Seems like every freshwater aquarium utilizes some form of wood as part of the aquascaping composition, doesn't it?
Would it be possible to do an interesting aquascape completely devoid of driftwood of some sort...or even plants?
When we assemble our aquascapes, the supporting cast of materials such as seed pods, wood, and leaves can make a difference between a subtle, relaxed look and a busy, perhaps even chaotic one. However, if the idea is to make the "supporting cast" the "stars" of the whole show, does this change the way we look at things?
When we look to nature for our cues, we often see a surprisingly homogenous mix of leaves and such in watercourses. You often don't see 50 different types of materials accumulating on the bottom. It's more like a dozen or less, in varying states of decomposition.
And this sort of makes sense, right? Especially when we take into account the fact that what you'll typically find in a leaf litter bed in a tropical stream, for example, is limited to the botanical materials from the trees and plants that are adjacent to the waterline.
So I've always been a big fan of constructing an interesting substrate component with a few (maybe 6 or so) different materials at the most, to avoid an overly jumbled look. What's really interesting about leaves, for example (oh, here I go again!) is that, even within the context of one variety (Catappa, for example), you see tremendous variation in color and texture.
As they break down, you're also getting both a different "look" out of them in addition to changing benefits (water tint, microogranism populations, etc.) And, if you're on top of things, "topping off" your litter as it breaks down and decomposes, you'll have a continuously varying 'scape, yet the underlying "theme" remains consistent...just like in nature, actually!
This is what we recommend mixing some more "permanent" elements, such as the durable "Savu Pods", "Jungle Pods", "Rio Fruta", Coco Curls, Heart Pods, etc. into your leaf litter zone. The use of materials of intermediate durability, such as "Teardrop Pods", "Terra Sorrindo", "Encontro Pods", etc. provides the underlying "consistency" in the aquascape as the leaves slowly break down. By providing what we like to call "selective aesthetic diversity", you can create the "backbone" of a more-or-less permanent 'scape, comprised largely of "transient" materials!
I admit, other than for testing of materials, I have not done an aquarium where the leaf litter is the entire "scape. I think that will be one of my next projects! And I don't think it will necessarily be "lacking" anything, like substantial vertical elements.
Why? Because I think by throwing in a few more durable materials, including the aforementioned botanicals, and perhaps a few rocks, oriented in various configurations- that it's entirely possible to create enough variation to keep it interesting.
Who's game for trying that idea?
Be adventurous. Be bold...Stay fascinated. Stay creative.
And Stay Wet.