Why Your Fish Tank Decor Needs to Include Plenty of Safe Hiding Places?

Date Posted:10 May 2023 


Wondering if your fish tank decor needs to include aquarium cave ornaments and similar items? In actuality, creating lots of hiding places for your fish is an important part of decorating your fish tank and keeping your fish healthy!


Why Is My Fish Hiding?


While your fish may not have to worry about becoming someone else’s meal, their instincts tell them otherwise. As a result, the root cause of fish hiding is because your fish feels stressed, uncomfortable or frightened in some way. So, your fish hides as a way to protect themselves.


Why your fish is hiding can vary, though, depending on your fish and tank setup.


- There’s Someone New in Your Aquarium


Whether the fish you’ve just introduced to your tank is hiding or an established resident is making themselves scarce, it’s pretty normal for the introduction of a new fish to cause a bit of anxiety for everyone in the tank. However, this will usually resolve itself in a week or so. Think about how when you started at a new school or job, and it took you a little time to get your bearings and know everyone. This is what’s happening in your fish tank. If your fish continue to hide after 7 days or so, there may be another issue to resolve though.


- They’re Being Bullied


Different fish species can be more territorial or aggressive than others. As a result, some fish may hide to avoid getting picked on. Sometimes this aggressive behaviour can ramp up if there are new fish added to the tank and it will settle over a few days without you needing to intervene.


- They’re Feeling Lonely


Just like us, fish like to have friends. As many fish swim in schools, having no or only a few friends can make your fish hide frequently. They may be missing the protection that comes with swimming in a school and will hide to try and feel safer.


- There’s Too Much Large Open Space


Similar to thalassophobia (the fear of deep bodies of water) or agoraphobia (the fear of open spaces) in people, too much open space in your tank can be overwhelming  and even frightening for your fish. This is because large open spaces in their natural environment are prime places for predators to attack. Hiding, therefore, is your fish’s way of feeling safe and protected. Even without predators or other larger fish in your tank, this instinct is incredibly powerful and your fish cannot simply overrule it.


- Something’s Changed in Their Environment


Adding new objects to your tank can make fish feel a little uncertain until they become accustomed to what has changed. Additionally, less obvious changes can also impact your fish’s behaviour and make them feel the need to hide. This includes shifts in temperature and water pH levels. Therefore, it’s best to keep an eye on these to ensure their environment is consistent.


- The Currents Are Too Strong


Like getting caught in a rip, smaller fish can struggle with the currents created by filters, bubblers and other machinery. Being unable to control their movements and being buffeted around can make them avoid areas of their tank or stay hidden for long periods of time.


- Something Is Happening Outside the Tank


As with other pets — and even ourselves — fish can feel unsettled if something new is happening outside their tank. For instance, while your dog may bark if someone knocks on the front door, your fish may feel the urge to hide if someone comes close to the tank when usually people just walk past. Similarly, lots of noise can be a trigger for your fish to hide.


- Your Fish Is Unwell


When your fish is sick, it may choose to hide more often in order to not show weakness to predators or bully fish. Unfortunately, this means that you may not notice that they’re unwell before things become serious. Therefore, while hiding can be a natural response to changes and overcome with little to no intervention, it’s important to keep an eye on all fish, including those hiding away. Otherwise diseases may spread in your aquarium.


But Do Fish Need Hiding Places?


While you might think a simple fix for hiding fish is to make it impossible for them to hide — a tough love approach, perhaps — it really is detrimental to their health. Being able to hide for periods of time is a way for your fish to help manage stress and uncomfortable emotions. Think about times when you have been upset — you likely unconsciously chose to avoid spending time with others or even retreated to your bedroom or a space where you felt safer. This is the same for your fish and their hiding places.


Being able to hide is also a way for your fish to unwittingly signal to you that something isn’t right in your aquarium. From poor matches in species to filters that are a little too powerful, hiding can be seen as a way of your fish communicating with you. So, don’t be upset with your fish hiding — instead, think about what could be wrong and what you can do to make things better.


Where Can My Fish Hide?


Everyone has their own preferences for a safe space to relax, and that includes your fish. Therefore, it’s a good idea to have a variety of hiding places set up in your tank so your fish can take advantage of them as they need.


- In & About Plants


Plants don’t just look great and help oxygenate your aquarium water (if they’re real and not plastic), they also can give your fish somewhere to hide. Try putting plants close together and choosing aquatic plants that have dense leaves. This way, your fish can dart in and out of an underwater forest as much as they like.


