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Fish Tank Ornaments for Fresh Water Aquariums

Fish tank ornaments and surroundings that my tropical fresh water aquarium fish will live in every day will be suitable for their physical and mental well-being, not so much that they match the room colour scheme.

That means – real plants and no unnatural fish tank decorations like coloured gravel.

Fish tank ornaments for tropical fresh water aquariums are divided into three separate sections, the substrate, the backdrop and the internal furnishings.

Fish Tank Ornaments: Substrate

This is the material covering the bottom of the fish tank.
Usually non-toxic gravel or sand. It is used to cover under gravel filters, for bedding plants and covering up the bare glass bottom of the tank.

Many fish like to move the substrate as part of their feeding behaviour and foreplay when about to breed. So, I need to make sure the sand or gravel has no sharp edges. Also true if some of my fish rest on the bottom or have sensitive barbels that can be damaged easily.

Also I need to consider the affects of the substrate material on the water chemistry. Hardness-free gravel or sand for soft water biotopes. Non-toxic gravel or sand for hard water aquariums.

Coral or limestone chips will affect the pH level.

Fish Tank Ornaments: Backdrop


The backdrop  is the solid vertical background against which the internal furnishings are displayed.

For sure it is unnatural to have bare glass on all four sides of the aquarium. I wouldn’t like to live in a glass house.

Most freshwater aquarium fish live close to the edge of the river or lake in their natural habitat. Not often do they stray out into the open spaces of the main stream. So the freshwater fish aquarium decor should simulate an area of the river or lake that is close to the edge.

I can use specially designed backdrops made from plastic simulating plants, rocks and gravel, attached to the outside of the aquarium. Or, paint the outside of the rear wall a dark colour or stick on cork tiles.

On the inside maybe large flat pieces of slate can be positioned against the back wall.

Fish Tank Ornaments : Internal Furnishings

Hard Decor

Water chemistry is the number one consideration when I select the hard decor – rocks and wood.

For rocks in freshwater fish tanks I will use inert materials like granite, slate and gneisses.

Also I need to think ‘BIG’. A collection of large rocks will be more pleasing and provide more nooks and crannies than a pile of small pebbles.

Bogwood seems to be the popular wood used as fish tank furniture. But the tannin in the wood can turn the colour of the water brown.

Whatever wood is used I will need to condition it before installation. Conditioning is usually done by immersing the wood in water for several months. Maybe this time can be shortened by boiling the water and soaking the wood in hot water.


A porous lightweight calcareous rock suitable for hard water freshwater aquariums. Tufa rock can be built up into extensive aquatic rockeries.

Not suitable for soft water fish tanks because of its affects on water chemistry – hardness and pH levels.


A man-made by product of the smelting industry. Lightweight, porous and completely inert.



Heavy and mostly inert. Well suited as a surface for fish spawning.


Broken clay pots and pipes provide interesting shapes and hideaways. Make sure the pieces are clean and do not carry any horticultural chemicals and residues.

(Gneisses : a common and widely distributed type of rock formed by high-grade regional metamorphic processes from pre-existing formations that were originally either igneous or sedimentary rocks. It is often foliated (composed of layers of sheet-like planar structures) : Wikipedia – What !!?? ;[


To be avoided at all costs. Toxic…
Soft Decor
Again water chemistry is a major consideration when I select plants for freshwater fish tanks.

Fish Tank Ornaments: Plants

Aquarium Plants are living things and sometimes more difficult to keep alive than the fish. I need to handle them with care and don’t buy until I’m are ready to install.


Its best to buy plants that have been grown in special tanks. Plants grown in tanks containing fish may carry disease and should be quarantined before introducing them into your aquarium.

Major consideration – Snails. Look out for snails as well when selecting your plants. Make sure no snails end up in my aquarium.

Common freshwater fish aquarium plants include:

Willowleaf (Hygrophila sp)
Acorus variegatus
Aquatic moss
Java fern ( Microsorium pteropus)
Elodea densa (pond weed)
Hemigraphis Colorata (Broadleaf)

So, that takes care of all the separate parts, next up is the setting up…


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