Cichlid Tank Decor Ideas: Top 12 Creative Ones!

Cichlid is a fairly common fish that is well-favored for home aquariums. Raising fish in an aquarium keeps your living environment fresher and greatly reduces stress.

Therefore, your aquarium will need to be cared for carefully to look more aesthetically pleasing and, at the same time, help your fish grow better. For beginners or those with no plans yet, these Cichlid tank decor ideas are what you shouldn’t miss! Keep reading to know more!

What You Should Consider For Cichlid Tank Decor Ideas

Tank Size

Different factors have an impact on tank size choices. It all starts with the size of your room. An obvious rule everyone knows is if you have a small aquarium, limit the decorations inside.

However, if space or tank size are not issues, you should pick a tank that is wide enough to allow your fish to swim around freely. More than 30 gallons (120 liters) of tank capacity is recommended.

The tank height may be divided into three primary parts, which is another useful hint for you. Cichlid does, in fact, typically spend most of their time in one of these three. This implies that all of them should give your pet ample space to swim without cluttering too many decorative ones.

Fish Type And Color

If you’re worried about ruining the aesthetics of your aquarium, you can avoid this by considering your fish’s color.

Your decorations’ color choices will either go well with your fish or look out of place. Bright, vivid fish stand out against white pebbles and light embellishments, giving the illusion of color against the monochromatic background. On the other hand, a dark substrate and plain decorations can match the tones of light-colored fish.

How Active The Fish Are

As usual, highly-active fish will need more oxygen in the water to maintain. That’s why people prefer having oxygen-producing decorations in their tanks.

As African Cichlid is considered one of the most active species, bubble chests or bridges can be worth considering.

Check The Sharp Edge

Rocks or plant items can have sharp edges, which is dangerous to your fish if a crashing or scratching situation happens. That’s why checking the product before placing it in the tank is a must-do task.

The Focal Point

Don’t make your tank a mess. Too many items have never been the greatest choice. Remember that your aquarium should have one or two focus points only.

These points will be the most outstanding ones, which attract your attention at first sight. You can choose some large-size or eye-catching products to do this.

An aquarium should have one or two focus points only

How To Decorate Cichlid Tank

Based on the Cichlids tank requirements, such as water, size, number of fish, etc., you can slowly follow these steps below to set up your Cichlid aquarium:

Step 1: Evaluate Your Aquarium

How many gallons is the tank volume? Usually, this information is provided very easily when you buy it. Otherwise, you can calculate this number extremely easily through calculations:

  • The volume of rectangular box = length × width × height
  • The volume of cylinder volume = π × radius^2 × height

When you have the dimension with the unit as cubic inches, remember to convert it to gallons to check the capacity (1 cubic inch = 0.00432900433 gallons).

This way, you can predict in advance how much % of the tank’s volume will be occupied by the number of items (25-40% is ideal). Besides, mark the three parts based on the tank’s height to decorate properly.

Step 2: Fill The Bottom

Put the substrate in the bottom of your cichlid tank. Cichlids enjoy rummaging among the debris on the aquarium floor when seeking food. Therefore, medium-sized stones or aquarium pebbles are perfect for them. Because cichlids are native to rough lake bottoms, a sand substrate also offers a natural environment for your pets.

Sand is preferred for filling the bottom of a Cichlid tank

Step 3: Choose The Items And Arrange Them

When you have many decorative products, choosing may take a bit of time. For more easily, you can pick some you are keen on first.

Create one or more layouts with your chosen items. Try to put them in the tank while keeping a close eye on them. To compare, taking a picture of each layout is beneficial.

Step 4: Clean The Decorative Products

Sometimes, the statue or the rocks you choose will get a little dusty due to being left in the environment for a long time. This can contaminate your new aquarium or even make the fish sick.

Cleaning helps keep the aquarium aesthetic, avoids cloudy water, and prevents dirt from sticking to details that can produce disease-causing bacteria.

Step 5: Place And Fix The Layout

The last step is extremely simple; you must arrange the statues, plants, or other objects according to the layout you chose before. Some of them might need to be adjusted.

What Do Cichlids Like In Their Tank?


One thing that is indispensable in the aquarium is the substrate.

In fact, you have more than one choice for it: sand, coral, pebbles, and so on. Each has different characteristics and brings a distinguished vibe to your tank.

But it’s important to understand that sand is the recommended material for African Cichlids. The primary cause is that these fish enjoy excavating and digging in the sand to lay their eggs and locate food.


What plants do cichlids like? You will have more than one answer to this question. Some popular ones that we shouldn’t ignore:

  • Java Fern
  • Anubias
  • Cryptocoryne
  • Echinodorus
  • Vallisneria

Choosing the real or fake plants based on your condition


Both freshwater and saltwater aquariums benefit greatly from the addition of natural rocks as hardscapes. These fish need a lot of rocks, caves, and other hiding places in their tanks to protect them.

Because of its eye-catching blue and white striped pattern, Seiryu Stone is particularly well-suited for freshwater tanks. Simultaneously, the aragonite sands and limestone serve to maintain proper water conditions.


Natural driftwood is a common addition to aquariums and can help them feel uncomplicated and natural. Driftwood is widely available and typically quite safe. Also, you may catch driftwood from rivers and streams and add it to your tank for free.

When you want to use them as tank decorations, boil the wood first and let them soak for a long time. Otherwise, there’s a good chance they will release tannic acid into the water, which could alter its pH and cause alkalization.

Driftwood brings a wild and natural look

Clay Pots Or Ceramic Items

Territorial bottom dwellers like Cichlids, Catfish, and Sharks may quickly create caves out of clay pots. Make sure to sand down any sharp edges before usage. To get rid of any fertilizer residue, we advise cleaning it well and letting it soak for a few days.


Numerous corals also fluoresce under blue and black lights, heightening their allure and painting your tank colorful. For the survival of corals, intense illumination to feed their symbiotic algae and excellent water quality are essential.

LED Lighting

LED lighting not only makes your aquarium look dim and eye-catching but also helps improve water quality. Some types even have a feature to absorb odors or provide PAR spectrum so you can grow aquatic plants.

LED lights make your tank more attractive


Conch shells are particularly well-liked because they can serve as caves for fish that are small enough to fit inside. Seashells eventually dissolve because they primarily comprise calcium carbonate, especially in aquariums with a more acidic pH. However, unless your aquarium is too small, they don’t affect pH.

Bubble Maker

As mentioned above, cichlids are extremely active fish, and bubble maker items are highly recommended for providing them with more oxygen. Bubble wands, bubble wall air, or donuts are the most popular at different price ranges.


African Cichlids are a type of cavefish. They mark their territory as cavities and caves between rocks, which they aggressively defend. At least one cave per fish is ideal for maintaining a safe aquarium environment. A cave is defined as anything with a relatively closed construction and a flat bottom.


You can take a look at the sunken ship. They are a safe, fish-friendly option that complements most tank designs well if you want to create a natural, sea-like theme. Ships are also excellent hiding places for fish, allowing prey species to conceal themselves for safety and comfort.


Statues can be easily purchased from aquatic retailers. People and animal statues look great in sea-themed aquariums, acting as striking decorative options that add a creative and unique feel to your aquarium.


Expectedly, these Cichlid tank decor ideas are supportive and applicable for decorating your own tank. Don’t hesitate to unleash your creativity. Whatever you want, as long as it is not harmful to the fish, is acceptable.

Last but not least, remember to leave wide enough space for your pets to swim, grow, and breed!