One of the most appealing things about aquariums is that they’re so beautifully tranquil. All you have to do is look at an aquarium for a few minutes and the stress will melt right out of you.

Of course, what’s calming and peaceful for some is boring for others. Some people enjoy stress — they feel energized by quick movements and daring art. If that sounds like you, then a high-activity aquarium might be right up your alley. Adding quick movements to your aquarium requires a bit of finesse, but these are the three best ways to create an exciting, action-filled aquascape!

Active Fish

Some fish are couch potatoes — or perhaps I should call them gravel potatoes instead. They like to lounge around at the bottom of the aquarium without a care in the world. Other fish like to fancy themselves as the Michael Phelps of the aquascaping world. They dart around your aquariums like they’re in a race with an unseen opponent, weaving in between rocks and plants so quickly that they’re almost hard to follow.

Filling your aquarium with active fish is the easiest way to add some excitement to your aquascape. Fish like rainbow fish and danios are rarely ever still. Take a look for yourself — these piranha and danios dash around the tank like a group of hyperactive children.

Currents and Loose Plants or Coral

The ocean is full of movement. It’s got currents, waves, and tides pulling the oceans of the world in a hundred different directions. It’s hard to capture those forms of movement in an aquascape because a 20 gallon aquarium isn’t going to have storm-tossed waves or lunar tides. What you can do, though, is create false currents with your water pumps. All you have to do is position your pump so that it casts a stream through the center of your aquarium.

The only problem with this setup is that the current will essentially be invisible. You’ll be able to notice it when fish swim through it, but for the most part it will be too subtle to detect. That’s why you have to pair it with loose, flowing wildlife like certain species of coral or freshwater plants. These organisms will flow and undulate in the ever-present current. Just be sure that your plants and coral can withstand the full blast of the water pump; you don’t want the current to be so direct that it pushes away sediment and uproots features of your aquascape.


Fish usually swim along a horizontal plane and plants sway left and right. Bubbles, on the other hand, can add some interesting vertical movement to your aquascape. All you have to do is hide a few air pumps beneath the gravel or behind a rock formation and you can have a constant stream of jittery bubbles rising to the surface. Saltwater enthusiasts will have to rely on a pump, but a properly maintained freshwater tank with lots of plantlife will create bubbles spontaneously. Extremely verdant freshwater tanks will even begin to resemble sparkling water.

Aquarium Plants with Bubbles

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Combine all three of these elements together, and you’ll have an aquascape that’s absolutely teeming with activity. Don’t get stuck thinking that aquascapes have to be languid — your aquarium can be as active as you are!

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