Posted by Dabney B. on Wednesday, June 12th, 2013
Camouflage is a truly unique adaptation in the animal kingdom. It helps creatures hide from predators, it helps them sneak up on unsuspecting prey, and it leaves creatures with stunning outlines and color patterns. Camouflaged creatures have their own special type of beauty, especially when they’re in an environment that supports their camouflage. The only way to truly appreciate a creature’s camouflage is to watch it perfectly blend in to its preferred environment.
Camouflage-themed aquariums have an unorthodox take on beauty. Rather than showcasing an eye-catching sea creature by emphasizing its bright colors, the beauty of a camouflage aquarium is much more subtle. Part of the enjoyment comes from the hide and seek that you get to play as you hunt down your pets.
The trick to designing a camouflaged aquarium is that you have to match the right species to the right environment. For example, take a look at the leafy seadragon. By itself this creature sticks out like a sore thumb with its elaborate, frilly fins. When you put it next to seaweed, however, the seahorse will practically vanish.
The same goes for certain species of flounder. Spotting this fish would be a piece of cake if the substrate in the aquarium were dark brown or black.
There are two different ways that a creature can vanish into its surroundings: passive camouflage and active camouflage. Passive camouflage is when a creature naturally blends into its surroundings, like a white polar bear blending in next to a snowy glacier. Active camouflage is much more interesting — that’s when a creature has to actively behave a certain way or take special measures to vanish.
The color-changing octopus is the perfect example. This multicolored creature will shift its colors from red to purple to brown to white as it finds the perfect disguise.
The cuttlefish also has a habit of changing its color and its shape to mimic nearby plants and coral.
Certain species of crab like to decorate their shells with the local wildlife. Nobody here but us anemone!
Keep in mind that you don’t have to do an all-or-nothing approach. You can easily keep camouflaged creatures alongside bright, vibrant fish in order to juxtapose subtle beauty against flashy beauty. Alternatively, you could design your aquarium as a vast hide and seek playground for your aquatic pets. This type of aquarium could be particularly exciting if you have guests over. Tell them that you keep 10 different fish species in your aquarium and see how long it takes for them to spot the masters of disguise!