The best aquarium decoration ideas are usually based on the following three factors: aesthetic appeal, functionality and cost effectiveness. The first two criteria are obvious; however, it is the third factor which determines if a particular idea will work or not. If you want to attract attention from your guests then you need to make sure that they see what you have put into making your aquarium look attractive. You might think that the most important thing is aesthetics but in fact, there are other considerations such as function and cost effectiveness. For example, you may want to add some sort of lighting system so that your fish don’t get burned when they eat certain types of food. Another consideration is the type of plants you want to use in your aquarium. Some plants grow well under low light conditions while others do better with higher levels of illumination. These factors all play a role in deciding whether or not an aquarium decoration will work.
Aquarium Decoration Ideas – Aquatic Plants
As mentioned above, aquatic plants are among the most popular aquarium decoration ideas. They provide a relaxing environment for your fish and also act as habitat for other animals living in the same water area.
There are many different kinds of aquatic plants available today and each one has its own advantages and disadvantages. As mentioned above, lighting is one of the most important factors when it comes to plants. Some aquatic plants are nocturnal and although they can grow without a great deal of lighting, if you want to see any sort of growth or change then you will need to provide them with higher levels of lighting. Green plants do best under blue lights which simulate daylight and red lights, which imitate sunset/sunrise. You will need a mix of both types to get the best effect.
For fish tanks which contain goldfish or other deep water swimmers you will need to provide them with aquarium decoration ideas which allow them to swim near the surface. This usually means aquatic plants with floating leaves.
These plants will also make your tank look better since the lack of roots and stems obscured by the water’s surface.
For beginners, aquatic plants can seem a little bit intimidating but with a little bit of research, and this guide, you should be able to get your tank looking great.
Before you start planting it is a good idea to consider where you want each kind of plant to grow. Different plants need different levels of light and water flow.
You may also want to think about the color that each plant will give your tank. For example, green plants will give you a more natural look while plants with purple or red leaves may be better for giving your fish a more dynamic environment.
Aquarium Decoration – Aquatic Plants For Your Goldfish Tank
As we mentioned above there are certain aquatic plants which will work better in goldfish tanks than others.
The two most popular choices for goldfish tanks are the Amazon Sword and the Red Sakura. Both of these plants grow relatively quickly and provide good cover for larger goldfish.
The only potential problem with these plants is that they grow so quickly that they may outgrow your tank. Amazon Swords especially have been known to reach over a foot in length which makes them unsuitable for smaller tanks.
There are a few other aquatic plants which work well in goldfish tanks. Marginal plants like the Anacharis, Canadian Pondweed and Water Wisteria all grow relatively quickly and provide enough cover for larger goldfish.
These plants don’t grow as large or as quickly as the Amazon Sword or Red Sakura but they can still grow to a size where they start to overtake the look of your tank. It is up to you to decide if this is a good thing or not.
If you are looking for something a little bit different for your tank then there are some other, less common plants which you might like. One of the most interesting choices is the Watersoldier Grass.
This plant grows relatively slowly and spreads out rather than upwards. Because of this it provides more shade rather than cover but it looks great in the right environment.
Another interesting plant for your tank is the Water Wisteria. This plant only grows to a maximum size of 8 inches and spreads out like a sheet rather than growing up.
It provides some cover for your fish but its main purpose is to brighten up your aquarium with beautiful purple coloring.
Your last aquatic plant option is probably one of the strangest ones available. The Pygmy Chain Sword is a plant which looks like a small clump of grass blades.
Despite looking so plain it is one of the toughest and hardiest aquatic plants available. It grows slowly and spreads out rather than up. It can be an interesting contrast to the larger, more full plants available.
Decorating Your Fish Tank With Decorative Wood
Wood is another great way to add some depth and color to your tank. Just be careful not to let any of these wooden ornaments touch the water since they will rot if exposed to the water for too long.
