How to Make Your Fish Tank Look Professionally Designed

Two Methods:Natural lookA blue look

Ever wonder how people make their tanks look unbelievably gorgeous? Want to learn how to make your look great as well? Several tips and steps on how-to are included.

Method 1
Natural look

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    Choose a natural-colored gravel or sand. This will not only mimic your fish's natural habitat, but it is also much more appealing to the eye than hot pink or teal. One way to give a really 'natural' look is to put 1/2 aquarium-designated sand, and 1/2 play sand (like the kind you'd put in a sandbox). Sand from a beach or your local fish store should be thoroughly rinsed of soluble material with a fine mesh. But be aware that play sand in a marine tank will cause diatoms and sand in general might prevent your live plants from expanding their roots and thus minimize their growth.
    • However "black water fish" (many tetra species) from the Amazon River area, and Labyrinth (Gouramis & Bettas/Siamese Fighting Fish) prefer a dark substrate. Also, if the sand is too fine and too deep (> 1.5 inches), it will set-up an anaerobic environment which will develop a foul odor, and may rot plant roots that penetrate it. A thin layer of sand is fine, but it should be over pea or 1/2 pea sized gravel, and perhaps an organic level beneath that to nourish plants.
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    Live plants really make a tank pop. There's just something about nature that silk or plastic can't mimic. It's recommended to go the live plant route not only because plants produce oxygen and help the water quality, but also because fish respond better to surroundings that resemble their natural habitat.There are a lot of plant species that are easily kept, but you have to do some research in order to keep them alive and thriving. If you're not up to keeping live plants, look for tasteful fake plants which have no sharp edges or thick parts on which the fish can harm themselves or tangle in. Green and red are generally the colors found in nature, and really look the best. Try to get a good variation in color darkness/lightness and height. Think about your preferences, would you rather have a sand-bed looking tank, or a tank that looks like you just stepped into a majestic underwater garden? Most fish prefer a "jungle" look and feel more comfortable in a well-planted tank, but there are species that will probably eat your plants so think about your choice of fish while considering the look you want.
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    Select decorations. It's best to use natural decorations such as driftwood and coconut halves because they are less likely to harm your fish. If you decide to use artificial decorations, find logs, rocks and driftwood pieces that mimic the appearance of the real thing, have smooth edges and are manufactured from non-toxic materials. The safety of your fish should always be top priority.
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    Buy a black background ( also plain black trash bags or black construction paper). Black adds depth, and makes a tank look so much better than no background or a busy background. Think of it like photography - would your portrait look better if behind it is a busy activity area, or would it look better if you were the main focus on a plainer background? A tank with a black background will pop both in photos and in your living room.
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    Begin putting your decorations in your tank! Try sloping the substrate to give it the appearance of hills and valleys. It really adds a neat look, and is much more interesting to view than if your substrate was flat all across. If you put some thought to it and do it right, it can also add some depth.
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    Put your biggest piece (whatever is the most eye-catching or that you want as a centerpiece) to the center-left. It looks better than trying to 'balance' your tank out on two sides, or putting a piece in the exact center. Or, if you found a whole bunch of rocks, try designing it so they go from the left/right to the center. Make sure that you leave ample room for the fish to move about and also to hide. A broken upturned ceramic cup does a neat job and you can easily cover it with some live plants (a wide variety of mosses are all readily available at most pet stores).
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    Arrange your plants accordingly. You can never have too much depths, so you want to put the taller plants in the back and shorter plants in front to create some more. It will also help you to see your fish more easily.
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    Try on some different lights. Different lighting can have amazing effects on how a tank looks. You can try the very interesting sunset lighting.
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    It is required to let the water stand in the aquarium with all the equipment running for at least two weeks before you release the fish. You should occasionally put some fish food in the empty tank. That period is called the fishless cycling. During that time, the good bacteria (which will keep ammonia levels from the fish feces under control) grow in your filter. It is vital you don't skip the fishless cycling and is advised you do some more research on this topic.

Method 2
A blue look

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    Follow the suggestions outlined above except for the background portion. Instead, substitute the following for a blue look.
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    Take a measurement of your aquarium.
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    Cut any blue plastic cover or blue cloth to the size.
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    Attach this on the back of your aquarium. Attach on the outer side only.
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    Add colorful stones, decorations and fish as desired.


  • Create separate areas. For example leave a space clear for feeding, or for shade. Also if theres areas smaller fish can hide from more aggressive fish.
  • Darker gravel/sand will make the colors of your fish richer. Lighter gravel/sand will make their colors lighter. Again this depends on the species and color of fish that you plan to populate your aquarium with.
  • Always make sure that the fish you plan to keep are compatible with each other. Certain species do not get along well with others and often nip off their fins, in some cases even eat them.
  • Place taller plants near the back and shorter ones up front. Make sure you use the foreground as well, and not just the background!
  • Make your tank complement your fish. If the fish look good, your tank will look good. If the fish don't match their habitat, then they in turn could become stressed or uncomfortable and make your tank look less appealing.
  • Live plants can make a big difference in the overall appearance and health of your tank. Maintaining them requires dedicated time, but it is worth it.
  • Ensure that you have at least these things in place before you populate the aquarium. 1. A Filter, which can have any combination of mechanical, biological and chemical filtration. Most popular are power filters and canister filters for medium to large tanks, and sponge filters for nano tanks. 2. A vitamin rich food source, and possibly a supplemental food source. 3. According to the type of fish you are keeping: a water heater and/or an air pump.
  • Collect pretty pebbles that will enhance the natural look of tank. Don't add marine decorations such as seashells because they might change your water conditions, especially pH value.
  • A rock background always looks good and professional. and for the people who don't like to much things then plain white black or natural reds like plum are great.


  • Don't use anything you found out and about, because it might harm your fish.

Things You'll Need

  • A glass or acrylic tank big enough for the fish you choose,
  • Good quality filter,
  • Depending on your fish's needs a heater and/or air pump and air stone,
  • Non-harmful decorations,
  • Appropriate substrate,
  • Black or dark background,
  • Live plants.

Article Info

Categories: Aquariums