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Tank Decor

The decor chosen for aquascaping an aquarium greatly influences the final appearance of the tank, and care should be taken in buying materials and planning the tank layout. The decor may be only for decorative purposes, but will often serve as refuges for fish to make them feel more secure. Some decor may also influence the water chemistry.


Rocks are a very useful item for decorating the aquarium. They break up the aquascape and can be used to provide refuges in the form of caves. In some tanks, such as those designed for African rift lake cichlids, they may constitute the main or only decor. In such tanks, a large wall or pile of rocks is built to form many caves and niches in the rock to serve as places to hide from aggressive tank mates, and for use as spawning caves. A number of different rocks are suitable for aquarium use. Some, such as slate and lava rock, are inert and should be safe for use in any aquarium. Others, including limestone and the crumbly tufa rock, leach hardening salts into the water and should only be used in hard-water setups.

Picture of different types of rock


Bogwood makes a very attractive addition to the aquascape. Its colour contrasts well with light green plants. It provides a natural looking refuge for fish. Many suckermouth catfish in particular, like to rest on bogwood - and some species may even derive nutrition from it. Before use bogwood should be soaked (preferably for a few weeks) and then rinsed, to allow some of the colour and organic acids to leach. Although the organic acids and even the colouration released by bogwood may be desirable in certain setups, e.g. South American 'Amazon' tanks, where the 'blackwater' effect is desired, the leaching may be very heavy at first, if not presoaked.

Plastic plants

While not as desirable or attractive as the real thing, plastic plants do perform useful functions in an aquarium. Firstly, they provide shelter and security for fish. They also serve as an additional surface for bacterial colonisation. They also have the advantage that they require considerably less maintenance than real plants! Some of the newer types are quite realistic - silk plants, for instance, tend to move fairly naturally in the current.

Picture of plastic plants

Real plants

Real plants are the ultimate in aquarium decor, a well planted tank is a stunning sight. They also contribute to maintaining a balanced water chemistry in the aquarium and oxygenate the water. There is of course a price to pay for these advantages - a well planted tank does require frequent maintenance to continue to look its best. It is necessary to provide the correct lighting conditions, and some more demanding plants may require a nutrient substrate and/or liquid fertilizer to thrive, or even CO2 injection. There are, however, a number of fast-growing plants which are not too demanding, and which can add to the appearance of any tank.




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