Wooden ornaments come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes so you can choose exactly what you want to put in your tank.
One option is water soaked wooden beads. These will quickly begin to grow green mold after being submerged in the water but they will not rot like some other wooden ornaments.
They come in a range of different colors so you can choose the right one for your tank.
Another wooden addition which you can use are wooden rings. They come in a range of different sizes and can easily be rearranged to your liking.
Just be careful because the rings can easily slip through your hands and end up in the water if you’re not careful.
The last wooden addition we’re going to mention are the wooden fish ornaments. These come in a range of different shapes and sizes but they all have one thing in common.
They’re wooden fish. Each one is different and can be arranged to look like schools or swarms of fish in your tank. They’re a great way to add some life to your tank.
Controlling The Water Quality In Your Fish Tank
All tanks need regular maintenance to ensure that everything is running smoothly and your tank is no different.
One of the most important things which you need to do is replace some of the water in the tank every once in a while. Some people will recommend that you do this every week but this really depends on how large your tank is and what type of fish you have inside it.
If you have a small bowl then you might need to change the water every week but if you have a large tank then you might be able to get away with changing it every couple of months.
You can also use chemicals to help keep the water quality high. You can add some of these chemicals before you add the new water to get the levels of the chemical just right for your fish but separating some of the water from the tank first will let the chemical levels in the tank return to normal.
Water quality is important but so is the air quality in your fish tank. You can use air pumps and air stones to aerate the water and add gases which are otherwise missing from tap water.
This is especially important if you have a large tank since large volumes of water can easily get stagnant quite quickly.
You may also want to consider adding a small amount of salt to your tank to help prevent diseases and problems with chlorine in your tap water. This is especially important if you don’t change your water as often as you should.
The final thing you should consider is getting yourself a pH testing kit. If you’re replacing some of the water in the tank every once in a while then you may notice that the pH of the water is gradually changing.
A pH testing kit will allow you to keep on top of this and adjust things before the water becomes dangerously acidic or alkaline for your fish.
Those are the basics when it comes to taking care of your fish tank. Filtration, water changes, chemicals and even air pumps can take your normal fish tank from a simple glass of water with some decorations into a fascinating underwater world.
What Fish Can You Add?
Now that you’ve decided on a tank and have done all the preparation needed to keep your fish alive and healthy, you still have one rather large decision to make.
What fish do you actually want in your tank?
Most communities will have a pet store of some description from which you can choose your fish from. These pet stores tend to get new stock in on a weekly basis so you’re going to have lots of choice when it comes to picking out your new friends.
If your community isn’t large enough to support a pet store then you may have to order your fish mail order. There are a number of benefits to mail ordering your fish.
The main one being that you’ll have access to a much wider range of species to choose from. In some areas you may have a choice between half a dozen different types of tetra while in other areas you might only have the choice of three.
Of course with this extra choice comes extra complications. You’ll most likely have to buy your fish when they arrive in store and you won’t get to see them first.
You may end up with a much larger fish than you intended or you may even get one that’s sick or dying. This can prove to be very expensive if you chose to throw the new arrival out rather than try to nurse it back to health.
If you’re in a smaller town then you may have no choice but to order your fish. If this is the case then ask the pet store owner to order in something that’s suitable for a beginner.
If you have time you might even want to call around to various pet stores and see if any of them can get you what you need.
If all else fails you’re always going to have the option of joining an online community and buying your fish through them. This option will give you the widest choice possible albeit at a distance.
Aquariums: Decorating And Maintenance
The tank is full of water, it has heating and filtering equipment installed and it has fish in it.
Surely that’s all there is to it?
It would be nice if life was that simple but unfortunately nature doesn’t always comply with our demands.
In the next few sections I’m going to briefly cover some of the problems you may encounter with your tank and how to deal with them.
If you’re lucky when you buy your tank you won’t have to deal with green algae at all. It’s a common problem for new aquariums but is easily dealt with through a combination of methods.
