One of the most fulfilling aspects to keeping aquarium fish is having the opportunity to decorate the aquarium. Aquarium decorations fulfill two purposes; they help make the aquarium more visually appealing and they give fish a place to play, hide and even breed. Because of this, aquarium decorations are an important part of any aquarium design. Because there are so many different types of aquarium decorations, this article will act as a guide to introduce you to them.
Because there is such a wide array of aquarium decorations available, the decorating plan that you put in place for your aquarium can act as a bit of an artistic expression. There are many different thoughts and ideas on aquarium decoration. Some people prefer a natural look, while other people like aquarium decorations that are colorful and fun. When choosing which style is right for you keep in mind that it is your aquarium and you can decorate it however you want.
One of the most important aquarium decorations is the aquarium background. The aquarium background can be made of many different things. One of the most commonly used aquarium backgrounds are the retail backgrounds that have underwater scenes on them. While these are good in most cases, there are several other options. One of my favorite backgrounds is a black or blue background painted on with a can a spray paint. If you choose to use this method, make sure and paint the background on the out side of the aquarium. Some other options include retail bought 3D background that go inside the tank or you can construct your own aquarium background using styrofoam. The retail 3D backgrounds look great but they can be quite expensive.
One of the staples of natural aquarium decoration is the use of rocks and stones. There are a wide variety of aquarium safe rocks and stones available for purchase, but with proper testing and care you can also use certain rocks that you have found for your aquarium. One of the concerns with using rocks gathered locally is contamination. Things to look out for include pesticides, herbicides or other chemical pollutants. Another concern is the actual alkalinity of the stone. To test to see if the stone has too much alkalinity, put a few drops of vinegar on the stone and wait to see if it bubble. If it does, it is best to pass on that particular rock. Regardless of the results of this test, close attention should be paid to the pH level in an aquarium for the first few weeks after adding a rock or stone. If you decide to purchase either a fake plastic rock ornament or an aquarium safe rock ornament, you do not have to worry about the pH.
No natural aquarium decoration plan would be complete without some natural wood in it. The best wood to use for aquarium decoration is drift wood or mangrove roots. Drift wood found locally is generally not good to use in the aquarium due to the potential for contamination. Roots and driftwood can make for a stunning presentation and contribute greatly to the health of certain fish species. One important item to note is that the presence of wood in the aquarium will have two likely effects - it will lower the pH and hardness of the water and it may leech tannins into the water giving it an amber hue.
Natural coral or shells of any kind should generally be avoided in freshwater aquariums. One exception to this would be for species that require a high pH such as african cichlids. In this case crushed coral can be used to help increase the water's pH.
Live plants are an obvious addition for a natural decoration plan, but it is beyond the scope of this article to discuss the care of live plants. If you would like more information about this subject, please read the article - Designing a Planted Aquarium
Unnatural or Manmade Decorations
A commonly used decoration for aquariums is marbles or other types of glass globules. While these are completely safe for the aquarium, they should not be used as the sole substrate. The voids between the marbles are too large for bacteria to form at it's peak capacity so the marbles should either be mixed with a finer substrate or placed on top of a finer substrate.
Plastic aquarium decorations can be a great addition to a fish tank - especially for kids. Think of the bubbling treasure chests, sunken ships, pirate skulls or swimming divers. All of these are plastic aquarium decorations that can bring an element of fun to the aquarium. One important thing to remember when choosing a plastic aquarium decoration is that it will eventually be covered with algae. That nifty looking pink unicorn sand castle may look great on the store shelf, but will look a lot less great covered in algae and slime. Plastic aquarium decorations do provide some benefit to the fish as well. They can offer hiding spots and addtional surface area for denitrifying bacteria to grow.
Another type of plastic decoration is the plastic plant. When choosing man made plants for you aquarium, look for a few things. First of all, look for a weighted base. The lightweight plastic aquarium plants that rely on the substrate to keep them rooted are nothing but a nuisance. Instead, buy aquarium plants that have rocks glued to the base.
Just like plastic aquarium decorations, ceramic aquarium decorations can be a welcome addition to add fun and color to an aquarium. Just about any type of ceramic item can be used as long as it is rinsed throughly. Remember, algae will grow on ceramic just like on the plastic decorations.
Thank you for taking the time to read this brief overview of aquarium decoration. I hope you will take this opportunity to design the aquarium you have always dreamed of!