One of the most difficult things to tinker with in an aquarium is light and shadow. The reason is quite simple: many of the organisms in your aquarium require light to survive, so prioritizing aesthetic over light requirements could leave your coral and plants near death.

But don’t fret: just because it’s difficult to play with light in aquariums, that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. Silhouettes are one of the most effective ways to toy with light in your aquascape. The beauty with silhouette aquariums is that you don’t fiddle with the light at all. Rather, you simply change the viewer’s perspective so that the light illuminates the back of an object.

Here’s a good example:

Aquarium Silhouetted Against a Window

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Silhouette aquariums are fairly rare. After all, many people want to make out all of the colorful details of the fish and coral. Silhouetted aquascapes reduce an aquarium to two colors: black, and whatever the natural hue of the water is.

Though, some people don’t see that as that as a disadvantage. A dichromatic aquascape can be quite beautiful in its simplicity. You can even use this to your advantage if your aquarium features fish that aren’t very colorful. The shadows will make the dull colors a nonissue while emphasizing the outline and frilly fins of the fish. Pair these with visually complex organisms like leafy plants or beautiful coral to create a truly unique aquascape.

The other benefit of this type of aquarium is that you can have one aquascape act as two completely distinct art pieces. Viewing the aquascape from the bright side will allow you to appreciate all of the vivid colors, while viewing the aquascape from the shadowed side will allow you appreciate the beautiful fins and flowing leaves of the aquatic denizens. You can use this to create a contrast between night and day, color and shape.

Silhouetted Aquarium

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The only catch with a silhouette aquarium is that you can’t have coral or plants on the shadowy side of the aquarium. These organisms simply won’t get enough life-sustaining light to stay healthy. Past that, you’re left with a wide array of design options. Fish-only aquariums lend themselves naturally to silhouetted aquascapes because fish don’t have the same light requirementsas plants and coral. Throw in a bunch of rocks and driftwood to create complex shapes that hint at a mysterious, intriguing world beyond the shadowy veil.

It’s entirely up to you how you toy with light and shadow in your custom aquascape. Personally, I would love to create an Asian-inspired aquarium that emphasizes simplicity and negative space. The dichromatic aquascape would allude to Japanese artwork, which often only features just two or three colors.