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How to Decorate Your Fish Tank: Dos and Don’ts

You have your perfect tank, complete with all the bells and whistles of filtration. You have your water quality test kit ready. You have a list of fish you would like in your collection. So, how are you going to decorate your aquarium? Believe it or not, this is where a lot of people run into problems. Sometimes they get so excited about all the cute decorations at the pet store that they overcrowd the bottom of the tank. With that in mind, how do you pick out decorations for your tank? We’ve spoken to the experts at Aquatee Fishland to find out.

What Aquarium Substrate Should You Use?

The first thing you want to consider is what kind of substrate to use. There are many different options. Do you want a sandy bottom? What about small gravel, or large? You can even use small stones. Do you want to use glass pebbles? Do you want the tank to be colorful or more natural?

Sometimes the type of fish you want will dictate what kinds of substrate you have to use. If you want fish like eels or knifefish, you need to have a sandy bottom. Eels will spend most of their time on the bottom, and if you have a rocky substrate, they will rub their bodies raw, which is bad for them. If you are considering a freshwater ray, then you need to have a large bottom with sand. They will bury themselves in the sand, which would be nearly impossible for them to do safely in a tank with gravel as the substrate. Sand will also give your tank more of a saltwater feel, which many people desire.

Gravel and stones are popular choices for freshwater tanks. They create a natural look for the tank and they are easy to clean. Glass pebbles are pretty, but they are just for show. It would not be harmful to have a few of them scattered throughout the bottom of the tank, as they will add some color. Just be sure to change them out once they begin to show signs of wearing down.

You need to make sure that everything you put into your tank is properly rinsed—and that includes your substrate. Sometimes you need to rinse it a few times to get all of the dust and debris out.


Choosing the Right Plants for Your Aquarium: Real or Fake?

Plants are a very popular decoration in many aquariums. Some people like them because they add color to the tank. Some add them because plants are found in many freshwater environments and can give the tank a more natural feel. If you go to the pet store, you will see a wide array of choices when it comes to aquarium plants.

The vast majority of home aquariums use plastic plants in place of live ones. The plastic plants are often more colorful than real plants, coming in colors that are not found in in nature. They are also easier to maintain since they cannot die. And, like real plants, they offer the fish a place to hide.

However, real plants can offer systems something fake plants cannot: They can help improve the water quality of your tank. How? Plants need to use nitrogen and in an aquarium they are able to use the fishes’ waste products. This keeps the levels low in the tank, which is a great bonus. Plants also use CO2 (carbon dioxide) for their respiration and give off O2 (oxygen) as a waste product. This is great for home tanks, as carbon dioxide build-up can be toxic and stable oxygen levels not only help your fish breathe, they can help maintain a stable pH level.

Of course, fake plants do have their own advantages: They don’t drop leaves or die. Dead leaves and plants decompose, which can cause nitrogen levels in the tank to spike. This spike can stress the fish and, if it is high enough, could potentially lead to death.

Another thing to consider if you have live plants in your aquarium is where you are getting your plants and what fish you have in your tank. Unless you are buying your plants in the little sterile test tubes, you run a very high risk of bringing home some hitchhiking snails. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but snails are hermaphrodites. This means that if you have two snails of the same species, or if that one snail you brought home was with another snail of its own species at the pet store, then you most likely will have more than two snails very soon. Some aquarium fish, and ironically snails, will also eat live plants. If your fish happen to have a taste for plant you should be prepared to replace your plants as needed, or just get plastic plants.

Adding Decorations

The sky is truly the limit when it comes to adding decorations to fish tanks. You can even get a miniature replica of Bikini Bottom or Stonehenge if that is what you are into. Pet store shelves are lined with fake rocks, corals, and sunken ships, as well as many other oddities. These items have been specifically designed to be in fish tanks. This means that the materials used will not deteriorate when submerged in water for long periods of time.

There are a few things to keep in mind when picking out decorations for your tank. You need to know exactly how big the bottom of your tank is. You also need to keep in mind anything else you might already have. Are you adding plants? How many? The last thing you need to keep in mind is exactly what you want your tank to look like. Many people often go overboard when it comes to picking out decorations for their tank. It can be really easy to do, and let’s face it, it’s really fun to pick things out for your tank. Just keep in mind how much space you have to work with. Do you really have room for that sunken ship, fake corals, and the giant treasure chest? Sometimes simpler is better. One large piece and a couple of smaller pieces are all you need, especially if you are adding plants, either live or fake.

Sometimes people are tempted to add things that have not been designed to go in fish tanks. You would be surprised what some people want to use as decoration. Sharp edges, concrete, copper, and plastics that have been painted should not be put in your fish tank. Why? These items will cause problems. Copper is toxic to fish and concrete is going to leach chemicals into your tank. Sharp edges can harm your fish and should always be avoided. Paint can flake off or poison your fish. If you ever put something in your tank and notice that it seems to be flaking or the paint is disappearing, remove it immediately.

When in doubt, do not add it to your tank. It is better to be safe than sorry. After all, do you really want to endanger your fish just for the sake of having costume jewelry in your tank? Always keep in mind that no matter what you add, you want to rinse it thoroughly before it goes in.


Should You Add a Tank Background?

Many hobbyists opt to have a background on their tank. There are many different options for backgrounds. They come in different colors and patterns. Really, there are no wrong choices, so you can do whatever your heart desires. If you want a plain blue background, go for it. If you want a sunken ship in your background, have at it. If you want a picture of the castle at Disneyland, knock yourself out.

And there you have it, a fair comprehensive guide on the does and don’ts of tank decoration. Do you have any other rules? Let us know in the comments below!

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