Exciting Aquarium Decor Ideas

aquarium decor ideas

Whether you want to display tropical fish, crabs, sharks, snakes, or lizards, there are so many creative options when it comes to choosing the decor for your personal aquarium. Before deciding upon the specific decor, there are general things to consider first. You need to start with the basics. The first thing to consider is your choice of theme.

What Themes Interest You?

Aquarium Decor

There are so many wonderfully creative and unique fish tank theme ideas. What kind of overall look are you going for in your aquarium? Do you prefer a more natural look that mimics the animal’s natural environment? Or do you want something entirely different, such as a futuristic SCI-FI look, a movie theme, or something entirely new and creative? Or perhaps you want a combination of natural and artificial elements.

Remember that even a natural look is not solely dependent (entirely) on natural products. For example, you may want to replicate a natural environment by only using realistic-looking artificial plants. There are advantages to both. Here are a few themes you may want to consider.

Natural Theme Examples:

  • A natural tropical coral reef: This is ideal for keeping tropical fish. You can choose real plants or you may decide to go with well-made commercial options of artificial plants. There are advantages to both.
  • Freshwater lake: A lake provides interesting opportunities including the options of keeping eels and other types of freshwater fish – if you have space.
  • Bog or pond: You can also keep frogs, toads, lizards, snakes, snails, or guppies
  • Coastal beach theme: A coastal theme is perfect for keeping crabs, other crustaceans, & even small sharks if the tank is large enough.

Creative Movie Themes

  • For children: The Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo, Shark Tale. Muppet Treasure Island,
  • Adults: The Abyss, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Pirates of The Caribbean,

Random Ideas for Adults & Children

  • Consider how you can include sea monsters, pirate themes, sunken treasure/ships, submarines, the Kraken, and deep-sea divers.

A natural theme will rely on including sand, gravel, driftwood, and an assortment of interesting plants. The specific colors will mirror those found in nature. As in nature, colors are not limited to muted colors, since many natural ecosystems are replete with vivid colored plants, rocks, corrals, etc. First, decide on the theme, and then you can select the color template you would like to choose.

When deciding upon a specific color theme, you will want to consider the kinds of fish you wish to include in your tank. The colors of your fish should complement your color theme. Colored sand is an excellent way to add color to any underwater environment. Always consider how the color pattern will look with the fish you will be keeping.

Tank Size Will Matter

What size aquarium are you looking at? Are you looking to house a very large collection of tropical fish? Naturally, you will need a large tank to provide them with adequate space. If your goals are more modest and you simply want a nice attractive small collection, you will only require a small aquarium. You will also want to consider the kinds of decor and plants you will use. Even if your fish are small or small in number, any structures you use will need to fit in your tank.

Are you going to want to design your aquarium with all sorts of decor, or are you going for a more simple look? A large aquarium naturally provides you with more space, but even when you have more area, the area can easily get cluttered with ornaments. Whether choosing a large aquarium or a small one, be careful not to inundate the habitat with decor. Additionally, if you clutter the area, it will detract and impede the ability to see and display your creatures.

One upside of certain ornaments such as bubble chests is that they can be a great way to combine practicality and decor. For those species of fish that are highly active and will require more oxygen, these can be excellent options for functional decor.

Additional Things To Consider: Some Expert Tips

There are many wonderful commercial ornaments and types of decor on the market. These include artificial plants that will do wonders to give creative flair to your aquarium. Be aware that certain commercial products have edges or parts that can abrade or injure fish, crabs, and whatever other denizens you will be featuring in your aquarium. Beware of decor and ornaments that have loose or sharp edges.

Some experts recommend that you separate certain objects before adding them to your habitat. This includes commercial and organic products. Commercial objects can leak or bleed and these should be tested in separate bodies of water over the course of a few days/weeks. Be certain to ensure that no harmful residue or pieces contaminate the water.

Even an organic piece of driftwood that you found on the beach may have been sprayed or treated with chemicals. Some suggestions are to first boil these objects beforehand and proceed with a similar process of quarantining the object, before adding them to your aquarium. This way you can safely check to see that it won’t pollute your aquarium and harm your fish.

Simple Decor Ideas

You don’t have to spend an exorbitant amount of money on decor at the pet shop. To be sure there are many excellent commercial objects on the market, and many are excellent options to use. But if your budget is limited, or you just like the idea of DIY projects, there are many ideas that require very little time and money.


A simple backdrop can be made with any picture, paper, or poster that is affixed to the back of the tank, assuming it is not a spherical bowl with no back. Be sure that the material won’t disintegrate in the water, so consider the use of laminated objects or plastic materials. This can add a real sense of depth and realism to your aquarium at a minimal cost, and without spending a lot of time.