- Around & Under Rocks


In nature, your fish would generally hide using rocks. Having a little cave is very natural for many fish species and you can create some in your own tank. Just be sure that the rocks are secure so that your fish are not in any danger or at risk of harm.


Additionally, any rocks you put in your tank should be suitable for aquarium use. It’s best to buy fake, specially made aquarium rock ornaments rather than pick up rocks from outside. Otherwise, you may introduce harmful bacteria to your aquarium.


- In & Around Ornaments


From the traditional castle or pirate ship to kooky cartoon characters, ornaments and other decorations add a touch of whimsy to your aquarium, while also giving your fish more to explore and hide around. Aim for a variety of ornaments to suit different-sized fish, as well as their individual needs.


As with rocks, avoid putting in any decorations that are not specifically made for aquarium use. This is because long-term submersion may cause chemicals to leach from them, harming your fish.


7 Tips & Tricks for Helping Shy or Scared Fish


While ensuring that your fish has plenty of places to hide will often help them feel confident, there are some other things you can do to help them feel safe.


1. Separate Aggressive Fish From More Passive Species


As we touched on above, some fish may bully others. Therefore, it’s important to research which fish live most harmoniously with one another. You may also need to be prepared to set up a separate tank to split these fish up.


If you think it may be a territory issue, you can try rearranging your tank’s decorations and setup. This is often enough to convince your fish that they are all in ‘new’ territory, allowing everyone to start off on a level playing field. However, because everything has changed, you can expect most or all of your fish to be a little unsettled for a few days as they become accustomed to their new environment.


2. Create Schools of Fish


Find out if your fish’s species typically swims in schools and what number is recommended for aquariums. Having friends to swim along with can help your fish feel safe, even when they aren’t hiding.


3. Ensure Their Environment Stays Consistent


While you might like to switch things up from time to time in your home, fish are less flexible. To feel safe, they need a calm and consistent environment; this includes where decorations are and what the water temperature is. Ensure that you can monitor your tank’s water temperature and pH levels, and resist the urge to go moving decorations around every weekend.


If you do want to or need to change things in your fish tank, be sure to do so slowly. Try only making one change a month, for instance. This month it might be a new filter. Next month it could be a new breeding cave.


4. Make Sure Fish Can Swim Easily


For any machinery in your tank, ensure it’s not negatively affecting your fish and their swimming abilities. Do research online about the suitability of products or what works best for your fish’s species, for instance. You can also try setting up a separate tank that is better suited to the needs of different-sized fish.


5. Keep Your Tank Somewhere Calm & Quiet


Your aquarium can certainly be a centrepiece in your home, but your fish may not appreciate being at the heart of it all. Therefore, even if you put your aquarium in your living room, try and place it off to the side. Your fish don’t need to feel like part of the action.


Additionally, having your fish in another room where things are calm and quiet can actually be beneficial for you too. It can become a place where you can sit and relax, watch your fish swim, and practise mindfulness away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.


6. Monitor Your Fish’s Health


As we noted above, hiding can be a symptom of health issues. Therefore, pay attention to any fish that are hiding regularly or more than usual. Look for signs of typical illnesses and act quickly if you suspect something is wrong.


Similarly, it’s always good to have your fish’s health in mind. Therefore, ensure your fish have the correct water setup for their needs, and are eating a diet rich in the vitamins, minerals and nutrients they need.


7. Give Your Fish Plenty of Hiding Options


Finally, by providing your fish with plenty of places to hide, you actually empower them to come out and explore more. This is because they know that no matter where they go in the tank, they will be able to quickly dart into a safe hiding spot if they feel threatened. At the same time, it also means that your fish aren’t fighting for use of any one hiding place. So, if someone does become territorial over a certain rock or ornament, your other fish still have options for when they need a break.


Create the Ultimate Safe Space for Your Fish With Aquarium Kingdom


As passionate aquarium owners ourselves, we’re pleased to bring you a large range of aquarium rock and cave ornaments, along with plenty of other decorations that your fish can use to get a little me-time. Whether you need a leaf hammock for your betta or an extra large aquarium cave for bigger cichlids, we have plenty to satisfy your fish’s natural urges to rest and hide, as well as make your aquarium look stunning. Plus, our friendly team is always happy to advise you on what is best for your aquarium to ensure that your fish are healthy, happy and feel safe. So, be sure to check out our range of fish decor now.