Biotope Aquarium is a fabricated habitat that imitates the natural environment of both fish and plants. Aquarists set up a Biotope tank to preserve the genuine homes of species that live and interact together.

A biotope aquarium can simulate different locations depending on your preference.

Discover in this article different ideas of Biotope aquarium set up you can try out on your own.

What Is a Biotope Aquarium?

A biotope aquarium is a mimicked natural habitat where certain animals and plants live and interact together. The name Biotope is coined from 2 Greek words, ‘bios’ and ‘topos,’ which means life and place. With this, you can define Biotopes Aquarium as an artificial place set up for a particular animal and plant to live together.

Setting up a Biotope aquarium depends mainly on the natural habitat you are trying to imitate. Also, the kinds of animal and plant species that co-exist in this natural home. It is, however, advised that you research the types of animals and the plants suitable for your homemade Biotope aquarium.

Why Set Up a Biotope Aquarium?

There are so many compelling reasons why one can set up a Biotope aquarium; below are some.

  1. To have a feel of the natural habitat of fish and plants in your home.
  2. Maintaining the tank and getting the species is not tasking.
  3. Trying something different from the regular aquarium you find around.
  4. You can also set it up for the fun of it, especially if you are a lover of nature.

Biotope Tank

A Biotope tank is a tank constructed to imitate a specific natural habitat. Your choice of Biotope Tank is mainly informed by the environment you are trying to emulate. The types of fishes and plants that co-exist in this particular habitation are also essential.

Nevertheless, it is of utmost importance to consider the water parameters and the substrates to be used in decorating the tank.

Different Biotope Aquarium Ideas

There are different Biotope aquarium ideas, depending on the location and area you want to mimic.

You can set up the following types of biotope aquarium depending on your preference:

  • Swamp aquarium
  • Savannah biotope aquarium
  • River biotope aquarium
  • Jungle biotope aquarium
  • A rocky reef biotope aquarium
  • Lake biotope aquarium

Furthermore, you might like to set up a biotope aquarium to mimic a particular continent of choice.

For example, you might want to set up your biotope aquarium to simulate the

  • South American flooded forest
  • Southeastern Asian Lowland Still Water
  • Blackwater Aquarium for Southeast Asian Fish
  • Lowland Swamps of West Africa
  • Slow-moving or stagnant black waters of Argentina
  • Australia River
  • Papua New Guinea River

All of the above depends on the continent of preference. Nonetheless, irrespective of whatever place or type of biotope aquarium you want to set up, have it at the back of your mind that it is worth the try.

How to Set Up a Biotope Aquarium

Irrespective of the type of biotope aquarium you choose to build, the following are to be considered.

  1. Animals: a biotope is described as a place where a particular type of fish and plant live together. In other words, finding out what kind of fish live in the natural environment you are setting up is highly essential and the types of plants that are suitable.
  2. Plants: are there different types of plants in this Biotope or just a particular type.
  3. Rock: this can be replaced with stones depending on the type of bedrock or background you want to get
  4. Water: The amount of water is determined by the Biotope tank you want to set up
  5. Substrate: there are various substrates for different biotope settings. You can have gravel, sand, wood, stones, branches, etc.
  6. Aquarium: the aquarium fittings are essential to suit whichever Biotope you choose.
  7. Lightning: light in the Biotope gives it the natural habitat sunlight effect.

Below are various setups for some of the Biotope aquariums mentioned above.

1. Biotope Aquarium Set Up for South American Flooded Forest

This Biotope is mimicking the natural habitat of a South American flooded forest for blackwater South American fish. Examples of fishes found in this place are Angelfish, Discus, Uaru, Hatchet fish, armored catfish. Below is a step-by-step tip to set up a biotope aquarium that mimics the South American flooded forest.

– Step 1: Tank

Use a tall tank for this setup; your tank should be about 75 gallons or more.

– Step 2: Substrates

Get some gravel or sand. The sand or gravel goes into the tank first. Then, spread it to cover the whole of the bottom of your tank. The sand or gravel should be one-half to one inch deep from the bottom of the tank.

– Step 3: Driftwood and Roots

Put the driftwood and roots all around the tank, don’t forget to leave some open swimming area. The driftwood should be constructed to look just like the environment you are trying to set up. Ensure that there are spacious shelters in your tank

– Step 4: Plants

No plant is needed for this setup.

– Step 5: Water

Getting the water requirements needed for the setup is very important.

  • Make use of a Peat filtered water or an Amazon Blackwater supplement.
  • The water pH should be kept low below 6 with carbonate hardness of less than 4dCh.
  • Total water hardness should not be over 8dH.
  • The water temperature range should be in the low eighties.
  • The tank should have a little water circulation.

– Step 6: Fish

Put about 4 to 6 Discus, Angelfish or the Uaru, many Hatchet fish, and some armored catfish.

– Step 7: Lighting

Make use of a warm white fluorescent tube to light up the biotope tank.

2. Biotope Aquarium Set Up for Southeastern Asian Lowland Still Water

Next, we will be looking at the setup of a biotope aquarium that imitates the tropical fishes’ natural environment in Southeastern Asian Lowland Still water.

Examples of fishes found in the lowland still water are Anabantidae, Danios, Labyrinth-fish, Catfish, Small barbs, Betta Splendens, etc. Plants found in this habitat include Nitelia, Giant Hygrophila, water lilies, hydrilla, water lettuce, java moss, Limnocharis, cryptocoryne ciliate, etc.

