Biotope (habitat) aquarium types

Biotope (habitat) aquarium types

Biotope aquatics: a fascinating journey to the home areas of our ornamental fish

Reproducing a biotope (habitat) always starts with some specialised literature and internet research. Everyone has their own favourite fish species (e.g. angel fish) or a region, you find fascinating (e.g. Lake Tanganyika). With a bit of luck you’ll find some photos or even videos of your chosen region. Now you’ll begin to imagine what your aquarium could look like.

Then the detailed research starts, and this may include the following points:

Specialist literature and Google will help to give you information about the habitat. This includes the water values, incl. temperature, photos – ideally also underwater photos, descriptions of the dry and the wet season with effects on the biotope on animal and plant species which have their habitat there.

Biotope South America/Venezuela

South America/Venezuela, Rio Carrao, near waterfall Salto Angel

The video shows you a habitat in the table mountains of Venezuela. First above water and then underwater. Notice the size of the rocks and their arrangement. Can you see any aquatic plants? What kind of substrate can be found? Even short videos like this can help you enormously to understand and recreate a habitat.

Biotope South America/Colombia

South America/Colombia, Rio Atabapo

Here you can see Altum angelfish and other cichlids in their natural biotopes. It is easy to see that most of the cichlids, with the exception of earth eaters (Geophagus), are usually found under fallen branches. Characins, on the other hand, also swim in the open water. Here the shoal functions to protect the individual.

Biotope Japan/Iriomote Island

Asia/Japan, Iriomote Island

The southern Japanese islands of the Ryukyu group are located in subtropical latitudes. The strong current limits the habitat to species adapted to it, which can either swim very well or have adhesive organs, like the goby species living there. Large-armed shrimps can also be seen, but only when there are no larger predatory fish in the vicinity.

So many questions

Which biotope do I like? Which continent? What kind of biotope: jungle, savannah, river, lake, rocky reef, rapids?

Does the biotope section fit into my aquarium (aquarium size)?


Which animals live there, and don’t eat each other or permanently fight for territories?


Which plants grow there? Do they grow in groups or individually?


What kind of substrate can you see on the pictures or are likely to be found there? Dark lava ground? Light sand? Just coarse gravel?


Are there stones, if yes, what kind of rock? How do the stones lie on top of each other?


Is there wood in the biotope? What kind of wood? Does it lie on the ground, such as driftwood or are there tree roots which protrude into the water? Do plants grow on the wood? How do the plants grow on the wood? If parts of the biotope are not available (e.g. a specific type of wood), what looks similar?


How strong is the current there? You can’t measure the strength of the current, but you can guess from the plant leaves or the swimming behaviour of the fish whether there is a strong or gentle current.

Water values

Which water values can be found there? On the JBL expeditions’ result pages you will find a lot of water parameters about biotopes all around the world: Expeditions

Leaves & characteristics

Are there leaves on the ground, and what kind of leaves? Can I get these leaves from somewhere or can I also use Catappa leaves ( JBL Catappa XL / JBL Nano-Catappa ) as an alternative? Are there any special features in the biotope, e.g. empty snail shells for the shell dwellers of Lake Tanganyika?


Can I add light effects to imitate natural sunlight in the water? Highly recommended for biotope aquariums: The JBL control unit for JBL LEDs, the JBL LED SOLAR CONTROL, contains real biotope data for light control! Using climate data from the Pantanal in South America and Lake Malawi in Africa, the light control has been programmed to simulate (this is optional) the original lighting situations of the regions with dry and rainy seasons, thunderstorms, sunrises and sunsets. Lighting in biotope aquaristics couldn’t be more realistic!

Aquarium technology

How can I hide technical items ( Heating/cooling , Filtering , PROFLORA CO2 plant care etc.) in the aquarium with the help of decoration?

Area above water

Do you want to include an area above water? Very attractive, but tricky too!

How can I decorate all the parts (the ground, the stones, the wood and the plants) in a way that is not only natural, but also visually appealing? This is the biggest challenge and it is also the most fun to resolve!

Suggestions for aquariums

Two biotope aquariums are featured as themed JBL aquariums: JBL Pantanal River® and JBL Malawi Rocks®. But neither is a biotope aquarium in the strict sense; the plants used don’t originate from the respective biotope or even continent. We selected them for visual reasons or because they suited the water type. Neither do the fish come from just one biotope, although they do live in a neighbouring region! Nevertheless both themed aquariums can be described as biotope aquariums.

Jungle aquarium type JBL Rio Pantanal®

A bit of jungle river in your living room. Lively underwater action! No problem with the JBL Rio Pantanal® aquarium

Rocky reef aquarium type JBL Malawi Rocks®

The fish of Lake Malawi are as colourful as the fish in the coral reefs. This aquarium brings a bit of freshwater reef into your living room

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