Marine Aquarium Aquascaping: The Rule of Thirds

Using the Rule of Thirds to aquascape your reef can result in a more visually appealing appearanceAficionados of freshwater planted aquariums have long understood that observing certain rules of composition when aquascaping with plants, rocks, driftwood, and other features can have a tremendous impact on an aquarium’s overall aesthetic impression. While we reefkeepers haven’t traditionally placed much emphasis on composition in our aquascaping approach—at least not in a formal sense—we can certainly enhance our enjoyment of the hobby by implementing some of these same rules. Among these is the “Rule of Thirds.” To apply the Rule of Thirds, imagine that a grid pattern consisting of two equidistant vertical lines and two equidistant horizontal lines is superimposed over the front of your tank. This grid creates nine equal-sized, rectangular sections and visually divides the image in front of you into thirds both vertically and horizontally. Picture that famous image at the beginning of The Brady Bunch TV series (sans the Bradys and Alice, of course), and you’ll have the general idea.Place aquascaping elements and sessile inverts along the grid lines with strong focal points positioned where lines intersect Great, so you’ve got a mental grid floating in front of your tank and the theme to The Brady Bunch running in a constant loop through your head. Now what? Well, according to the Rule of Thirds, compositional elements—for our purposes, aquascaping elements and sessile invertebrates—should be placed along the grid lines and strong focal points should be positioned at points where the lines intersect. For our purposes, a strong focal point could be a particularly impressive coral specimen, a prominent rock projection, etc.

The Pros and Cons of Aquascaping Marine Aquariums with Dry Rock

Aquascaping with dry rock has a number of advantages and disadvantagesWhen aquascaping their tanks, marine aquarium hobbyists have the option of using live rock or dry rock (or some combination thereof) to create the foundational reef structure. Each of these options is completely workable but, as with every aspect of this hobby, has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. So how to choose which approach might work best for you given your unique circumstances, budget, etc.? To aid in your decision making, let’s explore the pros and cons of each approach, beginning today with the use of dry rock. I’ll tackle the plusses and minuses of live rock aquascaping in a future post.Pros of dry rock aquascaping Dry rocks tend to be easier on the pocketbook. One reason is that they ship dry so you’re paying only for the weight of the rocks, not the added weight of water as with live rock, and there’s no need to shell out for expedited shipping. Also, the better-quality dry rocks on the market tend to be less dense than live rock, so you get a greater volume of rock for your aquascaping dollar.