Best Aquarium Decorations – Review & Guide

You’ve chosen the aquarium, and you know the type of fish you’ll be buying. Before you bring your fin-friends home, you’ll want to choose the right decorations for your tank. It’s time to create the world where your pets will grow and play and thrive.

From the substrate to floating plants, you are in control. But where should you start? There are many different decorative styles to choose from. If only you knew which decorations are the best for your aquarium.

You’ll of course choose items that are suitable for your fish. You won’t want to add anything that is wrong for your pet. It’s also good to remember that your aquarium is a very large piece of furniture in your own home. It should make you feel at home and comfortable, too.

Aquarium Decorations Reviews

Carib Sea Eco Complete Planted Black Aquarium Substrate

Plants are almost always very beneficial to your aquarium habitat. If you plan to add some plants into yours, start with Carib Sea Eco. This volcanic substrate is a gravelly soil. It contains all kinds of minerals that will keep your plants happy and healthy.

Think of plants that grow in in volcanic regions. These areas are known for their dense green plant-life. Full, lush, tropical jungles owe their health to volcanic soils. Your plants will root faster and thrive in this substrate.

Something called heterotropic bacteria lives in the substrate. They will process fish waste for you and deliver the nutrients to the roots of your plants. This means less clean-up in your tank. It also means you’ll be able to establish a natural cycle in your aquarium more quickly.

The beautiful black coloring is completely natural. There are no artificial dyes or chemicals added. This is the best beginning to your aquascape. Your plants, your fish, and even snails or shrimp will enjoy living on this foundation.

Pros

  • The black color is a great background to show off plants and fish.
  • This substrate works to speed up cycling of a new tank.
  • The iron rich soil eliminates the need for laterite.
  • It’s made of larger, porous, sphere-shapes grains that help diffuse well.

Cons

  • It can cloud the water when first used.
  • Might cause pH to raise.
  • The small bag might not fill a larger aquarium.

Nature’s Ocean Coral Base Rock

It looks and feels like coral, but this aragonite stone is 100% natural. It has no additives and there is no coating of any kind. Feel comfortable putting this into your existing aquascape.

When you use aragonite, you are preserving two habitats at the same time. Your tank will continuously benefit as the rock becomes more “live.” And you won’t be taking precious coral from natural ocean reefs. That’s something to feel great about.

These rocks are very suitable for growing healthy bacteria. The bacteria that devour nitrates from the aquarium water. Nitrates come from fish waste and leftover bits of food. This helps keep cleaning time to a minimum. Imagine using most of your downtime for enjoying your aquarium.

This isn’t homemade aragonite with damaging cements added. You can feel safe putting this into your tank. Nature’s Ocean Rocks are good for both salt-water and fresh-water systems. All the pre-soaking has been done for you.

Pros

  • This is all-natural, additive-free, and safe for your habitat.
  • It won’t affect the cycling in your tank.
  • Pre-soaked and ready to go.
  • It won’t spike the pH in an aquarium.

Cons

  • The product might be dusty at first.
  • The size of these natural rocks may vary.
  • The rock will take a long time to become live.

Stackable Natural Slate Stone

Add even more interest to your aquarium with these pretty, stackable slate stones. Fashion them into steps, a cave, pathways, or a wall. The stones are a good looking blue-grey. it’s a color that transitions between dark substrate and lighter corals.

Similar looking stones made from resin aren’t as safe as natural stone. And honestly, they don’t look as good as the real thing. When you want the best choice for your fish and plants, natural is always the way to go. Natural stone lasts longer, making it the best investment.

Varied shapes add interest to decorated tanks. They also provide places for fish or ground dwellers to hide and rest. Plan out different activity areas in and aquarium. It makes life more interesting for both you and your pets.

Slate looks great in both salt-water and fresh-water tanks. Slate’s flat surface makes it a good location to feed. It is very useful in breeding fish tanks because it provides a platform for spawning. Stackable slate is also a great addition to turtle tanks.

Pros

  • Perfect for the creative decorator.
  • Clean and safe for all tank-dwellers.
  • Useful for fish that like to hide.
  • Excellent spawning area in breeding tanks.

Cons

  • Wet slate can be slippery.
  • The color darkens in water.
  • May need cleaning before use in a habitat.

Marina Decor Polyresin Cave

Here is a safe and sturdy decoration for any tank. It’s made of completely non-toxic materials. It looks like a hide-away-cave with amazon sword plants growing around it.

The cave looks pretty in your aquarium. It also provides a service to your fish. They love having places to hide, rest, and to dart in and out of. You’ll have a whole bunch of fun watching your pets play in and around this little cave.