The algae will often appear a bright green color and will cover at least part of the glass in the tank. It can be hard to get rid of and some types seem to resist all attempts to wipe them away.
The cause of green algae is lack of light so if this is the problem then you need to look at increasing the amount of light in your tank. If you have had the tank for a while and this is a recent problem then you may have grown a type of algae that requires more lighting than your tank can provide.
You can try to wipe it away with a soft cloth or even try breaking up the algae with an old card and removing the pieces individually. If neither of these methods work then you’ll have to resort to chemical warfare.
Using chemicals is very dangerous and should only ever be used as a last resort. You should never pour them directly into the tank itself and if possible put a cloth or something between the water and the container itself.
Even so there are some chemicals which can still leech through the material and kill your fish so always read the instructions very carefully and NEVER mix different chemicals together.
The chemical of choice for killing green algae is usually a diluted form of chlorine. This is risky since it can easily wipe out all the good bacteria in your tank as well but if you use just the right amount it should kill the algae without harming your fish.
You should also be warned that if the tank hasn’t been setup properly then using chemicals of any kind can easily wreck your tank so make sure you read all the instructions first and only try this as a last resort.
If you have strong lighting and the green algae is patchy in its coloring then you’re going to need to clean your glass a lot more often. This means at least once a week you should wipe down all the glass with a damp cloth and some plain old water.
If you have the resources then an even better option would be to build yourself a simple light box to increase the amount of light in your tank overall.
I use a large cardboard box on the bottom of my tank and place a normal desk lamp (turned on its side) next to it. The light from the lamp shines through the gaps in the box and onto the top of the tank.
It’s a cheap but effective way of increasing the light levels.
Need more help?
If you’re having problems with green algae then there are a few threads over at the forum where you can get some help:
Now we move on to something a little more complicated, brown algae. This stuff is a little harder to get rid of and takes longer to grow in the first place.
Like green algae this stuff will usually cover at least part of the glass and can be harder to notice against dark gravel or dark decor.
The main cause of brown algae is lack of light again but it can also indicate that there is simply too much food in the tank.
The two most common types of brown algae are the thread and brush varieties. Thread algae grows in long strands like hair and is usually found growing on rocks or wood.
Brush algae on the other hand grows on the glass and looks rather like small bristles of a paintbrush. It’s easy to mistake for normal dirt on first glance so you’ll need to look carefully if you want to get rid of it.
Both of these varieties will grow much faster in tanks that don’t have enough light or where there is simply too much food.
However there is another type of brown algae which seems to grow regardless of lighting levels or food amounts, this stuff actually uses the tank itself as sustenance so if it’s growing on your glass, decor or even under the gravel then you’ve got a serious problem on your hands.
This third type of algae doesn’t actually look like algae at all. It looks more like tiny little mushrooms (usually light brown in color).
If you have this in your tank then chances are you’ve got a really bad problem and should take some immediate measures to fix it or you risk everything else becoming covered in it as well.
How to prevent brown algae
As with green algae the key thing to remember is, less food, less problems. If you really want to keep your fish healthy then feeding them just enough so they wont beg for more but are still interested when you do offer it is probably the way to go.
Cleaning your tank regularly and making sure there is plenty of oxygen in the water are also good ways of preventing this stuff from getting a hold in the first place.
How to get rid of it
Getting rid of brown algae is a little more complicated than simply reducing the amount of food you’re giving the fish. Once this stuff gets a hold of your tank then it will start spreading to other areas very quickly so you need to nip it in the bud straight away.
The easiest way to remove it is to use some plant clippers and just snip it off. Obviously do this at the right level or you’ll be removing algae and leaving live bits which will regenerate into full plants in a few days.
Make sure you get ALL of it so that it doesn’t spread any further once you’ve removed it.
