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10 DIY Aquarium Decoration Ideas You Can Make at Home (With Pictures)

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By Lindsey Stanton

hand arranging decorations in an empty aquarium_Krysja_shuttesrtock

There are few things that are as relaxing as an aquarium. The soothing, blissful vibes of the fish tank can serve as the perfect stress reliever. And with decorations, you’ll be able to not only turn the aquarium into a piece of art but also make your precious fish happier and healthier. So, today, we want to introduce you to the 10 best aquarium décor ideas.

Artificial grass, driftwood, rocks, sugar sand, backgrounds, and even castles—we’ve got it all! Every single DIY plan was thoroughly tested by our fish tank enthusiasts to make sure it’s worth your while. Some of these projects require a bit more time, effort, and skills, but they’re all very much doable. Take a look!

The 10 DIY Aquarium Decoration Ideas

1. DIY Artificial Grass With Stones and Driftwood by AQUAtisona

Materials Needed: Artificial grass mat, driftwood, stones or rocks, white sand
Tools Needed: A pair of scissors
Difficulty Level: Easy

If this is your first time trying to decorate an aquarium, a classic artificial grass with stones and driftwood project will help you get started. There’s nothing fancy about this DIY plan, but it does look great. Besides, you won’t have to spend a fortune on it. As long as you have some artificial grass, wood, and rocks or stones, you can add a fresh, exciting touch to the aquarium.

Cut the grass mat to size with a pair of scissors and place it at the bottom. With the stones and driftwood, try experimenting a bit until you find the perfect placement for each piece. Finishing up, pour white sand around the corners and let the fish back in. This is a minimalistic, low-effort, and universal DIY plan that fits fish tanks of all shapes and sizes.

2. DIY Sand Waterfall Aquarium Design by Yulia Aquascape

Materials Needed: Silica sand, sponges, tissue, sandstones, driftwood, moss, air pump, plastic tubes
Tools Needed: Cyanoacrylate super glue
Difficulty Level: Moderate

Ready to take your decoration game to the next level? You can do that by embracing this sand waterfall aquarium design. It takes a lot more work than the previous project, but it’s mostly very straightforward. Stack up on stones, driftwood, and moss, and start by gluing sandstones with sponges and glue. Cyanoacrylate superglue will help piece everything together. It’s waterproof and 100% safe for marine creatures.

Once you have a stable construction, add some driftwood and cover it in moss. Next, to hide the air pump pipes/tubes, use a generous amount of silica sand and lay extra sandstones at the bottom. And don’t rush it: even if you build a single stone–wood–moss décor piece, it will still be able to completely transform the old aquarium.

3. DIY Sugar Sand and Live Plants by Haris Ideas

Materials Needed: Sugar sand, water, driftwood, live plants, air pump
Tools Needed: Scissors, utility knife
Difficulty Level: Easy

Not a big fan of stones? No worries: you can always go with sugar sand and live plants instead. This is one of the easiest decoration ideas out there. Begin by mixing sugar sand with water to turn it into a cement-like substance. Once it’s done, use the mix to cover the fish tank’s floor. For this décor to look its best, put a large driftwood right in the middle of the aquarium. Cut it with scissors and a knife if need be. But the main attraction here is, of course, the lovely green plants.

They don’t only look great but also help clean the water. Place them strategically around the wood and gently push every single plant into the sugar sand.

4. DIY Grass Background and Aquarium Lights by True Pets Aqua

Materials Needed: Aquarium sand, decorative stones, artificial grass, LED lights, Buddha statue (optional)
Tools Needed: Double-sided tape, duct tape, scissors
Difficulty Level: Easy/Moderate

Tired of the boring back wall of the fish tank? Well, that can be fixed with an artificial grass background and aquarium lights! Some stones here and there and a healthy amount of aquarium sand will create the right mood for the whole setup. To make the tank look even better, attach LED lights to the front wall. Do you feel like something’s still missing? Why not try and lighten things up with a Buddha statue? You can replace it with whatever figure you want, of course.

Cover the top corner of the aquarium with strips of artificial grass and secure it using duct tape.

5. DIY Lucky Bamboo Decoration by Regis Aquatics

Materials Needed: Lucky bamboo, moss, various plants, lava rock, white sand, topsoil, black background tilt, self-leveling mat, water heater, filter, LED lights
Tools Needed: Super glue, scissors, mesh, cleaning brush, scraper tool, knife, a bucket of water
Difficulty Level: Moderate

As you’ve probably guessed from the title, this lucky bamboo decoration aims at turning the fish tank into an improvised forest. You’ll need quite a few materials for this, including moss, plants, lava rock, sand, and (obviously) bamboo. The cleaning brush is the best tool for evening out the sand + topsoil mix. To cut the bamboo into shorter pieces, use a sharp knife or a pair of scissors.

For an average-size aquarium, ten lucky bamboo plants should be enough. All that’s left to do now is add a bunch of plants for that “exotic” look. If you’re having a hard time placing the plants correctly, the scrapper tool will help with that. Oh, and don’t forget to install a water filter and heater to keep the fish cozy and warm, and the water fresh.

6. DIY 3D Rock Background for the Aquarium by Drew Builds Stuff

Materials Needed: Styrofoam insulation, paint, stain/finish, moss, various plants
Tools Needed: Utility knife, scissors, measuring tape, marker, glue gun, white glue, brush
Difficulty Level: Moderate

Alright, how about instead of putting something inside the fish tank, we build a background and place it behind the aquarium? Yes, we’re talking about a 3D rock background for the aquarium. And don’t worry: you won’t have to buy tons of solid rock. Instead, we’ll use a Styrofoam insulation sheet and carve it with a utility knife. Use a marker and measuring tape to figure out the right size/shape.

