7 Best Planted Tank & Aquascaping Books

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Getting into the aquarium business requires a lot of preparation. There’s much to learn about, including tank size and shape, substrate, plants, tank cycling, ideal layout, light, temperature, etc.

The situation becomes even trickier when discussing aquascaping since that’s essentially a mix between science and art.

Planted tanks, especially, are more difficult to manage due to requiring a plus of resources and management. Fortunately, the internet is filled with countless articles on the topic.

Unfortunately, many of them are misleading, poorly informed or written, or simply too confusing, not explaining much.

So, today we will be looking into 7 of the best planted tank and aquascaping books available for purchase. That’s right, we’re going heavy, taking you to the real experts in the industry.

If you’re going to create a high-end planted aquatic setup, you might as well learn from the true masters of the craft.

So, let’s check the best 7 aquascaping books you should consider:

1. Aquascaping: A Step-by-Step Guide to Planting, Styling, and Maintaining Beautiful Aquariums – George Farmer

The name already tells you everything you need to know about the topic. This is a comprehensive aquascaping guide based on a hand-holding perspective.

The author will teach you everything from the grounds up, including:

  • Setting up the aquarium from scratch – Which tank fits your goals the best, what equipment to use based on your tank’s size and placement, how to set it up, etc.
  • Choosing the right layout – Which styling options fit your vision, and how can you achieve them? This includes tips on choosing the ideal rocks, plants, substrate, decorations, and even aquatic life forms. This will allow you to create a unique and personalized setup to match and even exceed your expectations.
  • Self-sustainability – The goal is to create not only a beautiful aquatic setup but a sustainable one as well. In this sense, Farmer will teach you the essentials of your tank’s chemical and biological functioning. The goal is to help you learn how to craft a healthy and stable environment capable of sustaining your aquatic life for years to come. You will also get tons of maintenance and upkeep advice in this sense.

Reception

This is a best-seller with slightly over 600 reviews, totaling 4.8 out of 5 stars. So, we’re talking about an 84% 5-star rating, making for a top approval rate. What about the low reviews?

The most frequent complains related to the delivery aspect, not the book’s content. The book either arrived damaged, late, or didn’t arrive at all.

There was one instance where one reader complained about the photos’ low quality, while several others complained about the actual content.

Verdict

While this book may not scratch a professional’s itches, I think it’s great for aquascaping newbies looking to jump into the hobby.

It offers valuable insight in terms of setting up the tank, creating a stable and flourishing environment, and preserving its stability moving forward.

2. Encyclopedia of Aquarium Plants – Peter Hiscock

This is an oldie, but goldie, as they say. The book was first published in 2003 and withstood the test of time with flying colors.

The information it presents falls into several distinct categories, such as:

  • The most widespread aquarium plants with common names and biological classifications
  • The plants’ growth cycles
  • Propagation behavior
  • Planting suggestions, substrate anchoring, and nutritional support
  • Ideal water parameters to optimize growth, coloring, and overall plant health
  • Plant health problems, causes, and prevention methods
  • Water parasites, identification markers, and prevention methods

As the title suggests, this is an aquarium encyclopedia, so expect it to provide you with an in-depth look into the lives of aquarium plants. Interestingly enough, you’ll get all this information in only 205 pages, so that’s clearly a win.

Reception

The book stands at an 84% approval rate for 380 reviews and a 4.8-out-of-5-star rating. Most reviewers praise it as a genuine plant Bible, thanks to the thorough and detailed content.

The book contains extensive and detailed information on numerous plants, many of which you’ve never heard of. It also offers vast advice on maintenance tips, plant care, and habitat building to push plants to their full potential.

Naturally, there are some naysayers to mention here as well. One user mentioned the outdated perspective on heating since the author promotes substrate heaters which have fallen out of grace.

Others notice that the content is slightly outdated since some of the presented information has been corrected over time. Finally, a few others rank the book as not expert-friendly.

It’s mostly fitting for beginners but not for the most advanced aquarists who require more in-depth and detailed information.

Verdict

It’s a great book for heavily planted aquariums, thanks to its thorough look on the subject. You have extensive information on the plant’s type, growth profile, maintenance routine, needs, and its effect on the environment.