One thing to consider is that the backdrop is often more than just about aesthetics. Some fish require a darker environment, so a dark background will help create a more natural environment that can directly benefit your fish’s health. A happy fish is usually a healthy fish.

Another clever idea is to use decals. You can also draw elaborate designs with permanent markers or sharpies on the aquarium’s glass. The only limits are your own imagination. You can also paint the exterior of the tank with the backdrop of your choice. If you intend to paint the interior, make sure you only use paints that are safe for your fish. There are specific commercial paints on the market that are designed for this purpose.

Do your research and see where you can find these products. Make sure to research properly and be diligent as possible when building your habitat. You want to make sure that you are only using materials that are safe for your aquarium.

DIY Landscape

Without having to spend an exorbitant amount of money, you can decorate your aquarium with rocks, gravel, shells, plants, and pieces of driftwood that can be easily found in nature. Provided these are clean and suitable for your creatures they are perfect. Plus they are often freely available in nature.

Plants are perfect options for adding realism. Find out which plants (if you are going with real ones) are ideal for the fish or creatures you will be keeping in the aquarium. Many plants will act as potential food, or they will be used as hiding places. Note: there are species of crabs that will tear about your plants.

Real plants will always add to the realism of your habitat. But they will require that the habitat is appropriate in order for them to survive. They will also require additional care to ensure their survival.

Use your plants in a manner that will allow your aquarium to be displayed. The front portion of your aquarium should have vegetation that doesn’t grow too high so you can see your fauna. Certain types of moss don’t grow very high so they are good for the front of your aquarium. The focal point of an aquarium is usually the middle area of the tank.

One advantage of artificial plants is that they don’t require any care, and generally speaking they will not be eaten. Always weigh the pros and cons before committing to the type of plants you will use. There are significant benefits to both types of plants, and both can be skillfully used to create incredible habitats.

Make sure to always place larger plants and other structures towards the back of the tank. This way the view will not be obstructed. You can have the most incredible aquarium but if your fish cannot be seen, you are missing the point. Create a habitat that allows you and others to observe the magical world you’ve created.

Other options include using legos or other stackable or buildable blocks to create impressive structures. If you have children who enjoy playing with legos, ask them to help out by building a sunken ship or a treasure chest. Let them use their imaginations to create an underground scene.

Household Objects

Ordinary garden objects such as flower pots, or household objects like vases, or bottles are clever ways to add realism and creativity without breaking the bank. Flowerpots are fun hiding places for your fish or crabs. Flower-pots can also be good hiding places for crabs when they are in the process of molting their shells. During such periods which occur several times during the lifespan of many crabs, they will need a quiet secluded place to recuperate while they are healing.

You can also find certain materials at the craft/hobby ship that can be molded to create your own structures. Make sure these are waterproof and non-toxic.

Always consider the types of animals in your tank and the kinds of materials that might be dangerous for them. Copper is known to be toxic to many freshwater crabs or tropical fish. Certain plants are unsuitable for certain fish. Even the addition of certain rocks can alter the salinity or PH levels of the tank and ultimately prove hazardous to the tank’s occupants.

Be creative! With the right material (both organic and commercial) you can create elaborate habitats, with caves, hiding places, and other unique structures which will add depth and realism to your aquarium.


There are dozens of ways to use lighting properly to enhance the overall look of the aquarium.

Note: As always, be careful with any use of electrical items/lighting fixtures and water! Speak with professionals at the pet shop to find out more about safe lighting equipment that is specifically designed for aquariums and tanks. Never work with lighting until you are sure that you are capable of following all safety measures!

Lighting is not just about aesthetics. It is critical that you have the right kind of lighting for the types of fish you are housing. Certain sea life requires different kinds of lighting. Some reptiles will require heating. Light will also affect the health of your plants, corral, and sea life/animal life.

Quality Commercial Objects

  • Underwater Treasures Ledged Mountain Fish Ornament: This beautiful aquarium decoration will bring an added sense of magic and a fun feel to your tank. With its vivid lush green color, winding tree trunk, and adorable little cottage, it will be a fun addition to your underwater world. this a great ornament that will provide your fish with a fun place to hide and play. It will also add depth and dimension to your habitat. Expertly crafted using only the highest quality materials.

  • Penn-Plax Castle Aquarium Decoration: This hand-painted underwater castle brings an exciting fantasy feel to your underwater world. Sitting atop a rugged-looking rocky mountain facade, it features cone-shaped towers, turrets, and archways, It will provide many excellent hiding opportunities for your fish.  It is 12.8 inches by 14.8 inches high and 8 inches deep.

