know its texture—many times you can
just tell the differences visually. There are
several different textures in the aquarium.
For example moss has a fuzzy carpet look,
while the leaves of an Amazon sword plant
are smooth and veined, and those of Rotala
wallichii or Mayaca fluviatilis are like furry
tails. Wood is usually smooth; rocks can be
smooth or rough; and gravel can be sharp,
smooth, or fine (like sand).
right. Often in an asymmetrical design
there is one large element balanced by
several smaller ones. Aquarium designs
are much more likely to be asymmetrically
balanced. Balance is not only achieved by
the size of the elements, but also by their
colors and positions.
consider the proportions of the elements
to each other, you should also consider
proportion in terms of the size of your
aquarium to the elements you include in
it. Generally, small plants and decorations
look better in smaller aquariums, while
large aquariums may look empty with only
a few small plants and decorations.
Movement can be literal or compositional.
Literal movement is just that—things that
really move. The wave of the plants in the
water current, the bubbles coming up the
water column, and the fish, shrimp, and
snails that live in your little underwater
garden all move and create interest.
Compositional movement refers to how
your eyes look at the elements. Careful
placement and planning can influence the
direction the eyes follow. A large bright
object like a big red Nymphaea species in
the front of your tank will probably catch
the viewer’s eyes first. How you arrange
items in your aquarium directs the visual
flow for the viewer.
Proportion relates to the relative size of
the elements in your aquarium. You can
use proportion to help you achieve balance
in your aquarium. Not only should you
Dominance refers to the amount of
emphasis different elements are given.
This is also sometimes called emphasis.
Principles of Design
Principles of design are also sometimes
called “design rules,” and these are basically
the concepts that describe what you can do
with your elements. Principles of design can
include: balance, proportion, dominance,
unity, and contrast.
Wood can make your aquarium look more natural, and you can use it to bring in line, texture, color,
and to help define space.
There are basically two types of balance:
symmetrical and asymmetrical. There are
several ways to create a symmetrical piece.
You can have exactly the same elements
on both sides of a central line, which is
known as bilateral symmetry. Or, you can
do the same thing around a central point,
which is called radial symmetry. Finally,
with approximate symmetry you can use
different elements that have the same
visual weight. For a symmetrical layout
in the aquarium, approximate symmetry
is usually used. Approximate symmetry is
used with layouts that have a central plant
mountain, or a central valley with plants
on each side.
Asymmetrical balance achieves a sense
of harmony even though the elements are
different. This type of balance is harder
to define specifically, and it is more about
looking at something and seeing if it feels