Whether you are starting your first aquarium or the next in a long line it helps significantly to have an idea of the fish tank design before you actually get going. The design includes: what types of fish are going in it; whether or not it will have live plants; tank decor elements such as rocks and logs; and the overall impression or feel that the tank should have.
Some people have strong ideas before they get started as far as what fish they want to get and then the tank can be "built" around that. Others know that they want a heavily planted aquarium first and foremost, and the fish are secondary. Still others are basically clueless and want some ideas of where to start.
One type of aquarium design that has grown quite popular in recent years is the biotope tank. A biotope aquarium aims to replicate a particular geographic area within the confines of an aquarium. It is a miniature version, almost a model of a specific place in the world, complete with the native plants, fish, and landscaping of that place.
A well thought out biotope aquarium can be quite impressive. Many people choose to do a tank like this if they have a particular interest in a part of the world and want to learn more about it. The more one studies and learns about the native lands that they are recreating, the better the end result will be.
With that in mind, here are just a few ideas to get you started, knowing that the only real limitation to fish tank design is your imagination.
- The Amazon - This is a very popular biotope option and when done properly can be absolutely stunning. Many of the most popular fish found at pet stores are native to the Amazon basin. The cardinal tetra, cory cat, hatchet fish, and ram cichlid are all Amazonian fish, as are many others including most common tetras. One of the other wonderful aspects of the Amazon biotope is the plants. There are many beautiful species of Amazon swordplants, as well as many other plants that offer variety in leave shape, size, and color. A piece or two of driftwood helps to complete the natural Amazon landscape. Slightly soft water with a pH around 7 is best for this type of tank.
- African Cichlid Habitat - The central African Lakes Tanganyika and Malawi are home to the African cichlids, some of the most interesting fish that one can keep in a home aquarium. They are colorful, active, territorial, and full of personality. The biotope aquarium for these fish is one of somewhat stark appearance. The tank is all rocks and rock formations with many caves and hiding places. There are not plants in the tank as the fish will uproot them constantly. This biotope has rather hard and alkaline water just like the lakes.
- Your Homeland - That's right, many people don't consider their own backyard for fish tank design ideas, but most people live close to some very interesting fish. In North America there are sunfish, shiners, darters, and dace that are quite colorful and active. Native plants and perhaps a crayfish - there are a lot of options. One thing to look into before you just head out and collect whatever you can catch, is to check out your local laws on what can and cannot be kept. Usually the state fisheries department is the best place to turn for legalities as well as ideas for fish to keep.