How to do Aquascaping on a Budget

Aquascaping is kind of like gardening, but underwater. You arrange aquatic plants, rocks and other in an aquarium and it looks amazing. The problem is, it can get expensive. So how can you do aquascaping on a budget?

Aquascaping can be done on a small budget by starting small and purchasing a used tank and used equipment. Also, be patient and build your aquascape in stages, using free hardscape materials when possible.

Just how do you pull this off? Read on and we’ll show you.

How to Aquascape on a Budget

1. Purchase Used Equipment and Tank

Buying a pristine new tank and equipment that is in mint condition may be tempting, but it’s also costly. The biggest portion of the money invested in aquascaping is spent on the tank, a stand, filtration, and good lighting. Buying these used can wind up saving you a bundle.

When buying used equipment, you might find that it isn’t in perfect condition. There may be scratches in the tank or the filter might gurgle or make some other noise, but these items will still serve their purpose regardless. A good recommendation is to check everything out to be certain it all works the way it should before you hand over any money.

This is especially true about the filter, as a filter that operates improperly can destroy everything living in your tank. As it is for all living creatures, oxygen clean and pure is essential to the well-being of your aquascaping world.

Furthermore, if you feel that you absolutely must have a brand-new tank, then keep in mind that an aquarium built using Opti White glass will be considerably more expensive. Research and price compare the different types of aquariums before making your purchase. You want to make sure you have enough money left over for your aquascaping.

2. Start Small

Naturally, we’d all like that showpiece tank, but the fact of the matter is that the larger the tank, the more expensive it will be. And not only the tank, but your entire project. A larger tank requires a bigger stand, more powerful filters, more light, more substrate, a greater amount of power to run everything, and ultimately will involve spending a lot more money stocking the tank with plants and fish. The best thing to do if your budget is small is to start small. You can always expand later on.

3. DIY — Do It Yourself

There are plenty of DIY projects you can tackle that will save you a significant amount of money. Some projects you can try are DIY lighting, CO2 diffuser, filters, and hardscape. Many videos describe in great detail how to accomplish these DIY projects.

4. Cultivate Patience

Don’t be so eager to see your new project come to fruition that you race off to the nearest pet store and buy lots of fish and plants. First off, your wallet won’t thank you. Secondly, you could be wasting your money.

What can happen is that within several days you may discover that you are experiencing a mass death in everything. This could be due to rising ammonia levels and you will literally sit there and watch your fish expire and your plants droop and then die.

That’s why patience is preached. Don’t fully stock your tank right away. Yes, it’s tempting when you see all those beautiful fish and plants living harmoniously together in other tanks. Remember, these tanks didn’t develop overnight. They were created the same as anything else, through trial and error. You don’t learn the art of aquascaping and fish keeping overnight.

So, make it a point to start small, and proceed to add new fish slowly. Furthermore, don’t purchase hard to grow plants at first. Instead, fill your tank with inexpensive, fast-growing, sturdy plants that will be able to fight off algae and suck up that ammonia.

5. Free Hardscape Ideas

The hardscape is the layout of your aquarium before you add plants. While you can spend a large amount of money buying materials at the pet store or specialty shops, there are free items you can use to create your hardscape. It involves going outside and collecting gravel, driftwood, beautiful rocks and stones, and small tree roots.

6. Tap into the Online Aquascape Community

You might be surprised to discover just how large the fish keeping community is out there. Many members of clubs or forums are willing to give out extra plants and fish. Normally, these are starter plants or fish that are easy to breed, are free, and ideal for a start-up tank. Any questions you have can be answered by people in this knowledgeable community.

Moreover, once you have successfully started your aquascape tank and are ready to move on to more difficult varieties of plants and fish, you can give away your extras and upgrade.

Also, don’t forget you can learn almost anything on YouTube. This video on “budget aquascaping” is well done by a pro, but some of the gear is a little out of the budget range. It’s still good to watch and learn:

If you follow these tips and exercise a little self-control, you should see your dream of aquascaping on a budget come true with relatively little financial pain. Remember the saying “no pain, no gain.” So, accept the fact that you are going to have to fork out some serious cash, but that doesn’t mean it has to be so painful that your wallet is left screaming.

Aquascaping can be a beautiful and relaxing hobby. And while some of the hardcore hobbyists will brag about spending thousands on their aquariums, you don’t have to spend anywhere near that much to create an awe-inspiring underwater environment that will provide hours of viewing pleasure.


1.  Aquascapinglove.com

2. AquaticEden.com

3. Aquasabi.com

4. Aquascape on a Budget

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