Aquariums and the Art of Complementary Colors

Eye Color

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What’s your favorite color?

Do you prefer vibrant reds or cool blues? Do you like the Japanese-inspired simplicity of black, white, and brown, or do you want to be surrounded by bright neons and swirling colors?

We all know our favorite color – for me, it’s green. But here’s an even more important question: how many of you know what colors complement your favorite color?

That’s when you get into tricky territory. Complementary colors are a mix of science and art – science because it involves the color wheel and the unique mechanics of the human eye, and art because the most effective color schemes require a touch of creativity.

Claude Monet Complementary Colors

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That’s just as true for aquariums. It would be unwise to pick a bunch of unrelated fish and dump them into an aquarium because each one looks pretty on its own. Fish, much like the furniture in your living space, need to complement each other in compelling ways to create a visually stunning aquascape.

So, let’s take a look at the color wheel. Essentially, the color wheel takes the three primary colors, red, yellow, and blue, and then mixes them to create a flow of color. The color wheel is an invaluable tool because it allows you to quickly determine complementary colors. You can find your favorite color’s complement by looking at the opposite color on the wheel. For me, green is complemented by red to create festive Christmas colors. You can also create split complementary and analogous color schemes. Just click on the picture below to find out how.

Advanced Color Wheel

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But there’s more to it than that. Tertiary colors also come into play to create a complex weave of contrasting colors. A great online tool is this website, which can provide you with a mix of complementary color combinations. Just click your favorite color and voila!

For a good example of the effectiveness of strategic color placement, take a look at this beautiful custom aquarium. First, click on the image to view it in full-size and then take a moment to determine the most predominant colors.

Okeanos Aquarium with Complementary Colors

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Clearly, the most dominant color is blue, followed by yellow and purple. The cool blue creates a relaxing atmosphere, but the vibrant, yellow fish create visual pockets of warm color that naturally attracts the eye. And what do you get when you mix blue with yellow? Purple! The purple coral spaced throughout the aquarium naturally highlights the calming blue hues while simultaneously enhancing the sharp yellows.

Now imagine toying with these color schemes and creating a balanced ecosystem wherein all of the species get along peacefully. Developing a truly beautiful aquarium requires scientific expertise and an artistic hand. But when you put the two together to create a cohesive aquascape, the results are absolutely breath-taking.


14 thoughts on “Aquariums and the Art of Complementary Colors

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