How to Make a Biotope Aquarium

Posted by Big Al's on Dec 9, 2016 10:20:09 AM


If you’re an experienced aquarium keeper looking for a new challenge, then creating a biotope aquarium might be right up your alley. This type of community is a great way to learn more about an ecosystem and provide a more natural habitat for your fish. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

Special Environments

Exactly what is a biotope aquarium? This is a type of aquatic habitat where species that may encounter each other in the wild are housed together. These themed aquariums have a geographical and ecological basis, although the scope of a biotope tank can vary. For example, one might be meant to represent a specific stream found within Africa’s western Rift Valleys, while another one might be meant to represent “South America” as a whole.

Biotope aquariums are a lot of fun to design and set up, because they allow you to see what type of environment the fish might live in in the wild. Plus, the species in a biotope aquarium often balance each other out in the wild, meaning that they’ll do well when placed together in captivity.

Choosing a Place to Start

So how do you create a biotope aquarium? First, pick a region. You might decide to focus on anything from a specific river, to a watershed, to a country, to a continent. If you prefer to keep saltwater fish, then you’ll probably be looking for ocean ecosystems, while freshwater fish will shift your focus to rivers, lakes, and streams.

Alternately, you can start with a single central species, and build your tank around that. For example, if you like tiger barbs, then you’ll probably want to focus on Southeast Asia. If you have a thing for lemon cichlids, then Central America is your best bet.

The Setup

Your next step should be to research the environment that you want to recreate. Are you looking for fine sand as your substrate, or rounded river rocks? Is driftwood common, or is the water clear and open? What kind of vegetation is present? You can look at pictures and videos of the environment in question, or do some reading on the ecosystem.

Also make sure that you determine what your water conditions should be. Is this a salt or freshwater environment? How warm is it? Are there any special conditions you should watch out for, like alkalinity or nitrates?

Picking Fish

Once you’ve determined what environment works best, figure out what species you’ll fill your tank with. You may already have one or two in mind, but you should round this out with other fish species to create a complete ecosystem. You may want to add crabs, shrimp, shellfish, or other creatures; you can also choose a selection of live plants that may be native to the area. Just be sure that the species you pick won’t eat or fight with each other.


Finally, have fun with your tank! Don’t be afraid to substitute one species for another if you have really strong preferences. Take time to enjoy the process of creating a balanced, accurate ecosystem. If you need any supplies, materials, or other items, Big Al's Online can help—browse our product selection today.