This cave fits well into any aquarium décor. It will rise from your substrate, and maybe nestle into your coral system. You can place real plants around it too, but take care. If you have cichlids or damsels that bully real plants, this cave still gives you the look of flora.

This cave is approximately 5 inches, by 11 inches, by eight inches. It provides décor, balance, and usefulness to any aquascape. It’s heavy enough that it won’t be pushed around, but it weighs less than two pounds, so it’s it easy for you to handle.

Pros

  • This cave looks real and natural.
  • It’s made of safe-nontoxic materials.
  • Won’t affect chemistry of the water in your tank.
  • Provides a hidey-hole for fish.

Cons

  • The cave may come with rough edges that need sanding.
  • Plants can become detached.
  • May have exposed wire inside, so inspect well before using.

Pisces Small Spiderwood

Once you’ve built up you base of substrate and assorted rocks, it is, literally, time to branch out. Gnarled bits of wood are lovely to look at. Their twists and curves soften the hard lines of rocks.

This spiderwood comes from a vine that grows along riverbanks in China. Reddish to begin with, the spiderwood grows darker in the water. It takes on a mahogany color and is a gorgeous background for fish to pause in.

Yangtze spiderwood is very low in tannins. Soak it outside your tank for a week or two before adding the wood. This does two things for you. Soaking the wood removes even more tannins and it saturates the wood so it won’t float away.

Spiderwood, when done right, is completely safe for fish life and won’t disrupt the pH of your water. Each piece is unique. The twisting branches will give a more natural feel to your habitat.

Pros

  • This is a very safe wood for any aquarium.
  • Darkens to a deep mahogany color.
  • Provides a place for fish to hide or linger.
  • Won’t alter pH balance of the water.

Cons

  • You must order each unique piece sight unseen.
  • Requires some preparation before it is submerged.
  • Safe and normal bio-film might be smelly at first.

Underwater Treasures Petrified Wood

While natural wood does look good in an aquarium, it is still some work to get it situated. Do you have a small tank? Do you simply not have to space to soak a chunk of wood? If so, the Underwater Treasures Petrified Wood might be perfect for you.

This fun decoration is made from 100% non-toxic resins and paints. That means it will be completely safe in your tanks. Best of all, it’s easy to set up. You only have to unpack your Underwater Treasure, give it a quick rinse and place it exactly where you want it.

The ease of using resin decorations is undeniable. The artistry used to create this realistic looking piece is undeniable. Click on the link and look at it close up. You’ll agree it looks just like wood.

Just like real petrified wood, this decoration gives fish a place to play. The piece is very smooth, with cave-like crevices for fish to hide when they want to. This is a good vertical decoration that will add to the natural environment of your aquarium.

Pros

  • Very life-like, safe decoration for your tank.
  • Ready to use, no soaking.
  • Good in fresh-water and salt-water.
  • It provides a protective habitat for fish.

Cons

  • This is smaller and may not work in larger aquariums.
  • Color may fade in time.
  • May also darken all over in water.

Weco Wonder Shell Natural Minerals

These truly are Wonder Shells. The pressed scallop shaped slowly dissolve in your tanks water. The shells dissolve and remove chlorine from the water. This is a decoration that leaves the water looking more clean and clear.

The shells are little calcium powerhouses for fish and invertebrates alike. Have you noticed that your snails are less active than they used to be? When was the last time your shrimp molted? Calcium from the wonder Shells might be just what they need.

Be sure to replace the Wonder Shells every week or so. They don’t stay the same, but they do look cute sitting at the base of a reef or log. Keep them where you can see them. They are popular with all tank mates, who will put on quite a show of activity around them.

These are made with all-natural ingredients. Extra calcium is a boost for your aquarium. The way these Wonder Shells remove chlorine and neutralize acids is a great help for any habitat.

Pros

  • Wonder Shells are made from natural calcium.
  • Chlorine is instantly removed from your tank.
  • Invertebrates gain energy by snacking on these.
  • Clears up your cloudy aquarium.

Cons

  • As a decoration, these won’t last long.
  • Small size not adequate for larger aquariums.
  • Need frequent replacement.

Folding, Glowing, Changeable Sea Anemone Plant

This silicone sea anemone is as fun to assemble as it is to watch. You can bend this changeable decoration to fit the space you need to fill. Create spirals, circles, zig-zags, or whatever suits your tastes.

The anemone’s ribbon-like tentacles wave in water currents, like a real anemone would. Your fish, especially clownfish, will move among the tentacles. But other fish will enjoy darting in and out, without the danger a real anemone can pose.

The anemone decoration is very pretty on its own. But it has more features to show off. Set an actinic light above your aquarium and see this decoration light up and glow. (Blue or purple come recommended.) This is a beautiful thing to add to your aquarium.