I would say this qualifies as a must-have for both beginners and experts.

3. Sunken Gardens: A Step-by-Step Guide to Planting Freshwater Aquariums – Karen A. Randall

Sunken Gardens ranks as a pillar in the universe of aquarium plant books today. It stretches over 252 pages and came out in 2017, bringing an unhinged look at planted tanks, plant biology, and various aquascaping styles.

This piece touches upon everything plant-related. This includes biology and chemistry, assessing the plants’ impact on their environment, and offering vital troubleshooting tips.

Reception

We’re working with 500 user reviews for a 78% approval rate. All fine and dandy, but where do the bad reviews come from? Most of the disapproval rate comes from the apparent high-tech information. Some reviewers complain about the lack of low-tech options.

Others are disappointed by the lack of definitions for various terms that many novice aquarists may not be familiarized with.

Otherwise, the bulk of the reviewers praises the piece for the detailed information, eye-catching presentation, and reader-friendly formatting.

Verdict

While Sunken Gardens is obviously more advanced than your day-to-day plant guide, I think the book is great for all aquarists, novice or experienced.

It approaches the aquascaping business from a more modern, high-tech perspective, providing the reader with detailed insight into the world of aquatic plants.

4. Aquarium Plants – Christel Kasselmann

This one is as plain and straightforward as it sounds. It’s a 528-page encyclopedia encompassing over 300 aquarium plants and more than 500 pictures.

The book details a variety of aspects, such as:

  • Plant morphology – What the plant needs, how it grows and develops, and how it will impact the environment.
  • The ideal environmental conditions – You will learn what each plant needs to reach its full potential. This includes information about temperature, lighting, fertilization, mounting, etc.
  • Finding the right plant – Not all plants can adapt to any environment. The author will teach you how to choose your plant based on your goals and aquarium setup.

While the book was published in 2002, it has remained relevant and superior to many more modern publications.

Reception

We’re talking about 38 official reviews, totaling an 87% approval rate. There are no 1, 2, or 3-star reviews, which already speak volumes about the book’s quality.

The 4-star reviews also praise the book, as they mention pretty much no downsides. So, you should take them as 5-star ratings.

The only minus I could find was along the lines of “The book is too detailed, so it’s an overkill for beginners.” Which isn’t really a minus.

Verdict

This one is a must-have for any aquarists, novices, and experienced alike. It contains detailed information on plant morphology, maintenance advice, aquascaping specifics, and many other topics.

This book currently ranks as the most comprehensive guide on aquarium plants. Sure, some bits of information may be updated, given that the work has been out for two decades, but overall, it outweighs most modern books on the topic.

5. Ecology of the Planted Aquarium: A Practical Manual and Scientific Treatise for the Home Aquarist – Diana Walstad

The release date is 2013, and the book goes a total of 193 pages. I would consider this one as the perfect material for novice aquarists who don’t possess the know-how or the finances necessary to start an expensive aquascaping project.

Diana Walstad will teach you how to get your tank started in low-tech conditions without:

  • An expensive and pretentious lighting system
  • CO2 injections
  • Enriched fertilizers
  • High-end aquariums with no expensive materials or elements

The Ecology of the Planted Aquarium is the perfect book for setting up the poor-man’s tank while still retaining a unique style and impressive layout. It also doesn’t hurt that this epic endeavor only took 193 pages to achieve.

Reception

We have close to 1,000 reviews for an 85% approval rate. This is already phenomenal, given the number of reviews and how many aquarists the book has touched.

The several relevant bad reviews I could find mentioned the inadequate formatting (which comes down to personal preference), the over-technical style, or the ‘putting down’ of modern aquarium techniques.

None of them mentions the quality of the information. And I mentioned the relevant bad reviews because there are also plenty of irrelevant ones. Such as those coming from non-native English speakers who’ve had difficulties grasping the more technical language.

Verdict

This is a goldmine for people with insufficient funds for high-tech and pretentious aquascaping environments. The author praises the old ways of building self-sustainable aquascaping environments, which relied primarily on enriched soil and sticking to the fundamentals.

