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10 DIY Aquarium Theme Ideas You Can Create Today! (With Pictures)

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By Lindsey Stanton


Setting up your aquarium can be an intimidating task, especially if you’re new to the world of aquatics. The best part about setting up your aquarium, though, is that it can be an extension of your personality or an addition to your current home décor or aesthetic. As long as you’re creating an environment that is safe and appropriate for whatever you’re planning on putting into the tank, you have free range!

Planning out your aquarium ahead of time will help you make decisions about the setup, and it will keep you from feeling stressed when you start putting things into the aquarium. Here are some of our favorite aquarium theme ideas!

aquarium plant divider

Top 10 DIY Aquarium Theme Ideas

1. Meandering Paths:

If you’re planning on keeping fish that won’t tear up your plants and make a mess of anything you put in the tank (looking at you, goldfish), then this may be a fun option for you. Using sand, rocks, and even small décor, you can create paths in your aquarium, making them look like terrestrial footpaths. The addition of driftwood and plants can really bring this look together by creating the illusion of trees, shrubs, and grasses.

2. Calming Garden:

If Zen gardens are your thing, you can create your own kind of relaxing Zen garden in your aquarium. There are many pieces of aquarium décor that will fit in with this look. You can also use a sand substrate with rocks, like you would in a real Zen garden, but be aware the rocks will sink into the sand over time. Bamboo can bring a beautiful touch to this look and it can be kept partially submerged. If the leaves are out of the water, your bamboo should thrive.

3. Bikini Bottom:

Are you a Spongebob Squarepants fan? Then there’s great news for you because Spongebob-themed aquarium décor is popular and easy to find. You can create your own Bikini Bottom, complete with a Krusty Krab restaurant and even Spongebob himself. You can have fun with this setup, creating your own underwater world.

4. Halloween Town:

Many people are into the aesthetic of spooky décor, which can be extended into your aquarium. Whether you want a playful spooky aquarium or a spooky spooky aquarium, there are décor and setup options for you. Skulls, skeletons, and pumpkins can bring in the Halloween vibe. There are even aquarium-safe headstones! Dark substrate and plants can bring a sense of organization and completion to your spooky theme.

5. Natural Look:

Is your idea of an aquarium theme a non-theme? The natural look is probably right up your alley. This allows you the freedom to choose any décor you want, if any. You can use rocks and driftwood to create different natural-looking underwater scenes. Spiderwood is a great option for creating tree-root looks, but when flipped over can also be used to create “trees” with plants and mosses attached to the branches. This theme opens up limitless opportunities for what you can add to your aquarium to make it your own.

6. Princess’s Dream:

The princess and unicorn theme is very “in”, so décor for this type of theme is very easy to find. There are bright substrate options, pink and purple faux plants, and aquarium ornaments in this theme, making this an easy theme idea. This is a great option for an aquarium in child’s room, but many adults appreciate the child-like fun of this type of theme.

7. Pirate’s Dream:

Princesses not your thing? Maybe the classic sunken pirate ship is more up your alley! Pirate-themed aquarium décor is easy to find, from bubbling treasure chests to full-blown ships that double as caves and hides for your fish. A gold substrate can bring together the idea of sunken treasure, or maybe a dark substrate is more your thing. Plants can be used to create realism, especially on and around ships and treasure chests.

8. Fun and Playful:

If a playful theme is what you’re looking for but none of the above interest you, that’s okay! You still have tons of options. Substrate is available in just about every color of the rainbow, allowing you to bring in some bright personality. Some plants, like aponogeton, bring a sense of whimsy to your tank. You can create a fun and playful aquarium with or without the addition of ornaments.

9. Organized and Modern:

Some people want an aquarium that blends into the background of their house or matches the décor. Creating an aquarium with clean lines, bright lighting, and full plants can create an organized and modern look in your tank. Choose a substrate that helps the tank blend in with your existing environment and work your way out from there. There are thousands of ways you can set your aquarium up to help it blend in in your house.

10. The Centerpiece:

Lawnmower Blenny inside the aquarium
Image Credit: iliuta goean, Shutterstock

Maybe you’re looking for the opposite of something that blends in within your home. Making your aquarium an interesting centerpiece in your home can be fun and easy for you to accomplish. You can go any direction you want with this theme. You can use bright or colorful lighting to draw the eye to your tank, lots of plants or plants that grow out the top of the tank to make a showy display, or flashy fish can all help make your aquarium a centerpiece in your home.

aquarium plant divider


Designing your aquarium doesn’t have to be an overwhelming or intimidating task. Keeping an aquarium is supposed to be fun and enjoyable, and you want your aquarium to be something you enjoy looking at. You can mix and match themes or create your own themes from scratch. Unique décor and colorful substrate are available in physical stores and online shops, and more places are beginning to carry a wide variety of plants, making it easier for you to create the aquarium setup of your dreams!

To make things even easier for you, small fish stores are popping up everywhere, often carrying fish that are different and more unique than what the big box stores offer. Now all you have to do is start planning and have fun!

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Featured Image Credit: Aman Kumar Verma, Shutterstock

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