Use your anemone decoration in salt-water as well as fresh. Made of silicone, it is completely safe. Suction cups keep it positioned right were you want it. Keep it near a bubbler for extra movement.

Pros

  • Shape this decorative anemone exactly the way you want it.
  • Keeps its shape with lots of suction cups.
  • Non-toxic silicone stays safe, and the color won’t fade.
  • Sting-free place for fish to rest.

Cons

  • Requires actinic light to show fluorescence.
  • Suction cups may not hold right away.
  • Doesn’t look real without extra lighting.

Marimo Moss Balls

If you’ve already added plants to your aquarium, but need a little more pop of green, Moss Balls are your answer. Yes they are actually algae, and yes, they are terrific for your tank.

This aegagropila algae grows in a ball shape and can live up to 100 years. The grow by absorbing waste matter from their water. This makes them a perfect companion for fish. Fish are always making waste, and they will in turn, snack on any bio-film a moss ball creates.

Moss balls need little care. People often forgo fish altogether and keep moss balls as pets. Some parents will start children on the aquarium hobby, giving them a little green puff to care for. Moss Balls are easier to care for than even some plastic plants, so why wouldn’t you try one.

Shrimp and crawfish will keep moss balls groomed by snacking on bits of food that get caught in the moss. Bettas love to play by pushing moss balls around. It’s very fun to watch.

Pros

  • Unique, easy to care for, lovely plant.
  • Keeps water pure while giving fish a treat.
  • Long living, long lasting decoration for your aquarium.
  • Easily propagate by pinching off a bit and rolling it up.

Cons

  • Require infrequent rolling to maintain shape.
  • Not good for tanks with aggressive fish like damsels.
  • Off-brand (not Marimo) moss balls could poison tank.

Multilevel Artificial Green Plants

Absolute lack of green thumb SOLVED with this 13 inch tall plant decoration. This decoration looks like three different plants, artfully arraigned in your tank. These vivid green plants are made of 100% safe plastics and mounted in a ceramic base.

Weighted to stay put, this decoration will be a perfect hiding place for your fish. Here’s the best thing to know about plants as hiding places for fish. Fish believe they are hidden and camouflaged, but you get to see them darting in and out.

The brilliant colors of your fish stand out against the green backdrop.

Your plant decoration will last a very long time in fresh water. The leaves stay supple and safe when brushed up against your fish. The height of the plant makes it a great camouflage itself for pipes and tubes.

Of course, there is no care involved with a decoration like this. You might find yourself arranging and rearranging the leaves and branches to suit your tastes. Your plant will blend well with substrate, rocks, branches, and all of the décor you’ve chosen for your tank.

Pros

  • Realistic bright green artificial plant.
  • In water, it looks and moves like the real thing.
  • Weighted base keeps your plant where you put it.
  • Enjoy watching your fish safely hide in the leaves.

Cons

  • May have a strong smell out of the box.
  • Packaged in cellophane, open carefully to avoid breaks.
  • Might off-gas and initially cause floating.

Types of Aquarium Decorations

When you are looking for aquarium décor, you’ll find there are lots of different decorations to choose from. You may want to stick to one type or curate your décor from many styles.

All-natural decorations

All-natural items for your aquarium can be a healthy choice for you and your fish. If you are the type to worry about plastics and waste, this can be a great choice. Be aware, though, natural decorations can require more cleaning. They can create waste of their own. Anything that decomposes will create nitrates and upset your tanks delicate pH.

Plastic and resin decorations

These are all very low-maintenance decorations. If you are the set-it-and-forget-it type, this is the way to go. Imitation products can be more durable and more heavily weighted. There are plastic-replica decorations so realistic, you’ll swear they are genuine. Please pay attention to quality, however. Not all producers of plastic items are ethical. Some plastics can hurt your fish. Others simply won’t look at all real and be disappointing.

Traditional style decorations

Lots of aquarium décor has changed little over the years. If you are the traditional type, you’ll appreciate a mix of rock, driftwood, and decorative plants. A tastefully placed seashell or small statue will show your personality. Your tank is usually on a wooden pedestal, which matches the other furniture in your home.

Whimsical decorations

These are tanks set up to entertain onlookers. They show off your fun or silly side. Are you setting your habitat up for a child? Are you young at heart yourself? You’ll have a blast setting up a whimsical tank. What will you add? Maybe you’d choose a full tiki motif or items from your favorite cartoon. Many whimsical tanks contain a certain TV pineapple or fairytale castle. If you have an artistic side, your choices are colorful, magical, and endless.

