A fish tank can immediately enhance a room while creating a relaxing atmosphere. Designing a fish tank is also a fun and rewarding hobby. You will get to learn a lot about fish and underwater plants in this process. We have put together some fish tank ideas to help you get started on creating an original marine habitat for your fish.
Experiment with Aquarium Plants
Designing an aquarium without plants is difficult since underwater vegetation produces oxygen. Plants also absorb CO2 and ammonia, which makes your tank a lot easier to maintain and improves water quality.
Plants are a vital component of any underwater ecosystem. They provide fish with food and a place to hide and nest. Choosing the right plants for your tank will
help you create a healthy and natural environment for your fish.
There are a lot of possibilities to explore when choosing aquarium plants. We recommend that you select a few species and don’t hesitate to mix things up. While vertical plants provide fish with a place to hide, carpet plants will cover the bottom of your tank and create a natural feel for this habitat. You can also play with shapes and colors just like you would with a garden.
Remember to consider lighting and water temperature when selecting plants. You should also look for plants that will benefit the species of fish you have, and ask yourself how much time you want to spend on growing and caring for these plants.
You can create a natural look for your fish tank by growing carpet plants at the bottom. It’s best to select a single species since carpet plants need room to spread. They typically
require very little maintenance and resist well to disease.
Some popular carpet plant species include:
- Java moss
- Dwarf hair grass
- Sagittaria Subulata
Carpet plants will grow on any surface covered by a substrate material. You can cover the bottom of your aquarium with the substrate and let nature take its course, or use different materials to delimitate the areas where you want carpet plants to grow.
Vertical plants help fill in space in your tank while providing fish with a place to hide. There is a vast selection of aquatic plants you can add to your design, including:
- Java fern
- Green hygro
- Sunset hygro
- Rotala Indica
- Crypt spiralis
- American waterweed
- Water sprite
- Water Wisteria
These plants typically have a strong stem that will grow vertically. You might need to trim them once in a while, but most of these species don't require a lot of maintenance.
You can create the illusion of depth by adding more vertical plants toward the back of the tank or let them grow randomly to create a more natural result.
There are different types of plants to consider. Anubia barteri and staurogyne repens are two plants that grow as small bushes. Adding these plants to your fish tank will create a layering effect if you combine them with shorter carpet plants and taller ferns.
Marimo is a type of spherical algae that naturally floats. This species could be an original addition to your tank if you don’t have many tall plants.
Create a Paludarium by Adding Some Terrestrial Plants
If you explore fish tank ideas, you will find that many hobbyists are creating intricate designs with plants. A fun way to get creative with plants is to add terrestrial plants to your tank.
A paludarium is a tank with a terrestrial part where you can grow plants. You can add this terrestrial portion for decorative purposes only, for instance, by creating a back wall with flowers and vines. You can also create a more practical terrestrial habitat for turtles, crabs, snails, or other animals.
The great thing about building a paludarium is that you can quickly build a waterfall. You will need a pump and a filter that runs behind the waterfall. The water will come out of the inlet of the filter, which you can easily hide behind rocks or plants.
You can use different materials for the terrestrial portion of your tank, including rocks, sand, soil, or even wood.
If you are using a large tank, think about using vines to create a vegetal background for the back of your tank. Orchids are a great addition to these tanks since they will add pops of color and tend to grow well in a humid environment.
Creating a paludarium is more time-consuming than a traditional fish tank, but this approach opens up a lot of possibilities.
Get Creative with Your Substrate Material
The purpose of the substrate material is to provide plants with a surface where roots can grow. Microbes live in the substrate and filter ammonia and nitrite to create a healthy environment.
The substrate layer is a crucial element for cycling your fish tank. It’s also a foundation for your aqua-scaping project. You might be limited in your choice of material due to the species of fish you own. Some fish need sand so they can hide in it or pebbles to clean themselves.
There are different options to consider, including gravel, pebbles, aquasoil, or sand. Stratum is another material you can use to help plant roots grow.
The ideal height of this layer depends on the size of your tank and the type of plants you want to add. If you have a large tank, don’t hesitate to form a thick substrate layer at the bottom.
There are many colors to choose from if you want to use gravel or pebbles. If there is a color pattern in the room where you will place your fish tank, look for gravel or rocks that match it.
You can play with different heights when forming your substrate layer. You can add more height in the back of the fish tank to have plants grow on different levels and create a natural backdrop for your aquascape. This trick will add depth to your project.
Taiwanese-style fish tanks sometimes use terraces with different heights. Instead of adding more substrate in the back of the tank, you can have one side higher than the other and create a depression in the middle of the tank. This design is visually-interesting and provides fish with different levels to explore. Having more elevated terraces on the sides of the tank can help frame the underwater landscape you are creating.
