What is Dutch Style Aquarium?

There are only two significant and popular “aquascaping” models: Nature and the Dutch models. 

However, the Dutch Style Aquarium model is the more popular of the two.

A Dutch-style aquarium uses different types of plants and lush arrangements to create an aqua space. It usually has plants with leaves of different sizes and colors.

What is Dutch Style Aquarium

It’s called dutch style as it was started in the Netherlands but then became popular in the entire world.

People compare the Dutch Style Aquarium to the heavily planted underwater English garden. 

How to Design a Dutch Style Aquarium?

Rocks, ornaments, and driftwood have no place in its design. Instead, the design centers around plants. 

When designing a Dutch-style aquarium, you have to make sure it has enough depth, is simple, and is harmonious. The focus of this style is the growth of the plants, and you choose to arrange them.

You can design this aquarium with no equipment or just a few pieces of equipment. You can also include lighting, fertilizers, and some plant-suitable substrate, like laterite. 

Dutch models need not resemble any specific design. 

Instead, the careful arrangement of the plants compliments themselves in shape and color. It also creates a beautiful perspective in the aquarium.

Also read: Top 10 Low-Maintenance Aquarium Plants

What You Should Know Before You Create a Dutch Style Aquarium

Anyone who wants to invest in this aquarium model must have a thorough knowledge of aquatic plants. 

Such extensive knowledge will include planting, grouping, and combining these plants to create a masterpiece. 

With the Dutch Style Aquarium, you should make room for high density and contrast. You can also be creative with your use of color and texture. Your technique must be correct and flexible.

Apart from ensuring the technique is correct, you will have to group the plants in a registered manner. 

Basically, you should plant and put together individual plant species. You should avoid planting them randomly. 

Doing this will create a more beautiful and harmonious aquascape, as you will have various plants with various shapes and colors. 

The Dutch Style Aquarium is very demanding on the issue of maintenance. 

You must have planned it long before you design, and it requires regular trimming and pruning. 

Anyone who owns this type of aquarium must be ready to commit and be highly involved. It can be tasking, but ultimately worth it.

What is the Primary Technique for the Dutch-style Aquarium?

In designing the Dutch-style aquarium, you develop in thirds. That is, you work on the front, center, and back of the aquarium. 

Slow-growth plants will most likely grow in the front third of the aquarium tank, leaving no substrate exposed. However, this is if you plant almost 100% of the substrate.

In the center of the tank, you plant medium-height plants, while the high growth plants feature in the back. 

You can also increase the appearance of depth by terracing the substrate. 

You can achieve this by raising the substrate or using materials under it. You can also do both to gain a thorough “terracing” look. 

The design technique inspires the look of the aquarium. Take, for instance, you place an off-center piece in the center of the tank. 

Suppose you were to place a raised substrate towards the back, flanking this piece. You will have a design that resembles a flowing hillside landscape or aquascape.

If you were to place large stem plants in the back segment of the tank, you would create depth. This will also create contrast. 

Not only can this be done at the back, but you can do this at the center. However, this time it is with color variations.

Since terracing conveys more depth with this model, it is prevalent, alongside the rule of thirds, among Dutch-style aquarium specialists. 

Using these forms helps to emphasize the focal points of the aquarium. If you wish, you can highlight the focal point with a red or large plant.

Contrast is also vital in this model. You should utilize it to break the high density that is found with the Dutch style. 

You achieve contrast by varying colors, leaf heights, and textures. 

You should also use spaces well to create pathways, deepening the perspective of the aquarium.

Some Common Plants of the Dutch Aquarium

Fast-growing plants are the best for the Dutch aquarium setup, primarily stem plants. Their leaves also have varying colors and shapes.

To ensure a good color contrast, you might want to experiment with three different species of plant per foot. 

Moss walls and cork backing are also excellent choices for your aquarium. Commonly used plants include:

  • Taurus census and Lobelia cardinals: these plants grow very low, and they form the pathways, thereby creating a deep perspective.
  • Hygrophila corymbosa and Limnophila aquatica: they are large plants and are very attractive visually.
  • Cryptocoryne species: these aquatic plants are small, and they provide contrast because of their dark colors. Examples are lutea, lucens, walkeri, among many others.

