Creating a themed aquascape
The most eye-catching and impactful aquatic displays are often the ones that follow a theme.
Here’s some easy to create decor themes to make your tank look spectacular.
Flooded forest aquarium
Few tanks look more like a natural landscape than one simply decorated with fine sand, wood and with brown, tea-stained water. “Blackwater” habitats are common around the world and many of the fish we keep from Cardinal tetras to Pearl gourami to Dwarf cichlids naturally inhabit blackwater in the wild.
The water is stained brown from the tannins released by fallen food and leaves from the forest canopy above and blackwater fish often have striking markings or bright, iridescent colouration so that they can see each other in the gloom. Tannins make the water soft and acidic so by using wood, leaves and blackwater in the aquarium you can make many soft water species feel right at home.
Get the natural look
Fit a black background to the tank, use soft, inert, lime-free sand on the bottom and add more than the usual amount of bogwood pieces. Keep lighting and filter flow subdued and either leave plants out entirely or hang some jungle looking artificial plants upside down to replicate the forest canopy.
Many people want their tank to look marine but either don’t have the budget or dont want the hassle of a full-on saltwater aquarium. You can make a freshwater tropical aquarium look like a marine tank however by following these few easy steps.
Get the look
Use coral sand on the base to look like that pristine desert island sand and use artificial reef rock to give you that creamy coloured rock structure that makes saltwater tanks stand out. Decorate with artificial corals and marine themed ornaments and use vivid blue and yellow cichlids from Lake Malawi to complete the look. Note coral sand and reef rock raises the pH of the water so this style of tank doesn’t suit all types of freshwater fish. Stick to Malawi cichlids as they prefer hard alkaline water and rocky, limestone habitats.
Atlantis inspired aquarium
Hardcore aquarists may turn their noses up at this one but done properly they can look really impactful and engage younger fishkeepers and non-fishkeepers alike. Let your creative imagination run wild and create the kind of colourful, fun, fantasy underwater landscape that’s full of movement and bubbles, just like in a Disney animation.
Get the look
Connect a powerful airpump to two or more long airstones and place these down first, securing them with airline clips and suckers. Use blue gravel for the base or section the tank off using yellow gravel in one part to simulate sand, or different grades and shades of blue and green gravels to create a fantasy seabed. Use coloured rocks, bright artificial plants and action air-powered ornaments like divers and sea chests that bubble and move, as well as a big shipwreck ornament.
Top the look with a blue background and a community of brightly coloured, different shaped fish-like Angelfish, gouramis, platies, albino corydoras and gold rams. It’s a long way from the wild but the fish are tank bred and won’t mind one bit. Its a tank you won’t be able to keep your eyes off.
Planted Nature aquarium
The Nature Aquarium term was created by aquascaping pioneer Takashi Amano, and given to Japanese nature style planted aquariums which used neatly placed rocks, wood and mosses like Java moss to recreate terrestrial mountains, meadows and forests as we see in nature. For Nature Aquariums, think bonsai trees or the Chelsea Flower Show underwater and with the help of bright lighting, CO2 fertilization and liquid fertilisers you can have your own contemporary Japanese planted aquarium at home and tend to the small plants with delicate tweezers and stainless steel scissors.
Get the look
Invest in a rimless aquarium with super clear OptiWhite glass and bright lighting. Use aquascaping soil , research aquascaping styles, the Golden ratio, and select wood and rocks to create the hardscape, then plant a carpet of low growing plants and other small plants which will cover the soil in plant growth, look like a lawn and produce silvery bubbles as they photosynthesize. Top the look with a shoal of a single species of small fish like Neon tetra and some algae eating shrimp. Shrimp perfectly suit a small tank too.