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12 Fun Aquarium Set-Up Ideas: Decor, Plants & More (With Pictures)

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By Lindsey Stanton

Gold fish aquarium

So, you’ve got a new aquarium and you’re staring at it trying to find inspiration for how to set it up. The ways you can set up your aquarium are as unique as you, with limitless combinations of organization and items. We’ve put together 12 aquarium set-up ideas to help you set up your best aquarium!

The 12 Aquarium Set-Up Ideas

Décor Ideas

1. Driftwood

Image Credit: Buntysmum, Pixabay

There are multiple types of wood that are aquarium safe, with manzanita, cholla wood, and mopani being some of the most popular. You can purchase bonsai driftwood or roots, like spider wood, that can be used to create trees with the addition of plants.

Driftwood can be fully submerged in your tank, but in hoodless tanks, driftwood can be kept partially submerged and partially emersed, allowing for a stunning centerpiece in any room. You can get driftwood in any height and shape you can dream of, ranging from budget-friendly to extremely costly.

2. Rocks

African cichild
Image Credit: Arunee Rodloy, Shutterstock

You can purchase multiple types of aquarium-friendly rocks, some of which can help you maintain pH levels or water hardness in your tank. Aragonite rock is a saltwater rock that can help increase water hardness and raise your pH in your tank if needed. It has a coral-like appearance that can be very beautiful and natural-looking in your tank.

Dragon rock has a similar appearance without the pH altering affect. Rocks can be stacked to build structures and scenes, as well as being used to attach mosses and other plants to. Like driftwood, you can do just about anything with rocks in your aquarium.

3. Caves and Hides

Caves and Hides
Image Credit: Monsterkoi, PIxabay

Some fish will prefer to have places to rest or hide. You can build caves out of rocks or purchase pre-made There are plenty of ornamental hides available and you can set these up however you feel will keep your fish the happiest and feeling the safest.

4. Ornaments

Image Credit: HeungSoon, Pixabay

Aquarium ornaments can really make a statement in your tank and show off your personality. If unicorns and mermaids are your thing, then you can build a whole scene around cute ornaments to match the theme.

You can also use pagodas or statues to create serene scenes and pirate ships to create an underwater shipwreck. Ornaments can be a centerpiece or add to the theme of your aquarium.

Plant Ideas

5. Attached

Java Fern in an aquarium
Image Credit: Muddy knees, Shutterstock

Some plants, like Java ferns, grow best when attached to a surface like rocks or driftwood. These plants can be attached by fishing line or aquarium-safe glue, allowing them to grow freely without being tugged around by your fish.

6. Submerged

Image Credit: Laila_, Pixabay

Submerged plants can be planted in the substrate, attached to surfaces, or even planted in pots under the water. Make sure any type of pots you use are aquarium safe and be aware of pots that are not inert, like unglazed terracotta, that may alter your pH or water hardness.

7. Emersed

corporate aquarium with live plants
Image Credit: dushkovladimir, Shutterstock

Emersed plants are grown partially under the water and partially above the water. This means that you can plant terrestrial water-loving plants, like pothos, in the top of your tank with roots in the water and the plant above the waterline. Y

ou can plant other plants below the waterline that will happily grow above the surface of the water. Imagine what kind of look you’re going for and then find plants to match your vision.

Substrate Ideas

8. Mountains and Hills

Image Credit: BLUR LIFE 1975, Shutterstock

Some substrate, like sand, can be built up into mounds, creating the illusion of mountains and hills within your tank. This look can really be brought to life with carpets of plants.

9. Caves

You can use substrate to camouflage caves you have built into the tank, making them look more natural and providing a more secure place for your fish to spend time. Some caves can be buried and covered with substrate and others can sit on the substrate but have substrate glued over them, helping them blend in.

10. Paths

Image Credit: BLUR LIFE 1975, Shutterstock

Sand is especially good for creating paths in aquariums. Plants and rocks can be used to line sandy pathways, creating underwater scenes of a walk in the woods or a visit to a friend’s home.

Equipment Ideas

11. Camouflage

Image Credit: BLUR LIFE 1975, Shutterstock

There are just about endless ways you can camouflage your aquarium equipment. You can use plants to disguise sponge filters, ornaments and rocks to disguise filter intakes or heaters, and any other thing you can think up. Just make sure to only use aquarium-safe items when you’re camouflaging your aquarium equipment.

12. Tucked Away

Image By: BLUR LIFE 1975, Shutterstock

Instead of camouflaging your equipment in your tank, you can keep your equipment as low profile as possible, placing it in corners or out of clear sight. You can also keep external equipment tucked away, whether it’s bunching cords together to make them less noticeable or keeping your canister filter hidden in a cabinet underneath your aquarium, or using home décor to disguise external equipment, you have options for keeping equipment tucked away.

wave tropical divider


When it comes to that aquarium you keep staring at, you’ve got plenty of great options for setting it up in a unique and beautiful way that reflects your aesthetic. You can combine any of these ideas however you want to create an aquarium setup that is exclusively your own.

The best part? You can’t go wrong! As long as you are using aquarium-safe items, you can set up and move things around as many times as you need to get your aquarium set up just so. Now all you have to do is start having fun!

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Featured Image Credit: Janelle Lugge, Shutterstock

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