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Do you find unusual tank sizes difficult to scape well?

Jack Reilly

10 Jul 2016
I bought the ADA wood cabinet and tank for 45x45x45 cube 4-5 years ago. At the time I thought it would be difficult to scape, but I really wanted the ADA wood cabinet + tank and it's all they had in store. It turns out it was hard to scape, especially for a beginner.

A few years later I sold it for a song and ordered the 60p ADA tank and ADA wooden cabinet (ridiculously expensive). It took 4 months to arrive. When it did arrive, they had sent me the 60X45X45 by mistake!
I reluctantly accepted it as it was going to be another 4-5 months to get it replaced.

After scaping this tank a few times over the last few years, I'm finding it very hard to scape too. I can make something acceptable, but I'm never satisfied with the end result. It just never looks that great because the square shape means you have to build vertically or it looks bad with all the vertical space. Not to mention hardscape is prohibitively expensive in Australia (and to build vertically I need more, unless I go Dutch). Whenever I do googling for inspiration, there's limited tanks of these sizes that look good, and those that do are quite technical. There are some 60x45x30 and some 60x30x45 that look decent, but a really nice 60x45x45 seems extremely rare (there’s area nice Dutch ones). I assume because building vertically is even more demanding when you have to also account for more depth.

Anyway, I'm thinking of selling my setup once again and ordering the 60p. But before I do I was just curious if anyone disagrees. Is this a case of a poor artist blaming his tools? Or do those with far more skill than me also find the more cube like shaped tanks difficult to scape well?
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Get the 60P if you like - it can easily be placed on the same cabinet and made to look stunning with back or front accents to the hardscape (one of the European scaping contests had several of these sort of scapes - saw the video awhile back so may take me some time to find (or never))

I just recently scaped a 60 x 45 x 45 (finally replaced a rimmed tank that was 60 x 45 x 53cm (high)) and am quite pleased with the scape - as plants grow in it has some nice perspective surprises

I often like the initial dry hardscape, then less so once wet (water as a viewing medium significantly changes the perspective, then light effects), and then either more (I hope) or less (hmmm wait a while but start replanning the design) once planted, then as it grows in ... I may find I begin to love the scape (or hate it even more), let it grow in properly ... if fish seem in love with the scape it becomes much more difficult to breakdown despite some glaring errors

Much depends on the standards/goals you set - I don’t want a winning aquascape: I always plan for my fish first, and just can’t see the sense in filling half the tank with substrate to get that amazing perspective, then add loads of hardscape ... while I can easily maintain water quality (plants, water changes) there is no workaround the lost swimming space

This is a stunning aquascape from Green Aqua (I suspect there’s a shortage of Power Sand as ADA method would commonly use this to create the deep bank - though for rescape purposes and especially re-using aquasoil, just soil is easier)

Of course to create that height at the back there are various much cheaper fixes - you might go through @pedro Rosa’s journals (always loads of excellent photos and video)

Forsaken World Aquarium shows techniques for creating elevation; anything unseen in the planted scape, can be any ugly stone, gravel, pumice, lava etc - the pumice, lava is nice as it’s lower weight - consider aeration within the substrate, especially for long term scapes, in this respect, I think ADA Power Sand (or your own version thereof) is an outstanding product

I wouldn’t say I was particularly well skilled at scaping, I imagine more than I execute, I agree that Cubes are harder to scape but not impossible, usually when discussing aesthetics the Golden Ratio is often discussed.


If you were trying to follow this principle then to fit that fully in a Cube is tricky all you can realistically fit is the gradient, to fit the whole sequence you are left with half the volume of the tank above it as dead space, you can repeat the sequence again scaled and placed above top right or intersect the sequence vertically with a tall planting spanning through this dead space either to the left, middle or right in the sequence depending on how you prefer the asymmetry.

At the of the day it’s about achieving balance and what’s pleasing to ‘ones’ eye is more important than pleasing others, however it can be impetus to help you push yourself to learn and if you please others along the way then all good!

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I have a 60P, and am feeling a bit sorry for the fish when I compare their swimming space with that in the 60x45x45cm

I also have a UNS 60U - slightly larger than the 60P in its 60x36x36cm and really like this tank, it’s similar to scape to the 60P but again more room for the fish, and bit more space for plant height

I suspect you need to just stop and spend some time scaping in your 60x45x45cm box, then consider carefully how the plants will alter that scape (which plants, colors, leaf textures, sizes etc)
Of course this is difficult to do unless you’re able to maintain your fish in a decent size bin (any food safe plastic, add your filter etc) or willing to rehome livestock while you work on scaping

You can also build a “scape box” (cardboard etc) for scaping practise - note the sides should be low so you can view scape from various angles (just as in a glass box)

Depending where you live, consider “found” hardscape materials (wood and rock) - you can post detailed photos on here for help with identification and (probable) water-safety
Meant to say, yes it is undeniably more difficult to “scape” unexpected or unusual aquarium shapes - not the least is because our aquascaping “eye” is so trained by those 60P style tank perspectives (ADA 60P, 120P, 180P etc all follow the same shape) - look at how many more scapes are done even with the ADA 36x22x26 or ADA 30x18x24 than the ADA 30C

A few years later I sold it for a song
If only I’d known!
though I suppose the flight and return boat trip would’ve made it the most expensive aquarium and cabinet ... but the Adventure (and Grand Story at every party for years) :lol:
My dream 45H scapes are some done by Juan Puchades
(finally got the glass box part)

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With a 60x45 front pane, once you allow 40-50mm for the front gravel and some extra for the water being below the rim then the viewable water area is pretty much at the golden ratio. Maybe these days we percieve wider aspect ratios as "better" because that is what we are conditioned to with phone and TV screens?
Tall tanks with shallow depth front to back are the hardest to scape. A 60x45x45 is an analog to 45x30x30 which is one of the nicest tanks to have to scape because you have both height and depth to work with. At a point too much depth can become a hindrance if it is not balanced, the hyper depth tanks marketed to scapers can fall into this trap very easily because all that front to back scape with no verticality to use to balance it effectively runs out at some point and can only be used with more foreground or midground but not background without very careful planning and that can leave the tank feeling lifeless and flat, the opposite to what you'd expect.

Cubes are hard to scape, and the 35x30x30 cubes doubly so, it's why you see so many with wood scapes, the verticality to depth is out of synch so to speak so the perspective stops working with you and starts working against and the sense of the sides encroaching further flattens or narrows the view making it seem worse. This is why cube scapes where the viewing angle is over 2 corners at once from an aesthetic stand point are the most successful.

Shallow tanks are fun to scape with fore their panoramic quality which is usually around 3:1, or roughly the field of vision we humans have as out aspect ratio of perception. Where people fall down scaping those is when they try to use the air above the scape and forget the imaginary box being formed so they look either top or bottom heavy. They are however, horrible tanks from another stand point because the depth front to back is higher than the vertical so that ratio being out of whack again gives the sense that there's too much foreground or midground with not much background to support.