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How To Set Up An Iwagumi Style Bowl Aquascape?

simple iwagumi aquascape with stones and hairgrass

Welcome to the serene world of Iwagumi bowl aquascaping, where simplicity meets elegance in a single bowl.

This article is designed to guide you through the delightful journey of setting up your own Iwagumi style bowl aquascape.

Whether you’re a seasoned aquarist or a curious beginner, the magic of creating a living piece of art awaits.

Unique Aspects of an Iwagumi Bowl Aquascape

When I create an Iwagumi aquascape, it’s all about embracing minimalism and achieving harmony in my aquatic layout. The style is deceptively simple, focusing on precision and a balanced look.

In my experience, the substrate is the foundation of any good Iwagumi bowl; it supports plant growth and aesthetic forms. I prefer to use aqua-soil because it provides nutrients to the plants and helps maintain a healthy environment.

rule of third iwagumi aquascape
Rule of 3rd In Iwagumi Aquascape

The focal point in an Iwagumi aquascape is typically a singular, impressive rock, known as the “Oyaishi,” surrounded by smaller accent stones, expressing the Sanzon Iwagumi principle inspired by nature’s balance.

I pay particular attention to the arrangement, as this significantly affects the aquascape’s unity and flow.

As for maintenance, I’ve learned that consistency is critical. Regular water changes and pruning are a must to keep my aquascape looking pristine. Plants in Iwagumi layouts tend to be fast-growing, so diligent trimming is essential.

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I don’t take lighting lightly either. A T5 lamp positioned correctly above the bowl ensures that my plants receive an adequate, even spread of light that enhances their color and growth.

CO2 injection supports their health and deters algae formation too.

I’ve added CO2 injection into my routine, as it helps plants thrive and outcompete algae, a common challenge in such setups. Supplements with fertilizers are minimal but targeted, ensuring my aquatic plants get the necessary nutrients without promoting algae.

Overall, the charm of creating an Iwagumi bowl aquascape lies in its clean lines, aesthetic appeal, and the serenity it brings to my space.

How to Set Up an Iwagumi Bowl Aquascape?

Creating an Iwagumi aquascape in a bowl format requires attention to detail, a sense of balance and minimalism, and an understanding of the aesthetic principles involved. Let me guide you through each critical step to achieve a serene and unified underwater landscape.

Choosing the Right Bowl

Selecting the ideal bowl is the first step in crafting an Iwagumi aquascape. Size and clarity are crucial aspects.

I opt for a bowl with enough space to create a balanced arrangement while keeping it small enough for easy maintenance.

Glass bowls offer the best clarity to highlight the simplicity and minimalism intrinsic to the Iwagumi style.

Selecting the Substrate

For the substrate, I choose fine-grained aqua-soil that allows for easy planting and supports the growth of carpeting plants.

It should be nutrient-rich to eliminate the need for immediate fertilizers.

The substrate is layered with a gentle slope, higher at the back to add depth to the aquascape.

iwagumi aquascape layout rock positions with name
Iwagumi Aquascape Layout – Rock Positions & Their Names

The Art of Stone Placement

In Iwagumi, the stones are the focal point, so I take care in selecting them for a Sanzen Iwagumi layout.

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This often involves placing the largest stone as the main point of interest, with smaller stones supporting the overall balance and unity. Arrangement is intentional, aimed at mimicking natural landscapes.

Plant Selection and Planting Techniques

When I select plants, I choose species that contrast in color and texture but maintain the theme of minimalism. Carpeting plants like Hemianthus callitrichoides are my go-to as they form a lush green that complements the hardscape.

I use tweezers to plant them gently into the substrate, ensuring they’re spaced properly for growth and spread.

Water Preparation and Cycling

Before adding water, I ensure that it is free of chlorine and other harmful chemicals. I fill the bowl slowly to keep the substrate undisturbed.

Cycling the water is vital to establish beneficial bacteria. This process can take a few weeks, during which I test the water parameters regularly and make water changes as necessary.

Lighting and Temperature Control

I use T5 lamps or LED lights to provide bright, yet diffuse lighting that promotes healthy plant growth without encouraging algae formation.

The positioning must cast light evenly and be adjusted to simulate natural day cycles. Heating isn’t usually required for these setups, but I maintain a consistent room temperature to avoid extreme fluctuations.

Credit: Md Fish Tanks

Maintenance and Care Of Iwagumi Bowl Aquascape

Maintaining an Iwagumi bowl aquascape brings me peace and joy, but it requires a delicate balance of care and attention to maintain its minimalist beauty. Here’s how I keep my Iwagumi bowl in top shape:


I use T5 lamps because they provide excellent illumination that supports plant growth without encouraging too much algae. I ensure that my lights are on for about 8 hours daily to mimic a natural light cycle.

image of aquatic plants and fine carbondioxide bubbles from glass gas diffuser.

CO2 and Nutrients:

To maintain the lush carpet and promote healthy plant growth, I inject CO2 into the water. I also dose nutrients and fertilizers carefully; too much can upset the balance and cause algae blooms, something I definitely want to avoid.

See also  What Types of Stones Are Used for Iwagumi Aquascape?

Water Changes:

Regular water changes are critical for me. I do about 20-30% water change weekly to keep the nutrient levels in check and remove any excess waste.

Algae Control:

When I spot algae forming, I take it as a sign to review my lighting and nutrient dosing.

Sometimes, I gently scrub the rocks and glass during my water changes to prevent any significant buildup.


I love the Zen-like process of pruning my aquatic plants. This not only keeps the aesthetic of my aquascape, but it also ensures that my plants grow denser and maintain that essential sense of minimalism and unity that is the hallmark of an Iwagumi layout.


I use a nutrient-rich substrate to help anchor my plants and feed their roots. Over time, the substrate might compact, so I gently stir the top layer occasionally to keep it aerated.

Creating Balance:

As for the aquascape itself, I focus on creating a focal point and ensuring there is balance. In my Sanzon Iwagumi, the largest stone is positioned off-center for a natural look with two smaller supporting stones creating harmony.


It’s not without its challenges. Ensuring the balance between lighting, CO2, and nutrients requires some trial and error, but every hurdle is an opportunity to learn and improve my aquascaping skills.

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Muntaseer Rahman

About Author

Hello, I’m Muntaseer Rahman, the owner of AcuarioPets.com. I’m passionate about aquarium pets like shrimps, snails, crabs, and crayfish. I’ve created this website to share my expertise and help you provide better care for these amazing pets.


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