In aquariums, decorations are used not only to beautify the environment and create amazing aquascapes. In reality, they have other important roles like hiding places, spawning places, foraging places, etc.
There are many options when it comes to décor, for example, live and fake plants, driftwood, rocks, bottles, PVC pipes, bricks, etc.
In this article, I will be looking at the top ways to decorate your fish, crabs, hermit crabs, crayfish, and shrimp tank so that your little friends will feel right at home.
Why are decorations needed?
Our pets need an environment where they can thrive. Basically, we need to replicate their natural environment in an aquarium setting as much as possible. I am not just talking about water parameters (PH, GH, KH, temperature, etc.) but decorations as well.
Decorations can improve the quality life of the animals by adding beneficial attributes to the needs of our pets.
- Spawn points. Spawn and nesting They allow areas to spawn safely and make your ecosystem healthy. No animal wants to live in a transparent box.
- Feeding ground: Decorations also act as a buffet of biofilm, which is an ideal first food for newly hatched fry and shrimplets, it will increase their survival rate. So, the more surface area for them to graze on, the happier they will be.
- Protection. Decorations add homes and protective nooks so that your animals can hide in to feel safe.
It can be especially important for crustaceans (crabs, hermit crabs, crayfish, and shrimp) during molting (shedding their old exoskeleton). This is an extremely stressful process for them. When they are about to molt they usually start looking for a place to hide. Otherwise, they can easily fall prey to their tankmates.
- Natural behavior. Decorations make them feel safer. So they can display their natural behaviors.
- Zoning. We can also use decorations to zone some territories in the aquariums. It can be especially useful and/or needed if you keep territorial animals. For example, many crabs and crayfish species are territorial and extremely likely to fight when housed together.
Simple Tank Decoration Ideas
Here’s a list of the top tank decoration ideas to make your aquarium stand out!
Plants can be one of the most important things you need to have in your aquarium.
The importance of live plants in the aquarium cannot be overstated. They introduce a whole new aesthetics and depth to any kind of aquascape.
We can have:
- floating or submerged plants,
- slow and fast-growing plants,
- column or root-feeders,
- single or carpeting plant.
Each of these categories has its own amazing benefits (removal of excess nutrients, competition with nuisance algae, oxygenation, etc.).
2. Fake plants
Although I am a huge fan of live plants, there is also an alternative to them – fake plants. In some tank setups, they can be even a better choice because:
- Great choice for beginners.
- Require minimal care.
- Can be easily removed.
- Do not require fertilizers, lighting, and CO2.
- Do not carry parasites/pests.
- Fake plants do not decay or litter the tank.
- They are harder to destroy by aggressive fish or invertebrates.
- They are cheaper than live plants in the long run.
Driftwood is another great choice to improve the growth and development of your animals.
- It will provide protection and a food source for grazing bottom-dwelling species.
Note: In the water, bacteria decompose the wood and gradually turn it into nutrients (biofilm) that are reintroduced to the food web.
- When driftwood is submerged, it leaches tannins into the aquarium water. Results of the experiments showed that tannins possess antibacterial properties, improve metabolism and breeding rate.
- Tannins introduced into your tank will also soften the water a little bit.
- Promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria.
Some of the most popular types of wood include Cholla, Malaysian, Mopani, and Spider wood. So, I am sure that you can find the type of wood that will suit your taste.
4. Ornamental Rocks
A very simple and effective material to use is rocks.
Rocks are also a great way to anchor your plants that need to establish their root systems a bit more.
They can add depth and create breathtaking hardscapes. For example, Iwagumi aquascape (rock-only layouts) is a unique composition of stones (or the so-called ‘garden of stones’). The design and maintenance of an aquarium in this style require certain knowledge and skills.
Note: Rocks need to be inert. It means they will not alter your water parameters. For example, good rocks are basalt, natural lava rock, obsidian, slate, and quartz.
5. Colored glass
I’ve seen colored glass really transform the depth of an aquarium.
If you use it, it can make things pop while also keeping that transparency so that you can see other things you put into it.
6. Porous Bricks
It looks really simple and brutal but effective.
- Lots of surface area for beneficial bacteria.
- Pores are great hideouts for small animals.
- Heavy, so they won’t be moved by animals.
- Great for anchoring plants.
Important: There should not be sharp edges. You can use sandpaper to do that.
7. Ceramic decorations
Ceramic decoration should be glazed both inside and out. Otherwise, they will start discoloring from being in the water. It may take months but eventually, it may cause huge problems for your tank.
Therefore, just make sure that they are not simply painted as they may not be aquarium safe.
Important: you can use only kiln-fired clay. Do not ever use air-dry clay in the tanks, it will fall apart.
8. Alder cones
Alder cones look like small pine cones and they will make a nice addition to most aquascapes.
Nonetheless, alder cones are also naturally rich in tannins (around 15%) that soften up the water a bit. In addition, they have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.
Keep in mind that they tend to float when first put in the tank. Do not worry, they will sink once the cone becomes water-logged. To speed up the process, you need to boil them.
Important: Do not pick alder cones near the roads or in the city. It can be really hard to make them safe for aquariums.
9. Online products (Groot, Spongebob Squarepants hut, Skulls, Miniature Ships, Star Wars Fish Tank, etc.)
Skulls. Who doesn’t love a spooky pirate-themed aquascape? Skulls make your aquarium look hardcore-parcore and they also provide great shelter for your fish and shrimp.
Similar to rocks, you can actually use skulls to help anchor your plants as well if your skull is a bit heavier in weight.
Miniature Ships. Again, the nautical theme is always a win. Shipwrecks or ship miniatures are fantastical decorations for your aquarium.
Keep in mind that if you get one that is hollowed out, your fish and shrimp can use it as a home base of a hidey-hole to feel safe and more protected.
Spongebob Squarepants. I had a friend who went on Etsy (a great place to get your creative juices going) and bought a whole bunch of Spongebob Squarepants paraphernalia. They even sculpted their own pineapple home so their fish and shrimp could hide inside.
To some, this might be above and beyond, but for any aquascape, I think the attention to detail would be respected.
10. DIY ideas
I’m sure that if you are a seasoned aquascaper, you probably already know this, but I’m going to say it for those who don’t.
- Coconut shell.
- PVC pipes (or beeramid if you have money)
- Mesh bundles
Preparing (Curing) Decoration
Before placing any decoration in your aquarium, you need to prepare it properly.
- Yes, you need to do it even if you have just bought it and it is sealed.
- You absolutely have to do it if you found rocks, bricks, driftwood, cones, etc. outside of your house. For example, you need to boil coconut shell for 5-10 minutes to remove pests and release some of the tannins.
- As for the plants, they need to be quarantined and sterilized.
So, do we need tank decoration? Well, definitely yes!
You do not really have to spend a lot of money to make your tank looks interesting and beautiful. Even if you are broke, you can still use some basic decoration that can look perfect in your aquarium.