Modern or minimalist décor

Many homes have a pared down minimal look. Being minimal doesn’t mean forgoing pets. Design your pets’ environment to imitate your home’s clean lines and calming color choices. How does this translate to an aquarium? Think black sand, geometric concrete elements, and one perfect plant. A moss ball would be a spot-on accent to a modern aquarium design.

How to Select Aquarium Decorations

Once you have decided what type of decorations to choose, it’s a good idea to focus on what you are actually buying. Here are some ideas to consider.

Is it appropriate for your fish?

Every type of fish and tank mate has its list of needs. They all need different habitats that reflect their natural lifestyle. Certain fish will ignore your expertly raked substrate. Others will root through and destroy it. Take some time to learn what to buy and not to buy for your specific fish.

Is it something nice enough to show off?

Yes, your fish are your pets, but fishkeeping is your hobby. Hobbies are meant to share and show off. Before you buy something in the spur of the moment, take a minute to imagine describing it to your friends. You may learn to regret that disco ball, and you may love showing off that blue police box!

Do the colors coordinate?

After doing any amount of research on aquarium decorations, you’ll learn one thing. You’ll understand that some people plan out every item in their habitat décor. Some aquariums, though are stylistic disasters.

Ultimately, your fish won’t care. As long as you are feeding and cleaning up, they are just fine. But you have to live with your choices.

Look around your house and choose the three main colors you see. Take those colors with you when you shop and stick to them. You’ll find your aquarium is more relaxing and harmonious to watch.

How to Maintain Your Aquarium Decorations

Keep a photo of your finished aquarium. Look back at it a couple of weeks later. The natural elements of your tank make your aquarium decorations dingy or gritty. It’s part of the life cycle you have built.

This can be caused by algae, biofilm, or dust kicked up by filters or active fish.  You don’t need to clean your decorations any more often than you clean your tank. But you will want to keep your decorations as clean as you keep the rest of your aquarium. The process is easy.

  • Take the decorations out of the tank and put them in a sink, tub, or bucket that you are sure is free of soap or detergent.
  • Use warm water and an aquarium sponge to gently wipe the gunk away. A soft bristle brush will help.
  • Use this time to inspect your decorations to be sure they don’t have any broken parts or wires poking out. Fix these before putting them back.
  • If the decorations look like they need a deeper cleaning? Soak them in warm water with a small about of bleach-only mixed in. If you think the bleach might take color away from a decoration, try a small test area first.
  • Rinse your decorations well before returning to the tank. If you beached the items, allow them to sit out overnight before you return them.

Sometimes it’s fun to change up the decorations in your aquarium. If you plan on storing aquarium decorations, allow them you dry completely first. Wrap them carefully in paper. Tuck your decoration into a labeled zipper bag so you can find it later.

Frequently Asked Questions About Aquarium Decorations:

Some questions will always pop up at the last minute. Even if you have done all the research you could, you’ll have your own unique questions that need answers. Online forums or groups are full of people just like you who have had these questions. They love to share their experiences. Here are a few to get you started.

Can I add children’s toys? This is a broad question, and the answer boils down to common sense. The safe answer is that you should never put anything in your aquarium that isn’t labeled safe for your fish. But this isn’t realistic.

You have the perfect plastic action figure for your whimsical design. You snapped together something cool with your blocks. Certainly that’s ok?

The short answer is, if nothing can fall out or leach out of the toy to harm your fish, then it will be alright. Keep any eye on your fish to see if they change behaviors or become lethargic. If so, remove the toy immediately.

Can I add Granny’s china? Do you think that tea cup will look perfect in your traditional décor? It probably will. Like the toy above, if it’s something you would touch or put in your mouth, it is probably safe for your fish.

Beware of broken bits. They could seriously harm your fish. And watch for places glued together. They could leach into the water and cause poisoning. Common sense will rule this choice.

I found this cool metal thing… Is it sharp? Do you know what it’s made of? If you can be sure it is clean of any oils or toxic products, and you are available to watch your tank, try it. Watch for stress in your fish and if they are fine, your find is fine.

How much should I add to my tank? This is a great question. Fish need to move, swim, dart about. Add decorations to your tank until it looks right to you. Leave at least 50% of the space open for swimming. Create a mix of clustered items and open space.

This video is loaded with aquarium decoration ideas. Maybe one will inspire you.

Conclusion

There is no one perfect way to choose and display aquarium decorations. Your first concern should be the needs of your fish. After that it’s all up to you. You are the artist and the tank is your canvas. Create your dream habitat.

Sometimes it feels like more choices make a harder decision. That’s okay. Most aquarium decorations aren’t too expensive. If you find something is no longer meeting your needs, find something new. Pass the old decoration on to someone who thinks it’s the best thing ever.

A hobbyist is never really finished with the hobby, anyway. Have fun and enjoy the process.

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