Aquarium Colorology: Entering Grey Territory with Neutral Colors

Custom Grey Freshwater Aquascape

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Let’s slow things down a bit. Let’s put aside the fiery reds, the vibrant yellows, and the elegant purples. Let’s go back to the basics and talk about simple colors: black, white, and grey.

These colors (also called “the neutrals”) kind of get a bad rap. I mean, what chance do they have? White is unremarkable, grey is the absolute epitome of boring, and black is so ubiquitous that we hardly every pay attention to it. I’m not going to try to convince you that these colors are exciting when they’re not, but what I am going to do is point out all of the potential behind these neutral colors. Just because they’re dull doesn’t mean that they aren’t useful!

Black Aquarium with White Sand

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Black never goes out of style. There’s a good reason why the little black dress is the secret weapon in every girl’s clothing arsenal — it just looks good. Black is often associated with mysterious, high class, elegance, and prestige. Too much black can quickly take on a bad connotation and make a living space feel dreary or macabre. Be careful about that — you don’t want people to look at your aquarium and start thinking serious thoughts about mortality and what happens after we die.


White is a light, crisp color that feels clean. White has the advantage of lightening every other nearby color, so it can even out some of your more overpowering colors.

Aquarium with White Sand

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Grey is dull… but that’s a good thing! If your aquascape has too much going on then it’s hard to highlight any one specific feature. Adding a grey background or simple grey rocks can allow the more colorful features of your aquarium to shine though.

Using Black, White, and Grey in Aquascapes

Most aquascapers generally try to avid overusing the neutral colors in an aquascape. They just aren’t strong enough to stand on their own, but they do an excellent job of supporting other colors.

The vast majority of aquascapes have either black, white, or grey sand. In fact, many aquascapes use a combination of two or more to section off different parts of an aquascape. In the picture below, you can see that the aquascaper created a path of white sand along black pebbles. This technique divides the aquascape into two unequal halves and gives the illusion that the aquascape has a miniature river or foot path.

Custom Aquarium with Path of Whtie Sand

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Grey stones are an important tool in any aquascaper’s arsenal. They can provide a stable background for your brightly-colored fish, and they can also break up your aquascape. Place stones in strategic locations to separate the aquarium’s focal points.

Aquarium with Grey Stones

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Best Rooms and Worst Rooms

That’s the beauty of the neutral colors — they fit in everywhere. The one cardinal rule to remember when you use the neutral colors is how they affect light. White will make a room appear brighter, black will make a room appear darker, and grey typically doesn’t have much of an impact. Though, you can fine-tune an aquascapes aesthetic by using lighter or darker shades of grey.

So, let’s say that you recently painted one of the rooms of your house and the room turned out to be a little bit darker than you expected. You could easily lighten up the living space a little bit by installing a beautiful custom aquascape that has white sand, light grey stones, and vibrant red or yellow fish.

The opposite is true for dark rooms. Adding a dark aquarium with black sand and shadowy stones can create an interesting focal point in a bright living room and help to create a sense of depth.

Modern Custom Aquarium with White Sand

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In the picture above, notice now the bright white stand stands in contrast to the grey decor of the surrounding room. The bright and colorful aquarium serves as a gorgeous focal point for the living space.

The key with neutral colors is balance. They aren’t powerful colors by themselves, but they can completely change how we perceive nearby colors.

The other important thing to keep in mind with neutral colors is how they interact with negative space. In modern art, emptiness can create a powerful aesthetic impact. White sand or lonely grey stones without anything nearby will provide a stark contrast to tropical fish and bright green plants.

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