This year is winding down, so I thought it would be a good time to look back and reflect on some of the most beautiful aquariums from 2012. But with thousands upon thousands of aquascapes to choose from, how can we possibly find the best of the best?

Well, that’s easy. Each year, fish fans compete in the International Aquatic Plant Layout Contest to see who can design the most visually stunning aquascape. It will still be a while before the eager public gets the full official rankings, so we’re going to create Okeanos Group’s unofficial Best Aquascapes of 2012 Countdown!


International Aquatic Plants Layout Contest 2012 Aquascape

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Ooh, spooky! It looks like one of those dark and twisted forests where the witch lives in a fairy tale.


Freshwater Aquascape with Stonehenge Rocks

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Stunning! I particularly love the Stonehenge-esque rock formation. It makes it seem as though the aquascape is partially manmade, as if ancient human ruins were gradually overtaken by weeds and plant growth.


Deepwater Aquascape from the IAPLC

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It’s amazing how this aquascaper managed to pull off the illusion of deep water. It looks as though we’re gazing into a scene at the very bottom of a massive lake.


Freshwater IAPLC Aquascape

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I love the plant cave! The dark recesses encourage me to lean in closer for a better look.


Nature Style Aquascape

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Of all the aquascapes so far, this one evokes the feeling of natural chaos the best.


Freshwater Forest Aquascape

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Wow! Subtract the fish, and you might think that you’re gazing at a genuine real-life forest.


IAPLC Aquascape

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This aquascape truly stands out with its delightfully peculiar plant arrangement. It looks as though living plant-worms writhed up out of the ground to bask in the sun.


International Aquatic Plant Layout Contest 2012 Entry

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I particularly adore how this piece balances the wide aquascape with the vertical rock formations.


IAPLC Entry for 2012

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Ever wonder what an aquarium would look like right before it gets sucked into a black hole? Probably something like this.


IAPLC Freshwater Aquascape

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This aquascape easily takes the cake. The vibrant red fish almost look like flower pedals that have drifted away in this summer-autumn landscape. The rock peeking out from behind the plants in the back adds to the illusion of depth. I almost feel like I’m standing in Japan during a cherry blossom festival, gazing at Mt. Fuji in the distance.

Based on the overwhelming popularity of Takashi Amano’s Nature style aquariums, it seems that aquascaping is taking a slight turn towards freshwater displays. Does that mean that saltwater aquariums are getting less popular? No, not by a long shot. It’s just that freshwater aquascapes are pulling in new hobbyists at a faster rate than saltwater aquascapes.

I’d wager that it has a lot to do with environmentalism. Green is in, and it will probably stay that way. Mankind has become powerfully aware of how precious wildlife is. Vibrant green plants stand as a symbol of environmentalism and nature. As a result, the world of aquascaping is having its very own miniature green movement.