Decorative shells and live or artificial plants are items that not only can provide a contrast to the texture and color in an aquarium, especially against neutral colored rocks and corals, but serve other purposes as well.
Aquascaping with Decorative Shells
Aside from being eye appealing, you'll find that when empty sea shells are put into an aquarium, fish and other animals will adopt them has homes. If your particular tank has room, adding a nice large Helmet, Conch, or Triton Trumpet shell, and/or a cluster or two of barnacles will not only beautify the tank, but makes for ideal housing additions.
Hermit crabs spend a lot of their time in search of new shells to move into, whether they have actually outgrown the one they are living in or not. It is important to provide some various sized replacement shells conducive for the different types and sizes of hermits you may have in your tank. Not only does this give all of them new "houses" to move into when they want or need to, but with ample "housing" available, it helps reduce the conflicts that occur when one hermit attacks another, possibly killing it just to get its shell.
- Shell Buying Tips: The main concern about shells is that items sold for craft-making, non-aquarium or home decorating purposes usually have some kind of coating added to retain the luster and shine of the shell, which you do not want. This applies to shells stated to be for hermit crabs as well, because many of these are for "land" NOT water living hermits. It is best to buy all natural shells that come from the sea, and if polished, to be sure that no entrusive chemicals have been applied.
Aquascaping with Plants
By far it is more popular to grow or cultivate beneficial species of live macroalgae and plants, such as Caulerpa, Halimeda, Valonia, and Mangroves, rather then use fake plants in a saltwater system.
For an aquarist that does not want to deal with keeping live alga or marine plants, one can of course choose to add some aftificial plants made of plastic or silk to enhance the appearance of the aquarium. However, a consideration with these items is that although fake plants are attractive and lifelike, fish may try to eat them, which can be hazardous to their health. A good example of this situation is when a friend of ours had a very healthy Teardrop Butterfly that stopped eating suddenly. Shortly thereafter, it died. Out of curiosity our friend decided to do an autopsy on the fish. Finding bits of plastic plant in the fish's digestive tract, the diagnosis was that this caused a blockage in the its digestive system, resulting in complications and death!
- Artificial Plant Buying Tips: Most fake plastic aquarium plants are those of freshwater species, which are inappropriate because you no doubt want a saltwater aquarium to look like one. To solve this problem, Aquarium Systems has a nice line of SeaGarden Saltwater Series Plants that are quite realistic. As far as plants made of silk, read the fine print to be sure they are suitable for use in saltwater. Often the material used to make them is dyed to add color, which may bleed out into the aquarium water.
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