The second option is to use some paper towels and rubbing alcohol (isopropyl). Get the towels soaking wet then wring most of the liquid out of them, you want them just wet enough that theyre not dripping.
Use the towels to gently wipe the affected area, you will find that the sugars within the algae act as a sort of glue and it will start to come away from the glass. At this point use a new clean dry cloth to wipe it off and then carefully dispose of it.
If you’ve got a large area affected then simply repeat the process until its all gone.
Once your tank is brown free you need to make some adjustments to what you’ve been doing up until now. There is a good chance that your lighting has been too strong or your carbon dioxide levels have been too low.
You need to address these issues as soon as possible because they were most likely contributing to the algae growth.
You should also look very closely at your feeding routines, if youre feeding vegetables then maybe its time to cut right back on those nutrients for a while. Just giving them peas or white rice for a few weeks should do the trick.
One other major cause for concern with a planted tank is the danger of overfeeding. Most people feed their fish once or twice a day and that’s it, but the problem with this is that most fish will find even the tiniest bits of uneaten food left over and gobble that up too.
This can cause a buildup of nutrients within your tank.
You should be carrying out a routine of 15-20% water changes once a week to keep your water quality up and your fish happy. If you’ve been neglecting this maintenance chore then its even more important that you get it done now as you don’t want a mini-cycle starting in your tank.
When doing your water changes always be sure to remove any left over food as this can start rotting and causing water quality issues, not to mention turning your tank into a lunch buffet for the bacteria and baddies that you’re trying to avoid.
Caring For Your Plants
Finally we’re on to the plants themselves.
Just like with the fish most beginners kill their plants through ignorance or a lack of knowledge on their requirements. In reality its not that difficult once you know what they need.
You should be checking your plants on a daily basis just like you do with the fish and checking the water quality. You’ll need to be doing water changes more frequently because as we all know, plants use up nutrients much quicker than fish do so its much harder to keep good water quality for them.
Even if you’ve not got any in your tank yet you should be familiar with the common plants that are available because they can often be bought on sale or even given away for free at certain times of the year.
Take cuttings from them so that you’ll always have spare plants and give them away to family or friends as gifts.
Plants are an essential component for your tanks long term success.
Most beginners tend to shy away from plants in their aquarium because they think that it will be a lot of hassle to look after them. They could not be further from the truth.
Before we get started there are two important factors which you need to consider first and foremost before introducing plants into your tank.
You need to make sure that you have the lighting and the nutrients available for your plants. If you’re running your tank on the basic aquarium lighting systems provided then you probably won’t have enough light for the plants to properly grow, this is where additional lighting will need to be installed if you want to grow any plants in your tank (Unless you want to keep just hardy types that don’t require much light)
Secondly you will need to add nutrients into your water for the plants to be able to survive in. This means regularly adding things like fertilizer tablets to your filter or doing water changes with aged water (Water which has been sitting in another container for a few days so the levels of nutrients have dropped)
Also if you do add new plants to your tank you will almost certainly need to do a large water change within a few days to keep the levels of nutrients down and stop them from causing problems, this is especially important if your plants come from a store.
Again the amounts and types of plants you can keep in your tank are limited by a range of things but the major ones are:
Your lighting system and how much light your plants require to grow and survive.
The amount of nutrients available for the plants to consume.
The amount of surface area and depth of your tank that allows for sufficient filtration to keep the water quality high.
If you can keep and meet the requirements for plants then they are an excellent way to keep fish because:
Plants act as a natural filter. Although this may seem obvious, it is actually true.
They consume the same nutrients that the fish food will be breaking down into. This means that you don’t need to worry about over feeding and polluting the tank as much as you would with just fish in there.
They provide additional cover for fish to spawn in as well as numerous hiding places for timid or new fish to hide in and get used to your tank.
They also improve the quality of the water by acting as a filter and they look nice.
Basically choosing plants is all about striking a balance with these various factors and requirements to make sure that you can keep them without causing too many problems in your tank.
