“Tide goes in, tides go out. You can’t explain that!” That second sentence was added after the fact by Internet users, but nonetheless Bill O’Reilly briefly achieved Internet infamy after making that statement in a debate with Dave Silverman of American Atheists. The tides aren’t quite as mysterious as O’Reilly seems to believe — it’s common knowledge that the tides are caused by the moon’s gravity.

Unfortunately, aquariums don’t experience this phenomenon. Aquariums are so small (compared to the world’s oceans) that there’s no place for the water to travel during lunar phases. As a result, the water stays at an even level constantly.

This is a real thorn in the side of aquascapers who want to replicate tide pools and tidal fluctuations. But just because it’s hard, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible! With the right sort of equipment, you can give your aquarium the natural ebb and flow of daily tidal cycles.

Customized water pump systems will automatically siphon off and then redeposit aquarium water at certain times of the day. The whole process is a little bit delicate because you don’t want your pumps to suck up any of your prize fish. The best way to work around this problem is to use filtered pumps that oh so slowly allows water to trickle out of the tank.

Installing tide system technology in your custom aquarium isn’t the hard part. The true challenge is designing an aquascape that will look absolutely beautiful in all phases of the tide. You pretty much have to include certain features and rock formations that can be totally submerged, partially submerged, or not submerged at all depending on the water level.

Tide pool and coastal aquascapes naturally lend themselves well to this type of set-up. These ecosystems support critters like crabs, starfish, and anemone that can thrive in extremely shallow pools of water. You can always pair coastal sea creatures with deep-water sea creatures by including a deep section of your aquarium that won’t be affected by the tides. This will create a stunning contrast between the deep ocean, the coast, and dry land.

If you’re thinking about creating a tidal aquarium, then you might want to consider a top-down layout. Most aquariums present objects from the side, but tide pools are most interesting when viewed from above. The shifting tides will create small pools of water in the rock, like miniature ecosystems, before swallowing up the pools as the tide rises. In a way, each of these tide pools acts as tiny aquariums that appear and vanish on a daily basis.

If you set up a tidal aquarium, then you would undoubtedly have one of the most unique aquariums in the world. Most tidal aquariums exist in research labs or public aquariums, so bringing a tidal aquarium into a home or office setting will truly set you apart. The technology is readily available and tidal sea creatures are absolutely stunning — the only thing that’s left is hiring a team of professional aquascapers who know how to make your aquascape look breath-taking during low tide, mid tide, and high tide.