– Tank

Make use of a standard tank of about 40 to 55 gallons.

– Substrates

Fill the bottom of the tank with a mixture of dark substrate and laterite. Your substrate can be porous clay gravel with no sharp edges; the laterite supplies nutrients to the plant enabling it to grow. The depth of the substrate should be at least 2 inches from the bottom.

– Driftwood and Roots

These should be placed at the back area of the tank to create shelters for the fishes.

– Plants

Lots of plants should be in this biotope aquarium.

– Water

The water requirements are as follows:

  • Low current with little water movement
  • Small circulation from one side of the tank to the other
  • A pH of 6.5
  • Carbonate hardness of around 4dCH
  • total hardness of 10dH
  • water temperature should be in the low eighties

– Fish

Put fish in the tank according to your taste and what type of fish you would like to see. However, a blend of some Danios, Koolie Loaches, various types of Dwarf Gouramies, and little catfish from the Pangasius family is not a bad idea.

– Light

Due to the number of live plants in this biotope tank, a very bright light is need. 2 fluorescent bulbs with a full spectrum will light up your tank, giving it the sunlight effect.

3. Setting Up A Blackwater Biotope Tank For Southeast Asian Fish

A well-experienced hobbyist can set up this biotope tank due to the fish’s sensitivity to the water quality.

Examples of fish found in this habitat are Harlequin Rasbora, Danios, Rasbora Heteromorrpha, clown Loaches, Pearl Gouramis, etc. Suggested plants for this habitat include water lettuce, Duckweeds, Coon-tail, yellow water lilies, Indian swamp weed or Indian waterweed, water trumpet, etc. below are steps to set up an artificial black water biotope for southeast Asian fish.

– Tank

A long tank of about 55 to 75 gallons in size is great for this setup.

– Substrates

Fill the tank’s bottom with a fine-textured and dark substrate mixed with fertilizer to the depth of 2 inches. Pipe-like hiding places and shelters can be created using pieces of crafted bamboo cane.

– Driftwood/ Roots

Place driftwoods and big roots at the back of the tank, extending to the top area above the water.

– Plants

Choose live plants from the above list to be planted in the tank.

– Water

The water requirements are as follows:

  • Slight water movement from one side of the tank to the other
  • A pH of 5.5 to 6.5
  • Carbonate Hardness of 4dCh
  • Total hardness of 8dH
  • Water temperature should be in the upper seventies to low eighties

– Fish

About 6 to 8 Clown Loaches, lots of Danios from the Rasbora family of about 20 to 25, and pearl gouramis pairs should be in the Biotope tank.

– Light

Moderate lighting is needed for this setup. 2 white fluorescent tubes will do an excellent job.

4. Biotope Aquarium Set Up For Lowland Swamps Of West Africa

Setting up a Biotope Aquarium that looks like the natural environment for tropical fishes in the lowland swamps of West Africa.

There are varieties of fishes found in this habitat ranging from the Killifish, Cichlids from the Hemichromis and Ctenopoma families, Synondontis catfish, African catfish, Cuckoo Synodontis, etc. Plants found in this area include Anubias Lanceolata, Anubias Nana, Ammannia senegalensis, Ceratopteris Thalictrodes, Eleocharis Acicularis, Bolbitis Heudelotii, etc. below are the steps to setting up a lowland swamp biotope tank.

– Step 1: Tank

Make use of a standard tank of 29-gallon size.

– Step 2: Substrates

Fill the bottom of the tank with fine-grained sand substrates mixed with a lot of laterites. Laterite enhances the growth of the live plants in the tank. The substrate should be about 2 inches deep.

– Step 3: Driftwood

Small pieces of driftwood are needed to serve as an anchor for the live plants.

– Step 4: Plants

It would be best if you closely planted the live plants in the biotope tank. Then, make your choice of plants from the list of plants mentioned earlier or research to find out more about plants in this environment.

– Step 5: Water

Here are some water requirements for this biotope tank:

  • Slight water movement is needed in the biotope tank.
  • Water pH of about 7.0 to 7.2
  • Carbonate and general hardness not being critical.
  • Water temperature should be in the upper seventies to low eighties.

– Step 6: Fish

Put as many small Killifish varieties as you like, jewel Cichlids, African catfish, cuckoo catfish, etc.

– Step 7: Light

Two white fluorescent bulbs with a full spectrum will do a fantastic job.


  • You can set up your biotope aquarium base on your preference.
  • Different species of animals and plants co-exist in various Biotope environments.
  • Identify the animal species and plants that can interact safely in the same environment.
  • Water requirements differ depending on the species that live in that environment.
  • A tall 75 gallons size tank will make a perfect Flooded Forest biotope aquarium.
  • A short standard tank of 29-gallon size is ideal for the Lowland Swamps biotope aquarium.
  • The Biotope tank should be lighted in a suitable way for the live plants in the tank.
  • Avoid overcrowding in the tank to reduce fights among the fishes.
  • The water movement depends on the fish’s behavior; some are calm while some are fast swimmers.
  • Be sure to make use of quality materials in setting up your biotope aquarium.

Setting up and maintaining a biotope tank is not complicated as long as you do proper research and plan. So it would be best to bore in mind the cost of setting one up before you start. Follow the simple steps highlighted above, and you will have a lively biotope tank with a great view.

5/5 - (15 votes)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here