Perspective are we doing it wrong

Miles James

New Member
Dec 10, 2021
So I've become a little obsessed with this... To me the forground midground background plants idea is all wrong...

I'm not sure if it is just me but I feel the idea that people putting the largest plants at the back and smallest at the front only is sort of counter intuitive for creating depth...

I studied art at uni and currenty teach art, so have worked with perspective/composition for many years. In my experience placing larger objects at the front of a composition creates the best illusion of space/depth.

So why are we obsessed with making sure largest at the back smallest at the front???

Now dutch style which is what I do, does encourage larger plants in the front 2 corners to create the curtain like effect, which does sort of support this. But why not take this further and have larger plants taking over more frontal space....

Its not like an aquarium is 2d so actually you can look around larger plants as you would a sculpture. So in truth you could create far more complex compositions and layers if you put this into practice.

With my most recent couple of scapes I have started to do this, with a varying level of success. The only reason I can think for this not being standard practice is to do with flow issues.

Anyway let me know what you all think, I have attached a landscape picture as food for thought.


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Super Moderator
Staff member
Lifetime Member
Jun 20, 2016
I remember that phrase from my early aquarium books. It's still on Tropica plants. I don't think it is really the case in today's top aquascaping. Even in dutch not only the sides. but you often see a street going behind a taller focus plant or a midground plant coming in the foreground to break the monotony.

High elements at the front touching the front glass run the risk of ruining the scape entirely. And with the flow in many tanks being back to front there is a high risk of that happening.

I agree with you seeing the aquascapes in person is much more interesting, at least for the scapes I like. New attention to detail and Easter eggs as you change your perspective. However most aquascaping contests are actually photo contests and in many the forced perspective depth illusion breaks the moment you move 2 cm higher with the camera. You can see this in 'making of ' videos. I feel an increasing number of aquarist are doing tanks for social media rather than to decorate their homes, so the opportunity for 3D design gets mushed into a 2D goal. Higher elements in the front are still used but none of the target audience will have the chance to look beyond.
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