You only need a decent aquarium, a fitting sample of enriched soil, a handful of healthy plants, and everything else will come naturally. You will find plenty of great, useful information on lighting, plant morphology, water chemistry and the plant’s impact on its habitat, etc.

This one is a definite buy.

6. Freshwater Aquarium Models: Recipes for Creating Beautiful Aquariums That Thrive – John H. Tullock

Buying this book will get you a 304-page comprehensive encyclopedia of plants, aquatic systems, and aquascaping recipes for a start.

The goal is to help you recreate lush and thriving aquatic environments at home with only the help of 4 glass walls and some miscellaneous.

This 2006 publication aims to teach people about the importance of finding the perfect balance between fish and plants. This includes teaching information such as:

  • What plants and fish need, depending on their respective species and morphological functioning
  • How each plant species impacts its environment and affects the rest of the aquatic life
  • The chemical balance in the tank life
  • How to create a natural aquatic setup
  • Tips on long-term aquarium maintenance
  • Personalized tips based on the aquarium’s type, size, shape, location, other factors etc.

A newbie aquarist now has all the information necessary to start a successful, thrilling, and rewarding aquascaping journey.

Reception

This book only has 43 ratings, which is unusual given that the publication date states 2006. You quickly learn why simply by going through the reviews.

Most people are annoyed by the lack of pictures (only 16 throughout the entire 300-page book), while others mention insufficient information about plants and fish.

The latter point is pretty much rendered irrelevant when you notice that the book’s goal is to present various aquascaping styles.

The underlying goal is to help the reader understand how to achieve a healthy, balanced, and self-sustainable environment, not to present a fish or plant encyclopedia.

Verdict

It’s a great addition to your aquascape-related library, but you should use it in conjunction with other works.

Take this one only for what it is – An informative piece teaching the reader how to create sustainable, natural-looking aquatic setups.

7. Aquarium Plants (Aquamaster) – Peter Hiscock

Peter Hiscock comes again to the rescue. This time with a 96-page piece that came out in 2004, yet it’s as relevant as ever.

As the book’s name suggests, this one is all about plants, their needs, maintenance requirements, and crafting healthy and natural aquascaping systems.

And if the name wasn’t suggestive enough, the book itself will fix that. There are over 300 pictures available which is already an impressive feat, considering that the number of pages is a third of that.

The condensed information you’re getting in the short plain text that remains is eye-opening:

  • Differences between various plant species based on lighting requirements (low, medium, high)
  • Differences between plants based on fertilization and nutrient intake
  • Compatibilities between plants and various fish, based on species, size, number, morphology, and biology
  • Ensure and preserve water quality as well as detailing the factors that may impact it
  • Plating techniques based on the plant’s type, age, size, and the available layout and substrate
  • Substrate types and specifics and the dynamics between plants and their substrate
  • Creating themed, personalized aquatic setups using different resources, plants, fish, etc.

The list is almost endless, which is astounding, given the compact and relatively short format.

Reception

This one has gathered 63 Amazon reviews, totaling a 55% approval rate. It was to be expected in a sense, especially when looking at the bad reviews. Most people have the same complaint – insufficient information.

They state it’s more fitting for a beginner, but not really a more experienced aquarist looking for more detailed work.

This downside goes away on its own when you realize that that’s the book’s entire purpose – to appeal and support novices.

Verdict

This one is less controversial than the review section would have you believe. It’s an information-rich piece, providing awesome details on plant chemistry, aquatic fertilizers, aquascaping suggestions, and much more.

The lower price tag doesn’t hurt either, as this one is vastly cheaper than most other aquascaping books.

Conclusion

Here you have 7 aquascaping books that will get you started on your way to becoming an aquascaping pro. Naturally, there are many other titles to consider, but this list is perfect for beginners looking for a detailed look into the fundamentals.

As a final note – getting one of these books doesn’t guarantee a comprehensive understanding of the aquascaping business. There is simply too much relevant information to cram into one publication.

So, always check the reviews, inform yourself on the topic, and preferably get more than one book.

Extra knowledge never hurts anyone.

avatar I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.

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