The origins of the Dutch Style aquarium date back to the early 1900’s, and its principles have not changed since.
What is a Dutch Style Aquarium?
The Dutch Style imitates a heavily planted underwater English garden. Core principles are depth, harmony, and simplicity. The setup centers on plants. Driftwood, rocks, and ornaments are not found in a Dutch Style aquarium. Originally, little to no equipment was used, but today’s versions do include a plant-suitable substrate such as laterite, lights, and fertilizers.
Basic Dutch Style Aquascaping Techniques
The Dutch technique is based on thirds: The front, center, and back of the aquarium.
With almost 100% of the substrate planted, low-growth plants inhabit the front third of the tank, with little to no substrate left exposed.
The center is reserved for medium height plants, while high-growth plants are placed in the back.
Further, “terracing” the substrate increases the appearance of depth. This is easily done by raising the substrate and/or using materials underneath.
An off center piece in the center third for example, flanked by a raised substrate towards the back creates a flowing hillside aquascape.
Large stem plants in the back third create depth and contrast, so does color variations in the center third.
Grouping Individual Plant Species
Equally important to the above is to bunch and group individual plant species rather than to randomly plant them throughout the aquarium. This will create a structured and harmonic aquascape, combining different plants with different shapes and colors.
A school of small fish will round out the Dutch Style aquarium.
Good to Know Before Diving in
The Dutch Style aquarium is more intense in maintenance, requiring constant trimming and pruning. It is also more demanding in upfront planning.
The Dutch Style aquarium is an ongoing creation, which requires an involved and committed hobbyist. While it may not be for everyone, it can be a deeply rewarding exercise in patience.