When you’re inner designer won’t come out to play, deciding on your tank decor can be a frustrating process.
So I’ve created this guide to make it easier for you.
In this article you’ll learn:
- Seven simple things to consider before choosing your decorations.
- We’ll talk about 10 types of decorations you can use for inspiration.
- At the end, I’ll share some of my favorite, unique aquarium decoration ideas.
Table of Contents:
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Things you need to Consider when Choosing Aquarium Accessories
When deciding on your decorations, you should think about the following:
1. The Size of Your Aquarium
It’s no good having lots of great big, fancy accessories if your tank just ends up looking crowded and ugly.
It’ll be pretty distressing for your fish, too, if they have no room to move around.
If you have a smaller tank, less is often more. It’s better to have one or two attractive decorations that stand out instead of multiple that leave your fish with little living space.
And, if you’re finding it difficult to make a choice, decide on a theme to follow in your design. That way, you can add in decorations like sunken ships and mermaid kingdoms, making it easier to choose accessories by sticking to a particular topic.
Proper Height of Aquarium Elements
Separate your tank into three zones: top, middle and bottom. Fish tend to spend the majority of their time in any one of these three zones, so it’s important to keep some space free in each.
In order to balance the space available evenly, it’s wise to have one or two tall items that rise up into the top zone (depending on the size of your aquarium) and then two or three that are short – around an inch or two from the bottom of your tank.
Your fish will feel safer if your decorations follow some kind of structure. By using those tips, you can incorporate decorations and accessories without making your fish feel uncomfortable.
2. The Color of Your Fish
If you’re concerned about upsetting the aesthetic of your aquarium, you can prevent this by considering the color of your fish.
The color of your decorations will either compliment or clash with your fish. If you have lots of lightly-colored fish, a dark substrate and dull decorations can help to complement those tones.
Vibrant, bright fish look great against white gravel and pale decorations, making the color of your fish pop against the colorless background. Green plants can also work well.
3. How Active Are Your Fish?
Highly-active fish have a considerably higher oxygen uptake than more dormant breeds.
If you’re keeping such fish, oxygen-producing decorations like bubble chests and and underwater rivers and bridges can help to provide plenty them with of air, keeping your fish healthy and allowing them to remain active.
4. Natural vs. Wild Aquarium Theme
The color of your accessories will set the theme of your aquarium.
If you wish to create a natural-looking theme for your tank, pea gravel and live, green plants are great choices in terms of color.
Neon hues and vibrant shades can create a more wild, showy look and help draw attention to particular areas of your aquarium.
Once you’ve decided on a theme, select the color of your decorations and accessories carefully to complement the feel of your tank.
5. Look Out for Sharp Edges
Decorations like fake plants can sometimes have sharp edges. These can seriously harm your fish by scratching at their scales, creating injuries and opening them up to infections.
When you’re choosing accessories for your aquarium, ensure that you avoid any that have sharp edges, allowing you to create an attractive aesthetic without risking your fish’s safety.
6. Consider Focus Points
When you’re adding decorations and accessories to your tank, it can help to select one or two focal points.
These points should stand out amongst the rest of your decor. Items like mermaid statues and bridges draw people’s attention, setting the scene throughout your aquarium and complementing your overall design.
7. Have Fun, But Exercise Caution When Adding New Things to Your Tank
While it’s easy to get carried away when decorating your tank, adding in household items and things found in the wild, you should always exercise caution when bringing something new into your fish’s home.
Quarantining Non-Commercial Items
While store-bought, purpose-built decorations are generally very safe, objects like driftwood and toys from around the house need to be quarantined before being added to your aquarium.
If you’re adding a toy or something plastic, you’ll need to ensure it doesn’t leak any nasty chemicals into your tank.
One way you can guard against this is to, add the selected decoration to a separate body of water.
Leave it there for a few days and then test the water to make sure there aren’t any unwanted changes to parameters.
If you’re adding something like driftwood, you can boil or bake it.
Another way you could go is to:
1) Do a visual check to see if there are no eggs on the object.
2) Get a bucket that you won’t use for your aquarium.
3) Dose the bucket water with some hydrogen peroxide.
4) Soak your decoration in the H2O2-water for 24 hours.
At the end of the day, you should never add anything that isn’t designed specifically for aquatic decoration without quarantining it first.
Pro Tip: Boiling driftwood will also guard against tannis being released into your tank. Although tannis are harmless, some people don’t like the temporary discoloration to their tank water.
10 Different Styles of Aquarium Decor to Inspire you
When choosing which decorations to add to your aquarium, it’s important to consider the benefits and potential drawbacks of each.
Natural driftwood is a popular addition to many aquariums and can help create a natural, simplistic feel. It also acts as a great hiding spot for more timid fish.
Driftwood can be bought in many stores and is usually very safe. You can, however, fish driftwood out of rivers and streams, adding it to your tank without spending any money.
You should exercise caution when doing this and be sure to quarantine wild-sourced wood. If you don’t, you run the risk of adding harmful microbes and parasites, having the potential to make your fish seriously ill.
