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Aquadcadabra’s Guide on How to Decorate a Fish Tank

One of the most exciting parts of setting up an aquarium (beyond choosing and bonding with your beautiful new fishy friends), designing and decorating your fish tank takes a fair amount of thought, time and creative flair. As much as we may wish that aquascaping was as simple as throwing in a few rocks and shells and calling it a day, creating a truly spectacular fish tank design isn’t quite that easy.

Fortunately, whether you’re brand new to fishkeeping and have an empty tank waiting to be filled, or want to revamp your current aquarium to make it feel new, our experienced fishkeepers are here to help. From tips to consider when decorating a fish tank, to exciting ideas, themes and decoration suggestions, find all the inspiration you need to transform your tank into something special at Aquacadabra.

How to decorate a fish tank

Decorating a fish tank, just like any other element of fishkeeping, needs to be done with a fish-first mentality. After all, the last thing you want to do is add something to their environment that could potentially harm them. Even so, danger isn’t lurking around every sunken pirate ship, and you can still have fun, just follow our 5 top tips to keep your fish safe and minimise disruption:

  1. Consider your fish. Just as you need to change your water temperature and pH according to your fish’s preferences, you’ll also need to choose your decorations based on their preferences. For example, bottom dwellers like eels and knifefish will need a soft, sandy substrate to bury themselves in, while other species will be happy with gravel or pebbles. Similarly, small, territorial fish such as cichlids need plenty of rocks and caves to help establish their territories without fighting for space.
  2. Start at the bottom. The first part of any fish tank is to add your bottom layer; your substrate. Some fishkeepers can make the mistake of seeing this as just another essential, like a heater or lighting fixture, and forget that it can be an attractive part of your aquarium decor in itself. So, when you come to pick your substrate, try and tie it into your chosen theme.
  3. Plan ahead. One essential task all fishkeepers share is cleaning. While plenty of us love to spend time carefully maintaining our tanks, there’s no need to make it more time-consuming than it already is. To make your maintenance tasks easier for future you, plan ahead by not over-crowding your space, selecting easy to clean ornaments and, if you’re using gravel as a substrate, picking a size that can be cleaned using a gravel cleaner could also save you some time and effort.
  4. Avoid potential dangers. While everything you find in any reputable pet shop, or online at Aquacadabra, will be safe to add into your tank, many fishkeepers choose to save money and create a unique style by introducing other objects to their tank. While this is okay in some cases, you should always avoid the following: untreated wood or rocks, shells or real corals (particularly to freshwater aquariums), sharp or broken glass, or plastics which have paint or chemicals.
  5. Keep everything clean. Whenever you add something new to your tank, whether it be something cool you’ve found, or a piece of decor from an aquatics shop, make sure to carefully clean the piece first. For this, we recommend grabbing a cleaning pad and scrubbing the outer layer of the item to ensure there’s no contaminants on it. For items such as rocks, you can also sterilise it by boiling them in water for around 10 minutes.

Do fish need decorations in their tank?

Yes! Far more than just an aesthetic choice, a well-decorated tank is important to the happiness and health of your fish. In fact, having a range of aquarium decorations spread through your tank can have considerable benefits for your fish, including better colouration, decreased likelihood of illnesses and being more active, all of which are down to their feeling more comfortable and safe in their space.

Do fish like lots of decorations?

Yes, the majority of common aquarium fish do like to have an environment with lots of decorations in it. The amount of decorations you’ll want in your aquarium will depend on the type of fish you have but, as a rough guide, decorations should cover around 50-70% of your tank. Where you sit within this band will depend on what fish tank design you prefer (zen themed aquariums are usually more sparsely decorated in comparison to busier planted aquariums), as well as whether your fish prefer lots of places to hide or plenty of swimming space.

How can I make my fish tank more interesting?

With the essential guidelines of decorating covered, and you’re safe in the knowledge your fish will survive your remodelling of their home, it’s time to move onto the fun bit; creating an interesting fish tank design. To help you out, we’ve collated three of the most popular fish tank themes to try to recreate yourself, as well as some key product recommendations from the range of fish tank decorations here at Aquacadabra.

Fish tank themes

Following a theme is one of the easiest, and often cheapest, ways to decorate a fish tank. This is because most ornament designers, such as Marina, Biorb and Aqua One will sell full matching sets which follow a certain theme. Even if you’d prefer to get a little more creative and put together your own collection of ornaments, backdrop and plants, if you go with a commonly-used theme you’re more likely to have a wider range of options to choose from.

Theme 1 - Glow in the dark fish tank

Dramatic and fun, especially if you have young ones in the house, designing a glow in the dark fish tank is easy thanks to Marina’s iGlo collection. From the full aquarium kit, which comes complete with a tank, filter media, and iGlo decorations that turn fluorescent under the built-in blue LED lighting, to individual dramatic ornaments such as the galaxy gravel, artificial plants and magical mushroom house, building a cohesive aquarium theme is easy.

Marina iGlo 360 Aquarium Kit, £52.99

Marina iGlo Plant Green Palm 7.5"£5.99, £5.99

Marina iGlo Galaxy Gravel 2kg

Marina iGlo Mushroom House 6", £19.49

Theme 2 - A zen fish tank

Perfect for fishkeepers who prefer a more refined, relaxing space, zen fish tanks give a highly-stylised feel without having to put in too much effort. This style also suits all sizes of aquarium, but if you’re still shopping for a new one, we recommend the Fluval Chi Aquarium due to its unique, modern shape. When adding decorations to a zen-themed aquarium, we love starting with a base layer of gravel substrate and filling the space with decor from Biorb’s stone garden set. For added dimension, the Juwel structured background can also go a long way to tying the style together.

Fluval Chi Aquarium 19lts, £74.99

Juwel Structured Background, £29.95

Aqua One Aquarium Gravel, From £7.85

Biorb Decor Stone Garden, £75.99

Theme 3 - The classic aquarium

An all-time favourite that is suitable for fishkeepers of all ages and experience levels, a traditional fish tank is a theme which leaves plenty of room for creativity. As with the zen theme, any size or shape fish tank will do, with the Superfish Home 30 Aquarium being a good option for those looking for a well-priced tank. After this, the three most important components of any classic aquarium are a blue, water-styled background, a set of green artificial plants and rocks, and, most importantly, a traditional ornament. Some of the most popular choices include a wrecked pirate ship or magic castle, but one of our favourites is the sunken diver helmet.

Superfish Home 30 Aquarium, £92.95

Superfish Deco Poster, From £7.49

biOrb Rock Valley Décor Set, £87.45

Aqua One Diver Helmet, £43.49

Find exciting fish tank decoration ideas at Aquacadabra

Whether you’re looking to recreate one of our favourite fish tank designs, or are still gathering ideas, browse through the full fish tank decorations collection at Aquacadabra. Filled with backgrounds, substrates, ornaments and more, you’ll have a stunning tank design to be proud of in no time!