wikiHow to Decorate an Aquarium

Next to deciding on the types of fish and other aquatic life to put into your tank, deciding how to decorate an aquarium can be just as exciting. There is a wide variety of decorative accessories available, including lighting options, rocks, corals, shells, driftwood, ornaments and live and artificial plants to fit every taste. Whether you want to put a shipwreck scene at the bottom of your tank, or pick a color scheme to match your fish, what you are looking for is on the market. However, some water dwellers do best with specific conditions in an aquarium, such as bright lighting or rocks for hiding. Others will actually move your carefully-thought out decor. Therefore, when learning how to decorate an aquarium, you must consider the types of aquatic life that you plan to have in addition to your decorating style.


  1. Image titled Decorate an Aquarium Step 1
    Research the type of fish and other aquatic life you plan to have in your aquarium prior to choosing aquarium decorating items.
    • Some fish and water-dwelling animals are sensitive to chemicals or paint that could be on some ornaments. Others prefer specific bottom coverings, such as small stones for burrowing and hiding.
      Image titled Decorate an Aquarium Step 1Bullet1
    • For example, fish that originate from shallow bodies of water prefer light covering such as plants, while fish from deep water do best with rocks, wood and sturdy decorations.
      Image titled Decorate an Aquarium Step 1Bullet2
  2. Image titled Decorate an Aquarium Step 2
    Consider the best type of cover or hiding areas for your fish and other creatures when choosing aquarium décor. Make sure that your ornaments are big enough for the species of fish that you have. Also, check your pieces for sharp corners and rough edges.
  3. Image titled Decorate an Aquarium Step 3
    Purchase your aquarium decorating items.
  4. Image titled Decorate an Aquarium Step 4
    Decide how you plan to lay out your aquarium décor.
    • Larger items should go toward the sides and back of the tank, while shorter ones look best in the front.
    • Consider placing a focal point, such as a large rock, plant or ornament with a bubbler, in the center of the aquarium.
    • Some items might need washed prior to usage. Certain types of ornamentation will need assembled.
  5. Image titled Decorate an Aquarium Step 5
    Follow the instructions that come with your aquarium decorating items before placing them into your aquarium.
  6. Image titled Decorate an Aquarium Step 6
    Put your gravel, stones or sand on the bottom of your aquarium first.
  7. Image titled Decorate an Aquarium Step 7
    Place your aquarium decorating items in your tank.
    • Strategically place items to hide aquarium heaters, tubing and lines for a more attractive look.
  8. Image titled Decorate an Aquarium Step 8
    Fill your aquarium with water and aquatic life.
  9. Image titled Decorate an Aquarium Step 9
    Check the pH and hardness levels of the water in your aquarium for the first few days.


  • When learning how to decorate an aquarium, remember that most fish are prey. Having areas for them to hide, such as large rocks or ornaments, will help relieve stress and make them more comfortable.
  • Don't forget a background when decorating an aquarium. These panels provide a solid wall for your fish, which makes them feel more secure.
  • Larger, aggressive fish, such as African Cichlids, like to root around in bottom gravel and will remove light-weight ornaments. If you have this type of fish in your tank, consider choosing aquarium decorations that are heavy, such as rocks and coral.
  • Keep in mind that sometimes less is better. The fewer items you have, the more natural-looking your aquarium will be.
  • Kids love to see aquariums with scenes, and there are plenty of aquatic ornamentation items to make your aquarium fascinating and fun to watch.
  • When choosing your aquarium décor, consider how difficult it will be when it comes time to clean your tank.


  • Avoid decorating an aquarium with items not meant for such use. Some ceramics and plastics contain paints, dyes, chemicals and solvents that are toxic to fish and other aquatic life.
  • Don't use too many real pieces such as shells, coral and limestone, as these items can raise hardness and pH levels.
  • Don't use items that you found, such as rocks or wood, in your aquarium. These items can make your fish and other creatures sick, or might even be toxic. It's best to go with rocks or driftwood approved to be used for aquarium decorating.
  • Never put aquarium décor items into your tank without following the instructions on the packages. This can cause damage to your fish and other water dwellers.

Things You'll Need

  • Aquarium
  • Water

Article Info

Categories: Aquariums