We often think of fish tank decorations as being for us and other human admirers, and that’s true. But fish tank decorations are just important for the fish.
No, the fish are not admiring all the ornaments you’ve put in the aquarium. Rather, these decorations provide hiding places, which helps the fish feel comfortable and less stressed.
Why Do Fish Tanks Need Decorations?
Of course, there are decorations such as lights that are only useful to us. But most of the ornaments in a fish tank are also beneficial for the fish.
The biggest advantage of fish tank decorations is that they provide a hiding place for fish. In nature, fish will use rocks, corals, driftwood and other natural hiding places to get away from predators.
In your fish tank, fish will automatically seek out such places. If they feel too exposed, they can get stressed. If you know anything about fish tanks, it’s that stress is the biggest fish killer.
If there are aggressive fish in your aquarium, the lack of hiding places can start to cause serious problems. Fish will pick on each other, causing even more stress and even injuries.
There are also fish that naturally like to burrow in sand or hide in caves. They are more comfortable if there are ornaments that fulfill this natural need.
Another advantage of fish tank decorations is that it makes the fish more active, which is great for their health.
Other decorations, particularly the gravel or sand at the bottom of the fish tank, are extremely important in the health and survival of your fish.
The substrate not only creates a more natural habitat for the fish, it is also home to beneficial nitrifying bacteria that keep the water safe.
What To Consider When Decorating Your Fish Tank
Decorating a fish tank is not just about putting in a few rocks and fake plants. If you are not careful, you could actually harm the fish.
Here’s what to consider when adding ornaments to a fish tank.
1. Type of Fish
Choose decorations that are most suitable for the type of fish you have.
For instance, certain fish like weevers, corys and loaches love to burrow in the sand. If you have any of these or are planning to add them to the fish tank, sand is the best option for decorating the aquarium.
But if you mostly have top-dwellers like guppies, then you can use gravel. Note, however, that some top dwellers like betta fish still love to occasionally burrow in sand.
There are also fish that spend most of their time hidden. You’ll rarely see them come out in the open. A good example is knife fish.
Such fish need ornaments that provide plenty of hiding spots.
Then there are fish like the Zebra Danios that are always darting about in the water. They are super active and need plenty of obstacles to swim through and around. Plants, logs, rocks and corals are great decorations for such fish.
2. Tank Size
It’s easy to get too excited and add a few too many decorations to the fish tank. While ornaments are great for the fish, you don’t want to make the tank too cramped for the fish to swim in.
So consider how big your tank is when choosing decorations. Avoid adding too many ornaments or large ornaments that take up a lot of space.
Having too many decorations is also likely to make the fish more aggressive as they fight for the limited swimming space. It can also lead to injuries as the fish navigate around the ornaments.
Another problem with overcrowding your fish tank with ornaments is that they can block light from reaching parts of the aquarium. Fish need light for their circadian rhythm (knowing when it’s day and night).
Too many decorations also make it harder to clean the fish tank. Imaging trying to vacuum the substrate when almost every inch is covered by something.
3. Number of Fish
In addition to tank size, also consider the number of fish in the aquarium when deciding how many decorations to add.
If you have lots of fish, you need enough ornaments to provide adequate hiding places for everyone, but not too many that you impede swimming and movement.
It’s up to you to decide how many decorations strike a good balance.
4. Fish Tank Equipment
Another factor that determines how you decorate a fish tank is the amount and type of equipment in the aquarium.
Make sure any decorations do not interfere with the function of the filter, heater, air stone and other equipment.
If there are lots of accessories in the tank, add a limited number of ornaments to avoid overcrowding.
A big reason for decorating a fish tank is to make it look beautiful. You need to have an idea of the look you want to achieve before you begin decorating.
Just dropping random items into the fish tank is not the way to go. Decide which particular look you want — tropical, aquarium background, marine etc. — and then get ornaments that fit that look.
Tips for Decorating Your Fish Tank
- Start with a theme. It’ll help you create a great looking aquarium. You can even get fish tank decorations that are sold in sets based on particular themes like SpongeBob, pirate ship, Nemo and more.
- Begin with the substrate. The right substrate will tie all other decorations together. Once you choose which theme you want, you can choose the type, color and size of substrate that goes best with it.
- Decide whether you want real or fake plants. Real plants improve the health of the ecosystem, maintain water quality and make maintenance easier. The main advantage of fake plants is that they don’t die, so you don’t have to worry about decomposing organic matter producing too much ammonia.
- It’s generally not a good idea to use real rocks, driftwood or gravel in the aquarium. These items can carry pathogens. They may also contain substances that are bad for fish once they dissolve in water. Real rocks and coral can also mess with the aquarium’s pH and mineral content.
- If you have to use real items, make sure they are thoroughly clean before adding them to the fish tank. Boil them first to kill off any pathogens. Also, monitor water quality closely to ensure nothing has changed.
- Only add decorations that are safe for the fish. Avoid anything that may contain chemicals that could leach into the water such as painted ornaments. Also avoid sharp objects that can injure fish or anything that can trap them.
- For the best look, choose one or two main items as the main decorations for the fish tank and position them where they are easy to see. Then add smaller decorations around the aquarium.
- Remember to mix and match. You want a combination of items that fish can hide in, swim through, go around and so on.
Which Are The Best Decorations For A Fish Tank?
Most fish tank ornaments are designed to mimic the natural habitat of fish. So rocks, corals, drift wood, caves, and aquatic plants are common options.
If you want to a more unusual look, you can opt for statues, ruins, a sunken pirate ship, or an underwater city.
You can also go with pop culture decorations like Little Mermaid or Spongebob.
If you are not sure what to put in the fish tank, you can’t go wrong with plants. Mix a variety of them to create a beautiful lush underwater or tropical look.
Don’t forget that lights can also make a huge difference in how your fish tank looks. You can have both external and submersible lights, but remember to turn them off at night to allow the fish to sleep.
For more inspiration, here’s a great video.