- Many fish use what we call decorations for shelter.
- Live rock, while also decorative, is invaluable in terms of the natural bioorganic filtering that they provide. Live rock isn't actually living rock, but rock that is teeming with bacteria and other microorganisms as well as macro-organisms that help clean the water.
- Manufactured decorations:
- fake plants (plastic or silk)
- fake rocks (plastic or ceramic)
- fake wood (plastic or ceramic)
- novelty items (plastic or ceramic castles, divers, etc.)
- Organic (dead):
- Real rocks
- Substrates (gravel, beach sand, river sand, coral sand, and peat are popular choices)
- Organic (living)
- Live plants
- Manufactured decorations
- Rubber / synthetic coral
- novelty items (scuba diver, shells, pirate, mermaid, etc.)
- Organic (dead)
- Dead coral
- Real shells
- Organic (living)
- Live corals
- Live algae
- Fake decorations are long lasting - they won't rot like live plants
- Fake decorations are easier to clean than living decorations
- Fake decorations are not taken from the environment – they don’t affect sustainability
- You'll have more choices as far as colors and sizes if you go with fake decorations.
- Fake decorations can be fun -- it all depends on your personal sense of style.
- Fake decorations should not affect tank chemistry
- Fake decorations can look cheesy if they are poorly made or used
- Depending on what you're getting, some fake decorations (manufactured corals or rocks) could actually be more expensive than the real thing
PROS & CONS for Organic Decorations
- Living organic decorations will provide you with the most realistic and possibly interesting results.
- Some decorations (like plants) will help to improve the conditions in your tank (ex: increasing oxygen content)
- Keeping real organic decorations can be expensive - you'll need to replace them when they reach their natural life span.
- Natural organic decorations are harder to care for
- When certain organic (living) decorations die, they may affect the conditions in your tank (they may release toxins or affect water quality)
- Your selection for size, shape and color is more limited than with manufactured decorations
- Some organic decorations can affect water parameters – some substrates may increase pH and driftwood might leech tannins into the water
One last thought I'd like to leave you with is that you don't have to go with ONLY real decorations or manufactured decorations -- have seen plenty of tanks that have successfully combined both. The key is to not go overboard with either option. If you choose to use novelty decorations in your tank, offset them with a few natural elements as well so the tank doesn’t end up looking ridiculous. Try to vary the size of your decorations so you fill the tank space effectively while leaving your fish plenty of room to swim. Remember, the way you decorate your tank is up to you so have fun doing it!
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