Iwagumi Aquascape For Beginners: Tank Setup, Plants, Rocks & Fish

Iwagumi Aquascape For Beginners: Tank Setup, Plants, Rocks & Fish

What is Iwagumi? Iwagumi is one of the most elegant and straightforward looking aquarium setups that look easy to accomplish but, in reality, is very difficult to achieve.

What does iwagumi mean?

This Japanese method dates back to three decades ago when it was for the first time by Takashi Amano. Iwagumi is very popular among the aquarium lovers and every beginner wants to achieve the Iwagumi Aquascape.

The Iwagumi style follows a very minimalistic approach and it shows the idea of defining more with less. Iwagumi became part of the Japanese culture and has started to be praised worldwide.

Iwagumi Aquascaping Aquarium

We have come up with a 5 step beginner’s approach to Iwagumi Aquascaping for people who want to implement it.

Understanding the Basics

It is very important to understand the basic idea behind Iwagumi, which is to be natural planted tank (Walstad tank) and aesthetic.

Being able to showcase natural beauty through the aquarium and trying to make an atmosphere similar to ocean life as possible is the key point. Despite being the toughest to master Iwagumi is considered everyone’s favorite for a reason.

The reason is its setup, the way everything is organized and at the end the natural beauty it showcases.

Selecting the Suitable Rocks

The most significant role in Iwagumi is played by the rocks in the Iwagumi technique.

Iwagumi Rocks inside tank

How to setup Iwagumi tank?

Every rock which is going to be used has got an important role to play. Selecting the rocks for Iwagumi can be a difficult yet simple task at the same time.

The idea is to pick the rocks from the same area which have similar patterns and textures because of being shaped in the same environment and forces. But not all the rocks should be the same in size, they must be of different sizes.

It is said to have an odd number of rocks to start with, as there is no place of definite symmetry in Iwagumi but it promises an asymmetrical beauty.

Iwagumi Rocks on substrate inside aquarium

If you want to choose some colored rocks, you can but then all of them have to be of the same color. The “Oyaishi” is the largest of all the stones and is placed in a slightly tilted manner.

In order to show the flow of nature and the water, it is tilted towards the direction of the flow of water. Fukuishi, Soeishi, and Suteishi are the names according to the Japanese culture given to the other rocks on the basis of their sizes.

iwagumi stones: Oyaishi, Fukuishi, Soeishi, and Suteishi.

Every piece of rock has got an important and very significant role to play in the picture. Rocks are the center of attraction in the Iwagumi Aquascape.

Plants and their Necessities

Plants are to be chosen very wisely because as described earlier, the center of attraction is the rocks. This means that the plants shouldn’t even attempt to cover them but be in the supporting role of the aquascape.

The second challenge in selecting the plants is the presence of carbon dioxide and sunlight. All the different plants need these essentials for their survival but you need to pick up the ones that need less amount comparatively.

Iwagumi style: rocks and carpet plant

Generally, Carbon Dioxide is injected or sometimes liquid carbon is used as well to complete the CO2 demands of the plants. To complete the sunlight demands a pair of T5 lamps are used. Pogostemon Helferi, Riccia Fluitans are a few recommended plants to be used in Iwagumi aquariums.

Fertilizers are to be used in routine to ensure proper nutrition to your aquatic plants.

Choosing the best fish and shrimp for Iwagumi tank

Yes, it is an aquarium after all and should have fish, but you cannot put any fish into this aquarium. You need to understand that the display of the rocks symbolizes unity and signifies harmony.

You need the fish that live in a group and believe in unity and not the ones that act individually and often split.

Iwagumi tank with tetra neon fish

The main motive of the fishes according to Takashi in Iwagumi tank is to maintain the flow. This flow is somehow connected with life and time that continues to move while everything else sits still.

The idea behind Iwagumi is to establish the connection between life which is beautiful and nature which is more beautiful. The fishes which have gentle and calm behavior and are swift are considered as the best suitable option for Iwagumi.

The recommended fishes are Cardinal Tetras, Rummy Nose Tetras, and Harlequin Rasboras which can be used in the aquascape.

You can choose also some of the best shrimp that can thrive in Iwagumi tank.

Maintenance and Regular Cleaning

It is advised to change the water every day for the first two weeks and also to provide a sufficient amount of fertilizers daily.

It is highly probable that algae formation might start, and it is advised to be very careful and keep an eye for any hint of algae formation.

The glass of the aquarium should be cleaned every week and the filter should be cleaned once in a month. Once the two weeks period has passed it is advised to now change the water twice a week.

The carpet plant at the bottom can start to grow longer and they need to be pruned every once in a while as and when required.

This is how a beginner should start an Iwagumi Aquascape and follow everything mentioned above. A lot of research needs to be done in order to accomplish this successfully.

Sean B.

Hi, My name is Sean. I’m blogging mostly about freshwater and saltwater aquariums, fish, invertebrates, and plants.