Opt for sand or light-colored gravel to brighten up your design and make the tank seem larger. A darker stratum can create a luxurious feel and contrast with the plants.
Use Driftwood as Part of Your Aquarium Design
Driftwood is a fascinating material with which you can work. A piece of driftwood can quickly become the central element of your aquarium and reproduce a natural environment.
You need to cure driftwood before introducing it in your fish tank. Boil it for two hours or more to sterilize it. This process will eliminate spores,
fungus, and tannins from the wood.
We like driftwood because you can easily cut and shape this material. It's also a natural element that would be many ecosystems, and fish can hide in it.
There are many different ways to use driftwood. You can place a large horizontal piece at the bottom of the tank. This element will create a natural feel and become an interesting point of focus. If you don’t want to create an intricate design, a large piece of driftwood will nicely contrast with your plants.
You can spray driftwood with moss to create the appearance of an underwater bonsai. You can use this element to design a mysterious underwater garden.
You can also use driftwood to create a jungle-like design. Plants will naturally grow around driftwood and form original patterns.
Try creating different levels with your substrate and place a large piece of angled driftwood to create a natural bridge across it. Spray it with moss and add some pennywort plants to complete your underwater jungle.
Integrating Rocks into Your Design
Rocks can become discreet accents that complete the natural look you have created with your plants. You can also turn rocks into the point of focus of your underwater landscape.
Iwagumi aquariums are a unique approach to creating designs that use rocks or stones. There are many different ways to design a fish tank where rocks are the main element, but this approach is worth studying if you are looking for inspiration.
Iwagumi fish tanks aim to reproduce a natural landscape while looking for simplicity. This Japanese word translates to “rock formation.” You will need three central stones to create one of these designs. You can create variations, but should always use an odd number of rocks and avoid symmetry.
These designs typically feature a large stone as the central point of the plan. Angle this stone to evoke the natural flow of water. This stone doesn't need to be in the center of the tank, but keep in mind that it will become the main point of focus for your design and should immediately stand out. Ideally, your main stone would be much taller than the plants you use in your design.
Balance this main stone with a secondary stone that is slightly smaller. Try finding one with a similar shape or similar qualities. The angle of this secondary stone should create a contrast with the angle of the main stone.
Additional stones should be smaller. You can place them horizontally to make them less noticeable or have vegetation grow on them. Plants are less prominent in this approach to aquarium design, but this doesn’t mean they should completely disappear.
Add a Backdrop
A backdrop is a great addition to your fish tank. You can find many laminated backgrounds if you shop around or even make your own. You can easily replace your backdrop if you ever get tired of it.
Using a printed and laminated backdrop is ideal if you have a small tank or want to use natural elements for your design. However, you can easily create a 3D background for your tank instead of using a flat backdrop.
Your background can set a theme for your fish tank and provide fish with more places to hide. You can use different materials for this DIY project, including cement, glass, foam, plastic, rubber, polyresin, rocks, and minerals. You can safely use coral skeletons depending on the pH of your tank.
There are some special adhesives and paints you can introduce in your fish tank. You can also use some ceramic elements. If you decide to create ceramic items yourself, keep in mind that you will have to glaze and fire these elements to prevent erosion.
You can use these different materials to create a rock cliff, an underwater wreck, buildings, or rock caves. You can safely use plastic in a fish tank, which means that toys such as Lego bricks are safe to use. A fish tank enthusiast even created a Super Mario level with Legos!
There are no limits to what you can build as a background for your fish tank if you are creative. Make sure the materials and adhesives you use are safe for your fish tank.
Add Moving Elements to Your Aquarium
Movement is an interesting thing to work when designing a fish tank. It can add life to your design and become a point of focus. If you decide to add moving elements to your design, make sure they won’t disturb your fish.
Air bubbles are the easiest way to add life and movement to your fish tank. You need air bubbles to prevent the water from stagnating, and these bubbles will also help oxygenate the water.
You can create a bubble wall in the back of your fish tank for a fun and modern design. All you need to do is add a pump and an airline. You can easily hide these elements with rocks or foam.
Another original way to add movement to your tank is to build a sand waterfall. You can complete this DIY project with a few simple items.
You will need to get sand to cycle through an air pump and air tube hidden behind a stack of rocks. Add a mesh screen to the opening of the air tube to control how the sand exits the air tube and prevent it from spreading through the tank. You will also need a tray at the bottom of your waterfall to collect the sand and have it go through the pump again.
Floating plants are another option to explore if you want some moving elements. There are different species you can grow to create this effect, including floating bladderwort, salvinia, or duckweed. Note that floating plants require more maintenance since you don’t want them to block light completely. You can also introduce a hollow piece of driftwood if you want a floating element in your tank.
These fish tank ideas will help you get started with your project. The great thing about aquariums is that you can add elements to your design as you gain more experience, allowing you to have fun designing an underwater environment for your fish.