Other plants include Ammania, Rotala, which are utilized for their color highlights. Tiger Lotus is utilized for its size, and Java moss is often used to create contrast.

Sometimes, they can be used as the central point of the aquarium.

Types of Fishes You Can Use for Your Aquarium

Fishes compliment the aquarium and are very crucial in making it look fabulous. You should, however, fill all three parts with fishes that emphasize their beauty.

Schools of fishes that you may want to consider include fishes like the Congo tetras or the Angelfish.

These fishes will help to emphasize the design of the aquarium.

Some Equipment You Need to Design the Aquarium

There are no differences in the equipment utilized for the traditional aquarium and the Dutch-style aquarium.

They include:

  • Lighting: You can utililize fluorescent lights in your aquarium
  • CO2 addition: You should inject this in the 15 to 20 parts per million range
  • Substrate system: Clay and gravel (small-sized). You can use laterite in place of clay.
  • Fertilizers: little quantitiesutilize of iron and minerals constantly
  • Filtration systems: Canister filters or sumps

How to Set Up Your Dutch Style Aquarium

The steps below should help you set up a standard Dutch Style Aquarium. They include:

  • You can use an 80 x 45cm/42 x 18 x 18” optiwhite braceless rimless aquarium. The Tropica Plant substrate and capsules will also be a great addition. They provide the plants’ roots with many nutrients. The substrate gets the nutrient from the water while the capsules contain these nutrients.
  • You should ensure that the base layer has a small grain size, about 1-3mm. Sands with this grain size will allow for straightforward planting and root growth. Also, because of the plants covering it, algae cannot overlay the sand.
  • Use some cut sections of a drinking straw to mark out the sand. It is crucial that you have a plan for the design of the aquarium. The plan should consider the size of the plant, color, and texture. It should also project the growth rate and development of the plant. 
  • Fill the aquarium tank to half slowly. Doing this will allow you to plant without having to spray. If the lighting and nutrients levels are correct, you will also be able to grow more species. You should make sure that the sand won’t affect the water chemistry.
  • Get creative with the front of your third. You can mix classic with contemporary species. Some species of flowers help you create pathways and streets, thereby increasing the depth perspective of the aquarium. Flowers you can use for the foreground are Lobelia cardinalis, Pogostemon holders, Staurogyne repens, among others.
  • You can create your focal point in the mid-ground. You should also make use of contrast a lot at the center. Some flowers you can use here are Cryptocoryne wendtii’ brown’, Ludwigia glandulosa, Pogostemon erectus, among others. The arrangement of these flowers is up to you and what you want to achieve.
  • At the back, you can plant Vallisneria nana, Hygrophila difformis, Myriophyllum mattogrossense, Bacopa caroliniana, among many others. You can experiment with textures and colors here, which would create a great background.
  • At this point, you will have filled up the tank. You should maintain a temperature of 25oc/77oF to ensure that you protect all the delicate plant species. Make sure to fill slowly to avoid substrate clouding, especially if the base layer is disturbed. Remove all floating leaves and drinking straws that might form as debris.
  • Add a black background for a contrast effect. Also, make sure to fit the right filter, especially one that would create circulation without excess turbulence. Ensure to fit a heater, preferably 200W, and a pressurized carbon dioxide system with solenoid and ladder diffuser. The aquarium should be cycled and constructed well before you introduce any fish or water animal.


It can be very difficult to sustain a Dutch-style aquarium since there are various plants, each behaving uniquely. You will have to commit additional time to care for it.

You should clean the aquarium, remove accumulated debris, clean the filters, prune, and replant where necessary, regularly.

Make sure to have all the essential equipment to build a standard and well-equipped aquarium. You should also ensure that all the parts are well fitted to avoid problems later.

The process can become tedious, but you will have an organized, clean, and beautiful aquarium if done right.

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