Beautifying a Fish Tank
January 27, 2004 11:51 AM   Subscribe

I haven't been able to find much info on aquascaping a fish tank. I want to create my own landscape, and was hoping to find some sort of aquarium safe clay or similar material to sculpt my new environment from. Are there any fish enthusiasts out there who can help me out?
posted by agregoli to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total)
I'm not sure about any type of moldable clay, but I would go with what looks natural for the type of fish that you keep and to choose plants carefully - I only keep cichlids now, w/ lots of rock and a lot of java fern that's spread over everything - it looks pretty good, compared to when I would try and grow other plants that the cichlids would tear up. Anyway, my suggestion is to mimic what you can w/ natural materials - rocks, wood, plants (even nice artificial plants).
posted by drobot at 11:56 AM on January 27, 2004

You should check out Rivertanks for some ideas. I went to Industrial Design school with the inventor. Pretty neat stuff. Even if you don't buy one, it'll give you some ideas.
posted by machaus at 12:02 PM on January 27, 2004

I looked at River tanks, and it seems like a cool idea - but I feel it still looks very fake. I just can't seem to find information about any materials for small-scale aquarium aquascaping - most of it out there is for ponds or large projects.
posted by agregoli at 12:19 PM on January 27, 2004

You might try visiting a public aquarium, or a good local aquarium store to see what they ahve in their display tanks - I've seen beautiful cichlid tanks that are nothing more then a big pile of rocks with lots of beautiful fish.

How big is your tank? Fresh or salt? What kind of fish? Do you want to grow plants?
posted by drobot at 12:28 PM on January 27, 2004

Also, this website has some great photos in their 'tank of the month' series. They list the plants they used, and you can get a sense of the materials used from the photos.
posted by drobot at 12:37 PM on January 27, 2004

Sorry for all the posts - as far as materials, the best stuff to use is what you'd find in the fishes' habitats - rocks, driftwood, and plants. Aquarium suppliers ( is a good one) do make glue/putty that you can use to make sure holds together, but I dont think it's necessary.

The best thing to know is that to get a beautiful tank, you will likely spend a lot of time with it (I dont spend a ton of time working on my own, and it looks ok, but it's taken me years to get to know what works best for me.)
posted by drobot at 12:40 PM on January 27, 2004

Can't help with clays, etc, but rocks can be good to work with. You can get all the rocks you'll ever need from a landscaping supplier for a few dollars. You just have to do the research to make sure the mineral composition of the rocks won't affect the water. And clean them well with hot water. Driftwood works well, too, but it's probably a lot easier to buy from an aquarium supplier. Found driftwood could lead to odd things living in your tank.

If you're looking for design ideas, be sure to look into the "Nature Aquarium World" series by Takashi Amano. They're basically coffee table books, so don't expect a how-to, but they do feature some of the most beautifully landscaped tanks you will ever see. I believe one of the books, maybe Vol. 2, focuses on (very?) small tanks. Vol. 3, I think, is medium/large.
posted by tirade at 1:33 PM on January 27, 2004

I guess I was just hoping to cover a form somehow, to keep down the weight of the thing. Rocks add up, and I'd like to be able to remove what I put in there easily.
posted by agregoli at 2:52 PM on January 27, 2004

Are you interested in freshwater or salt? So far, it sounds like fresh. I would second the Takashi Amano books.

Remember that the bed of your aquarium will also act as a filter, providing a large surface area for beneficial, nitrifying bacteria (with or without the use of an undergravel filter). I would not recommend using large amounts of clay, as it is not very porous and tends to break down and cloud the water over time.

Also, try googling for aquascaping.
posted by piskycritter at 2:59 PM on January 28, 2004

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