How to Decorate Your Aquarium

Now that you’ve decided you want an aquarium at home, it’s time to start thinking about how you plan to decorate it. You are joining nearly 15 million other American households with aquariums, so there is no end to great ideas and inspiration to get you started.

Apart from the proven health benefits of having an aquarium – from reduced stress to lower blood pressure – aquariums quickly become the focal point of any room. So let’s take a quick look at a few essential aquarium decoration tips to help you get started.

Fish or Aquascape First

If you’re starting with a list of the fish you want, then your aquarium decoration ideas should match their requirements – and each species has distinct needs. For example, do they need sand, lots of plants, or aquarium rocks?

Another way to go is by starting with a design and then matching the fish to the plan. Aquascaping tanks, for instance, means designing first and selecting fish second. As an example, don’t make the mistake of putting a large bottom feeder in a tank with very little sand.

In the Background

One of the first decisions you’ll be making is whether to have a background or not. Backgrounds are almost always a good idea. However, going with either a solid color or an aquatic scene will lead to a different set of decorating tips.

For example, with an aquatic scene background, matching the structure in the tank to the image helps create a three-dimensional look.


Start building your design from the bottom up, keeping in mind the fish and plants you plan to add. Starting with the substrate – sand or gravel – first is the base for the rest of your decorating ideas.

Aquarium rocks can be natural, artistic, or even whimsical. Adding a sense of depth to your aquarium is easy with rock ledges, and some species need them.

Your choices are practically unlimited, but be safe. Only adding rocks that are thoroughly clean and uncontaminated – ideally from your aquarium supply store – keeps your fish healthy.

Go Green

Adding aquarium plants is the next step. Plants’ ability to extract nitrogen and carbon from the water while adding oxygen is critical to a healthy tank – and fish.

Nothing else comes close to matching the texture and natural look that plants bring. When you are positioning your plants, take care not to block the view of your fish!

Finishing Touches

Last but not least, using natural items like driftwood or shells can add a perfect final touch to your tank – again, be sure they are tank-safe!

Other decorating ideas, including novelties like divers or treasure chests, are another way of completing your design with a touch of fantasy.

Aquarium Decoration: Your Vision

Whether you start with the fish you want or with an aquascape you have in mind, your aquarium decoration is a world that you design. Starting from the bottom up, match your design to your fish, then sit back and admire the world you’re creating!

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