A selection of gravels and substrates available from Aquatic Fanatic

To a certain extent the choice of substrate is a matter of personal taste. However, you must consider the needs of the fish you plan to keep and which type of filter you run. It is very important to only use substrate marked safe for use in aquariums as some gravels could contain shell fragments, which can harden the water. Some fish feed by sifting through the substrate and others like to bury into it, so a substrate of sand or fine to medium sized gravel would be ideal. However, these substrates would be unsuitable for aquariums running under gravel filters, as the grains are too fine and would block the under gravel filter plate/s. Coarse gravel can be used with larger fish, but care needs to be taken because debris and uneaten food will become trapped in the gaps between the grains. Gravel and sand come in a veritable kaleidoscope of colours, grades and finishes. The most popular tends to be the natural gravel, but children are usually more interested in the brightly coloured varieties. Once you have thoroughly cleaned the gravel it can be placed into the aquarium, as you add the gravel you can spread it out evenly or bank it slightly so that it is lower at the front and slopes up to the back - please bear in mind that your 'landscaping' could change once the fish start to rummage for food!

A selection of bogwood, mopani root, cork bark and driftwood ornaments available from Aquatic Fanatic

Wood makes a good addition to most aquariums and not just for it's attractive appearance as it often forms an important part of the diet for some fish. Bogwood and Mopani Root should be available from most aquatic retailers. However tempting it might be you should not add wood that you have collected from the wild, you might not know what the wood is...or what it contains. Insects like to use dead timber and a colony of ants or beetles is the last thing you want spoiling the beauty of your aquarium! Wood is dusty and for this reason it should be cleaned up before it is added. This is easily done with a dry brush to remove any loose particles before washing with clean water. Some woods will release tannin when they are added to the aquarium, this tannin will not harm the fish (in fact some species find it beneficial) but it can make the aquarium look like it has had a cup of tea poured in! Pre-soaking the wood will help to remove some of the tannin so place it in a clean bucket and pour hot water onto it. Leave it to soak, changing the water daily, until the amount of staining is reduced to acceptable levels. Running activated carbon in your filter will help to remove the discolouration from the water but is not vital as the wood will eventually stop leaching. Along with Mopani and Bogwood you could also safely add some cork. Cork usually comes looking as though it has just been stripped from a tree, it is easily trimmed down to size. Follow the same routine as for bogwood i.e. brush it clean and soak. Cork is very buoyant, so it is a good idea to use aquarium silicone sealer to 'glue' it to a rock or piece of slate to act as an anchor. Cork tiles can also be used but care should be taken to ensure that the tiles are pure cork and not glued onto a wood backing, the glue is likely to be highly toxic to your fish.

A selection of rocks available from Aquatic Fanatic

Another popular addition for the aquarium are rocks. As with wood care should be taken whilst choosing because the wrong type can drastically alter your water chemistry, which in turn will have an impact on the health of your fish. Granite, slate and quartz are suitable, try to find water-worn looking rocks as these will look far more natural. Try to stay with only one or two 'types' of rock to keep a unified look. The rocks should be scrubbed with a brush before adding to remove any dust and then pressed into the substrate to prevent fish from burrowing underneath and displacing them. Add the bigger rocks first and then 'fill in' with any smaller ones you wish to use. Rocks can be piled together to create caves for the fish. You must ensure that these structures are stable and won't topple. Aquarium sealant can be used to glue them together for safety as the fish might be stronger than you think. Imagine the damage a falling rock could do to the aquarium glass and you will soon understand why any structures must be stable. Rocks can be used to create hiding places for your fish.

A selection of aquarium backing available from Aquatic Fanatic

Aquarium backing is available in a range of designs including plain coloured. This type of backing comes on a roll and is sold by the foot so there is very little, if any, wastage. Other options include rigid sculpted tiles that are fitted inside the aquarium or slate tiles glued to the inside using aquarium sealant. The large display aquarium in our shop has a backing of cork bark. It gives a very natural textured background and shows the fish off a treat! Using backing has the added bonus of screening all the wires from your equipment so that it isn't visible when you look in the aquarium.

A small selection of aquarium ornaments available from Aquatic Fanatic

A few well chosen aquarium ornaments can add interest. We stock a wide range of ornaments, everything from Day-Glo skulls to resin 'logs' complete with silk plants. You're sure to find something that fits in with your design. As with rocks and wood, do not add any ornaments unless they are marked as being aquarium friendly.

Installing - ensure the ornaments are bedded well into the substrate

Back to setting up or on to adding the water

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