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The Depth in Popularity of Home Aquariums


Livng room of an upscale home with a home aquarium on the wall next to other works of art.

Jeff Senske / Aquarium Design Group

Home Aquariums have become a new trend in home interior decorating designed to merge indoor and outdoor spaces inside high-end residences. Since the indoor-outdoor lifestyle was created here in Santa Barbara, these living nature-based art experiences add the perfect touch to any Montecito estate. Architects and interior designers are going to great lengths, and depths, to create these high-style living landscapes. Each home aquarium is carefully curated to create unique art experiences that are both engaging and constantly evolving.

Fresh Water vs Salt Water Aquariums

Homeowners can choose or invent their own one-of-a-kind aquarium made in glass or acrylic. They can be made in all sizes and shapes, so let your imagination run wild. Some prefer minimalist sea-scene sculptures with a variety of colorful fish floating amid driftwood, rocks, and sand. Others opt for more elaborate living-reef tanks that recreate natural ecosystems complete with corals, crabs, clams and sea cucumbers. 

Read: How to Create the Big Little Lies’ Interior Design Styles in Your Montecito Estate

Reef aquariums are saltwater ecosystems focusing on corals and invertebrates along with fish. Bright lighting and natural decor are used to provide the right environment for the livestock. Clients looking for diversity, color, and a natural look prefer reef aquariums.

“The reefs are live, living marine gardens inside your home, with the corals constantly growing and moving, ensuring that the visual spectacle is constantly evolving,” says James Bruce, managing director of Sanderia Group for Hong Kong-based RedFin Aquarium Design, a Hong Kong-based company that focuses on the design, installation and maintenance of bespoke luxury aquariums. Although they are based in the Hong Kong and Macau region, RedFin can ship and install their custom fish tanks worldwide; even here in Montecito.

Homeowners can also choose freshwater aquariums. These diverse systems are less complicated in design than saltwater. If a lush green look is preferred, a freshwater planted aquarium is the best way to go. It is common to find the easy to care for Guppy, the bright and active Platy Fish and the popular Zebrafish, along with Minnows, Corys and Cherry Barbs.

Living Art

Fish swimming i a simple home aquarium

Jeff Senske / Aquarium Design Group

Whichever you choose, these amped-up living art pieces can be created as freestanding furniture, structural sculptures or clever custom wall units. Whatever look you decide upon, your tank will become an integral part of your home’s architecture and an entertainment feature like no other. 

Read: Art and Architecture: The Versatile World of Brixels™

According to Bruce, some of the more extravagant and larger residences place aquariums in dedicated entertainment zones. “From palaces with tanks only containing carnivorous predator fish to in-house nightclubs with jellyfish tanks illuminated in fluorescent blue lighting, I’ve seen it all.”

While the majority of customers install aquariums as showcases in the public rooms of their home, others request to have them installed in more mundane spaces, like the bathroom or the master bedroom. 

 “It’s not uncommon for clients to have two or more aquariums,” says Mike Senske, co-founder of Aquarium Design Group, which is based in Houston, Texas. “I’ve had clients who’ve had five in one house. I built one in a wine cellar, and I’ve done some outdoor ones, including one in a rock-grotto pool cabana that needed temperature control.” 

Aquarium Design Group focuses on freshwater aquariums available to homeowners across the globe, including in Montecito. Founded in 2000 by brothers Mike and Jeff Senske, the company is a combination of their lifelong passion for aquariums with their love for art, design, and architecture. The brothers have created a new kind of custom aquarium design, installation, and service firm rooted in knowing that the aquarium could be elevated to the same respected heights as other forms of art and creativity. Take a look at their video for inspiration.

More Than Mere Design Elements

Aesthetics aside, studies show that gazing at an aquarium offers real health benefits, like meditation. New research shows people who spend their time watching aquariums and fish tanks enjoy the benefits of enhanced physical and mental wellbeing.

Observing fish move hypnotically around their watery domains has been proven to reduce blood pressure and heart rate. Experts also say watching fish swim can boost your mood — and the more the merrier. The greater number of fishes being watched kept people’s attention longer and improved their moods. 

Aquarium Science

Aesthetics aside, new technology allows designers to create practically any shape and size a homeowner can dream up. Most orders for large home aquariums come from the Middle East and Asia but their popularity is growing right here in California. That means you can set the trend here in Montecito should you decide to create one for your home.

Locally, Aquarium Science provides installation and maintenance for Santa Barbara County. Owner Craig Gutshall has been in the industry for more than ten years, with expertise in all types of aquaria. Specializing in custom aquariums, Aquarium Science works with Montecito homeowners to create an original aquarium catering to any expectation.

Although most aquarium buyers focus on looks, a fair number are equally interested in the living elements that will go in them. Keeping the fish and plants alive can be challenging, which is why some custom aquarium companies offer freshwater options that have the look of saltwater aquascapes.

“We care about the future of the hobby and will only buy from suppliers that have the highest quality of livestock,” explains Gutshall. “We will not support companies that provide substandard conditions for their livestock, or collectors that are not environmentally conscious. Our aquaculture animals have no impact on wild populations.”

If you are considering selling your home in Montecito, Hope Ranch or another of the Santa Barbara area’s upscale communities, or if you’re buying and want to find a home, give Cristal a call at 805.886.9378 or email her at She’ll happily add your home to her portfolio of fine properties and find you the perfect place for you and your fish living in your new home aquarium.


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