Autumn brings beautiful colors as trees slowly transform from lush green to rich reds and yellows. The one downside of this transformation is that it heralds several months of bare, scraggly trees that look more dead than alive. I don’t know about you, but I miss all those green leaves during the winter. Your backyard might look like a winter wonderland, but you can still enjoy the verdant beauty of trees with a custom freshwater aquarium.

Wait, what? Trees in an aquarium? I know it sounds pretty crazy, but it’s actually entirely possible. Aquascapers have found ways to populate their aquariums with miniature aquatic trees and underwater forests.

Just to be clear, these aren’t actual trees. Most of these aquascapes make use of a clever combination of aquarium wood and moss. The aquascaper selects (or builds) a piece of wood that roughly resembles a tiny tree, secures it to the bottom of the aquarium, and then covers the branches of the wood with some sort of leafy moss or other freshwater plant. Eventually, the plants expand to cover the entire upper half of the wood to create a prefect replica of an underwater tree.

The great thing about these underwater trees is that they automatically change your perceptions of scale. Suddenly, that tiny mound of sand looks more like a hill, and the frilly carpet moss looks more like the thick underbrush that you’d find growing in any forest. If you create miniature trees in your aquascape, I would recommend pairing them with proportional fish. If your fish are half the size of your aquatic trees, then it breaks the illusion of size. This aquascape below does an excellent job of combining aquatic trees with Liliputian fish.

The other option is to take a slightly more natural approach and create an aquascape that replicates thick tree roots at the edge of a river. Here, the aquascaper uses a similar strategy – he selects pieces of aquascaping wood that resemble tree roots and then arranges them vertically to replicate a half-submerged tree. This technique also shrinks down trees into a much more compact size, but the trees in these aquascapes typically feel much larger. Instead of being the size of a garden flower, these replica trees would probably be as tall as a person.

It’s hard to turn away from a stunning aquascapes like these. Not only are they visually breathtaking, but they also toy with our perceptions of scale by shrinking massive trees down into a miniature forest. These freshwater custom aquariums will allow you to harness the beauty of a lush, untamed forest even when we’re in the middle of winter.