Aquascaping is a unique hobby allying art and biology to create livable ecosystems for plants and fish that also boast stunning landscapes to admire. To accomplish such a task, the aquascape needs to study the placement of hardscape such as wood, rocks, or stones in an aquarium tank while carefully selecting plants and fish breeds that will live and fit best together inside the tank.
The aquascaping hobby relies heavily on the use of equipment and consumables aquarium tanks, hardscape, plants, CO2 injectors, fertilizer, the list goes on.
However, one simple piece of equipment that can tremendously help you become a better aquascape in less time and by spending less money is commonly left out: The aquascape box.
Things you need to know Scape box
Indeed while not as glamorous as CO2 injectors or foggers; You will learn why this box can help you save both time and money, and by the end of this article, you will surely get one considering all the benefits it brings no matter your aquascaping skill level.
If you’re familiar with aquascaping, then you probably know that one of the core aspects of it is planning. A successful aquascape will plan everything before laying a single stone down. Aquascape boxes are great because they allow you to plan even further and easier than with a pen and paper.
What is a Scape box in an aquascape aquarium?
A scape box is a very simple piece of aquascaping equipment. It simply is an open box. The main purpose of the scape box is to be able to place things inside it easily and being able to make changes on the fly.
The scape box essentially is an aquarium tank without water inside and without front glass. Scape boxes come in various materials, although it’s not a concern since it will only be used to plan your layout.
Lots of aquascapers find that this hobby to be a continuous process; you will always want to experiment with new things, change some minor details, or even add or remove parts of your design.
With all those desires to make changes in your tank, the only problem comes from the fact that changing things in an aquarium tank where both plants and fishes live together is not particularly handy or easy. A scape box aims to solve this problem as it removes the greatest constraints of the aquarium tank: water, plants, and fishes.
Who can use a Scape box in an aquascape aquarium?
While scape boxes aren’t as popular as other pieces of equipment, many aquascapers still use them. People from all skill levels can make use of a scape box. Beginner aquascapers usually have plenty of ideas and designs they want to test, but being new to this hobby means they are going to make quite a lot of mistakes before getting it right.
In aquascaping, mistakes can be very costly as everything you use costs money. On a side note, adding things to an aquarium tank or documenting and researching about a certain plant of fish species requires time and focus.
Beginners can enjoy a safe space where they can make mistakes risk-free and be able to try out as many things as they want while ditching the things that don’t work and moving the things that do in the tank. Scape boxes can help more experienced aquascapers as well.
No matter his skill level, a good aquascape will always plan heavily before doing anything to his tank. Aquascape boxes are just another planning tool that allows you to plan in real-time by seeing the result you want.
Even though pen and paper sketches are great because of how quickly they can be done, chances are, if you’re not artistically gifted or if you’re not putting a lot of time into it, you will only get a rough representation of what you want to achieve.
For example, styles that focus more on hardscape like Iwagumi (an aquascape style that relies mainly on rocks and stones) can benefit greatly from a scape box since they can be nearly completed without any water or fish, being able to plan 90% of your design before putting anything in your tank will surely make the task a lot easier.
What can you improve with a scape box aquascape aquarium?
Even though experienced aquascapers make fewer mistakes than beginners, their mistakes will cost more in time and money to fix. Depending on the chosen style, a scape box can even be used to make the design of your aquascape entirely.
Using the rule of thirds
Depending on your skill level, you may or not know the rule of thirds. It’s a rule that is widely used in aquascaping, stating that the human eye finds a landscape more enjoyable to watch if the central focal points are aligned along three vertical and horizontal lines.
It’s crucial to make proper use of this rule to create the best landscape you can. Even if you know about this rule, it can be quite hard to use it properly. This rule may rely heavily on math to create great visuals. You may find yourself relying on a step by step strategy that can be quite costly in time.
While you won’t be able to account for water movements that do play an important role in the rule of thirds, you will still be able to do most of the groundwork in a scape box and save plenty of time.
Creating focal points
Many techniques can be used when trying to create focal points. No matter what technique you’re using, your focal points will mainly depend on the layout of your hardscape, an area where scape boxes can be of great help.
With the help of this box, you will be able to test different focal points by overloading some areas of the landscape with elements and emptying others. Focal points are mainly created by making some areas look busy, and others empty compared to others.
Even if you are artistically gifted, chances are, you won’t be able to create and plan the creation of the focal points of your design with sketches accurately.
Symmetry & Scale
While making good use of focal points and properly applying the rule of thirds goes along way to create a stunning design, it won’t be enough alone. One of the worst things you can find in an aquascape design is symmetry.
Aquascape aquariums are meant to represent natural landscapes, and one thing that is nearly never found in nature is symmetry. Using the scape box, you will need to carefully test your layout and stop any symmetrical design, as this will give a controlled feeling to the environment.
Symmetry can be erased with trial and error, but one basic guideline to follow consists of not having a plant laying in the middle of the tank or two same plants on the edges of the tank as this will create symmetry and ruin the balance of your design. The scale is another crucial thing to get right to create a good design.
A scape box will allow you to experiment with different sizes of hardscape that will influence the location of the focal points and the symmetry in your tank. Hardscape isn’t the only thing you can use to experiment with size. Substrate comes in many different sizes since substrate will occupy a great portion of your tank; choosing the right size for it is crucial.
A great aquascape design will make use of both big parts and smaller ones. You can use a great quantity of fine-grain substrate to carry a big rock while laying around smaller stones to accompany your focal point. What’s important is to try to replicate how a scene would look in nature. For example, smaller rocks are always near big ones.
One thing you can do to make your design look more natural is to get rid of any “perfect” item in it. Usually, anything you will find in nature isn’t going to be perfectly squared or rounded as that is associated with human interaction, try picking less than pristine items and putting them at the center of the attention.
After reading all this, you will most likely think twice about starting a new aquascaping project without a scape box. It’s truly surprising how such a small and simple object as a wooden box can help you design and create stunning aquascaping tanks. Aquascape box is a small investment compared to all the time and stress it will save you.
You should think about trying anything hardscape related in a scape box before doing it in your aquarium tank as even with careful manipulation. You can still make mistakes that can destroy your tank glass or harm your fish and plants.
Scape boxes are the perfect seatbelt that every aquascape should put on when starting a new project, sadly like the seatbelt most aquascapers will wait to make a costly mistake before realizing that they should have used a scape box in the first place.