Pro Tip: Sometimes driftwood can take an age to sink. One way to speed this up is to drill a few holes in it.
2. Aquarium Stones and Rocks
There are many attractive stones, pebbles and rocks available commercially which serve as great additions to many aquariums. They’re also ideal for naturally-themed tanks, comforting fish by mimicking their native habitat.
You can also add rocks found in the wild to your aquarium. Before doing this, however, it’s vital that you boil the rocks for an hour before adding them to avoid bringing in harmful substances/organisms.
Be mindful, too, that some rocks like lace rock can be sharp and cause harm to your fish and should be avoided.
Attractive rock choices include glass rock, ice rock, river pebbles, zebra rock and rainbow rock.
Pro Tip: Never bake rock because it could explode.
Caves can add an interesting, natural look to your aquarium, providing fish with an ornament to swim under and interact with.
When keeping prey fish, many hobbyists recommend adding items for those fish to hide under for security – caves serve as an attractive hiding spot for such species.
While natural rocks found in the wild can be used as caves, you should boil these rocks for at least an hour before adding them to your aquarium, killing off any harmful microbes and parasites.
PVC piping can also be used, just be sure to quarantine any plastics before adding them to your tank to make sure they’re safe and don’t leak any chemicals.
Sunken ships can be bought from most commercial retailers. If you’re looking to create a natural, sea-like theme, sunken ships are a safe, fish-friendly option that complement most tank designs well.
Ships also provide great hiding spots for fish, allowing prey species to conceal themselves for security and comfort.
Ancient ruins are an excellent addition to Atlantis/mermaid-themed tanks and act as perfect places for prey fish to hide.
When adding ruins of any kind, be sure that they’re purpose-built or, if not, that they’ve been safely quarantined or decontaminated before use.
Statues of people and animals look excellent in sea-themed aquariums, acting as attractive decorative options that add a creative and unique feel to an otherwise bog-standard aquarium.
Statues can be purchased from many aquatic retailers. When purchasing larger figures, be sure that they don’t make your tank too crowded and follow the design and style guidelines mentioned above.
7. Bubble Makers
Bubble chests, underwater rivers and air stones not only look attractive, but are often an essential addition to densely-populated aquariums.
If you’re keeping one or more highly-active fish in a single tank, it’s important to ensure that they have an adequate supply of oxygen.
Busier fish will require more than slower species, so it’s important that you keep oxygen levels high by adding in air-producing decorations.
When incorporating bubble makers into your aquarium, ensure that they aren’t too strong for your fish to handle. If your water flow becomes too high, fish will find it difficult to swim and become distressed, often leading to disease.
High water flow can be cancelled out by adding dense objects like driftwood.
8. Aquarium Backgrounds
Aquarium backgrounds can serve as the perfect finishing touch to your tank.
Both poster backgrounds, flat, 2D pieces that stick to the back of tanks, and structured backgrounds which are 3D and textured can be used to give your aquarium a more realistic and creative feel.
Pro Tip: Backgrounds should be secured with silicone or mounting gel and left for 48 hours before adding water and fish into the tank.
9. Submersible Light Ornament
Submersive lights can also be added to fish tanks, providing a soft, attractive glow without being too bright and invasive for fish.
These serve as a great way to brighten up your aquarium without disturbing your pets.
Submersive lights can also come in a range of colors, allowing you to transform your aesthetic and enhance particular color tones.
10. Ceramic Ornaments
Implementing ceramic ornaments into an aquarium is a contentious practice with some hobbyists claiming it to be perfectly safe and others totally against their use.
The truth is that some ceramic ornaments are, indeed, totally harmless, while others leach toxic metals as their glaze dissolves and can seriously harm fish.
Any object that is stamped as ‘dinnerware safe’ is suitable for use. This means that its glaze has been fired using methods that prevent chemical leaching under acidic conditions. Non-dinnerware pieces do not meet these standards and should be avoided.
If you’re unsure about the safety of a ceramic ornament, dilute a household acid like vinegar to a pH similar to the most acidic conditions your aquarium could reach. A pH of 5 should suffice.
Submerge the ornament, or part of it, in this solution and wait a month before examining it again. Check its glaze. If any of the shininess of the object has deteriorated, this indicates chemical leaching and the object is unsuitable for aquatic usage.
Plain/unglazed ceramics like terracotta are suitable as they come with no risk of chemical leakage. Ceramics with jagged edges can be chipped away and coated in a bead of aquatic silicone to prevent injury.
Bonus: Fun Fish Tank Ornaments
Other fish-friendly aquatic ornaments include:
The bottom line when it comes to adding decorations and accessories is to add in any decorations that take your fancy – providing that you take measures to ensure that they’re safe and non-toxic.
Your fish are indifferent to the vibrant colors or unusual decorations you may choose to add. It all comes down to personal choice.
By using the tips above, you can add your favourite ornaments to your aquarium without having to worry about harming your fish.