  • Exotic Environments Vase: This chattered Greek vase ornament will bring a realistic look of sunken Greek treasures and ancient antiquity to your tank. If you are going for a Lost World of Atlantis look, this will be an excellent addition to your habitat. This 8 x 6.5 x 7 inches vase replica is also hand-painted. It will provide an excellent hiding place.

  • The Little Mermaid-Five Piece Set: If you are planning a Little Mermaid theme for your daughter’s aquarium, this is a perfect collection of little ornaments to start with. Featuring Ariel and four other fun characters from the movie, this will add some flair to your habitat.

  • Hollow Tree Ornament: This is a perfect ornament to provide a natural feel and a great hiding place. Whether you are housing snakes, lizards, fish, or crabs, this is a perfect simple ground ornament if you are going with a natural theme.

  • Sunken Ship: This small inexpensive sunken ship ornament will make an excellent addition to a pirate theme. Easy to clean, and non-contaminating to the environment, it will provide a nice hiding space for fish without breaking the bank. It is ideal for a 5-10 gallon tank.


There are endless options for choosing the decor for your home aquarium. What are you looking for? What kinds of themes usually interest or intrigue you? What selection of colors (color template) do you want to use? And most importantly, what kind of sea life (other) will you be displaying? Consider these general issues first before you proceed further.

We hope that we have provided you with useful information to help you create the perfect home aquarium. Consider the information we have included in this article. Take advantage of the plethora of available information online. Not everything is accurate and you will need to be discerning in deciding which information is most accurate.

But the online opportunities are unlimited! Take advantage of the fact that there are excellent opportunities to speak with genuine experts and knowledgeable hobbyists who are happy to share their information with you.

Be creative. Use your imagination. With a little planning, you can build the aquarium of your dreams!


Question: I’m on a limited budget. Can I really create a unique aquarium without spending a lot of money?

Answer: Absolutely! Creativity is key! Look online and you will find many examples of hobbyists who created the most incredible aquariums on a shoe-string budget. Many of the ideas we discussed in this article require nothing more than a little planning, creativity, and exploration.

There are many excellent objects that you can find outside in nature for free. If you follow the steps we recommend to ensure that it is safe to add to your aquarium, these will be excellent “free” ornaments that will give a lot of character to whatever theme you chose.

Question: What are some common mistakes that beginners should look out for?

Answer: Many common mistakes can be avoided with proper planning. The important things to consider before you create your habitat include thinking about the following:

  • Theme: Spend some time thinking about the kind of aquarium you would like before creating your habitat. If you’re not certain about the theme you want it will be difficult to build a proper environment.
  • Size: You will want to consider how you want to grow your hobby. A small tank limits you if you want to add to your collection in a short period of time. On the other hand, something large and cumbersome may not be appropriate if you intend to have a modest collection.
  • Types of fish/animals you want to keep: What kind of animals do you intend to house? Even if you know that you want to keep fish, that is too general a category. What kinds of fish? There are so many kinds of fish and they require different things. Tropical fish will present their own unique challenge, from freshwater fish, or crabs.
  • Color scheme: This is an important one. Consider the color of fish (other animals) you intend to keep and how they will look with your color pattern.
  • Time: How much time will you have each day to attend to the needs of your aquarium’s inhabitants? Some fish require more time and energy than others. If you are a freelance writer at home, you may have more opportunities than a busy attorney who comes home late every evening. Snakes and reptiles may require more daily care, and feeding may be more complicated.
  • Inadequate Research: Another common mistake is not doing enough research on how to care for your animals, which can adversely affect their health. This includes not filling your tank with proper water or not regulating the temperature or purity of the water. Using normal tap water, or not attending to the temperature can easily kill fish, as can a failure to maintain the proper salinity or PH levels.Overfeeding or underfeeding your habitat’s inhabitants is another common mistake with new hobbyists who haven’t done their research properly. Underfeeding is obvious, but overfeeding can be just as harmful.

It’s tempting to want to jump into any new hobby. Avoid the desire to rush things. Do your research properly. Take advantage that we live in an era of information today, where there is so much good information out there if you spend some time to find it. Even if it takes you a little longer to get your aquarium in order, taking the time to become knowledgeable will help you tremendously. It will enable you to attend to your aquarium better, save you a lot of money and disappointment, and most importantly, enable you to properly enjoy your new hobby.

About Robert 468 Articles
Robert Woods is the creator of FishKeeping World, a third-generation fish keeper, and a graduate in animal welfare and behavior. He is also a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Marine Aquarium Societies of North America, and the Nature Conservancy.

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