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Choosing the perfect décor & gravel for your aquarium

A beautiful aquarium isn’t just a treat for your eyes, it’s also good for your fish.

Decorating your aquarium makes life more interesting for your fish, keeping them lively and inquisitive. There’s so much choice in aquarium décor that it can become a complicated process, but help is at hand.

What is aquarium decor?

Aquarium decor is any material used to make an aquarium look attractive. This can include gravel, rocks, plants, ornaments and other decorations that enhance the aesthetic of the tank.

Gravel, in particular, is essential because it helps keep the water clean by trapping debris that has settled on the bottom of the tank. It also provides a habitat for beneficial bacteria to settle, keeping the water in balance.

Do you need aquarium gravel?

Aquarium gravel is a necessity for your fish tank for several reasons.

Firstly, it helps to keep the water clean by trapping debris that has settled on the bottom of the tank. It also provides a habitat for beneficial bacteria to settle and multiply, keeping the water balanced and healthy for your fish.

Additionally, gravel can be used as an aesthetic element to add colour and texture to your aquarium, creating a unique look.

What types of gravel are suitable for aquariums?

There are a variety of types of gravel available for aquariums, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. Aquarium gravel can come in a range of sizes, colours and textures to suit any tank set-up.

One type of gravel suitable for aquariums is coral sand, which is made from crushed coral skeletons. Coral sand is popular due to its natural buffering capacity, which helps to maintain a neutral pH in the tank water. It also looks great, and comes in a range of colours from white to deep red.

Other types of aquarium gravel include small pebbles, river stones and glass pebbles. Small pebbles are ideal for smaller tanks, as they can be used to create an intricate design on the base of the tank. Similarly, glass pebbles are popular for their ability to reflect light, making them a great choice for more brightly lit tanks.

Are fish tank decorations safe?

When it comes to decorating an aquarium, safety must come first. The wrong decoration can lead to water contamination, injury or even death for your fish. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that all decorations you use are safe for your fish tank.

Look for aquarium decorations made specifically for use in fish tanks. These items are usually labelled as “aquarium safe” and are made from materials that will not release toxins into the water. Avoid using any decorations which contain paint or other chemicals, as these can be harmful to your fish.

Inspect all aquarium decorations carefully before adding them to the tank. If a decoration is cracked or damaged in any way, discard it immediately as it could potentially injure or poison your fish.

How to decorate your fish tank

Just follow our five easy steps for making your aquarium a more interesting place for your fish and you

1. Choosing your base

The bottom of your tank should be covered with gravel or substrate.

There’s so much variety; have fun choosing between the different shapes, sizes and colours, making it look as natural or colourful as you want.

If you’re planning on keeping live plants in your aquarium then you’ll need a gravel suitable for growing plants; the plants need to be able to spread their roots and take up food.

If you won’t be including live plants, then any aquarium gravel will work; you’ll just need to add enough to ensure it is deep enough to hold your ornaments firmly in place.


2. Choose the right ornaments

Although it’s tempting to use objects you’ve found from elsewhere, it’s so important to use ornaments from the aquatics section of a reputable store.

Using anything else could pollute your tank and poison your fish. So that means no favourite toys or household ornaments in your aquarium. This is also the case for natural décor you may have found, such as wood, pebbles and rocks.

You can’t be certain that the décor you find doesn’t harbour bacteria or chemicals which could prove fatal to your fish. Be safe, and buy your ornaments from a trusted aquatics retailer. 

3. Wash your ornaments thoroughly

No matter how new your décor is, it needs a good wash before you add it to your tank.

Clean your gravel, ornaments, wood or rocks in plain, clean water to remove dust or dyes that could cloud the water in your aquarium.

Tap water is perfect for this job, you must never use detergents when cleaning aquatic décor.

If you are adding wood it is a good idea to soak it in plain tap water over night to prevent it floating when you add it to the fish tank.

4. Add your décor to your tank

Now for the exciting part!

First, add the gravel or substrate to the base of your aquarium in a good thick layer with a slight slope from back to front. Then add your remaining décor.

Remember to consider all of your fish when placing your plants and ornaments. Create hiding places for shy fish and open spaces for the braver fish. Your fish will love to explore their tank, so play with the layout to make it interesting for them.

And of course, make sure it’s good to look at as well. Consider the different angles from which you’ll be able to view the tank and try to add interest from all sides.  

5. Admire your beautiful aquarium

Once it’s complete, sit down and relax as you watch your fish discovering their new home.

You’ll find your fish set up routes and territories within their environment, which can be fascinating to watch. Because of this, major physical changes to their environment can be stressful to fish.

Try to avoid moving, adding or removing ornaments too often.

Remember to monitor the water quality regularly. This means keeping an eye on things like pH levels and temperature, as well as checking the clarity of the water. You should also check the ornaments in your tank for signs of wear and tear, such as chipped paint or rusting.

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