
Tourmaline BC, Penac W/for Aquarium, Penac P
CO2: Pollen Glass Large 30, 4 bubbles per
second via CO2 Beetle Counter (using Tower/20
and CO2 Speed Regulator)
Aeration: For 14 hours after the light is turned
off using Lily Pipe P- 4
Additives: Brighty K; Green Brighty STEP2
Water Change: 1/3 once a week
Water Quality: Temperature 24ºC, pH 7.0, TH
Aquatic Plants: Eleocharis acicularis, Eleocharis
vivipara, Polygonum sp., Fontinalis antipyretica
Fish: Brycinus longipinnis, Otocinclus sp.,
[Note: The hardware itemized above represents the
author’s specific choices; equivalent results may be
obtained with other equipment and accessories—Eds.]
The method that incorporates rocks
into a driftwood layout is suitable for
the Nature Aquarium for two reasons.
The first is to express a natural feel in
the layout, a technique that is learned
from observing natural scenery. Driftwood
often gets caught on a rock of a river bank
while it is carried down the river. It is a
familiar scene in nature. Mosses and ferns
eventually attach to such driftwood and
rocks, creating a sense of the passing of
time. Using rocks in combination with
driftwood is more effective than using
driftwood alone for expressing such a
natural feeling in a layout.
Various rivers exist in nature and their
sceneries and conditions differ greatly;
various combinations of rocks and
driftwood are suitable perhaps for this
reason. Not only rounded river rocks but
also any that are used for an iwagumi
layout, such as sharp-edged rocks that look
like they came from a collapsed cliff or lava
rocks with small indentations, can be used.
Since driftwood is the main feature of a
driftwood layout, the shapes and sizes of
accompanying rocks are not as important,
and so the relatively small rocks left over
from an iwagumi layout can be used in
combination with driftwood.
For example, a natural feeling of a
small river in a tropical rainforest can
be expressed by placing relatively small
lava rocks around driftwood, or a cool
refreshing Japanese river bank can be
expressed with a combination of driftwood
and cool-colored Seiryu-seki rocks. The
impression of a layout can be changed
greatly by changing the types of rocks and
driftwood. In addition, rather than planting
aquatic plants in the foreground that tend
to obscure smaller rocks, using cosmetic
sand is suitable to highlight rocks that are
placed around driftwood.
In a layout with driftwood, the power of a
composition is determined by the angle of the
driftwood, which can be delicately adjusted
A layout with a combination of Seiryu-seki stones and driftwood. The sense of unity between rock
and driftwood is created by arranging smaller-sized rocks and placing additional rocks wrapped
with moss between them.
The other reason for combining driftwood
and rocks is to adjust the angle of the
driftwood and secure its position. One of the
basic techniques in the Nature Aquarium
layout method is to use several driftwood
branches in an arrangement, rather than
just one branch, making it easier to create
a powerful layout and increasing your
options for layout variations.
Driftwood appears unnatural if it is placed
either too vertically or too horizontally.
In the early days I arranged driftwood
branches in delicate angles by supporting
one branch with the next. However,
driftwood shifts easily in water, and during
a water change or when rubbing the wood’s
surface to remove algae, it tends to move.
After some time, the accumulation of such
small movements will cause the impression
of a layout to change greatly.
Instead, driftwood can be supported by
placing rocks around it or on its base.
Using rocks this way allows more flexibility
in angling the driftwood and stabilizes the
arrangement to prevent it from changing