13 Zen Aquarium Ideas For All Skill Levels!

Zen aquariums have gained popularity recently, thanks to their tranquil aquascapes offering a respite from the stresses of modern.

While basic, beginner-friendly zen aquariums dominate social media, there are various zen aquarium styles worth exploring. In this article, I feature several types of zen aquariums to inspire your next build.

With a range of styles covered, you’re sure to find at least one idea that suits your needs. As always, feel free to customize these fish tank ideas to match your preferences and available supplies.

Basic Zen Aquarium Ideas

Zen Aquarium Idea

Basic zen aquariums embrace the zen garden concept, using pale sand with dark rock and minimal planting.

Cheap pale sand and black lava rock create a striking color contrast that’s perfect for this setup.

Plants for this setup should be kept simple. Small pops of green are ideal, so planting lightly is key.

Consider these options for your live plants:

  • Limnophila Sessiliflora
  • Hygrophila Polysperma
  • Bacopa Caroliniana
  • Staurogyne Repens
  • Anubias
  • Echinodorus Aquartica
  • Eleocharis Acicularis
  • Eleocharis Pusilla
  • Moss

Aim to have three to five plants from the list above to provide varied colors, textures, and heights.

Small Zen Aquarium Bowls

Zen Aquarium Idea

Zen aquarium bowls have surged in popularity due to their small size and affordability.

Given their compact size, it’s best to avoid adding fish, but these bowls make excellent shrimp jars when set up correctly.

Small Buddha statues are inexpensive, keeping costs down, and many people opt for fake aquarium plants to reduce maintenance needs.

If using fake plants, simple gravel or sand will suffice as a substrate since no nutrients are needed for plant growth.

Algae buildup can be an issue in these small bowls, but two or three Amano shrimp can usually manage the algae in a bowl of around 3 US gallons (11 liters).

Buddha Zen Aquarium Ideas

Zen Aquarium Idea

Buddha zen aquariums are gaining popularity as they go viral on social media.

While some might think creating their own Buddha zen aquarium is difficult and time-consuming, some setups are beginner-friendly.

As mentioned earlier, small Buddha statues are cheap, but their prices increase with size and detail so choose something within your range.

The choice of substrate and rocks varies based on your goals. Some prefer a basic zen look with pale sand and dark rocks, while others favor a wild, unkempt jungle aesthetic that usually requires nutrient-rich substrate.

One of the best aspects of this style is its customizability. Buddha zen tanks offer a broad canvas to showcase your skills and creativity in the aquascaping hobby.

For those looking to push the boundaries, more advanced Buddha zen aquascapes allow for a wider range of plants and techniques. You can incorporate CO2 injection, high-powered lighting, and various fertilization methods to elevate your aquarium.

The YouTube video below illustrates the potential of this type of aquarium when you have the skill, time, and budget.

Zen Temple Aquarium Ideas

Zen Aquarium Idea

Zen temple aquariums can be stunning when executed well but they are difficult to pull off.

A generic resin temple off Amazon is far cheaper than the 3D prints or special aquascape variants and usually looks just as good.

While fake plants are generally easier to manage in this setup, live plants can also be used effectively.

The challenge lies in maintaining the meticulous design without disrupting the arrangement during plant maintenance.

Certain fish, like Corydoras or Plecos, will constantly disturb the decorations so it’s best to opt for smaller, nano fish to maintain the setup’s integrity.

Mountain Zen Aquarium Ideas

Zen Aquarium Idea

Mountain aquascapes have always been popular, but the rise of zen aquascapes has led to a new hybrid style that combines elements of both.

This hybrid tank style is essentially a mountain aquascape enhanced with zen decor, adding a unique twist to a well-loved design.

The choice of substrate depends on the plants you want to keep, but since moss is often the primary plant in these setups, cheap inert substrates are often sufficient.

For detailing, cheap river pebbles work well, while the choice of rock for the mountain depends on factors like pH adjustments. Some rocks can alter the pH of your tank water, potentially causing problems for softwater fish if not managed properly.

Despite this, Frodo stone is an excellent option for most mountain scapes, and in my opinion, it’s one of the best rocks for this type of tank.