Next, cut out large pieces and glue them to the main sheet with white glue. The carving part comes after that. There are no strict rules here: just try your best to make it look like an old rock. Once you’re happy with the result, paint your decoration piece and stick moss and tiny plants to it with a glue gun. Now just carefully tuck it between the fish tank and the wall, and voila!

7. DIY Cheap Lava Rock Decoration by Franks Place

Materials Needed: PVC pipes, lava rock, all-purpose silicone
Tools Needed: Measuring tape, water (to rinse the rocks)
Difficulty Level: Easy

Most aquarium décor ideas involve using rocks and driftwood, but you can always go with cheap lava rock decoration instead. This is an affordable, easy-to-make, yet highly rewarding DIY plan. To put it together, you’ll need three things: lava rock (lots of it), PVC pipe fittings for the caves, and all-purpose silicone. This silicone is a strong, waterproof sealant that never cracks and doesn’t pose a threat to marine life.

Use it to stick the lava rocks to the pipes so that they’re fully covered. But first, measure everything with a ruler/tape to ensure the décor piece will fit in your tank. Also, take a moment to rinse the rocks before you place them into the aquarium. The thing is, they tend to be dusty, and that’s not what we want the fish to be exposed to.

8. DIY Black Background Setup by True Pets Aqua

Materials Needed: Jet black vinyl background, soapy water, white sand, white light, driftwood, various plants, air filter
Tools Needed: Plant tweezers, cleaning brush (optional)
Difficulty Level: Easy

Sometimes, a little goes a long way: that’s exactly what this black background setup is all about. It’s another straightforward DIY plan that you should be able to complete in 3–4 hours at a slow pace. For the actual background, you’ll need a Jet Black vinyl backdrop/fabricated material. To stick it to the aquarium wall, use soapy water. With that out of the way, go ahead and fill the tank with white sand and carefully plant wood and plants with tweezers.

If you have the budget for it, consider investing in white light. It will make the whole scene look so much better! Now just put the air filter in the top right corner and fire it up.

9. DIY Low-Effort Fish Cave by Haris Ideas

Materials Needed: Stones (of different shapes and sizes), air stone, artificial grass, plastic container, pipe
Tools Needed: Glue gun, heat gun
Difficulty Level: Easy

The concept of gluing rocks and stones to plastic works great for fish tank décor. For example, this low-effort fish cave project is as simple as they come. Grab a plastic container, cut it in half, and make a hole in the middle with a heat gun. The best tool for sticking stones to that container is a glue gun. For the best results, we recommend using stones of various shapes, colors, and sizes.

To kick things up a notch, install an air stone right in the middle of this makeshift cave and put a pipe through it to serve as an improvised air pump.

10. DIY Cement Castle by CNB Kitusu

Materials Needed: Cement, sand, paper (lots of it), acrylic color, hot stick glue
Tools Needed: Scissors, glue gun, brush, pencil, ruler, lancet knife
Difficulty Level: Moderate/Hard

This DIY cement castle is the hardest and most time-consuming DIY plan on the list. But it’s also the best-looking décor idea for an aquarium. The key here is to follow the instructions closely and never rush it. Begin by cutting some rough shapes out of paper/cardboard. Next, use a glue gun to create a paper castle (don’t forget to mark the doors and windows with a pencil).

Now it’s time to mix cement with sand and stick it to the cardboard. Be very gentle; otherwise, you might ruin the castle. The hardest part is when you have to carve out the openings and “draw” the bricks for the castle to look more realistic. For that, use a lancet, utility, or any other sharp, thin, and easy-to-handle knife. Acrylic color is the finishing touch here.

How Much Do Aquarium Decorations Cost?

Saltwater coral reef aquarium
Image Credit: Vojce, Shutterstock

This greatly depends on what you’re going for. A set of aquarium-ready driftwood will only cost you $15–$20. The same goes for natural slate rocks and stones. Sand is available at an even lower price. On average, you’ll have to pay less than $15 for a 5-pound bag. Cement, paint, grass, tubes, pipes, and glue don’t cost much, either. Say, a roll of artificial grass will set you back $10–$20. LED lights, water filters, and air pumps cost a bit more. But you can still get your hands on a decent-quality filter for $20–$30.

Air Pump vs Water Filter: What’s the Difference?

If you’re new to the whole pet parenting thing, you might mistake a water filter for an air pump. However, these two devices are NOT the same thing. As the name suggests, the filter does a very important job: it keeps the water clean. Without it, the fish will have a hard time trying to breathe. The filter aerates the water in the tank and also removes nitrates, ammonia, and debris from the aquarium.

As for the air pump, it enriches the water with oxygen. For most fish, dissolved oxygen levels below 2 ppm can lead to suffocation and death. Thankfully, an air pump can help keep those levels high (5–7 ppm). Plus, by blowing air through rocks, it creates bubbles that serve as a décor element. Summing up, both filters and pumps are well worth the investment.


As the owners, we want our fish to get the best treatment, be it premium food, fresh water, or a lush aquarium. For domesticated sea life, the tank is their home, so it’s up to us to make sure it’s as comfy as possible. And the best way to do that is to decorate the aquarium using rocks, decorative driftwood, sand, and other “marine” elements. If you have the time and are ready to follow instructions closely, you can decorate the tank manually over the weekend.

Today, we checked out 10 amazing aquarium décor ideas for fish enthusiasts. Take a close look at each DIY project, pick the one that suits you best, and fire away!

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Featured Image Credit: Krysja, Shutterstock

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