Aquarium advice

How to Make Your Aquascape Long Lasting

Schooling fish in a planted aquarium
Aquascape lifespan

Aquascape lifespan is something which is on the mind of a lot of hobbyists when they setup an aquascape. They have spent months maintaining their tank, growing plants and keeping water parameters in check for it to finally look how they imagined when they first setup the tank. Well now you want to keep it looking its best! Once your aquascape has reached its potential, I would advise you continue to maintain your aquarium as normal, this means water changes, testing parameters and trimming back plants. But it is common for some aquascapers to regularly rescape their tanks often as they enjoy the process and the change in environment. Whilst there is nothing wrong with this some aquascapers long for a more permanent scape and perhaps want to focus more on the fish. In this article I will go over how to create a long lasting aquascape that could last years if not decades!


Reasons for creating a long lasting aquascape


The reasoning for creating a more permanent aquascape differs among fish keepers. This may never suit an avid aquascaper who enjoys the regular change up but there are also plenty of hobbyists that aim for a long term setup. Some fish keepers are more fish focused meaning the aquascape takes more of a backseat, therefore the upheaval caused by a rescape is not normally desired. Some hobbyists are focused on breeding fish and have created a species only setup, once the fish have started breeding the last thing you want to do is stress out the parents and fry by moving things around. Some people are used to long term aquascapes, perhaps they keep Tanganyikan Cichlids and have no plants in the tank meaning there is usually little reason to redo the aquascape. Lastly some people are perfectionists and once they have created their perfect aquascape they do not want to change it.

Long term success


So, depending on the style of aquascape you are setting up there are a few things to keep in mind. A high tech heavily planted tank can be hard to maintain in the long term without replacing substrates and plants over time. My personal experience has been that heavily planted tanks seem to have a lifespan of around 2-3 years with no alterations or replacement plants, although I am sure you can find people who have managed to keep them for longer. I find that after a few years no matter how well you maintain a heavily planted aquascape it normally starts to look tired, troublesome algae takes hold and plants mature or become leggy after a few years. Although you can maintain a heavily planted aquascape indefinitely by making periodical replacements to substrate and plants this can disturb the aquascape a fair bit! The easier option for long term success is by setting up a low tech sparsely planted aquascape. Rock, wood, gravel and sand will not degrade or need to be replaced over time. If your aquascape only has a few epiphyte plants and a few slow growing plants like Cryptocoryne it will be fair easier to change these years down the line if needed when compared to a heavily planted with a carpet for example. Another option is setup the aquascape with out plants at all, hardscape can last decades in an aquarium without intervention and you can easily create some impactful hardscape only aquascapes.


Let’s look at how to put a plan together for long term success. The tank itself is important, ensure it is big enough long term for your fish when fully grown, the last thing you want is to have to upgrade the tank size. Substrate is the next piece of the puzzle to look at. While aqua soils are fantastic and most of the time necessary for a heavily planted high tech tank, these soils do eventually breakdown and the nutrient benefits start to wear of. Therefore, invest in options which will not break down; sand and gravel with root tabs can still work as an effective substrate for most hardy plants. Also keep in mind epiphyte plants are your fiend when it comes to keeping a long term aquascape as they don’t require substrate and are very easily replaced with no disturbance to the aquascape. Stem plants which spread and grow fast can over grow a tank within a few years, so it is worth thinking twice about adding lots of these if you want your aquascape to look the same in 10 years’ time. Even after being trimmed back stems can become wide and surface roots may appear, replacing these is usually quite a tricky process as the roots will have spread all over the tank. Rock and wood are both great choices for hardscape which should not change much over the years. However, it is worth mentioning that wood will very slowly break down, but this usually takes decades to become noticeable. Some species of fish will eat wood which will quickly cause the wood to disappear.




With these tips and a realistic maintenance schedule we wish you the best of luck creating a long term aquascape that will last decades. We stock a variety of substrates, hardscape materials and hardy plants to help you create the aquascape of your dreams. Please contact us if you have any questions or leave a comment. Our friendly team will be happy to help!


By Alasdair McPhail

Reading next

Aquarium with water and a planted attached to wood
Afican cichlids from Lake Tanagnyika called Frontosa swimming in a hardscape only aquarium

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