Decorating an aquarium is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the hobby, and gives great scope for artistic talents.
In the majority of cases not only do decorations increase the attractiveness of the tank, they also give the fish a sense of security and makes them less stressed.
You should however be very careful to avoid all items that are toxic, or that could adversely effect the water quality.
The best rule of thumb is: if in doubt, leave it out.
RocksAlthough it is tempting, it is definitely not a good idea to find your own rocks, as they could make the water toxic, or dramatically alter the pH levels.
The safest way to add rock is by using those available at your aquatic centre. Tufa rock is often used as it is light and porous, but be aware that it will increase the water's pH levels.
Make sure that any rocks that you have are secure and that they cannot be knocked down.
WoodWood should not be used in marine tanks, but is suitable for both freshwater and brackish aquaria.
The wood most often sold is bogwood. You cannot place this directly in the tank as it will leach tannins and turn the water a brownish colour.
You must prepare it first by cleaning it and then soaking it in water for a fortnight, you also will need to change the water frequently.
Another wood available is vine root, which although it has less tannins should be treated in a similar way.
Dead CoralThere are many shapes and forms of dead coral available, but these should only be used in marine tanks. As they contain calcium they will harden fresh water increasing its pH levels.
Before introducing dead coral to your marine environment, make sure that it is thoroughly clean, by boiling it for an hour or two.
You should check that there are no sharp corners that could cut your fish.
ShellsShells make a nice and cheap addition to the aquarium's decor.
Although they contain calcium this takes a long time to break down, so a few shells should have no marked effect on water conditions.
It is advisable to make sure they are clean and boil them for an hour or so before use.
Artificial PlantsIn the past plastic plants were quite obviously fake, but nowadays they are very realistic.
Plastic plants are ideal for tanks whose inhabitants either dig up or eat vegetation. They can also create hiding places and territories for small fish.
BackgroundBackgrounds on tanks make fish act in a more naturally manner, as it makes them feel more secure.
Plastic sheets of various designs are available which you simply glue to the outside of the tank. If however, you are feeling creative you can create your own backing or even paint a landscape on the outside of the aquarium.
Other DecorationsThere is a whole industry of manufacturing ornaments for aquariums, from sunken galleons, to deep-sea divers and ruined castles.
Their use is really a matter of personal choice and taste. Do not, however, be tempted to put in decorations that were not specifically made for aquatic use, as they may contain chemicals and non-fast colours that could kill your fish.