As a beginner I would seriously suggest keeping to just hardy plant species, perhaps a few hardy floating types like the hornwort or the water sprite as these will spread throughout the tank anyway and provide some cover.
If you wish to keep one of the more delicate types like the various types of crypts or vals then you will need to do a lot of research into the light, nutrient and CO2 requirements they have to grow.
Water lilies are perhaps the most beautiful and striking in a freshwater tank but require very specific conditions (as found in nature) to enable them to grow successfully. This means a very large and deep tank all to themselves as well as a specific nutrient concentration in the water, this is beyond the scope of this article but if your interested have a look online.
There are various different options when it comes to choosing hardy aquarium plants that can survive in most tanks with the least amount of fuss. This will naturally limit the choices you have but with a bit of research you can still have quite a varied and beautiful tank.
You should however make sure that you choose plants that won’t grow too large for your tank or get too big so that they don’t overwhelm it.
An excellent plant for almost all aquariums especially beginners as they are one of the hardiest water plants available. They have long ribbon like leaves that can be green, red or yellow and float on the surface as well as reaching down in to the water a bit.
They also have small white flowers that bloom underwater and look amazing.
If you’re just starting out then these are probably the easiest plant for you to grow, they can grow quite big though so make sure that you get young specimens or give them enough room to grow. They can easily withstand temperatures and conditions that most other plants would not so they make a good choice for almost all tanks.
Another hardy plant species that can grow in almost any tank. They have small stubby roots that grow on the surface of the water as well as underwater and have a dark green grass like appearance.
They are fairly slow growing so you will get some time to get your lighting, CO2 and nutrient levels right.
Hardy and beautiful at the same time, what more could you want from an aquarium plant?
These tetras have unique looks and coloring that will certainly enhance the beauty of your tank. They like to school together in groups of ten or more so you will need to buy quite a few of them but with the large number that you will need to buy it won’t make much difference.
These fish can grow up to 1.5 inches in length but grow slowly and can live for several years, bear this in mind when you choose your tank size and get one that’s big enough for when they reach their full size.
Probably the easiest starter fish there is, shrimps are about as easy to take care of as goldfish. They will eat most leftovers that fall on the bottom and produce very little waste so they make a great clean up crew for your tank.
You will need to feed them special shrimp food as well as left over food that sinks to the bottom though so it is a bit more work but this is more than made up for by how easy they are to take care of.
There are many different varieties of shrimp available and most of them are great to look at as well as being useful.
You can keep most types of shrimp together in one tank and even mix them with other types of fish as well.
Shrimp are very sensitive to water quality and should never be added to a newly set up tank or one that has a disease problem. They are also one of the first creatures to show the effects of ammonia and nitrite poisoning so it’s a good idea to buy a few and let them adjust to your tank water before you add any fish.
These little orange creatures are slightly more work than regular shrimp as they need special food such as krill, blood worms, crab shells etc. but they are still very hardy and will breed like rabbits if left unchecked.
They are interesting to watch and provide a great deal of entertainment when they are feeding as they move around your tank exploring and eating.
Sources & references used in this article:
Marine aquarium keeping by S Spotte – 1993 – books.google.com
Freshwater aquariums for dummies by M Hargrove, M Hargrove – 2006 – books.google.com
Tank Tips: A freshwater aquarium in the classroom by R Holcombe – Green Teacher, 2006 – search.proquest.com
Aquarium water circulation system by GP Huska – US Patent 6,659,043, 2003 – Google Patents
Method for illuminating objects and fixtures in aquariums by AS Buczko – US Patent 7,500,776, 2009 – Google Patents
Aquariums—Getting Into the Swim by DG Elliott – Yearbook of agriculture, 1984 – naldc.nal.usda.gov
Fantasia aquarium by N Suteerawanit, P Sanguanvichaikul – US Patent App. 11/322,691, 2007 – Google Patents