No surprises here. The main reason you are going to be decorating your aquarium (or “aquascaping”) is the same reason you decorate anything: to make the aquarium look nicer. Fish are not interactive pets; they are aesthetic pets. Why not make their environment look as beautiful, exotic, and unique as the fish themselves.
However, there is a reason beyond the simply superficial. A well-decorated aquarium will make the fish more comfortable and happy. Fish, who spend their entire lives in exposed open waters, are naturally inclined to avoid predators any way they can, and they will never be comfortable in the wide, blank, boring aquarium. To them, open water is dangerous water. Also, the more natural the decorating the more natural the fish’s behavior will become and will in many cases hide less, as long as the option to hide is there. A happy fish is a healthy fish, and when a fish is happy and stress free, it usually displays brighter colors and more energy.
What to use
When decorating your aquarium, you will be faced with a lot of different choices, but making the wrong choice can mean sick, belly-up floating fish. Our best suggestion is to do research before buying any decorative accessory.
There are two basic types of decoration: Hard Cover and Soft Cover. Research will help you understand what type of cover works best with your fish. Hard cover (like rocks) is usually ideal for deep, open water or fast water fish, while soft cover (plants) is better for river or shallow water fish.
Also, before you are introducing any new item into your aquarium, make sure the item is safe and durable. Believe it or not, water isn’t as harmless as it appears and is in fact a highly corrosive substance…and not just because it’s wet. The way the molecules of water are aligned make it a perfect solvent, which means it can eat away at to your decorations. Make sure whatever you are putting in the aquarium is non-toxic and water-soluble. Be especially wary of paints and dyes on decorations, if they are not waterfast it can become a health risks.
Dissolving or eroding decorations can lead to toxic or undesirable water for the fish. Furthermore, softer items might be chewable which can cause serious problems if the fish digest it.
Your best bet is to not use anything that wasn’t designed specifically for aquarium use. It can be fun to create your own decorations or use neatly or oddly shaped items you’ve found—and it is cheaper—but it can also be very dangerous for your fish, which should be the main concern when decorating your aquarium.
Feng Shui your aquarium — Style Accessories
Arranging your decorations is key. You want to give the fish a comfortable and “life-like” environment, but it should also be pleasant to look at for yourself and make it possible to view the fish, even when they are being shy.
You don’t want to clutter it up, but it is appropriate to fill 50% or more of the tank with decorations. You probably do not want to do any more than 75% because at that point there will more decorations than water and fish. This is not only unattractive, but also can give the fish too many places to hide, or if not arranged properly, no places to hide.
The basic principle of aquascaping arrangement is common sense, but can be easily overlooked: larger stuff in back and to the sides, while not obscuring the main viewing areas with decorations.
It is also a clever little trick to utilize the aquarium decorations to conceal all the necessary aquarium accessories like heaters, filters, tubing, etc.
You want to fill up the tank, but you don’t want to go overboard—and you also do not want to go overboard when it comes to variety. Try to stick to a common motif and relatively consistent color scheme. You want variety, no doubt, but controlled variety.
Also, if you are using manufactured “props”, like ceramic or plastic castles or treasure chests, use plants and rocks around them to obfuscate any corners or edges. This is more superficial and will not affect the fish one way or another, but will make the aquarium look more natural for its human viewers.
We also recommend that you borrow a little movie magic from the cinema world, which opines that the “focal point” should never be in the center of the screen. When the focus is dead center, the tableau is often uninteresting and boring. So, just like in the movies, try to keep any focus-driving decorations offset, on the outer thirds of the tank.
A background will also help tie the aquarium together, while giving a dark contrast for the fish to feel more secure.
At the end of the day it’s all about pleasing your own tastes and aesthetic. The fish won’t be able to tell much of difference between color schemes and motifs, but do keep in mind decoration size and texture. Hop on down to your local pet store and see what they got. There are plenty of very well made decorations, including fake rocks and plants, which are an absolute must for the aquarium aficionado.